Located in central Beijing on Wangfujing a short walk from Tiananmen Square and the city’s historic cultural venues as well as a wealth of shopping options, The Peninsula Beijing was the first luxury hotel to open in the Chinese capital almost 25 years ago.
Recently, The Peninsula Beijing has undergone an extensive renovation which saw a radical transformation of the property reclaiming its position as a flagship of The Peninsula chain. The US$120 million renovation of The Peninsula Beijing was conceived and implemented by Hong Kong designer Henry Leung of CAP Atelier. The inspiration behind the rebirth of The Peninsula Beijing is inspired by the Middle Kingdom’s opulent imperial palaces and tranquil gardens.
With comfort and functionality as the main objectives of the renovation, the hotel’s original inventory 525 rooms and suites has been reduced to just 230 suite-type rooms, each offering a separate bedroom, living room, bathroom and dressing room. With the entry level accommodation at an average of 65 square metres, the standard rooms are now the largest in Beijing, being rightfully considered an all-suite property.
One of the greatest achievements of the reconstruction was the integration of oversized marble bathrooms for all accommodations. Each bathroom features separate vanity for him and for her as well as a bathtub. Through design and technology, bathrooms recreate the atmosphere of an in-room Spa – with a single switch guests can experience dimmed lights and a specially selected relaxation music.
In line with The Peninsula Hotels DNA, the newly renovated rooms feature state of the art technology, integrating all controls of the room into touch pad screens throughout the room – AC, curtains, lights and TV. Each room has its own self-contained lavish dressing area with a valet box and nail dryer, while guests also have the added benefit of complimentary international telephone calls and free-of-charge fast WiFi internet.
Exquisite artisanship is a highlight of each room. Using Forest Stewardship Council-certified sustainable mahogany and high-gloss finishes, the exclusively commissioned furniture was hand-finished by Italian luxury brand Cassina.
Suites comprise a quarter of the hotel inventory, the highest such ration among the other Peninsula properties. The hotel’s theme suites include The Peninsula Suite – styled after a Chinese aristocrat’s home – 17 reimagined Beijing Suites as well as the Loft collection of duplex rooms.
The Peninsula Beijing is one of first hotels in China to offer a 24-hour check-in and check-out service to all of its guests, meaning guests can arrive and depart at their leisure without extra cost. This is extremely convenient especially for international guests. Mention must be made that The Peninsula Beijing equally attracts both corporate and leisure guests. The hotel also boasts a fleet of its very own luxury cars which include Roll-Royce and BMW chauffeur driven cars.
The Peninsula Beijing lobby has been reconfigured to create a grand three-storey Lobby, which is a Peninsula signature at its 10 hotels around the world. A deep-rooted respect for the rich imperial history of Beijing, and the symbolisms imbued in its finest palaces and mansions, provides a refined sense of the destination for all guests. Luxurious materials such as bronze, onyx, white marble and rosewood, which ornamented the ancient structures of Beijing in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, such as The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and The Summer Palace, are used on every floor of the hotel.
The Imperial hexagon is a recurring theme. The 160,000 hexagonal motifs are partially inspired by a tortoise shell, which represents longevity in Chinese culture, and the peony flower, denoting prosperity and honour. The six pillars in The Lobby, which add formality and substance to the palatial space, are carved from white marble (han bai yu), which was used in the palaces of The Forbidden City.
The majestic lobby features 3,500 individually chosen pieces of Palissandro marble with every piece featuring subtly different vein colours, ranging from cream to cool grey, set to elegant perfection with a natural gold glitter. The clean white onyx and cool grey floor contribute an ambience of lightness and rejuvenation to grand The Lobby.
In a tribute to its un location on Wangfujing (Goldfish Lane) – the goldfish, which represents abundance and prosperity in Chinese culture, is prominently featured in carvings and mosaic artwork in the hotel’s guestrooms and suites.
Upon entering The Lobby, hand carved onyx “Spirit Wall” conceived by artist Belinda Chow offers a glimpse into a typical Beijing courtyard home. Incorporating feng shuei elements to repel negative spirits and encourage health and prosperity, these screens were traditionally used for privacy and to reflect the owner’s social status. The Spirit Wall has two distinctive sides, with carvings representing the four seasons, including lotus, bamboo, plum and orchid, all of which are revered for their auspicious symbolism.
Adorning The Lobby are two five-metre-high abstract ink paintings on each side of the grand staircase with bold strokes depicting the sun and moon, and symbolising eternity and the creativity of the universe, on a cobalt blue background. The artist, Qin Feng, is considered a leading light of China’s contemporary avant-garde art movement, and the paintings are among the largest pieces he has been commissioned to create. Chinese cultural elements are embraced with Zhang Du’s two bronze sculptures of tea drinkers.
The artistic theme extends into the hotel’s spacious guest-rooms, which are styled in graceful shades of cream and white, with an art wall featuring hand-embroidered Chinese floral blossoms integrated into the wallpaper. The walls feature a blue-and-white painting inspired by Ming Dynasty porcelain, by artist Kong, plus photos of Beijing’s modern architectural masterpieces.
Specifically designed to nurture emerging artistic talent, The Peninsula Beijing’s Art Residency programme is the first of its kind in a luxury hotel in China. The programme is hosted in conjunction with MoCA Beijing, and enables aspiring artists to live and work for three months in the heart of Beijing. Each resident artist can take advantage of a purpose-built studio and guestroom on the 14th floor, and the artworks created during their stay will be exhibited in a new gallery on the third floor. Guests can visit the studio to see the artist at work, and exclusive art dinners and themed events will be held.
The hotel will also showcase Beijing’s flourishing arts scene through The Peninsula Academy’s exclusive art tour experiences, or jade appreciation class for guests. The new “Keys to the City” programme, which offers the best tables at exclusive restaurants and front-row seats at the opera, also organises out-of-hours guest visits to the most exclusive art galleries, and a special afternoon tea experience in an art gallery.
Four newly styled restaurants and lounges celebrate the unique Chinese heritage of The Peninsula brand and the historic integration of fine craftsmanship into Beijing dining scene. The Peninsula Beijing’s team of nearly 90 Chinese and international chefs is helmed by French-born Executive Chef Dominique Martinez.
Embracing the “farm-to-table” concept, the hotel works directly with 22 farms in China that supply sustainably produced, predominantly organic vegetables, fruit, meat and honey on a fresh, seasonal basis. All of the farms are fully certified by either the Chinese or the US Government, and I was informed that the chefs from each restaurant visit every farm on a regular basis to ensure the provenance and quality of the ingredients. The Peninsula Beijing’s own onsite greenhouse cultivates fresh herbs used to garnish many of the signature recipes crafted by the hotel chefs.
The new Lobby Restaurant within the vast lobby serves a wide selection of international casual dishes, as well as the celebrated Peninsula Afternoon Tea, with live music in the evenings.
Jing, the brand new French Restaurant of the hotel has been re-imagined as a contemporary “Farm-to-Table” venue, inspired by a secret Chinese garden. The restaurant features sophisticated dishes, personally having experienced an exquisite Black Cod dish as a main course. The Jing Restaurant serves breakfast in a converted space which is hidden during lunch and dinner. The lavish buffet style breakfast is one of the best in Beijing.
Huang Ting, the Chinese Restaurant of the hotel recreates a traditional Beijing nobleman’s courtyard home. The brand new menu emphasises Cantonese cuisine embellished with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The Peninsula Spa includes an indoor heated pool which has also been redesigned. The Spa features a selection of Chinese inspired treatments performed by highly skilled therapists.
Service throughout the hotel is consistent, with many of the staff having been with the hotel from the opening. The team provides a warm, courteous and predictive service. I was mostly impressed by the staff at the Front Office and those at the restaurants.
The Peninsula hotel also include The Peninsula Arcade which was the first luxury shopping arcade in China when it opened in 1990. Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes opened their first flagship China stores within The Arcade at The Peninsula Beijing. In addition, through a newly recreated space by the reception, The Arcade has recently welcomed the stores of high-end jewellers Harry Winston, Graff and Bvlgari. Other brands within The Arcade include Giorgio Armani, Versace, Brioni, Zilli, Roberto Cavalli etc.
Oliver Petcu in Beijing
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