‘The New Waldorf Astoria Shanghai – Past, Present, Perfect’ by Lesley McKenzie.
One glimpse at Shanghai`s glittering skyline says it all: This city is having a moment. But it`s not the first time that Shanghai has basked in glory. In the 1920s and 1930s, the port city saw a massive influx of foreign settlements, and with it, money and investment, quickly earning it the moniker Paris of the East. Today, a handful of top-notch hotels are hoping to recapture that glory, and nowhere is this more evident than in Shanghai`s scenic Bund district, which runs parallel to the Huangpu River. Here, many of the city`s architecturally significant gems stand tall as reminders of Shanghai`s storied past. But the brightest jewel in the Bund`s crown as late is the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, newly opened this spring.
Two connecting buildings comprise the stunning property: the Waldorf Astoria Club, a heritage building formerly knows as the Shanghai Club (which directly flanks the Bund), and the newly constructed, more contemporary Waldorf Astoria Tower, located parallel to the Bund on Sichuan Road.
The Waldorf Astoria Club still boasts the elegance of its golden years, when it held a reputation as one of the city`s most famous gentlemen`s clubs of the `20s. Aspects such as the Long Bar (which at 110 feet long was considered the longest bar in the Far East at the turn of the century) have been painstakingly reproduced through archival photographs to capture the drinking den`s original spirit. And, judging by the look of things, the effort seems to have paid off. On any given night, expect to find the bar brimming with an eclectic group of well-heeled European expats, hotel guests and trendy Shanghainese grooving to the soulful sounds of jazz while sipping on signature cocktails such as the 1915 (gin, Curacao liqueur and cream) or the aptly named and somewhat more potent Waldorf (rye whiskey, absinthe, sweet vermouth and bitters).
Other throwbacks to the days of yore include the Long Bar`s traditional oyster bar (a must for an evening nibble) and the luxurious Salon de Ville. Formerly the Shanghai Club`s newsroom, it pays homage to British tradition with its daily Red Velvet Afternoon Tea service.
Consisting of 23 suites, accommodations in the restored neoclassical Club marry a colonial vibe with state-of-the-art technology. Think four-poster beds, Christofle glassware and clawfoot bathtubs, combined with a programmable InnCom system that allows guests to do everything from adjust the lighting to draw the curtains and set the room temperature with the touch of a button. Televisions built into bathroom mirrors and fancy Japanese Toto toilets (more appropriately referred to as `washlets` for their built-in bidets) that flip open and light up by motion sensor? Yes, please.
The neighboring Waldorf Astoria Tower is home to 234 rooms and suites, appointed with similar amenities as their Club counterparts but with a more modern touch. The best part? Most rooms offer eye-popping views across the Huangpu River into the Pudong district, Shanghai`s commercial hub, which is most spectacular at night. Iconic buildings such as the majestic Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center glow prominently amid the seemingly endless neon light-trimmed skyscrapers dotting the futuristic skyline. Don`t be surprised if the horizion seems overcast and gray every day- it`s the city`s rocketing pollution levels, not necessarily the weather. Check local newspapers for daily reports of air quality.
At the hotel`s doorstep, the Bund promenade, a raised embankment along the Huangpu River, thrives with Shanghai life morning, noon, and night. Starting at dawn, locals congregate to fly kites and perform tai chi exercises along the banks; at nightfall, the strip becomes a haven for tourists and lovebirds drawn to the scenic views of city lights. The promenade is also the address for a number of the city`s finest restaurants and boutiques. The glitzy Three on the Bund complex is home to op international fashion brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and the Giorgio Armani flagship. Looking for some fun? The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a commuter train that runs beneath the river, is a one-of-a-kind experience- enhanced by music and a trippy psychedelic light show.
Wile the Bund offers a wealth of dining options (for stellar panoramas, opt for M on the Bund), in-house restaurants at the Waldorf Astoria will cater to your every whim- from a thick, juicy Wagyu steak at Pelham`s courtesy of chef Brian Chan, who hones his talents at the Waldorf-Astoria`s Peacock Alley in New York, to more traditional fare at Weij Jin Ge Chinese restaurant, which offers a selection of cuisines from various regions in China in a seductive chinoiserie setting. Got a hankering for steamed bao with a side of scrambled eggs? The Grand Brasserie breakfast buffet has got it- and more. Though the menus differ greatly throughout the various restaurants, there is one common denominator: the out-of-this-world service.
The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai has an eye on both the past and the present-and all the accompanying details. Undoubtedly, this new addition to Shanghai`s skyline is here to stay and is ready to make its own history, too.
Content provided from Manhattan Magazine – September/October Issue.
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