China’s booming middle class is driving growth in luxurious new places to stay and play in Beijing
Luxurious new places to stay and play in Beijing
The China anti-corruption campaign may have seen an end to ostentatious ordering of auspiciously priced bottles of $8,888 Lafite, and grand banquets with endless courses of exotic fare, but for people at the slightly lessrarefied end of the Beijing wining and dining spectrum, the choices are widening by the day.
The engine driving the city’s restaurant and hotel growth is the Chinese middle class – the affluent, white-collar segment of society that has traveled overseas, sampled fine-dining restaurants and stayed in posh hotels.Visit any restaurant in Beijing these days and most of the people perusing the sushi menu or studying the wine list will be locals rather than expats or foreign visitors on expense accounts.
Likewise, the main revenue driver of the high-end hotel trade is, increasingly, executives on business trips to the capital from Shanghai, Shenzhen or Shenyang.
“We have seen the unleashing of the Chinese consumer,”says Michael Faulkner, general manager of luxury hotel East Beijing, who has lived in the city for seven years.“Traveling overseas has opened their eyes to new food styles and design, and you can see trends emerging from that such as eating organic produce. The dynamic changes are very fast and you have to be flexible in terms of menu items and service style.”
All of this is great news for the estimated four million annual overseas visitors to Beijing, who can pick from an everincreasing choice of upmarket places to stay and independent restaurants aspiring to London, Paris and NewYork standards.
The most significant recent opening has been the 283-room Rosewood Beijing, a downtown property that arrived in October 2014, earning instant gold-medal status from travelers. The location helps – directly opposite the CCTV Tower and a short stroll from the central business district – as do the generous rooms – over 500 square feet for entry-level accommodations. The wide range of enticing restaurants include the rustic Country Kitchen, with its gourmet updating of traditional peasant dishes and fruitwood-roasted Peking duck.
It will be a hard act to follow for a number of new hotels – and revamped old-timers – that are set to join the fray in the next year or so. The first of these was the 303-room Intercontinental Beijing Sanlitun, which opened in August. The hotel boasts spiffy location in Sanlitun, a buzzing district that’s home to scores of bars, restaurants and boutiques.
In-house the options include tapas, Chinese and Japanese eateries and a bar specializing in whisky and beer. The hotel occupies the first 23 floors of a 38-story tower. The only other five-star residence of note in the immediate area is the trendy 99-room Opposite House, a favorite of the fashion and design crowd.
Art is one of the dominant themes of Nuo, opened in June last year, the first hotel from a Chinese state-run group with global aspirations. That grand ambition is reflected in the capacious lobby area, with its oversized Ming dynasty-inspired porcelain jars. The 438-room hotel has its own art gallery and is within easy reach of the 798 Art Zone, now one of the city’s top ten attractions.