GQ (Australia) - - GQ TASTE + TRAVEL -

Asea of con­nected red-brick rooftops, Dazhongli is one of the old­est and best-pre­served clus­ters of Shiku­men, or lane houses, in Shang­hai. A maze of nar­row al­leys and court­yards mur­mur­ing with neigh­bour­hood gos­sip, it’s a throw­back to a time when this res­i­den­tial quar­ter was still an enigma, closed off from the world. The Chi­nese com­mu­nist leader Deng Xiaop­ing’s de­ci­sion to re-open China’s doors to the in­flu­ence of the West in the late-’70s led to a pe­riod of rapid mod­erni­sa­tion in Shang­hai. Eco­nomic growth was fol­lowed by the devel­op­ment of the Jing’an fi­nan­cial district (Dazhongli’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bour), in­tro­duc­ing the tow­er­ing sky­scrapers that now sur­round what’s left of the his­toric quar­ter. From this rich his­tory ar­rives one of the area’s new­est high­ris­ers, the re­cently opened Mid­dle House Shang­hai. A se­duc­tive ad­di­tion to Swire Ho­tels’ House Col­lec­tive fam­ily, The Mid­dle House draws on the phi­los­o­phy of its Beijing, Chengdu and Hong Kong coun­ter­parts, while adding touches of Ital­ian in­flu­ence courtesy of ar­chi­tect Piero Lis­soni. Best known for his work with brands Illy, Audi and Kartell, Lis­soni brought to­gether clas­si­cal Shang­hainese ar­chi­tec­ture with his sig­na­ture style of clean min­i­mal­ist de­tails. The ex­pe­ri­ence be­gins with a dra­matic en­trance: a stun­ning six-me­tre-high chan­de­lier con­sist­ing of 3760 pieces of glass sits above dark floors, with rugged pieces of fur­ni­ture and walls filled with art by Caro­line Cheng and Lindy Lee. Donned with cus­tom rein­ter­pre­ta­tions of tra­di­tional fur­nish­ings, the rooms are sheathed in a palette of bronze mesh bright­ened by floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows that high­light Shang­hai’s Blade Run­ner- like land­scape. Chi­nese de­sign el­e­ments abound in the form of slen­der pen­dant lights and hand-made ceramic tiles that float off those same dark-stained floors, while sub­tle notes like mis­matched lamps and pull-down light cords of­fer a sense of unique charm. Like the in­te­rior, the food on of­fer is a thought­ful bal­ance of old and new. New York-based chef Gray Kunz has brought his renowned Café Gray Deluxe to the third floor of the hotel with dishes inspired by the hotel’s Hong Kong lo­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion to Café Gray, the hotel has two other restau­rants lo­cated in the res­i­den­tial tower: Frasca, a modern Ital­ian eatery where pas­sion­ate Aus­tralian-born chef Ste­fano Pace plates up authen­tic dishes made with in­gre­di­ents sourced fresh from lo­cal fam­ily farms (the pro­sciutto pizza is a must-try); and Sui Tang Li, which offers an ex­tra­or­di­nary se­lec­tion of Chi­nese del­i­ca­cies that put ev­ery dumpling we’ve ever eaten to shame. If you find the strength to ac­tu­ally leave the hotel, bike tours are the way to go for a truly eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the city. From tack­ling the nar­row lanes in the peace­ful For­mer French Con­ces­sion to dis­cov­er­ing hid­den vil­las from the ’20s, it’s as close to time travel as you’ll get. Rooms from ap­prox. $500 per night; themid­dle­house­ho­tel.com

OP­PO­SITE De­signed by Ital­ian ar­chi­tect Piero Lis­soni, the sleek Mid­dle House ex­te­rior stands out among the sur­round­ing high­ris­ers in Dazhongli.

ABOVE Upon en­ter­ing the Mid­dle House, guests are wowed by a chan­de­lier which took Ital­ian glass master Fabi­ano Zanchi six months to cre­ate .

ABOVE Rang­ing from 50m 2 to a pala­tial 660m 2 for the Pent­house, there's a to­tal of 111 rooms and 102 ser­viced apart­ments.

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