Diaoyutai Boutique Chengdu
This gem of a hotel is tied with the St. Regis for the largest guest quarters in town (entry-level rooms at both start at 65 square meters). But the similarities end there. The third property to be opened by a joint venture between Beijing’s historic Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and MGM Resorts International, it inhabits two restored Qing-era courtyard buildings in the atmospheric Kuanzhai area. Gray-brick exteriors give way to interiors by French designer Bruno Moinard, with silk wallpaper, modish furnishings, gold and jade objets d’art, and a soothing, earthy palette enlivened by pops of color. The Diaoyutai’s 45 rooms come in 16 different configurations, all with richly grained wooden floors and big bathrooms outfitted with bronze sinks. Equally inviting is the Royal Court restaurant, which painstakingly replicates many of the haute Chinese dishes that chefs at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse have presented to visiting dignitaries over the decades—things like matsutake mushroom consommé and braised pork meatballs simmered in a clay pot, which was the best I’ve ever tasted in China. The verdict? While the Diaoyutai may be a ways off from achieving the service standards of the St. Regis, it’s a beguilingly original property that could get by on looks (and taste) alone.