Chengdu: Shangri-La Hotel
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Shangri-La Hotel9 Binjiang Dong Road 610021 Chengdu, China 86 28/8888-9999 shangri-la.com/chengdu
Original artwork from many of Chengdu's most famous painters is scattered throughout the lobby. A peach blossom paintings by Zhou Chunya is tucked behind the reception desk, and a striking "Panda" triptych by Guo Wei is in the foyer of the Grand Ballroom.
For a special occasion, the staff can arrange a private meal in Hejiang Ting, a Tang Dynasty era pavilion on the banks of the Jin river, just a few yards from the hotel.
For anyone looking for a relaxing cup of tea, kuding tea, one of the many varieties served in the lobby lounge, is an intriguing sweet-bitter infusion of a fresh herb that locals believe has a variety of healthful properties.
- 596 guestrooms and suites
- health club with indoor swimming pool
- free wifi
- conference rooms and banquet hall
- Complimentary shoeshine service
- Photo processing service
For the few days I was there, there seemed to be no dividing line between the culture of China's most welcoming city and the hotel, just the added benefits of luxurious comfort. From the bamboo-patterned bedspread to the cozy couch by the window, my room was decorated in an array of green that brought to mind the city's leafy streets, and my enormous window gave a picture-perfect view of the Jin River, with the Tang dynasty Hejiang Pavilion on the near bank, the popular Si Guan Street, lined with open-air bars, on the other, and the famous Anshun Bridge between them. Even the stunning, two storey-high lobby was less of a traditional lounge than a kind of wonderful Chengdu-style tea garden brought indoors, with potted stands of bamboo and a wall of windows bringing the outdoors into the richly upholstered room. Here, the hotel offers one of the city's best selection of Chinese teas and an afternoon "high tea" that includes both Western-style desserts and classic dim sum snacks.
But for me, the best thing about the hotel's embrace of Chengdu is its food. As befits a great hotel in a city honored with the designation "UNESCO City of Gastronomy," the Shangri-la's two Chinese restaurants offer stunning, flawless food. At the upscale Shang Palace, I had a meal that mixed Cantonese dishes with Sichuanese classics, including appetizers of cold beef in a light chile powder and delicate lettuce root in sesame oil, a sandwich of perfectly cooked duck in a puffy steamed bun, a bowl of dense and richly flavored mapo tofu, and a stunning dish of grouper and mushrooms in a pool of bright red chile oil that sang with the lemony flavor of Sichuan peppercorns. At the more casual Café Z, the hotel embraces the city's modern, international character by offering cuisines from all over the world. There are stations for impeccable lamb schwarma, dazzling sushi, and fresh tossed salads, as well a stacks of pastries and a raw bar boasting huge, bright orange steamed crabs, which seemed particularly popular with the Chinese domestic tourists. But the most interesting station to me was the counter draped with noodles, where the cooks offered noodles of all shapes and kinds from all over Asia, and where they were happy to make me one of the best bowls of dan dan noodles I've ever eaten.
There were other culinary surprises that cropped up throughout my stay. A plate of fruit waiting for me when I checked in overflowed not only with apples and grapes but also with bright pink dragon fruit and honey-sweet loquats. At breakfast a range of delicious fresh juices, from cucumber to carrot to cantaloupe, were the perfect antidote to the city's muggy weather. And instead of chocolates on my pillow, I was greeted each evening by a different kind of cookie on my nightstand. But perhaps the most memorable was a treat I found in my room the night I arrived: a small, colorfully decorate chocolate sculpture of two baby pandas leaning on a stalk of bamboo, a perfectly delicious homage to Chengdu's cutest, most loved, and most laid-back residents of all. —Georgia Freedman
IN THE AREA
- Hong Kong-worthy dim sum at Lei Garden: This outpost of one of Hong Kong's most famous restaurants serves excellent Cantonese food and superb dim sum, including excellent soup dumplings, a very classic cha sha bao (steamed bun filled with roast pork), and ethereal turnip-filled pastry puffs, and it's just steps from the hotel. Chengdu Lan Kwai Fong, 1 Shuijin Street, Jinjiang District, Chengdu; tel: 86 28/6153-3238
- Feast on Sichuan specialties at Zi Fi: This restaurant in Kuanzhai Alley, one of the city's best shopping and eating streets, serves a set meal of delicious, delicate Sichuan specialties in an old-style courtyard house. Though you'll need to have the hotel make reservations at least a couple days in advance, you won't need any guidance once you arrive; the servers will simply pile the table with course after course of unique local dishes. No. 27, Kuanxiangzi, Chengdu; tel: 86 28/8663-3737; zificlub.com
- Classic Chengdu hotpot at Lao Matou: Sichuan hotpot is perhaps the region's most famous—and feared—dish, a pot of broth and oil spiked with dried chiles and numbing Sichuan peppercorns in which eaters cook slices of meat and vegetables until they are dripping with broth. The staff at Lao Matou (or "Old Pier") makes an excellent version of the dish and, with the help of a short English language menu, can show you how to get the most out of your hotpot experience (and how to keep the spiciness from overwhelming the wonderful flavors of the dish). 29 Yu Lin Middle Road, Chengdu; tel: 86 28/8555-5705