BACKGROUND This striking new-build hotel opened at the beginning of August, occupying the lower half of a landmark edifice shaped like a stretched oval whose glass exterior is framed by a honeycomb structure like an exoskeleton. This is wired up to present an impressive multicoloured light show every evening.
WHERE IS IT? Situated opposite the southern entrance to Beijing’s trendy Sanlitun retail and leisure district, this is the only major international-brand hotel in the area. Tianhujie subway station (Line 10) is a 5-10 minute walk away, and within a few hundred metres of the hotel you can find a host of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shopping outlets.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Not your typical Intercontinental, as is apparent from the exterior and its three-storey-high entrance lobby. The feel is bright, breezy and modern, with interesting ornamentation, from enormous picture books of luxury cars to modern sculptures; the pleasant lobby lounge has a living room ambience, offering two fireplaces and well-spaced sofa and chair spaces in front of the expansive glass walls that let you see and be seen from the road outside.
The whole design concept of this 300-room property is geared towards fitting in with Sanlitun’s youthful, vibrant atmosphere, and this extends to the F&B offerings and even into the rooms themselves. Not being a millennial, and considering myself something of a traditionalist, I was wondering whether I would “fit in” and appreciate its fresh vibe… but I was pleasantly surprised and it didn’t take long for me to really enjoy its individuality.
ROOM FACILITIES I was in a 45 sqm Deluxe room (Premier rooms are 50 sqm and Executive suites stretch to 90 sqm) which looked out over Sanlitun. The layout of my room was striking: walking through the door the first thing I saw was the oval, stand-alone bath. The toilet was immediately to the left; the walk-in rainforest shower was on the right, and twin sink plinths completed the bathroom area. (Two sliding door panels cut off views to/from the main door for privacy when bathing.)
Passing the bath the wardrobe area was on my left, and two curved glass panels formed an entrance to the bedroom area, bathed in light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Although the room plan is rectangular, the design cleverly makes the bed area circular; there are curves everywhere, from the wall panels to the work desk and chaise longue by the window, plus the round, deep-blue carpet and even the arcing, futuristic desk lamp in clear plastic.
Universal electric sockets and USB ports are conveniently placed by the desk and at the bedside, the 48-inch, wall-mounted TV could be twisted towards the bath or sofa, and there was a Bluetooth music station by the bed. A Nespresso machine is provided, but when I tried to use it the power would not stay on unless I pushed the plug hard into the socket and kept my hand there. I moved the machine to the work desk, where it worked fine, so it was merely the socket connection; I let the front desk know and when I returned from my day’s work it had been fixed.
The curved work table was nice but I was not enamoured with the designer chair, which for me did not provide enough lower back support. Another idiosyncrasy is the shower, which, when turned on, by default shoots water from the rainforest head first, not the wall-mounted shower head as is more usual – so watch out!
Overall, despite a few quirks I really liked this room’s originality – I would call it comfortable cutting-edge design.
Entrance to Ying Chinese and Japanese restaurants
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Most of the F&B options are on the third floor, and here again the design is fresh and unconventional. With the express intention of moving away from the traditional, most of the restaurant areas are open plan, with screens instead of walls and corridors leading you naturally from one eatery to the next. Ying Chinese restaurant leads seamlessly into Ying Japanese (the combined area is where the breakfast buffet is located); Top Tapas – decorated as a relaxed living room concept – leads to the Top Bar, which has a live band and outdoor terrace; and Char steakhouse also operates as an oyster and champagne bar in the evenings. It’s an attractive area that is easy to move around in as your mood takes you.
On the 21st floor, the Club Intercontinental lounge is an airy space with a range of seating styles and fantastic views. The breakfast buffet is comprehensive and very good; after trying both breakfast location options this was an easy preferred choice for me. Finally, on the second floor there’s an excellent pastry shop named Deli-cious.
MEETING FACILITIES These are on the fourth floor and include eight function rooms of various size (one including an open kitchen), an Event studio, plus an 800 sqm grand ballroom with a double-storey ceiling that can be split into three sections.
LEISURE FACILITIES These are on the fifth floor and are operated by a third-party specialist company called Green Essence. The spa area has a large lounge area with juices and relaxation areas available, plus ten spacious treatment rooms, while the gym is a large (300 sqm) space with a comprehensive set of Precor-brand fitness equipment and advanced Pilates-style equipment – personal trainers can be booked to help you with these. There’s also a VIP gym room for private workouts if you so desire. The swimming pool was not yet open during my visit in late August (I was told it would open in September), but boasts a unique feature (for a Beijing hotel), with five water cycle machines that face straight out of the floor-to-ceiling windows across the road to Sanlitun. The pool area has funky lighting and a DJ corner, and can be booked for private events and parties.
VERDICT The bold design pays off, providing a fresh look that is entirely in keeping with the hotel’s hip location. I would expect any minor issues that exist because of its newness to be solved within the coming months, and once all is up and running smoothly, this will be the top hotel in the Sanlitun district.
PRICE Internet rates for a Deluxe room in mid-October start from RMB2,518 (US$378) including taxes and surcharges.
CONTACT No 1 South Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100027; tel +86 10 6530 8888; ihg.com