Background This property, opened at the end of 2010, is among a new wave of international hotels taking a foothold in the Taiwanese capital in recent years, after more than a decade of domination by local players and a handful of global brands.
Where is it? Located in the newly developed Xinyi District, which is fast growing into the city’s new hub for business, finance and MICE, the hotel is very close to Taipei 101, the symbol of modern Taiwan and the word’s second tallest building. The Taipei World Trade Center facilities and Taipei City Hall Station on the Nangang metro line are only a short walk away. At the back of the hotel are the Shinkong Mitsukoshi department store and a pedestrianised zone with cinemas, boutiques and restaurants, some offering outdoor seating.
What’s it like? The exterior of the hotel is just like many other modern buildings but the inside is like a contemporary art museum, with pieces by artists from around the world. Some catch your eye immediately, such as the giant abstract sculptures and jewelled deer head above the reception desk, while others can be very subtle – right out of the lift on my floor, I spotted some twisted wires mounted on the wall, and their shadow, cast by a carefully placed spotlight, formed an adage: “What is essential is invisible to the eye”. Then there are those that are simply fascinating: in the Chinese restaurant My Humble House, the Chinese landscapes look like traditional ink works, but a closer inspection reveals them to be composed of collages of Shanghai cityscapes. There is also a multimedia version of this work outside the restaurant, with movement and sound. Furnishings consist of a lot of white marble with grey veins, streamlined leather couches and upholstered chairs, as well as dark-wood doors and mirrored walls. Big windows and the high ceiling in the lobby make the space feel airy.
Room facilities My 38 sqm deluxe reflected the same contemporary design principle, with a neutral colour palette matched against warm dark wood and marble. Stylish touches included two floral x-ray artworks above the headboard, and a steel-and-white-leather chair by the desk. Located on the wall against the desk are a multimedia panel, two universal sockets and a 42-inch flatscreen TV. Curiously, the iPod dock was not a standard in-room amenity but had to be specially requested. The minibar offers a Nespresso machine with capsules, teas and the usual nuts and chips, but what’s unusual is the 375ml bottle of Belvedere vodka, instead of the standard offerings of Absolut or Smirnoff found in many hotels. For a room this size the bathroom was very spacious, with a bathtub and a separate shower with handheld and rain showerheads, an amenity counter and a washlet. The king-size bed felt very comfortable, with a soft, plush duvet and big pillows; the master panel on one side controlled all the lights and the curtains. The big window offered ample natural light, although I was looking at a building under construction.
Restaurants and bars The buffet at the 180-seat Latest Recipe on the lobby level attracts large crowds for its open kitchen and food stations showcasing an impressive salad selection, seafood, sushi, Chinese noodles, teppanyaki and pizza in addition to an international choice of hot dishes and desserts. It gets so busy here that sometimes diners take over the lounge Latitude 25 next door. I also tried the Cantonese restaurant My Humble House but was rather disappointed by the food: the stir-fried prawns with asparagus and black truffle sounded delicious, but the crustaceans, although plump and crunchy, had no flavour. The same applied to the braised scallops served in a claypot – the sauce was all I could taste. Quube, on the 6th floor, offers a striking cityscape with full-length windows as well as a large outdoor area. It serves great cocktails and decent snacks (I had chicken tenders and shrimp salad, both delectable), and plays lively music.
Business and meeting facilities There are 10 meeting spaces totalling 1,620 sqm (the largest one is more than 920 sqm). They are all supported by the latest technology. Guests staying on the executive floors (11th and 12th) or in suites can use the meeting space in the Club Lounge.
Leisure Facilities There is a 200 sqm indoor pool and a very spacious gym fitted with Life Fitness equipment, open 5:30am-11pm.
A very sophisticated and artistic property of international standards. But not having iPod docks pre-installed in the rooms is a big miss.
How many rooms? 160
Room highlights Swish design, very comfortable bed and a well-stocked minibar.
Price The mid-July flexible rate for a deluxe room with king bed is NT$9,890 (US$335), including tax and service charges. Breakfast is not included.
Contact 38 Song Ren Road, Xinyi District, Taipei, tel +886 2 6622 8000; www.lemeridien-taipei.com