Tried & Tested

Hotel review: The Middle House Shanghai

26 Jul 2019 by Michael Allen
The Middle House Shanghai

Background

The Middle House Shanghai, which opened at the end of 2017, is the fourth and latest property in Swire Hotels’ The House Collective. The other properties in that collective are The Upper House in Hong Kong, The Temple House in Chengdu and The Opposite House in Beijing.

The hotel is designed by Piero Lissoni, architect and founder of Lissoni Architettura in Milan.

Where is it?

The Middle House is located in the bustling Jing’an District of Shanghai and near the city’s trendy Nanjing West Road. The Four Seasons and the Sukhothai hotels are within walking distance.

While taking a walk out of the hotel in the evening, I came across Dagu Road, which has a good selection of foreigner friendly bars and restaurants. I managed to have myself a hearty Hunanese dinner at a lively restaurant and a cold pint at a sports bar. Staff could speak good English at both venues.

The Middle House Shanghai

What's it like?

Although the hotel is located in a bustling area, it is set back from the main street in such a way that makes it feel serene and welcoming. A lush bamboo grove (see above) conceals the entrance to the hotel. I did not see too many other guests during my stay and the lobby, which has a lovely lounge-like feel, was always uncrowded.

An impressive feature of the lobby was this hand-made chandelier…

The Middle House Shanghai

The property is actually split between two buildings, the hotel building where I stayed with 111 guest rooms and another building called The Middle House Residences with 102 serviced residences, connected by an underground passageway that is home to the swimming pool, gym and other facilities.

The room

I was staying in a 70 sqm Studio 70 room on the 13th floor. This is the second biggest of the “Studio” room types – Studio 50, Studio 60, Studio 70 and Studio 90 – and the fourth largest room the hotel offers. The two biggest rooms are the 110 sqm Gallery Suite and the 660 sqm penthouse.

My room felt spacious and was abundantly lit with natural light thanks to the floor to ceiling windows on two sides.

To the immediate right when you enter the room is a walk-in closet where you can find items like an umbrella; shoe horn, shoe brush and shoe trees; and slippers – as well as a less expected item: I went to pick up a bag which I thought contained the hairdryer and was surprised to find it contained a dumbbell instead. Good if you want to do some light exercise in the room without having to go down to the gym.

The minibar was well-stocked with a mix of complimentary and chargeable items. For coffee, there was a Francis Francis X9, which made an interesting change from the Nespresso machines that seem to be becoming more and more common. There were also two glass tubs of candies: one filled with jellies of different flavours and another with hazelnut chocolate.

The bed was soft with crisp white sheets and comfortable pillows, the headboard decorated with a charming Chinese painting of bamboo.

The Middle House Shanghai

There are two different types of bedside lamps: on one side of the bed a desk lamp with lampshade, and on the other an adjustable reading light, which sits atop a beautiful barrel-like stand on which songbirds are painted.

The Middle House Shanghai

To one side of the bed, a tassle attached to a rope hangs from the ceiling; one pull on this, and all the lights in the room go out at once – perfect for when you just want to crash out after a long day working and don’t want to faff around with finding which light switch turns off which light. The bed is set atop a tasteful light blue carpet, while the rest of the floor of the room is of dark grey-black wood.

There are sockets for several types of plug on the side of the bed, meaning you may not need to use an adaptor. A series of switches next to the bed makes it simple to open and close the curtains and blinds at the touch of a button. Depending on which room you are in, it would be wise to exercise caution with these buttons. My room looked directly into an office building and people working in those offices had a clear view straight into my room. I found that I had to choose between having the blinds closed and ensuring my privacy, or opening them up and letting in the natural light but knowing that those in the opposite building could see straight into my room.

The position of the television can be easily adjusted so you can either watch it from the bed, chair or sofa. There is a high quality bluetooth sound system beneath the television.

The temperature of the room can easily be adjusted with a digital thermostat.

The view from the room really makes you feel you are in the thick of Shanghai, while at the same time offering you almost complete peace and quiet. Although I could see a busy street with cars, taxis and buses below, I could barely hear a thing through what I suppose is very thick glass.

The Middle House Shanghai

For working, there is a round table with a cushioned chair or a sofa to sit on.

The Middle House Shanghai

The in-room wifi was a bit slow when accessing some foreign websites, which was inconvenient when I was trying to get some work done before dinner. This may be more due to the Great Firewall of China than the hotel’s wifi system, though.

Also, you may wish to look at investing in a VPN before staying at this hotel (and indeed most hotels in China), as the hotel’s wifi is subject to the Firewall. The only major foreign news media outlet I could access was the Financial Times, to which The Middle House guests have complementary access. There were print copies of The New York Times available at breakfast, but they were a day out of date. Here is our guide to choosing a VPN for use in China.

The bathroom is well equipped, with two sinks, an oval bathtub and a rainfall shower.

The Middle House Shanghai

It’s worth noting that the hotel does not automatically provide disposable toothbrushes, combs, nail files, bath sponges, razors or shoe erasers. This is because of a new government mandate that Shanghai hotels can no longer offer these items.

The Middle House Shanghai

This was a minor inconvenience, as I had to telephone downstairs to get a toothbrush, though I suppose the measure will do good in reducing the use of single-use plastics. However, I did notice the hotel was offering other items such as dental floss in plastic packaging, which I suppose isn’t covered by the regulation. Shampoo and body wash were also in plastic bottles, though mineral water was provided in glass rather than plastic bottles.

The Middle House Shanghai

Food and beverage

Frasca, located on the first floor of The Middle House Residences, offers contemporary Italian cuisine as well as wines and cocktails. I ate lunch here during my stay and can recommend their pinsa, a lighter and healthier version of pizza. The tiramasu for dessert was also tasty.

For breakfast, I dined in Cafe Grey Deluxe, which unlike many hotel restaurants does not offer a breakfast buffet but rather serves al la carte only. I opted for the eggs benedict, which were delicious, as well as two coffees (an Americano and a latte) and a “Green Elixir” cold-pressed juice.

The Middle House Shanghai

The Middle House’s version of Cafe Grey Deluxe does not offer the same stunning views that the 49th floor Cafe Grey Deluxe in Hong Kong’s The Upper House does. Still, the surroundings were comfortable and when the weather is nice (it was raining when I went to look at it) the patio would be a pleasant spot to relax with a coffee or cocktail.

Leisure facilities

The gym, swimming pool and Mi Xun Spa are located on the basement one floor. As mentioned above, this area connects with The Middle House Residences, so guests of both the hotel and the serviced apartments can use these facilities. When I visited the pool (though didn’t swim myself) on a Tuesday afternoon, it was not busy.

On Wednesday morning, I went to the gym just after 7.30am and did a short run on the treadmill. There were only two other guests using the gym at what I thought would be considered peak time. The gym room is laid out in a U-shape, meaning that if it’s quiet you can get more privacy by choosing to work out on the side with fewer or no other people. The range of equipment is good and I imagine there would be enough even if both The Middle House and The Middle House Residences were fully occupied.

The Middle House Shanghai

The gym itself does not provide plastic bottled water, though before I went in a staff member stopped me and asked me to sign a waiver relating to injury from using the gym equipment, and after I’d signed she handed me a plastic bottle of water. You can then refill this bottle from a water dispenser in the gym. There are also towels available, and some green apples you can grab as a pre- or post-work out snack.

Meeting facilities

For groups of six to 20 guests, the Gray Room and Wine Room at Cafe Gray Deluxe can be booked. Sui Tang Shang, a cocktail lounge with a terrace open from daily from 11.30am to midnight, can accommodate around 80 guests. Frasca, the hotel’s Italian restaurant where I ate lunch, can host 70 guests for an al fresco lunch or dinner on its outdoor terrace.

The 208 sqm indoor room of the 660 sqm penthouse can be converted into two smaller rooms for multiple event use.

The Middle House Shanghai

Verdict

The Middle House offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai while being located in a convenient area. The bedroom was very comfortable, with a beautiful minimalist design aesthetic and decorated and equipped with all the right amenities, though as noted you should be careful when opening the curtains to protect your privacy.

The in-house food and beverage options were good and there are plenty of other restaurants in the local area if you want to dine out. The hotels leisure facilities seemed to be under-utilised, which was great as it meant they were uncrowded, though perhaps they would be busier during a weekend if staycationers and domestic tourists descend on the property.

All staff were helpful and polite. One staff member even left the hotel with me and walked me five minutes down the street to show me which direction I should go to find a restaurant, as I didn’t have data on my phone to load a map app.

All in all, a great place to stay in Shanghai, especially if most of your meetings are going to be on the Puxi side of the river.

Quick facts

  • Best for… a quiet and luxurious environment that is still within close-range of major areas of the city
  • Don’t miss… trying the pinsa (a healthier alternative to pizza) at in-house Italian restaurant Frasca
  • Price A mid-week one-night stay in a Studio 70 room in the last week of July ranges from CNY 2,711 (US$394) to CNY 3,614.60 (US$525).
  • Contact No. 366 Shi Men Yi Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai 200041; +86 21 3216 8199; guestexperience@themiddlehousehotel.com
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