Shanghai surprise

GUY WILKINSON
Last updated 10:48 13/01/2014
Jin An Shangri-La hotel
Guy Wilkinson

REVIVING TRADITION: Traditional Chinese culture meets contemporary design at the new Jin An Shangri-La hotel.

Jin An Shangri-La hotel
Guy Wilkinson
TOWERING ACHIEVEMENT: The hotel's sweeping panoramic windows overlook the city.

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Some views are destined to make you feel like a rock star; the Manhattan skyline from the Empire State Building, the rooftops of Paris from Montmartre or, in my case, the outlook from my hotel room at the Jing An Shangri-La, Shanghai.

It hits me the second I walk through the door.

With the 508 rooms starting from the 30th floor up, sweeping panoramic windows overlook the city, the skyscrapers and high-rises twinkling to life as dusk takes hold.

I'm reminded of Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, only the cars remain firmly planted to the labyrinth of road arteries.

In stark contrast to this futuristic landscape, the nearby golden spires of the ancient Jin'an Temple are a telling reminder of the city in years gone by.

This juxtaposition of old and new serves well as a metaphor for the design of this flagship hotel.

You'll notice it the moment you glide silently through the revolving glass doors into the lobby. Gone are the usual dark wood furnishings and amber colour schemes, replaced by a lighter, altogether more contemporary look. Behind the semicircular reception, thousands of shimmering crystals rain from the roof.

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the entrance with natural light and an imposing oil painting by Chinese Master Zeng Fanzhi dominates the front wall.

It's one of 207 pieces by 50 artists throughout the building, all of them themed around Chinese culture.

Slick decor aside, the facilities are state of the art. There's a fully decked-out gym and spa, an indoor heated lap pool, secluded jacuzzis and the 55th floor Club Horizon Lounge, which offers the best vantage point in Shanghai to toast a business deal clinched over chilled champagne.

But it's the 1515 West, Chophouse & Bar that's the real standout to my mind. Combining a retro Shanghai movie theme with classic American bar and grill, it's Raymond Chandler with a Shanghai twist.

Dismantled 1950s movie cameras are displayed behind glass panels; industrial lamps aid the film noir feel, there are sumptuous leather couches and a cocktail list to satisfy Humphrey Bogart himself (had he not regarded cocktails as being strictly for dames, that is.)

Behind the bar, master mixologist Dario Gentile, a perfectionist with an ego to match his talent, whips up the drinks alongside his fledging crew of flat cap-sporting staff.

His Old-Fashioned is so good; it's hard to stop at just one. So I don't.

Beverages are complimented superbly by gourmet bar snacks, the pick of which is arguably the bucket of giant crispy prawns.

For something more substantial, the adjacent Chophouse serves up a mean steak, with premium beef imported from five ranches in Australia, including the Stanbroke ranch in Queensland.

The restaurant retains the low-lit, sleek atmosphere of the bar with knowledgeable wait staff clad in crisp white shirts, braces and hats.

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Other dining options include the Summer Palace, a fusion of three "chambers" combining South-Eastern Chinese and Cantonese cuisine. Located in adjoining rooms, each chamber has its own style and menu to suit different budgets.

The Pantry Chamber is more casual, aimed towards the office crowd, marrying tasty dim sum and noodle dishes with a vast, expertly selected wine list, the Lantern Chamber's emphasis is on clay pot dishes while the Imperial Chamber is more high-end, with bronze furnishings, posh crockery and private dining rooms.

It's all set up to ensure you need never leave the premises though the hotel's other major trump card is its location in the trendy Jing An District. Named after the temple dating back to the third century, it's flush with restaurants, shops, cultural attractions and nightlife and has been residence to many notable film stars, poets and novelists.

It's also conveniently close to Metro lines two and seven and a 45-minute drive to Pudong International Airport.

As I discovered though, heading out to explore may be the toughest challenge you'll face; this can be a very difficult place to leave.

The writer was a guest of Jing An West Shangri-La and Qantas.

TRIP NOTES

WHAT Jing An Shangri-La; 1218 Middle Yan'an Road, Jing An Kerry Centre, West Nanjing Road, Shanghai. See shangri-la.com.

HOW MUCH Rooms start at RMB1880 ($374) a night including breakfast (minimum two-night stay required on this offer).

TOP MARKS Location and views; the facilities throughout.

BLACK MARK Breakfast service still had some teething problems.

DON'T MISS A pampering at the CHI Spa where a full body massage will take the strain out of any business trip.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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