Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Ellliott, finds that even the most seasoned travellers need a relaxing retreat from the hectic pace of Shanghai.
"Have a delightful day!"
"Have an enchanted evening!"
The phrases tinkle musically around me while the distinctive aroma of The Langham's signature gingerlily fragrance envelops me.
I've just flown into Shanghai and arrived at The Langham Xintiandi, which is situated in one of the most prestigious areas of Shanghai. Designer shops radiate in every direction; the city's busy lights glow. Xintiandi in Shanghai is an area in which its well-dressed inhabitants glide past in chic coats, suits, heels and handbags.
We're in an elegant oasis in the midst of the city, the calm in the busy storm of Shanghai. As we are checking in quite late, the Langham staff thoughtfully complete check us in our rooms. We ride the elevator floor to the 25th floor where I check into room 2529 – a Langham Club Junior Suite. There are only one these junior suites on each floor and it's a beauty.
With curved floor-to-ceiling windows in a bedroom that gives an expansive view of the city below, it's hard to know where to look. There is a large working desk with a 40-inch flat screen television and a king-sized signature blissful bed. An extraordinarily comfortable curved couch hugs one corner, making it the perfect spot to curl up with a book and a cup of tea after a hectic day sightseeing or shopping.
The room measures a total of 55 square metres (590 square feet). Controls are easy to understand and clearly labelled. There is a panel next to the bed that makes things easy. There is free WiFi (although this does have some limitations with phones) and there is another thoughtful addition – a universal multi-adaptor – which meant that I didn't have to wait to charge every device separately using my one adapter.
The bathroom has a glassed area for the shower and bath with monsoon and massage shower heads and a gorgeous Japanese-style wooden bath in the corner. Even though I had a lot of work to do, I steal 20 minutes one evening to soak in it, fortified with the mineral salts provided. My body was ever so thankful.
There are two sinks and the famous Langham amenity kits with pink boxed amenities including shaving kit, toothbrush, shower cap, cotton tips and pads and talcum powder. There are also Chuan spa toiletries including shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion and scrub. In the bathroom are three lighting ‘scenes’ that you can set for moods, each progressively darker than the other.
And the toilet? This is a Japanese-style toilet with lots of buttons. The lid even raises when you approach it and the seat is warmed. It also serves as a sophisticated version of a bidet.
The luggage area can be accessed from two sides. There is also a cleverly concealed mini-bar. In fact I had to ask where it was – they slid the mirrored bathroom door to reveal it. There is a Nespresso Cube machine with three types of coffee pods and a selection of Ronnefeldt teas. The mini-bar is on the pricey side with a bottle of sparkling mineral water at 45RMB ($7.80).
One concern if you're a light or early sleeper is the street noise. Although The Langham’s windows are double glazed, you may want to bring ear plugs because the constant beeping of the cars can keep you up at night. The car horns keep beeping even at midnight.
The next morning I visit the gym. There are plenty of treadmills and cycling equipment, but I prefer weights. The selection could be improved. After a quick shower, I have a quiet breakfast in the club lounge where there is a neat but good selection of food.
There are Western breakfasts – freshly cooked eggs, jamon iberico, smoked salmon, cereals and juices – and Chinese offerings like congee with a range of toppings and dumplings from plump prawn har gow, juicy mouthfuls of siu mai all eaten with a double dose of XO and chilli sauce.
Downstairs at Cachet, the selection is much more extensive and the buffet seems to be endless. I'm really quite serious about the choice; it is best to approach it with circumspection and a completely empty stomach.
Knowing that we had a good solid day of eating ahead, I decided to conserve stomach space and go for something small. Very small, in fact: dumpling-sized.
Every day a buffet lunch is also held at Cachet and you can also order a la carte with menus on iPads. I'm not usually a buffet person but sometimes buffets in Asia challenge that with their freshly cooked-to-order offerings like hand-pulled noodles. The noodles come with a long list of additions but I have them with baby bok choy and their wonderful broth and seaweed. Of course, more dumplings are a given.
The Langham is also known for two things. One is its Chinese restaurant, T'ang Court, which is a replica of its Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong. It is also known for its Chuan Spa, a relaxed oasis where they combine the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water using traditional Chinese medicine. The treatments encompass a range of facials, massages and other treatments using Thalgo products.
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