Apr 1, 2018
LOOKING OUT FROM MY Executive Deluxe room on the 59th floor of the golden-ribbed St. Regis Shanghai Jingan, I realize I’ve never had quite this view of the city. I’ve been to the observation decks of towers like the Shanghai World Financial Center, legions higher, but they’re over in skyscraper-central Pudong—which I can see to the northeast, melding into a neon Crayola box with their cousins in the North Bund. From a tall building on that side of town, you feel like a tree in a cacophonous forest; from here, alone at the top of the lower-rise Jing’an district, the CBD looks a peaceful world away, though it’s just a 15-minute drive.
Yes, I just called crowded, sprawling Shanghai “peaceful,” but even at ground level, large swathes of Jing’an are just that. You won’t exactly find seclusion at the must-see Jing’an Temple, with the masses of devotees paying their respects to China’s largest jade Buddha. Just toss a coin for luck into the central shrine, and head back out to stroll Nanjing Road West, or duck into Jing’an Park, where grinning old people doing traditional dances from their far-flung provinces stop traffic on the footpaths, but you can also score a quiet gazebo for some reflection. Garden trails in Jing’an Sculpture Park can give you a Zen-infusion as well.
You’ll feel the same mix of hustle and hush within the hotel. In this era of shifting tastes, when so many properties are nixing lobbies and swapping out the gilt for the reclaimed, it’s refreshing to enter a hotel so unabashedly dripping in glamor. Of course, old-school class is St. Regis’s modus operandi, but The St. Regis Shanghai has nearly perfected the genre. After pulling up to the grand porte cochere and passing the army of concierges (who will later recover the wallet you lost in a taxi in a rainy-night frenzy), you’re led to the double-height lobby and a pair of leather armchairs at a private desk for a seated check-in—it brings the club lounge greeting to every guest, and it’s as pleasant as life admin after a red-eye can be.
There’s so much bling hanging from the ceilings here that I couldn’t stop looking up and kept bumping into strangers. The chandelier on the spa level was inspired by autumn leaves in the former French Concession. They dangle in the shape of a dragon with its head facing east, in accordance with feng shui. Perhaps he’s heading for a swim in the marble indoor pool guarded by Roman statues, or to blow off some steam in the labyrinthine Iridium Spa. After a jetlag-curing rubdown, a rest in their semicircle of full-cocoon massage chairs is the perfect salve to my typical end-of-spa sadness.
Afternoon tea is also a mood-brightener—especially with its curated selection of specialty loose-leaf blends. The Drawing Room has a conservatory feel, heightened by the classical string duo, and under, of course, a chandelier made of small glass spheres strung in the shape of a massive sphere, I was served a prodigious spread of sweets and savories, both Chinese-inflected and classic English, that made the strongest case I’ve ever seen for designing one’s tables to fit one’s menus.
The bar’s version of the Bloody Mary has homemade fig vodka, yellow tomato juice, osmanthus honey and lemon—it’s a frothy, surprisingly balanced drink that tastes like it should be the amuse bouche’s accompanying cocktail in a 10-course alcohol-pairing degustation. The chartreuse and carmine chesterfields, sky-high shelves of whisky, and live jazz evoke a social club of yore. Head there before or after dinner at Yan Ting, the fine-dining southern Chinese restaurant that seems to be gunning for Michelin. Flash-fried abalone, mushrooms in tofu skin, shrimp cakes… amiable chef Junping Lui elevates the simplest Cantonese food to dishes I order twice, despite being full, for both the flavors and the photos. Everything is naturally prepared and fancily presented yet magically not try-hard. Which, come to think of it, is a great view to take on The St. Regis Shanghai itself.
marriott.com; doubles from RMB2,080.
All photos courtesy of The St. Regis Shanghai.