Peninsula Hotels represent a world of elegance, style and luxury that is very hard to top. The service is second to none; the restaurants are always stunning, the attention to detail unsurpassed and the experience sure to be memorable. The first Peninsula was built in Hong Kong in 1928 and remains the flagship of the company, but the family has grown to now include properties in Bangkok, Chicago, Manila, Tokyo, Beijing, Beverly Hills, New York and Shanghai, with the Peninsula Paris due to open in August 2014. Here is a roundup of my favourites.
Peninsula Hong Kong
The wow factor starts as soon as we land when we are picked up in a Rolls Royce, one of a fleet owned by the property.
As for the hotel, it really is wow, from the front door – opened by white-clad pageboys of course – to its helipad on the rooftop. The property has 300 guestrooms including 53 suites and the big daddy of them all – the Peninsula Suite. All have been newly renovated, have views over Kowloon or Hong Kong Island and are a beautiful blend of classic elegance and modern techno-sleek. We just love the TV in the marble bathroom and the touch-screen panels that allow us to control all the room’s facilities such as lighting and the curtains. One could get used to this!
The restaurants and bars are sublime. Start with afternoon tea in the Lobby, then have drinks at Salon De Ning or at Felix – with its incredible views from the 28th floor. Follow on with a dinner you will never forget at Gaddi’s – with world-class French cuisine, Spring Moon, serving divine Cantonese cuisine, Imasa with its Japanese fare or Chesa, which feels like cosy Swiss chalet. Afterwards, head back to Felix for drinks or for some shimmying at the Crazy Box disco.
The Hotel also has a magnificent spa that is spread over two floors. There are 14 treatment rooms and jaw-dropping views over Victoria Harbour. Not as good as the views you will get from doing a helicopter flight from the rooftop. That is about as good as it gets.
With its incredible location – on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, this hotel is hard to leave. You can spend hours in your suite or in the riverside terrace cafe, just watching all the comings and goings on the river, with long-tailed boats buzzing up and down, barges carrying all kinds of materials, cruise vessels and the Peninsula’s own ferry, which shuttles across the river by day and night.
There are 370 rooms and suites, including four Themed Suites, 60 one-bedroom suites and of course, the Peninsula Suite. Our room looks over the river and we are almost as mesmerised by the throng of activity on it as we are by the high-tech controls in the room.
Highlights for us were the three-tiered 88metre long pool, which kept the kids entertained for hours while we split our time between the pool and the poolside Thai salas – where a cosy couple of a family can laze in comfort, complete with a fan and music – and the immaculate Spa. Housed in a separate pavilion over three storeys, the Spa is stunning – even the walkways are beautiful. There are 14 treatments rooms, four private Spa Suites, a tea lounge and a relaxation room, and the list of treatments is impressive. I just floated out of there on a cloud of bliss.
The restaurants are first class, and I can’t choose a favourite between Thiptara and Mei Jiang. Thiptara is by the river under a beautiful banyan tree and serves delicious Thai cuisine, while Mei Jiang offers sublime Cantonese dishes. For something special, book the Chef’s Table at Mei Jiang – new in the past year, and do a cooking class at Thiptara – just one of many excellent activities available through Peninsula’s Academy Program.
Opened in 1989, the Peninsula Beijing is in the centre of the Wangfujing shopping district and is within walking distance of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. There are 525 guest rooms including 57 suites, beautifully furnished and with all the mod cons. The Peninsula Suite has its own private elevator and a dining room for 18 of your closest Beijing friends or colleagues.
Why eat in your suite when you can dine at either JING, with its swish interiors and western/Asian cuisine, or Huang Ting, which might just be the most beautiful restaurant I have been in. It is designed as a traditional noble’s courtyard house and is decorated with Chinese antiques. The menu is Cantonese and I particularly loved the tea counter, where you can indulge in a range of Chinese teas. After dinner, head up to Yun Bar on the rooftop – something different for Beijing.
After spending days seeing the sights, visiting the Great Wall or shopping at the Dirt and Silk Markets, there is nothing better than walking back through the doors into the tranquillity of the Peninsula. Better still, laze in the heated indoor pool or rejuvenate yourself with a treatment in the Peninsula Spa, which has12 treatment rooms, a relaxation area and thermal facilities.
I highly recommend doing one of the cultural Academy Programs here – or even two. Ride in a rickshaw through the Hutongs around Hou Hai, with a very knowledgeable guide giving information about the area, its history and the lifestyle. Finish your tour with a Peninsula picnic on the Shichahai Lakes, before being driven back to your home away from home in a luxury car.
Peninsula New York
They say you always have a soft spot for your first love, and the Peninsula New York certainly captured my heart, being my first Peninsula affair. Walking in through the revolving doors on Fifth Avenue, helped by a pageboy in pristine white, was like stepping into the Tardus and appearing in another dimension.
The property is housed in a 23-storey building dating back to 1905, with many of the original Beaux Arts design features remaining. As for the interiors, well, they are lavish, stylish, sleek and elegant but are still comfortable and welcoming. The 239 guestrooms, with 54 suites and a Peninsula Suite, have all been newly renovated, ensuring a luxurious stay when you’re not out and about enjoying all that New York has to offer – shopping, shows, Central Park – and did I mention shopping?
The Pen is a popular place for A Listers seeking fine dining and chic bars. Clement is the name on everyone’s list – a new restaurant that has excellent views of Fifth Avenue and delivers a contemporary American menu. Definitely settle in for Afternoon Tea in the Gotham Lounge, and head to the roof to one of the best roof spaces I have seen – Salon de Ning. It has two outdoor terraces flanking an intimate bar serving signature cocktails – and the views over the city are sensational.
If you must exercise there is a fitness facility, as well as a lovely pool and the Peninsula Spa, or just count all that shopping as your exercise.