Understated elegance, excellent service and stunning views of The Bund round up a marvellous experience at the brand’s most recent opening
We normally associate Bulgari with high jewellery and, more recently, with complicated timepieces.
In the past few years, however, the Italian luxury brand has been expanding rapidly into the hospitality business with Bulgari Hotel openings in Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai in the past year.
I had the chance to check in to the latest “jewel in the necklace”, Bulgari Hotel Shanghai, during its opening week recently.
Having stayed at the Bulgari Hotel Beijing previously, I found that the Shanghai hotel had the aura of a familiar friend: the same elegant modular structure and the familiar brown tones.
The dark wood and the brown hues continued into the understated lobby decorated with comfortable sofas and the confectionery table where you can help yourself to free gummy bears.
Incidentally, the Shanghai hotel also houses the first Il Cioccolato shop and laboratory in China, on the hotel’s ground floor, offering artisanal haute couture chocolates, known as Bulgari’s delicious “chocolate gems”.
The hotel offers 82 rooms and 19 suites, including the stunning Bulgari Suite, which features a large jacuzzi bath facing the Bund.
I was ensconced in a superior room, which was very spacious and almost identical in layout and design to the room in the Beijing hotel I stayed in. The door opened into a bedroom-cum-living area, with a well-stocked bar and a cushy sofa, plus a large flat screen television and a comfortable working desk.
The bed was plush and comfortable, and everything could be controlled electronically with a panel inside the bedside table drawer.
I loved the fact that there were sufficient charging points everywhere, including by the bed – and even inside the toilet, just in case you run out of juice while you’re sitting on the potty!
The bathroom was huge enough to accommodate two people comfortably at the same time. Showers and toilets were also separate, and a modest bath in the corner also offered an unfettered view.
One of outstanding features all Bulgari hotels share is their prime location. While my room did not afford a view of the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, it nevertheless offered a great view of Suhe Creek.
Another feature that I enjoyed at the Beijing hotel, which they also had in Shanghai, was the nightly warm Chinese herbal drink that came with the turn-down service. Nothing hits the spot as much as a warm cup of red date water, especially on cold winter nights.
Guests at the hotel are well provided with dining options. Breakfast is served at Il Bar with options of Western or Shanghainese set options or à la carte. The seating is either at the bar in high chairs or at the low tables in low chairs – which did not offer maximum comfort, unfortunately.
There’s also an Italian restaurant, Il Ristorante Niko Romito, by the chef of the three-star Michelin Reale restaurant in Naples.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to eat there as the venue was closed for events during the hotel’s opening period. La Terrazza, on the top floor, which offers casual dining in alfresco settings including private cabanas, offers a stunning 360-degree view of the Bund, Pudong financial district and the dramatic curvature of Huangpu River and Suhe Creek. It is truly magnificent watching the sunset from the terrace.
Across the courtyard from the main building is possibly the unique part of the Bulgari Shanghai: the refurbished historic Shanghai Chamber of Commerce. The heritage building houses the hotel’s 480 square metre ballroom as well as Bao Li Xuan, the hotel’s chic Chinese restaurant which offered excellent food and matching service. The original building has been well preserved and retains its 1920s ambience with a bar area as well.
I got the chance to pop into the spa for a facial. Like the other hotels in the group, the main skincare brand featured was La Mer. I was disappointed when the therapist informed me she would use the spa’s secondary brand without giving me a choice. Still, the treatment itself was fine and left my skin clean and refreshed.
The gym by WORKSHOP and the 25-metre indoor pool were also situated on the spa floor. The day beds by the pool looked comfortable, although I didn’t get the chance to use them.
I was impressed by the service and the pride and passion the staff seem to have in their work. Finding consistent service is never easy, especially in China, and I can only hope that they can manage to retain their talent. In all, while the hotel was luxurious and relaxing, it was really the service that pushed it above the mark for me.
Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website with permission.