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The Peninsula Beverly Hills has just made staying in a suite even more haute! Guests who book one of the hotel’s elegant suites are offered the complimentary use of a luxury INFINITI for the length of their stay. Coinciding with the hotel’s silver anniversary, the sleek silver fleet includes the Q50S, Q60C, Q70L, QX30, QX60, and QX80. While Beverly Hills has so much to offer, why not enjoy more of Southern California and take an INFINITI up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, or continuing on, past Santa Barbara, to Santa Ynez wine country. All you need to do to reserve one of our complimentary luxury INFINITI vehicles is to make the request when booking a reservation. Vehicle requests are based upon availability. Proof of insurance and a valid US driver’s license are required. To reserve a suite or for more information, please call (1-800) 462 7899 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard • Beverly Hills, CA 90212 1 800 462 7899 • peninsula.com/beverlyhills
FROM THE CEO
am excited and proud to introduce the newly unveiled renovation of The Peninsula Beijing, which marks the latest chapter in The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels’ long tradition of hospitality excellence in China. With a front row seat at the heart of the country’s capital city, The Peninsula Beijing has witnessed first-hand the remarkable transition of China into an economic superpower. Our company first took over the management of the Grand Hotel des Wagons-Lits in Beijing in 1922 and in 1981 we were invited by the Chinese Government to manage the country’s first internationally managed joint-venture hotel, the Jianguo Hotel. The current Peninsula Beijing hotel opened in 1989 as The Palace Hotel and was rebranded as The Peninsula Beijing in 2006, occupying a space at the forefront of contemporary design and luxury ever since its opening. Today, The Peninsula Beijing has come full-circle in continuing to provide the highest quality accommodation and guest service in the People’s Republic of China, whilst remaining true to its Chinese heritage and roots. With this renovation, we are able to showcase the best of traditional and contemporary Chinese craftsmanship that reflects a city as rich and dynamic as Beijing. The exquisite artwork and design pay homage to Imperial Architecture which has endured for thousands of years and which places great importance on symmetry, energy flows and beautiful design. We have combined these ancient traditions with the technology needs of the modern traveller, with convenient check-in by tablet and our signature in-room technology offering the most technically advanced rooms in Beijing. The renovation of The Peninsula Beijing is an example of tradition meeting innovation, a trait for which our company is well known. A renovation of such grand scale is a fascinating process, and in the pages of this magazine I hope you will enjoy an exclusive look behind-the-scenes at the meticulous and detailed work that has been put into the manifestation of this project. I look forward to welcoming you to this magnificent property and as always, I hope you will enjoy reading our publication.
Clement K M Kwok Chief Executive Officer
CONTENTS AUTUMN 2016
FROM THE CEO
A NEW BEGINNING Joseph Sampermans has been General Manager of The Peninsula Beijing since 2012, leading the team that managed the magnificent transformation of China’s first luxury hotel, the first phase of which was recently completed.
FROM PALACE TO PEN The recently unveiled phase one renovation of The Peninsula Beijing marks the latest chapter in The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited’s long tradition of hospitality excellence in the Chinese capital. The latest incarnation of the hotel – conceived by celebrated Hong Kong designer and long-term Peninsula collaborator Henry Leung of CAP Atelier in collaboration with The Peninsula Hotels’ in-house team – has manifested in a modern day rebirth of a palace, offering a seamlessly combining Chinese artistry with Peninsula proprietary technology.
THE ART OF PENINSULA Art has always been an integral part of the Peninsula’s DNA and with the renovation of The Peninsula Beijing, the focus on art has been an important part of the plan from the start. This commitment is acknowledged by the appointment of Michael Suh, Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing to curate the collection throughout the hotel.
From a Chinese perspective, the traditional relationship between art, architecture and abundant prosperity has been fundamentally entwined with the philosophical system of harmonising everyone with the surrounding environment known as feng shui. Literally translated as ‘wind-water’ in English, feng shui employs allegory to harness the ‘invisible forces’ that bind the universe, earth and humanity together, capitalising and encapsulating the figurative life forces or energy flows, called qi. The use of flora and fauna to represent metaphorical states of being is also ubiquitous in Chinese arts and crafts.
FROM HEART TO ART
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD! As Executive Chef of The Peninsula Beijing, Chef Dominique Martinez is responsible for managing the hotel’s entire culinary team, comprised of more than 90 talented chefs, a challenge that he embraces with the same passion and drive that he has demonstrated throughout his impressive culinary career.
A CULINARY ARTIST Chef Alberto Becerril is Chef de Cuisine of the completely re-imagined Jing restaurant at The Peninsula Beijing, an exciting and innovative new dining venue inspired by a secret Chinese garden that full embraces the farm-to-table concept.
NO SIMPLE MATTER Beijing duck, also known as Peking duck, is an all-time culinary favourite of the people of Beijing and in restaurants across the globe. This unique style of preparing duck has been around since the Yuan Dynasty and is a national food of China. The Peninsula magazine goes behind the scenes at Huang Ting restaurant at The Peninsula Beijing and discovers what goes into the preparation of this much-loved and widely eaten dish.
SWEET SENSATIONS Award-winning Frederic Moreau is at the helm of The Peninsula Beijing’s pastry kitchen as the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef, and his sweet creations are going down a treat in the Chinese capital.
THE PENINSULA BEIJING: A LEXICON An A-Z of all things at The Peninsula Beijing.
A MAN FOR ALL REASONS With The Peninsula Beijing under siege from hundreds of contractors jockeying for space with guests and more than 800 staff, the job of holding the fort during the hotel’s monumental renovation fell to Resident Manager, Patrick Behrens. With many years of industry experience having worked in Germany, Cambodia and Singapore (twice with current General Manager, Joseph Sampermans), Behrens describes his job as similar to fire police, especially with all the various activities taking place in the hotel.
ONLY THE BEST Gian Müller is Director of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Beijing. He joined the newly transformed landmark hotel in November 2015, and during his eightyear career with The Peninsula Hotels, he has undertaken F&B management roles at the group’s properties in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Paris.
ROOM TO GROW Despite the title of this article, the Peninsula Beijing is actually reducing the number of rooms, not growing them. The growth is in the fact that the remaining guestrooms will more than double in size and for Michael Vincent Reyes, Director of Rooms at the hotel, this represents an advancement in his career as well as increased responsibility.
FEATHERS THAT MOVE EARRINGS 18K ROSE GOLD WITH DIAMONDS. $30,000
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THE FRONT LINE A native of Harbin, Leigh Li arrived at The Peninsula Beijing almost two decades ago. Making her way steadily through the ranks, she now holds the position of Front Office Manager, overseeing amongst other things, a new form of check-in at the hotel.
LAYERS OF HOSPITALITY If anyone should know the workings of The Peninsula Beijing inside out, it’s Ludy Li, Director of Housekeeping. Having been with the Chinese capital’s first 5-star hotel from the beginning, Ms Li has racked up an incredible 27 years since the property was first launched as The Palace Hotel.
THE ART OF RELAXATION The Spa at The Peninsula Beijing first made its debut in the Chinese capital in 2008, somewhat fitting as it coincided with the staging of the Beijing Olympic Games.
THE ULTIMATE ACADEMY Launched in 1997, The Peninsula Academy provides inhouse guests with the chance to learn about and gain exposure to the rich culture of the capital and it’s hidden gems in a variety of bespoke programmes for individuals, groups or the entire family. The programmes give guests unprecedented access to historical, cultural and local lifestyle activities in Beijing including the once-in-alifetime helicopter tour of The Great Wall, a hutong tour by rickshaw, a kite making class at Tiananmen Square and more.
RELIVING THE PAST Steeped in history but still home to many Beijingers, today’s hutongs not only offer a glimpse into the city’s past, but reveal plenty about the capital and its dwellers today. The Peninsula Academy offers historic and illuminating tours of hutongs that represent both old and new, representative of the many changes that Beijing has experienced over the years.
THE PENINSULA HONG KONG +852 2907 6928 SANDS COTAI CENTRAL MACAU +853 2885 3398 VENETIAN MACAU +853 2882 8008 WWW.BUTANI.COM INFO@BUTANI.COM
The Peninsula Hong Kong Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong Telephone: (852) 2920 2888 Facsimile: (852) 2722 4170 E-mail: email@example.com The Peninsula Shanghai No 32 The Bund, 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road Shanghai 200002, The People’s Republic of China Telephone: (86-21) 2327 2888 Facsimile: (86-21) 2327 2000 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Peninsula Beijing 8 Goldfish Lane, Wangfujing, Beijing 100006, The People’s Republic of China Telephone: (86-10) 8516 2888 Facsimile: (86-10) 6510 6311 E-mail: email@example.com The Peninsula Tokyo 1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo , 100-0006, Japan Telephone: (81-3) 6270 2888 Facsimile: (81-3) 6270 2000 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Peninsula New York 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, New York, NY 10019, U.S.A. Telephone: (1-212) 956 2888 Facsimile: (1-212) 903 3949 E-mail: email@example.com The Peninsula Chicago 108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue), Chicago, IL 60611, U.S.A. Telephone: (1-312) 337 2888 Facsimile: (1-312) 751 2888 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Peninsula Beverly Hills 9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A. Telephone: (1-310) 551 2888 Facsimile: (1-310) 788 2319 E-mail: email@example.com The Peninsula Paris 19 Avenue Kléber, Paris 75116, France Telephone: (33-1) 5812 2888 Facsimile: (33-1) 5812 2999 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRIBUTORS CHRISTINE LAM
Christine graduated from the Hong Kong Design Institute with a degree in animation but soon realised that her passion lies in graphic design. A creative of many talents - she bakes, hand makes clothes and accessories, and speaks fluent Japanese. Christine draws inspiration from music as well as movies and she is the Chief Designer for The Peninsula magazine.
Tony Smyth heads the Trefoil Media Group based in Hong Kong. He hails from County Cork in Ireland and has lived in Hong Kong for 23 years. His background in commercial art keeps him keenly interested in design, architecture and construction, and his extensive worldwide travels have honed his appetite for the finer things in life.
A Chinese-French hybrid, Coco has spent her life living between Hong Kong and Melbourne and travelling the spaces in between. She began chasing the dream of becoming a writer at a young age and her work has since been published in the US, Australia and Hong Kong. She credits her love of words to her father - also a writer - and finds inspiration in people, places and food.
Ann Tsang is the Editor-In-Chief and Creative Director for The Peninsula Magazine, as well as several luxury custom publications in Asia and the United States. She began her career in television, working for many of the world’s biggest broadcasters, and also ran her own marketing consultancy before founding The Antithesis, a bespoke, luxury publishing venture in Hong Kong.
ANTONIO SABA Antonio Saba had already earned a reputation as a leading talent in the advertising sector by the age of 21. Trained as an observant exponent of still life, today Saba is a very interesting figure in world photography, with a particular focus on the pictorial element of the shot and its iconic composition. This marked compositional approach, his signature means of expression, has enabled Saba to gain exposure on an international level. A permanent exhibition by Saba on the subject of his birthplace, Sardinia, can be found in the head offices of the Bank of Cagliari.
The Peninsula Bangkok 333 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok 10600, Thailand Telephone: (66-2) 861 2888 Facsimile: (66-2) 861 1112 E-mail: email@example.com The Peninsula Manila Corner of Ayala & Makati Avenues, 1226 Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Telephone: (63-2) 887 2888 Facsimile: (63-2) 815 4825 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Reservations can also be made through: The Peninsula Global Customer Service Centre 5/F, The Peninsula Office Tower, 18 Middle Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong Telephone: (852) 2926 2888 Facsimile: (852) 2732 2933 E-mail: email@example.com Toll Free from: Australasia • Australia: 1 800 116 888 • China: 4001 200 618 • Hong Kong: 2926 2888 • India: 000 800 852 1388 • Japan: 0120 348 288 • Korea: 00798 8521 6388 • Singapore: 001 800 2828 3888 • Taiwan: 00 800 2828 3888 • Thailand: 001 800 2828 3888 Europe • France: 0800 915 980 • Germany: 0800 181 8418 • Italy: 800 789 365 • Russia: 810 800 2536 1012 • Spain: 900 937 652 • Switzerland: 0800 562923 • UK: 00 800 2828 3888 Americas • Argentina: 0800 888 7227 • Brazil: 0800 891 9601 • Canada: 011 800 2828 3888 • Mexico: 01 800 123 4646 USA: 1 866 382 8388 Middle East • Bahrain: 8000 0889 • Qatar: 00 800 100 388 • Saudi Arabia*: 800 8 852 288 • UAE: 800 0852 07088 * Toll-free access number is only available through Saudi Telecom Company (STC). www.peninsula.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by: The Antithesis G/F, 1 Pak Tze Lane Central Hong Kong Tel: +852 2851 1150 Email: email@example.com Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director: Ann Tsang Graphic Designer: Christine Lam Cover Image: Antonio Saba
THE PENINSULA is published by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited. Incorporated in 1866 and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (00045), HSH is a holding company whose subsidiaries and its jointly controlled entity are engaged in the ownership and management of prestigious hotel, commercial and residential properties in key destinations in Asia and the USA. The hotel portfolio of the Group comprises The Peninsula Hong Kong, The Peninsula Shanghai, The Peninsula Beijing, The Peninsula New York, The Peninsula Chicago, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, The Peninsula Tokyo, The Peninsula Bangkok, The Peninsula Manila and The Peninsula Paris. The property portfolio of the Group includes The Repulse Bay Complex, The Peak Tower and The Peak Tramways, St. John’s Building, The Landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the Thai Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
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ORDERING FROM ADVERTISERS: Advertisers warrant and represent that the descriptions of the products or services advertised are true in all respects. THE HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI HOTELS, LIMITED assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. THE HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI HOTELS, LIMITED, its officers, directors, employees or agents make no recommendations as to the purchase or sale of any product, service or item. All views expressed in all articles are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of THE HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI HOTELS, LIMITED. All content contained within this magazine is the sole property of THE HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI HOTELS, LIMITED and may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without authorisation. (c)Copyright 2016 by THE HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI HOTELS, LIMITED. All rights reserved. The Peninsula is a trademark of The Peninsula Intellectual Property Limited.
A NEW Beginning
TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Joseph Sampermans has been General Manager of The Peninsula Beijing since 2012, leading the team that managed the magnificent transformation of Chinaâ€™s first luxury hotel, the first phase of which was recently completed.
t’s the break of dawn in Beijing and in the heart of Wangfujing, rays of sunlight cast a warm glow over The Peninsula as more than 500 construction workers don neon yellow vests and hard hats to begin their shift. Welders fire up their blowtorches, bricklayers mix their cement, and marble workers plug in their drills. Downstairs in the staff restaurant, a blackboard indicates the number of days left until “handover”. There is a palpable sense of urgency, as following more than three years of planning and six months of on-site construction, the unveiling of the new Peninsula Beijing is imminent. At the centre of this monumental hive of activity, stands a man, cool, calm and collected, and dressed to perfection, right down to his construction boots. The man in question is Joseph Sampermans, who after four years in his current role as General Manager of The Peninsula Beijing, has been tasked with overseeing the full makeover of The Peninsula Beijing’s public areas, restaurants, and the largest and most customised guestrooms in the Chinese capital. The magnitude of this project is possibly greater than any other that The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited (HSH) has undertaken, especially as it maintained continued operations throughout the renovation period. And the results are unquestionably impressive. Originally from the Netherlands, Sampermans first joined HSH, the parent company of The Peninsula Hotels, in 2004 as Director of Food & Beverage at The Peninsula Bangkok. 12 years on, he appears delighted to be at the heart of this magnitudinous project. “It is truly a great privilege to manage the talented team that has transformed The Peninsula Beijing, which has been a pioneering luxury hotel in China for more than 26 years,” he calmly states. “This has been the biggest and most rewarding challenge of my career. And following the landmark renovation, everyone is committed to making it the finest hotel in China.” The renovation of The Peninsula Beijing marks the latest chapter in HSH’s long tradition of hospitality excellence in the Chinese capital. The Company took over the management of the Grand Hotel des Wagons-Lits in 1922, and was honoured in 1981 by the Chinese Government with an invitation to manage the country’s first ever joint-venture hotel, which would become the celebrated Palace Hotel. Originally designed by pre-eminent architect K.Y. Cheung and opened in 1989 as The Palace Hotel and rebranded as The Peninsula Beijing in 2006, the hotel has always been at the forefront of contemporary design of its era. Sampermans reports that project planning commenced in 2012 with proposed designs, timing, energy-saving initiatives and compliance issues, with construction beginning in late 2015 and
scheduled to be fully completed by early 2017. “The project was deliberately scheduled to be carried out in phases so that we could actually still keep the property operational throughout the renovation period,” he states. “It has involved extremely complex operational logistics as virtually all of our systems are being replaced and updated.” The RMB890 million (US$123 million) renovation project has resulted in the hotel’s original 525 rooms being combined to create just 230, and starting at 60 square metres, they are now the largest guestroom accommodations in Beijing. As space is becoming an increasingly important factor for Chinese customers, many rooms are now ‘suite-style’, with separate bedroom, living room, bathroom and dressing areas. “The discerning Chinese consumer today equates space with luxury, and in fact the Chinese character for these two words is the same,” notes Sampermans. The Peninsula Beijing renovation also marks a new era for The Peninsula Hotels with the traditional Front Desk being replaced by in-room, fully mobile check-in and tablet registration, in order to save guests’ time upon arrival and departure. The hotel also offers maximum flexibility with the introduction of a 24-hour check-in/ check-out option, again offering the greatest level of convenience. “By no means are we cutting down the level of staff interaction with guests,” says Sampermans. “The entrance will still have a functional element with concierge, valet and baggage handling services, and our staff will continue to maintain the highest level of personalised service, which is very much part of The Peninsula DNA. We recognise that today’s travellers want their needs to be anticipated and their requests to be handled instantly.” Paying tribute to the high loyalty level of its employees, The Peninsula Beijing has gone to great lengths to look after their wellbeing. A brand new staff restaurant in the basement of the hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and a large and comfortable environment. Each day, a selection of both Chinese and Western dishes are available, alongside a noodle bar, a salad bar and a hot and cold drinks station. “Our employees are encouraged to eat whatever they want from the fresh and healthy daily selections, which keeps them happy and actually results in less food wastage,” states Sampermans, whose respect for his staff is clearly evident as he walks through the property several times a day to make sure that everything is functioning like clockwork. With the entire renovation of The Peninsula Beijing scheduled for completion by early 2017, Joseph Sampermans’ ongoing mission is to raise the bar in terms of providing the highest quality accommodation and guest service at this cherished landmark of the Chinese Capital, whilst always remaining true to its Chinese heritage and roots.
From PALACE To PEN TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
The recently unveiled phase one renovation of The Peninsula Beijing marks the latest chapter in The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited’s long tradition of hospitality excellence in the Chinese capital. The latest incarnation of the hotel – conceived by celebrated Hong Kong designer and long-term Peninsula collaborator Henry Leung of CAP Atelier in collaboration with The Peninsula Hotels’ in-house team – has manifested in a modern day rebirth of a palace, offering a seamlessly combining Chinese artistry with Peninsula proprietary technology.
hen The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited (HSH) was invited to take over the management of the 525-room Palace Hotel in Beijing in 1990, the company injected as much of its legendary DNA as it could to create the first 5-star property in the Chinese capital, a stone’s throw away from The Forbidden City. Fully refurbished between 2001 and 2005, the rooms were all clean lines and modern furnishings, with a smattering of colour accents. But there was only so much that could be done on a superficial level to keep The Peninsula at the top in an increasingly competitive market. Something drastic needed to be considered and it would not – and could not – be cheap. It was crucial to expand the size of the guestrooms, but this would require a complete re-examination of the structural aspects of the floors and the structure of the building itself. Many options were drawn up to allow the work to be done with minimum disturbance while the hotel remained partially open to guests. It was felt that closing the hotel during the renovation period would adversely affect its position as the best hotel in the capital, and therefore a radical plan to close all the guestroom floors apart from two, with about 100 rooms (on the 7th and 8th), was adopted. It is one thing to remain open for a renovation, but closing and reopening was an option that The Peninsula felt would not send the right message. Closing the upper floors would allow the contactor to fully reinforce the floors and allow the expansion of the rooms and suites to create the largest rooms in the capital at 65 square metres for the standard rooms. The US$123 million renovation was conceived in 2013 by celebrated Hong Kong designer and long-term Peninsula collaborator, Henry Leung. Leung was also behind the interior design of The Peninsula Paris, so was familiar with the new technology-led guestroom concepts. As always, guest comfort and convenience have always been of paramount importance in the renovation. The hotel’s original 525 rooms and suites have now been reimagined and reduced to just 230 suite-style rooms. “We have had a very positive relationship with The Peninsula since we first started about the time of the renovation in 1997 in Beijing, so we knew every corner of the project,” says Leung. “During the last renovation in 2005, we had to work within the structural challenges, which is why we could only do a soft refurbishment. But this time we really started from scratch and now every room has become a suite with separate living room, dressing area and bathroom.”
establish a continuous flow, connecting The Lobby to the rest of the hotel. These hexagons are carved into the marble pillars in The Lobby and at the top of the brass screens and are evident in the room and corridor carpets, created by Tai Ping. “Most patterns, similar to many Asian cultures, have some symbolic meaning behind them,” says Leung. “The hexagon is styled on the tortoiseshell. The tortoise symbolises longevity and prosperity. We have also incorporated phoenix, dragons and floral patterns to recreate the celestial imagery found in the ancient palaces.” The hexagon has further meaning for the Chinese, and in this context is taken from the mythical creature called xuan wu, a tortoise-like chimera with the head and tail of a serpent. It is one of the four celestial animals that each guard a cardinal compass point and date back more than 2,000 years. The ancient Chinese mythical animals associated with the four cardinal directions are the green/blue dragon (qinglong) of the east; the white tiger (baihu) of the west; the red phoenix (zhuque) of the south; and the black warrior (xuan wu) of the north. The whole concept of the new design style is Imperial Beijing that very much typified the hierarchical system and the importance of status and influence. The new Lobby restaurant, whilst sure to retain its fame for The Peninsula Afternoon Tea, is undoubtedly the nucleus of the hotel around which all the other components revolve. Guest can dine in understated elegance between the rising columns and grand staircase surrounded by the boutiques of luxury retail brands. It remains as a place where guests can see and be seen. “The Lobby was not originally built for The Peninsula, which is why it needed such a major renovation,” says Leung. “It now has a certain grandness because of the use of space and I’m sure that it will become an iconic place, just like The Peninsula Hong Kong. It reflects the very essence of timelessness that is The Peninsula style.” From The Lobby, patrons can see through the glass stairs to the new Jing, all-day Western dining restaurant on the lower level, where Leung has again contemporised various artistic scenes inspired from the secret gardens of the Emperors. The use of murals in the cobalt blue of Ming porcelain with the subsequent Qing patterns that were exported extensively to the West adorn the walls and hand embroidered silk screens depicting flowers from across the country add a bucolic air accented by subtle lighting. The Chinese restaurant, Huang Ting, epitomises the timeless style that Leung has incorporated in other parts of the hotel. The venue is styled on a Beijing courtyard house typical during the Ming Dynasty. Leung wanted Ming styling as this period had a more refined with feel with muted grey brick and dark wood whereas the Qing Dynasty incorporated more colourful elements that he felt would detract from the dining experience.
The first phase of the renovation was to reinvent The Lobby, which had become dated and lacked the panache and awe-inspiring grandeur that typifies entering a Peninsula hotel worldwide. The 1980s style red and black granite and marble stone bridge are gone, replaced with a grand white marble staircase up to the second level surrounded by three-storey high Imperial columns topped with gold leaf. “The old marble and the red granite were very dated, though they were very popular at that time, and the hotel wasn’t built with a Peninsula in mind,” says Leung. “This time we wanted to shed the old image, especially in The Lobby, and inject some of the DNA of The Peninsula’s flagship hotel in Hong Kong.” Leung took his inspiration for The Peninsula Beijing’s rebirth from The Middle Kingdom’s opulent Imperial palaces and tranquil gardens, which provided a serene oasis for Chinese emperors and nobility to meditate and relax. The reworked entrance and impressive Lobby conveys guests seamlessly into a modern Dynastic interpretation of traditional Chinese celestial motifs and classic materials. The design incorporates local cultural images married to the Peninsula style to create a refreshing oasis from the city with a sense of formality, solidity and substance on a Beijing scale. Large-scale art pieces by renowned Chinese contemporary artists decorate The Lobby, whilst other up-and-coming artists have created works for the guestrooms and other public spaces through a partnership with Beijing’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Leung has revived Chinese architecture, design and artisanal techniques that span centuries creating an Imperial image with the use of precious materials: jade, lacquer, bronze and rosewood, providing guests with an authentic sense of destination. Noticeably missing from The Lobby are the traditional hotelstyle check-in desks, now replaced by rosewood desks and chairs. The staff have been trained to bring guests to their rooms with a mobile and seamless check-in using the proprietary Peninsula electronic tablets – no paper necessary. The use of marble and brass is reminiscent of the nearby Forbidden City with intricate motifs taken from traditional Chinese art and literature. The floor in The Lobby has been replaced by a grey Pallisandro marble from Italy with subtle flecks of gold, and its pearlescent quality is similar to the onyx used on the walls in the lift lobbies and as detailing in the rooms. “It was important to have a modern interpretation of Chinese culture,” says Leung. “Having details appearing throughout the hotel, from public areas and into the guestrooms, ties the concept together. It’s sort of a contemporary interpretation of Chinoiserie, a mixture of East and West that is at the core of the Peninsula ethos.” Throughout the property, there are hexagonal elements that
“In terms of style, as well as the look and feel, we were not designing something really trendy that will fade out and become passé after just a few years,” says Leung. “We designed Huang Ting more than 10 years ago and it has remained timeless. That’s why we didn’t need to change too much, just a minor upgrade.” Ascending the grand staircase from The Lobby to the upper level meeting and banqueting spaces is meant to symbolise elevating oneself to the status of an Emperor. Leung has pared back the grand designs that once adorned the Ballroom, upgrading the carpet and lighting with modest yet sophisticated patterns and styling to ensure that the emphasis remains on the function and the guests. He removed the old chandeliers and reused their panels, repurposing them to make the crystal dragon screen that is situated halfway down the glass staircase behind the grand piano on the way to Jing. The bright and spacious guestrooms and 17 Beijing Suites, have been styled using new materials and fabrics with an elegant composition using greys, blues and white, with elements of brass and onyx that tie back to The Lobby and public areas in keeping with the Imperial theme. Brass door and cabinet handles with fretwork give a handmade look with a tactile, substantive natural feeling, while mosaics and calligraphy add splashes of ink-inspired colour and resonance. Leung also used all the offcuts from the marble floor and onyx walls to reduce wastage and add tasteful design details to reinforce the overall concept. The rooms on the top floor have also been fully refurbished as spacious duplex ‘loft’ style guestrooms with airy interiors and tall windows which disguise the fact that these are still the original single-room width. “Being on the 14th floor, these rooms are higher than the other levels,” says Leung. “With their large windows, you can see the space outside, as you’re not hemmed in by other buildings. That also makes the rooms seem bigger. As we say in Chinese, it’s like ‘borrowing space from outside’. Even though it is a single bay wide, it feels very different.”
There has always been a specific demographic that has usually been attracted to The Peninsula, but that is changing now as we see the Millennials coming into the picture. Our lifestyles have changed with the advent of computers and now the proliferation of personal electronic gadgets. The Peninsula has been preparing for this with its own innovative approach to technology. Each room at The Peninsula Beijing has more than 900 metres of wiring concealed behind its walls to ensure that all of the guests’ connectivity needs are met. These days, people are working very differently, and that is reflected in how they use the guestrooms. Not all their time, even for work, will be spent at the desk. The bed, sofa, dining table have all been designed to allow guests to work, play games, entertain for business or pleasure or read, with corresponding lighting placed to suit, as well as surfaces to accommodate the various devices and media. “Guests use the space more creatively and casually, so a particular space is no longer associated with a specific use,” says Leung. “We have included small additional comforts such as a slide out tray for drinks or devices that can extend from the arm of sofa and we have also placed surfaces and seating by the window where feasible so that guests can read, dine or have meetings there.” This project, once started, was on the fast track. Leung has had his hands full, both literally and figuratively, with managing the implementation of his ideas and those at the core of The Peninsula DNA. Ensuring that these ideas transferred to reality has been arduous – juggling the need for phases to become operational, whilst allowing for materials to settle, to dry or even be delivered and fitted in time for the many operational deadlines. Leung credits this being made easier through the hard work and cooperation that he has found with The Peninsula design and project teams, the contractor and the stakeholders. Leung has brought to The Peninsula Beijing a contemporary and multipurpose design infused with the brush strokes of history and has overlaid them with Chinese characteristics that have stood and should well stand the test of many, many years to come.
THE Art OF Peninsula TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Art has always been an integral part of the Peninsulaâ€™s DNA and with the renovation of The Peninsula Beijing, the focus on art has been an important part of the plan from the start. This commitment is acknowledged by the appointment of Michael Suh, Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Beijing to curate the art collection throughout the hotel.
hen the design team first sat down to contemplate the massive renovation of The Peninsula Beijing, the challenge facing them was how to bring the iconic hotel into the modern age of hospitality whilst retaining its intrinsic ‘Beijingness’. From the beginning, keeping the hotel’s identity through the integration of traditional artisanal elements with the extant foundations of the property’s history was an essential objective. But being stuck in the past was unequivocally not the way forward. Art was considered the ligature to bond the disparate aspects of the hotel’s public and private personas. The objective was to be current in a timeless way without becoming too avant-garde. The team turned to Michael Suh, Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Beijing to manifest his curatorial expertise. Born in Guilin in Guangxi Province, Suh now lives and works in Beijing, but his hometown experiences have remained powerful influences, along with his national and international positions on some of the most influential agencies and boards. Suh’s experience reads like a veritable art catalogue: Founder and Director of the vibrARTion project – Chinese Artists in St. Urban, Switzerland – A Passage to the Alps; Curator and Deputy Director for International Coordination, China Sculpture Institute; Member of the International Committee ISC (International Council on Monuments and Sites); and Executive Director for China, KAO (Kinetic Art Organisation). He has also been involved in major art activities including the Yuzi Paradise International Sculpture Project, the Beijing Olympic Sculpture Project, the NordArt China Pavilion for Chinese Cultural Year in Germany, and the Forms of the Formless: Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art. “I’m very proud of coming from Guilin. It’s a beautiful town, internationally friendly, and surrounded by wonderful limestone karsts,” says Suh. “It’s not just the natural landscape that influenced me, but also the first project I was involved in 20 years ago called the ‘Yuzi Paradise International Sculpture Symposium’ when first starting out as an intern whilst at college.” Through all these years, Suh’s Guilin experiences have been very important to him because that was the point where he enjoyed working with artists from all over the world for the first time. “All of the artists had their own unique way of thinking,” says Suh. “What the Yuzi Symposium did was to bring together these artists to stimulate creation in order to produce absolutely fantastic works which we hoped would ultimately entice them to permanently display their work in the sculpture park.” Being surrounded by breathtaking, natural views, Suh realised that artists would be very happy if they were provided with a platform to freely work together, exchange ideas through dialogue and comradeship, as well as interacting with the local community and surroundings.
“I would say that my art career actually started from then,” he reminisces. “I got to know about art, artists and the emerging contemporary art world by living and working closely together with the artists and having fun, getting right into it outside on the mountains.” After seven years working in Guilin, Suh moved to Beijing to study for a degree in Art Management, which then led to a stint in Greece in 2004 to work on the Olympic project art there. Returning to the Chinese capital, he started work with the Beijing Municipality on the Beijing Olympics Sculpture Programme until 2008 before moving to the UK to complete a degree in Curating Contemporary Art at the University of Essex. Suh returned to China in 2011 and started working on other projects and then in 2013 took up a position at MOCA Beijing. When asked if he considers himself an artist, Suh demurs, saying that he dabbles in photography and Chinese calligraphy but wouldn’t consider himself an ‘artist’ per se. Frankly speaking, when invited to work on The Peninsula Beijing project, Suh didn’t know that much about the brand, so he spent some time at The Peninsula Hong Kong to immerse himself in the experience and to really get the feel of the culture and DNA. “Before I really got to understand them, I was thinking it would be a project like any other 5-star hotel because, you know, most of them aren’t really into their art,” says Suh. “I thought it would be something similar, but after talking with the design team and learning about their vision, I felt that this would be something unique. I was imagining that after the project was completed, we would have in the very heart of Beijing, a place where people could experience the highest level of hospitality and service, but they would also have a place to see artwork and exhibitions of museum quality that no other hotel could provide.” After reviewing the presentation, Suh took his inspiration from the canopy of the porte-cochère and the grand scale of the new lobby design. “I was briefed extensively, but still given the freedom to keep in mind what The Peninsula actually represents,” says Suh. “And this is why I consider The Peninsula Beijing project to be completely different from other hotels. In my experience, many hotels consider art as purely decorative. Right from the start, The Peninsula and the designers wanted something that was really different and integral to the design, not just wall-fillers.” This was a project that required very close collaboration between designers, art consultants, landscape designers, the construction company, and of course, the hotel itself. Suh concluded that the direction would follow the transformation from the traditional to the contemporary, encompassing a dialogue between locality and internationality, thinking what The Peninsula stands for, and what would make the hotel unequalled in the city and beyond.
“So many artists are good. Many are high-level established artists who are in the art history text books, and then there are also emerging artists, so it wasn’t so much about status, it was more about whether they were right for this project,” comments Suh. “We wanted find artists whose works would match the style of The Peninsula and complement the space and the project’s general direction.” “Even when we honed down the selection, I had to ask myself, will they be able to work with me, will they feel this is a good enough place to put their art?” he explains. “Many only want to be in museums and galleries and sell their work, but having their art in a hotel was a new concept for many of them, so I had to work with all the different mindsets and eliminate pre-conceived ideas of what this actually meant.” Suh invited a few major artists to define the project, and for certain spaces he commissioned emerging artists that would follow the general direction for the guestrooms. Curating such an extensive project, it was decided to divide the overall concept into several categories and areas: the forecourt and approach to the hotel, The Lobby, Jing (the all-day dining Western restaurant), the lift lobbies, corridors, and guestrooms. For the creation of the forecourt sculptures, Suh commissioned established artist, Jon Isherwood. Born in the UK, but in recent years living and teaching in the United States, Isherwood is an important and acknowledged sculptor renowned for his public artworks. He was commissioned to work on the forecourt sculptures
to integrate with the landscaping and produced four 7.7-metre long horizontal sculptures for the fountain pools and three patterned boulder sculptures that are in his unique signature style, using granite from China. Another two are vertical fountains with water gently running down them through the incised patterns. The Lobby showcases two monumental calligraphy paintings by Qin Feng which are both over five metres high and are positioned prominently on either side of the grand staircase. Qin is a Chinese artist who has been very widely collected by museums all over the world, and he is also the Founder of MOCA Beijing. His calligraphy works are noted for their very bold gestures, which some people have compared to the style of Jackson Pollock. Though classically trained, Qin began to change his style to encompass a more abstract philosophy in the 1980s, incorporating a mixture of Chinese and Western, traditional and contemporary themes. “I would compare Qin Feng to a kung fu master,” says Suh. “If you see him working, he doesn’t use a normal brush, he uses these huge brushes that he makes himself, for working on large canvasses. You can literally feel the qì (energy) in his work.” Suh explains that Qin’s paintings work as a pair, which he interprets as representing the sun and moon, though others may view these differently, which is part of the magic behind the work. As The Peninsula Beijing is so close to The Forbidden City, these works also create a certain association.
“Qin uses very bold, lyrical and colourful gestures,” says Suh. “The background colour used for the paintings is the traditional blue found in qīng-huā porcelain and is a colour that has been used throughout the hotel. China is also well-known for its blue and white porcelain, also known as ‘blue flower’. Qin gave a great deal of consideration to the setting of the pieces and their relevance to the project as a whole as this colour also features in the guestrooms.” Two major bronze sculptures by Zhang Du, are located beside the staircase. Entitled, ‘Hutong’, these exemplify Suh’s narrative of exploring the passage from the traditional to the contemporary, which reflects the philosophy of the hotel. “On one hand, we wanted to bring a glimpse of Beijing’s typical hutongs as an expression of people’s daily lives, but the sculptures are not done in a classical figurative style,” says Suh. “Zhang employs blurring and disproportion to create a perception rather than the reality of the culture for guests and viewers to interpret in their own way.”
The hotel as museum concept is brought to another level with a dedicated art gallery on the third floor that is bathed in natural light and which Suh considers to be one of the most exciting aspects of The Peninsula Beijing. The gallery has museum quality hanging and mounting facilities as well as specialist lighting to display the collections without causing damage. The hotel’s Artist-in-Residence programme adds yet another dimension to its support of the art community with selected artists being given the opportunity to spend up to three months creating works in the dedicated studio adjacent to the gallery, whilst also living there. “The studio is an important and charming aspect for the artists during their residency,’ says Suh. “This unique approach, along with the designated gallery space to display their work, makes sure that artists can make a living at The Peninsula and that art is living in the Peninsula.”
From HEART To ART TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
From a Chinese perspective, the traditional relationship between art, architecture and abundant prosperity has been fundamentally entwined with the philosophical system of harmonising everyone with the surrounding environment known as feng shui. Literally translated as ‘wind-water’ in English, feng shui employs allegory to harness the ‘invisible forces’ that bind the universe, earth and humanity together; capitalising and encapsulating the figurative life forces or energy flows called qì. The use of flora and fauna to represent metaphorical states of being and harmony is ubiquitous in Chinese arts and crafts.
“For example, this hotel, being in the Beijing, the capital of China, and at the same time being a Peninsula hotel, I would describe the style as timelessly classic,” says Chow. “This represents our journey from past to present to the future. It shows how our culture has continuously developed throughout the centuries.” When Chow was contacted by Leung, his brief (for the hotel renovation) was to encompass a new clean look that would be strongly imbued with art and culture, interlocking elemental styles from different eras. Taking her humanistic approach, Chow considered the concept of a hotel as being a home away from home, with all the indigenous sensitivities and emotions that people bring with them. This, she thought, alluded to the fact that people want to feel safe and secure, protected from the elements and any, perceived or otherwise, negative forces. The white onyx screen in the entrance foyer is a classic and strikingly beautiful example of this, designed to demarcate the secluded aspects of the interior Lobby from the constituent architecture of the exterior. At a casual glance the piece looks very pretty, but the viewer has to look closely at the intricate carvings to gain a deeper understanding of the thought and philosophy that lies within. “These entrance screens were originally used in traditional Chinese architecture for homes, siheyuan, or courtyard houses,” says Chow. “When you opened the door to the home you would see these screens, which are commonly called zhàobí or ‘spirit screens’. They were built behind the front door to stop any bad spirits or ill omens from coming in.” These spirit screens form three principal parts in the theory of traditional Chinese housing design. The first is part of what we would now call ‘space planning’, whereby we separate the inside from the outside, giving the owner and his family privacy after the screen (in traditional Chinese hierarchy it was literally ‘the man of the house’ who was the owner). The second principal denotes the status and philosophy of the owner. As each had their own ideas for the screen, guests to the home would invariably take note of the patterns that reflected his thoughts, depending on whether the elements incorporated were very ornate, elegant or simplistic. Of course, every good housekeeper wants to keep the bad spirits out, but letting the good ones in and keeping them there is also of paramount importance. Thus the third function is to repel negative forces and keep the good things at the back; therefore each screen had different motifs on each side. This celestial function is also why we see so many lions outside of buildings in China and now further afield as the feng shui phenomenon sweeps across the globe. “The ones we created for the hotel serves the same function,” Chow explains. “They depict different elements on either side. Both have a central motif featuring mythical and actual creatures, and flora, each representing various symbolic interpretations.” The front-facing panel has a different element in each of the corners that represent the four seasons. Bamboo for spring, lotus blossoms for summer, orchids for autumn, and plum fruits for winter. Each of these has its own significance in Chinese
he proximity of The Forbidden City to The Peninsula Beijing has significantly influenced the architecture, design and orientation of this imposing property. The traditional style of the Chinese architectural gateway, pailou, at the entrance on Wangfujing Street guides the visitor on a meridian of positive energy that continues through the entrance foyer and into The Lobby and up the grand staircase to the ballroom, emulating the harmonious progress to the Temple of Heaven. Enhancing these traditional precepts in the new design of the public areas in the hotel, the interior designer, Henry Leung, turned to Belinda Chow, Managing Directress of the Willow Group and Art Gallery, Hong Kong and Shanghai, to source and fabricate significant art installations and murals to augment the theoretical and auspicious aspects of qì to protect and ensure the well-being of both guests and employees. Perhaps some metaphysical force influenced the choice of Chow being commissioned – a touch of serendipity that connected her with her latent calling to the Chinese art world. Chow’s original profession after graduating from Hong Kong Polytechnic University was that of a social worker in Hong Kong during the 1980s and 1990s, a vocation that touched her heart. She spent many years caring for the needs of the underprivileged and disadvantaged before unintentionally being coaxed to help close friends in Canada source some Chinese antiques. Chow found this new world fascinating. Suitably enthralled with the history and symbolism inherent in the objects and art that were slowly disclosing their secrets to her, the more she studied them. This led her to eventually set up a small shop on Ladder Street in the centre of Hong Kong’s antiques district. “I was getting more and more enquiries from people wishing to purchase Chinese antiques,” recalls Chow. “Establishing a small shop seemed like the natural thing to do, and with many international interior design firms located in the area, I was being asked to replicate what I had in the shop to different scales to fit their respective design briefs.” It was important to Chow that what she was producing for her clients maintained their intrinsic Chinese culture and proportions, whilst bringing these pieces to another level of perception and awareness. She was discovering that the hospitality industry was increasingly using Chinese elements in the design of hotels, and so she subsequently became more involved in supplying predominantly 5-star hotel projects. “In the past decade the hotel business has grown so fast,” Chow explains. “The concept of art has changed, especially in the minds of hotel owners. Of course, The Peninsula is an international brand, but still its history and design are very much influenced by Chinese culture, which is very pertinent as the guest demographics around the world are increasingly Chinese.” Chow, with her antiques background and social work experience, emphasises the importance of approaching projects from a ‘humanistic’ perspective. She puts this to use in the work that she does for hotels, injecting her philosophical themes into all of the art pieces that she is charged with creating.
culture: bamboo denotes peacefulness and safety, because it is f lexible it is strong even when dry and used for construction and tools. The lotus f lower represents purity and cleanliness, whilst orchids represent integrity and traditionally also ascribed to a good and incorruptible Mandarin Officer. Plum fruits are hardy and can even grow in the cold seasons - the tree keeps growing all year which is interpreted as working hard and overcoming difficulties. The central motif features peonies, another traditional floral symbol in China. “Peonies are commonly called huawang meaning King of Flowers,” says Chow. “All these elements together mean that one is a good scholar and an honourable person. Put in a corporate perspective, it is also what The Peninsula strives to be.” The inner-facing panel is bordered by the same seasonal symbols with the central medallion depicting a Phoenix, a powerful symbol in Chinese mythology and known to reign over all birds. Known in Chinese as fènghuáng, the males were originally called fèng and the females huáng, but such a distinction of gender is no longer made and they are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which is traditionally deemed male. Clouds represent peace and tranquillity, and various blossoms that imply fertility and prosperity surround the Phoenix. “Because this is in the main entrance area, it shows how The Peninsula welcomes its guests,” says Chow. “We invite in hospitality, whilst guests are our origins, and share our art and culture.” Chow was also tasked with procuring the two three-metre silk-embroidered screens for the new all- day dining restaurant, Jing. Leung wanted a more modern contemporary feel and designed
these two large round screens to divide the space between diners, whilst the opacity would keep an open feel to the environment. “I feel these are very poetic, as the round shape is like a pond and the green represents the land,” says Chow. “We incorporated different styles of hand-stitching from all over China and every blossom is unique and includes all the official provincial flowers. We also incorporated beads and ribbons to give added dimension and depth.” Each screen has pastoral images on each side using 200 different coloured threads showing the subtle gradation of hues that play with the restaurant lighting through the sheer silken backgrounds. Recreating the tranquility of a garden was important especially as the restaurant does not have any windows, so the use of lighting was integral to create the perfect ambience. Above the banquettes in the restaurant are glass screens that depict the trees of Beijing, hand-painted in ink and colour, and reminiscent of Chinese paintings. Painted on silk and encapsulated in four layers of glass to create additional depth, they are lit by three hand-blown Peking glass wall sconces of obsidian glass and gold leaf that imbue the scene with the soft illumination of the afternoon sun. Chow managed to find the many materials and fabricators who have diligently interpreted Leung’s design, instilling a venerable atmosphere throughout The Peninsula that encapsulates and expostulates the many philosophical and artisanal styles and theories inherent in Chinese culture. Whether you think life is plummy or prefer to adopt the lotus position, you can rest assured that within the elegant confines of The Peninsula Beijing, your corporeal and celestial well-being is at the heart of everything it does.
FOOD Glorious FOOD!
TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
As Executive Chef of The Peninsula Beijing, Chef Dominique Martinez is responsible for managing the hotelâ€™s entire culinary team, comprised of more than 90 talented chefs, a challenge that he embraces with the same passion and drive that he has demonstrated throughout his impressive culinary career.
orn in Agen, France, Chef Dominique Martinez nurtured a passion for cooking from an early age. As his career developed, he was compelled both by an enduring love of good food and the desire to work around the world to further hone his knowledge and develop his skills. As a result, Chef Martinez has garnered a wealth of high-level culinary experience from leading restaurants and five-star hotels in Germany, France, Switzerland, Australia, Luxemburg, Thailand, Barbados and China. During his career, Chef Martinez has worked alongside and observed several stellar chefs and gourmet professionals. In 2006, after five years of cooking up fine meals on the high seas for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, he docked in Barbados, where he became Chef de Cuisine at the acclaimed Sandy Lane Hotel. It was there that he met Chef Philippe Aubron, a master of dedication to fine seasonal ingredients and pure, original f lavours, who would become his mentor. Following a number of years of working in Asia, where he was also involved in several hotel opening projects, in 2015 Chef Martinez was offered a compelling new challenge. The Peninsula Beijing, which has been an iconic landmark of luxury hospitality in China for 27 years and was undergoing an exciting transformation, asked him to join its team as Executive Chef. “My brief when joining The Peninsula was to upgrade the entire culinary offering and to create new dining concepts for the city,” says Martinez. “This involved an entire revamp of our hardware in line with the demands of the 21st Century. Having been a part of several large-scale renovation projects, I had the experience to make this happen.” When Martinez came on board, his first task was to review the entire floorplans of the existing food and beverage outlets and their respective kitchen facilities, and come up with a master plan which would make them more functionally efficient. With the expansion of The Lobby restaurant, Martinez saw it necessary for it to have its own dedicated kitchen in order that meals be delivered to customers in the best possible way – both in terms of time, temperature and presentation. In fact, in the course of this interview, numerous meals are delivered to Martinez’ office - without the knowledge of who they have been ordered by – so that he can check for consistency at any time of the day. The same goes for the room service menu. If an order doesn’t meet with his approval, it is immediately sent back to the kitchen with instructions on improvement. “Even the vibration of a room service trolley can affect the delivery and presentation of a meal,” says Martinez, whose fastidious attention to detail is clearly evident. The new Lobby restaurant menu now offers an average of 40 items, all of which are reviewed on a monthly basis in terms of their
popularity. “Of course we offer the standards on the menu – you always need a great burger, a club sandwich and a pasta,” states Martinez. “But we still want to offer more diversity than the expected staples.” This diversity has been achieved with the addition of a selection of Indian dishes, prepared by an authentic Indian chef, and a choice of pizzas, thanks to the addition of a pizza oven to the Lobby kitchen, which Chef Martinez says is unique in the Chinese capital. Martinez reports that he spent a year doing research and development prior to coming up with his menu concepts for the hotel, and one of his main focuses is on the maximum use of certified-organic and sustainably produced ingredients. Fully embracing the ‘farm-to-table’ concept, The Peninsula Beijing currently works directly with 22 farms in China that supply sustainably produced vegetables, fruit, meat and honey on a seasonal basis, all of which are fully certified by the Chinese Government. The hotel chefs from each restaurant personally visit every farm regularly to ensure the provenance and quality of the ingredients. “Customers increasingly demand traceability and certification, so if we don’t have a product that meets those standards, I won’t put it on the menu,” asserts Martinez. “Integrity is extremely important for both myself and The Peninsula brand.” Whilst the drills and jackhammers were in full effect during the renovation period of the hotel, Chef Martinez was busy selecting his own tools to match the standards of what was occurring throughout the building. He lovingly proceeds to show the fruits of his searches for some of the most coveted cooking utensils in the world, including his personal favourite, a collection of carving implements by famed French producer Laguiole. Between 40 and 180 steps are necessary to assemble a single Laguiole knife, with each being a one-of-a-kind piece. One of the knives purchased by Martinez is designed specifically to cut Roquefort cheese – with its unique, almost semi-circular handle, it ensures that this delicate cheese which is highly prone to crumbling, stays fully intact after cutting. Beautiful and functional hardware aside, at the end of the day, the creation of fine cuisine ultimately boils down to the ingredients used. “Ingredients are absolutely the key,” asserts Martinez. “You can be a great chef, but without the best produce, the picture is not complete.” Throughout his career, Chef Martinez has remained dedicated to the art of fine cuisine by treating each unique ingredient with respect, and focusing on the original flavours of fresh, high-quality produce from the land and sea. As Executive Chef at The Peninsula Beijing, he revels in the challenge of delighting Chinese and international guests and diners with delicious, healthy dishes inspired by his global gastronomic travels.
A Culinary ARTIST TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Chef Alberto Becerril is Chef de Cuisine of the completely re-imagined Jing restaurant at The Peninsula Beijing, an exciting and innovative new dining venue inspired by a secret Chinese garden that fully embraces the farm-totable concept.
HAVE NO GENERAL PLAN, I WILL ADAPT TO THE
INDIVIDUAL PREFERENCES OF EACH OF OUR GUESTS.
want to provoke emotions through my food – people should feel that they have had an incredible experience!” exclaims Spanish-born Chef Alberto Becceril, the man chosen to head up the kitchen at the new Jing restaurant at The Peninsula Beijing. Born in Madrid, Chef Alberto’s passion for wholesome food was nurtured in his grandparent’s kitchen as a young boy. He studied Economics at university, but his heart was always in the kitchen and, at the age of 19, he switched paths in order to pursue his true passion. Becceril subsequently graduated with the highest honours from the Hotel and Catering Business School of Moralzarzal in Madrid, and his career spans leading Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels across Spain, Dubai and China. During his early career, Chef Alberto honed his skills in traditional and modern cuisines as a Chef de Partie and Pastry Chef at the National Gastronomy awarded Hotel Echaurren: Echaurren Tradición, and ‘El Portal de Echaurren’, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in La Rioja, Spain. He also went through a valuable mentorship with the Spanish culinary masters at Albert y Ferrán Adriá in Barcelona. These and other various experiences are now part of his very young history. Fulfilling a dream, in January 2016 at the relatively young age of 27, Chef Alberto was invited to join The Peninsula Beijing, where he now helms the kitchen at Jing. As the hotel enters a new era, Jing has been re-imagined as a contemporary all-day dining venue, inspired by a secret Chinese garden, serving inventive modern global cuisine. Formerly a buffetstyle restaurant, Chef Alberto now seeks to excite diners through surprising colour, flavour and texture combinations that aim to create memorable culinary impressions throughout the changing seasons. All ingredients used in the Jing kitchen are traceable, sustainable, and predominantly certified organic. With an increasing demand in China for this, no other hotel in the People’s Republic of China can guarantee the provenance of its dishes to the same extent. Chef Alberto meticulously selects only the finest seasonal produce and travels to meet each local producer to ensure that everything served at Jing is sustainably grown and produced. “We will not lie about being organic,” he states emphatically. “If there
are no organic tomatoes available at a certain time, I will create another dish, or change the ingredient to something else.” With the unveiling of the new Peninsula Beijing coinciding with the summer season, Chef Alberto’s first menus feature ingredients fresh from the farms, including asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, citrus fruits and mango, to name a few. With a special Tasting Menu and full à la carte menu on offer, he has also introduced some other surprises. “As rice is the main ingredient in China, I have created a special rice section on the menu, interpreted in different ways. For example, in my risottos, I use emulsions instead of butter and cheese, which makes them much lighter and easier to digest.” Chef Alberto has also included a tartare section, using various ingredients from meat to fish to tomatoes, which are prepared and served tableside. The finest cuts of beef are a further feature of the restaurant, carved tableside for sharing, with vegetable selections served family style in the centre of the table. If a guest expresses a certain penchant for a particular beef cut, Chef Alberto will bear this in mind, and will offer the same guest the priority to return when he receives his next exquisite cut. “This is just one of the ways by which I intend to tailor an extremely personalised experience,” he says, relishing the thought of exciting his diners. “I have no general plan, I will adapt to the individual preferences of each of our guests.” One of the two lines of plateware used at Jing comes from France’s Porcelaine Legle, a renowned family business in Limoges that has worked for over a century to design and improve manufacturing processes and modernise china production methods and conditions, for the benefit of a certain art de vivre. The plates come in various shapes and sizes, and resemble works of art. Each one is slightly different and all have an organic aesthetic. Much like a painter does on his canvas, Chef Alberto uses the numerous colours on each plate to highlight the contrasting colours of his various ingredients. With all this and much more up his chef ’s jacket sleeve, Chef Alberto Becceril looks set to create some culinary magic at The Peninsula Beijing and raise the bar in terms of a new style of dining in the Chinese capital.
NO Simple MATTER
TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Beijing duck, also known as Peking duck, is an all-time culinary favourite of the people of Beijing and in restaurants across the globe. This unique style of duck has been around since the Yuan Dynasty and is a national food of China. The Peninsula magazine goes behind the scenes at Huang Ting at The Peninsula Beijing and discovers what goes into the preparation of this much-loved and widely eaten dish.
meld and form depth of layers in terms of taste. It is then moved into a drying room where a specific temperature is maintained to allow for consistency in quality. The dryer the duck becomes, the more crispy it will be. There are two main traditional methods of preparing Beijing Duck. One is known as quanjude gualu, where the duck is placed in an open stove and certain types of fruit trees are used as firewood which adds to the flavour. The second method is known as the bianyifang menlu method, whereby the ducks go onto hooks and are hung up in an enclosed stove. The latter is used at The Peninsula Beijing and uses sorghum as the fuel in the stove, which is shut tightly to ensure even cooking. Both methods, although somewhat different, still ensure the signature crispy skin of the duck. Once the duck has rested for a day, it is ready to be cooked. In a barrel-shaped oven heated to approximately 180°C, the duck is placed onto a hook and cooked for 40 to 50 minutes. Around nine ducks can fit into the oven, which is a more modern version of the old style ovens that were once used. The oven has a small contraption on the top to allow steam to escape, acting like a thermostat, and thus keeping the temperature even. The key qualities of Beijing Duck are richness of flavour and thin, crispy skin. The traditional way of eating the duck is with a thin pancake and accompaniments such as plum sauce, cucumber and spring onion. A whole duck usually yields around 80 to 100 pieces. Once it has been carved and served with its traditional accompaniments, the carcass is taken back to the kitchen, where the remaining meat is made into a mince with water chestnuts, mushrooms, carrots and sometimes other vegetables. The mince is eaten with a lettuce cup and plum sauce. The duck bones are then boiled to make a rich soup which is also offered to diners. At Huang Ting restaurant at The Peninsula Beijing, skilled servers carve the duck tableside, and assemble the delicate slices into pancakes with the accompaniments using chopsticks. The contrasting textures of the soft pancake, the crispy duck, and the fresh vegetables combine perfectly to create a memorable gastronomic feast, affirming that Beijing Duck remains the calling card of the Capital.
uthentic Peking Duck in the mind of many a gastronome, qualifies as one of mankind’s great culinary achievements. In Beijing itself, it is indisputably the dish of choice of hosts when entertaining business associates and friends from foreign lands, and as inextricably linked as the Forbidden City is to China tourism, the same can be said for Beijing duck in relation to the Capital city’s cuisine. The process of preparing a Beijing duck is rather complex, yet the result is a quality and f lavour that is unique to this great traditional food. At The Peninsula Beijing, Chef Brian Lee and his team prepare an average of 20 ducks each day, with up to 40 being served up on banquet days. The ducks are delivered fresh to the hotel and the first step in preparation requires the innards to be removed and the duck washed in cold water. Once this is completed, approximately three handfuls of a homemade dry salt marinade are rubbed inside the cavity of the bird. “This is a special Peninsula formula, based on an age-old recipe which enhances the flavour of the duck,” states Chef Lee. The key components of the salt rub include salt and sugar, two opposite and balancing flavours, and a number of other ‘secret’ spices which give the duck such a distinctive aroma and taste. Following the infusion of this salt-based marinade, a second concoction, dark burgundy in colour, is rubbed into the duck. This marinade in particular has a slightly pungent aroma, which adds to the rounded flavour of the duck. Again, a balance of sweet and salty flavours infuses into the skin of the bird, allowing for the full depth of taste to be appreciated by connoisseurs. The duck is then skewered and the inside cavity is closed to allow the aromas to penetrate the duck right from the core. Air is pumped in through the neck of the bird, mainly for aesthetic reasons, as visually it makes the duck look fuller and more plump. Through this process, the duck maintains its shape even after the cooking process. The duck is then scalded in boiling water and immediately coated with yet another mixture of white and dark vinegar and sugar. This is the vital step in making the duck’s skin crispy all over. The duck is then hung up for one whole day, so that all the flavours
SWEET Sensations TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGE: ANTONIO SABA
Award-winning Frederic Moreau is at the helm of The Peninsula Beijing’s pastry kitchen as the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef, and his sweet creations are going down a treat in the Chinese capital.
orn in 1976 in France, Chef Frederic Moreau counts more than 21 years of experience working in fine restaurants and international hotels in France, Africa, Belgium, Japan and several cities in the United States. As the year 2015 came to a close, Moreau arrived at The Peninsula Beijing, adding China to his road well travelled. Throughout his travels, Chef Moreau has always carefully considered the taste preferences of his guests, and seeks to create mouthwatering pastries and desserts that tantalise every taste bud. His favourite ingredients are raspberry, hazelnut, passion fruit and pistachio, but he enjoys incorporating fresh local produce, such as peanuts in the United States and green tea in Japan, into his confectionary artworks. “I want to be very knowledgable about all types of local ingredients and to know everything about the products I am using, as this is vital to creating a quality end product,” he says. Chef Moreau believes that “straight to the point” best describes his culinary style. “If the main ingredient is mango, then I want diners to enjoy a dessert where the primary flavour is mango, and it is important to prepare desserts that respect the true taste of seasonal produce. I want people to experience flavours when they are at their absolute peak.” After completing pastry school in Paris, Chef Moreau began his career as Chef de Partie at ‘Marius et Jeanette’ in Paris. He then moved to Brussels to expand his culinary education under the tutelage of celebrated pastry chef Marc Debailleul. In 2002 America beckoned and the young chef found himself at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples,
Florida, and later the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California. In 2007, he relocated to the upscale ‘Occitanial’ pastry shop in Tokyo where he remained during its first year after opening. After returning to the United States in 2009, Moreau managed the pastry kitchen at ‘NoMi’ at the Park Hyatt Hotel, Chicago, which earned its first Michelin Star in 2010. It was in Chicago that he met a former pastry chef at The Peninsula and was thus introduced to the brand that continued to intrigue him. Having eventually come full circle and returning to the St. Regis in Monarch Beach for a further three-and-a-half years, The Peninsula came calling, albeit through a third party. “It was a very exciting prospect for me to be asked to work in Beijing,” says Moreau, whose team of 13, creates everything from scratch in the hotel, including the bread and the pastry bases. Throughout his career Chef Moreau has regularly and successfully competed in prestigious culinary tournaments, including winning the 2001 ‘Entremet Degustation’ title at the Serbotel de Nantes, France. He also earned a bronze medal with the US team at the 2009 World Pastry Championships in Tokyo, and won individual bronze medals at the 2003 American Culinary Federation Plated Dessert competition in Florida, and the 2001 French Sugar Sculpture tournament in Arpajon, France. In his spare time, Chef Moreau likes to escape the kitchen and head for the hills. A keen mountain cyclist, he rides more than 100 kilometres per week to keep in optimum shape, although crafting delicious new desserts is always at the forefront of his mind.
The Peninsula Beijing: A LEXICON
A Art The Peninsula Hotels is famed for its support of art around the world. By partnering with art museums, galleries and private collectors, guests can view pioneering works by both established masters and emerging artists. With the explosion of interest in Chinese Contemporary art over the past three decades since the hotel first opened, The Peninsula Beijing is in a unique position to showcase the very best of Chinese art to guests and aficionados alike. The hotel collaborated with Michael Suh, Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing, working in partnership with designer Henry Leung, to incorporate art as part of the new overall hotel design, rather than to simply â€œfill space on wallsâ€?. Guests can enjoy a permanent museum-quality collection of notable art pieces throughout the hotel.
B Bicycles With the location of The Peninsula Beijing in the Wangfujing area, a tourist attraction in itself, the hotel has two bespoke designed electric bicycles, which are part of the hotelâ€™s famed vehicle fleet decked out in Peninsula Brewster green, and offer guests the option to enjoy the Chinese capital in true Beijing style.
C Chocolate The Peninsula Boutique features the Peninsula selection of chocolates, together with a hand-made range created in-house by Executive Pastry Chef Patissier Fréderic Moreau. Frederic and his team worked with premium French brand Valrhona to develop an exclusive chocolate base for all the hotel’s chocolates. The Peninsula Beijing is the only hotel in China to offer this base. The attention to detail of The Peninsula’s chocolate collaboration with Valrhona and The Peninsula Beijing’s philosophy of only offering traceable ingredients even extends to Frederic travelling to Costa Rica to Valrhona’s plantations to select the cocoa beans for use in his Peninsula creations.
D Dragon The dragon is perhaps the most important of Chinese symbols of good fortune and protection, as the people of China hold a deep-rooted belief that they are descendants of the mythical creature. While many Western civilisations regard the dragon as a figure of destruction and malevolence, the Chinese hold it in the highest esteem for its strength, dignity and power for good. In an inspirational feat, the chandeliers from the old ballroom at The Peninsula Beijing were repurposed to create a decorative crystal artwork featuring the dragon motif behind the grand piano in The Lobby.
E Ecological The entire build of The Peninsula Beijing followed the companyâ€™s strict standards of sustainability, including zero emissions. The use of hard materials such as stone and marble in public areas is more sustainable than the use of carpets. To avoid wastage, offcuts of marble were made into mosaic patterns on furniture and in the guestroom bathrooms. The marble from the original bridge that previously featured as a focal point of the former hotel Lobby design was carefully removed, resized and hand-carved into small, limited-edition art pieces by local artist Bei Shui, to be given to the hotelâ€™s VIP guests as mementos of the former structure.
F FSC Using sustainable (Forest Stewardship Council-certified) mahogany, the bespoke furniture was designed by Henry Leung for The Peninsula Beijing, and made and hand-finished by Italian company Cassina, a century-old design house, best known for its contribution to the glamour of travel by commissioning high end furniture on luxury cruise ships. In fact, 95 percent of wood used in the renovation of The Peninsula Beijing is FSC-certified.
G Goldfish Lane In the Qing Dynasty, the well-known Na Familyâ€™s garden was located in the famous Goldfish Lane directly opposite what is now The Peninsula Beijing. Master Na was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and held a number of other official titles. He built a very large mansion, which comprised a sizable courtyard, a garden and a platform for Beijing opera, and which was known as the Jin Yu Hutong (Goldfish Lane) No. 1 - 3. It covered a total area of 18,200 square metres and special features also included a fish pond, a stone bridge, and bamboo bushes. Na died in the early 1900s but his garden continued to be famous. Goldfish Lane has since undergone many changes. The Peninsula Beijing is built on its south side and, memories of the mansion can still be found as the garden is still well preserved. Goldfish are also considered lucky in Chinese mythology. In a tribute to this exceptional location, the goldfish, which represents abundance and prosperity, is prominently featured in carvings and artwork in the hotelâ€™s guestrooms and suites.
H Hexagon An Imperial pattern â€“ the hexagon â€“ is a strong recurring theme throughout the new hotel design and fittings. The 160,000 hexagonal motifs are inspired by the pattern of tortoise shells, which in Chinese culture represents longevity.
I Imperial The inspiration behind the reinvention of The Peninsula Beijing came from the Middle Kingdomâ€™s opulent Imperial Palaces and tranquil gardens, which traditionally provided a serene oasis for Emperors and nobility to meditate and relax in the heart of the city.
J Jing One of The Peninsula Bejingâ€™s main dining venues, Jing, has been reimagined as a contemporary all-day dining venue, inspired by a secret Chinese garden. Spanish Chef Alberto Becerril seeks to excite diners through surprising colour, flavour and texture combinations that create memorable culinary impressions throughout the changing seasons. All ingredients are traceable, sustainable and predominantly certified organic. With an increasing demand in China for this, no other hotel in the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China can guarantee the provenance of its dishes to the same extent.
K Keys The new ‘Keys to the City’ programme, which offers the best seats at exclusive restaurants and front-row seats at the opera, can also ensure guests’ enjoyment of Beijing’s contemporary art scene by organising visits to the most exclusive galleries outside of opening hours.
L Laguiole Jing restaurant uses a selection of some of the finest carving utensils in the world from Forge de Laguiole. The Laguiole region (Aveyron) is well known for its excellent cuisine, wonderful cheeses, exquisite charcuterie and Aubrac beef. The comprehensive range of knives is complemented by a full selection of tools to cut, carve, season and spread. These objects are all hand-made in the Laguiole workshop from the finest traditional and contemporary materials.
M Marble The Lobby features 3,500 individually selected pieces of Italian Palissandro marble, which is revered by designers for its unique characteristics; every piece is subtly different in terms of vein colours from cream to cool grey, set to elegant perfection with a natural gold glitter. Using a very specialised and complex process, each marble slide in The Lobby was handpicked to create a â€˜bookmarkâ€™ effect, with the marble veins creating a rectangle.
N Nature Jing restaurant has been re-imagined as a contemporary all-day dining venue, inspired by a secret Chinese garden. Styled in tones of jade green with embroidered circular silk screens, Jingâ€™s design also celebrates the gingko, a timeless symbol of longevity, vitality, peace and hope in Chinese culture, with two themed paintings and a stunning accent wall of bronze gingko leaves.
O Onyx Onyx, of the white variety, is a beautiful natural stone with wide variations featuring a white icy background and veins of golds and greys. This material features in some of the key guestroom elements at The Peninsula Beijing, including the decorative doors that elegantly conceal the TV screen and entertainment console. It is also prevalent in The Lobby and other public areas, in keeping with the overall Imperial theme.
P Pailou As a spectacular welcome feature, and originally reserved for Emperors to pass beneath, The Peninsula Beijingâ€™s signature traditional pailou Chinese archway has been refreshed and repainted, welcoming guests with a legendary sense of glamour, inviting them to enter the grand Lobby and discover the hotel beyond.
Q Qianlong Jing’s design inspired by Emperor Qianlong’s magnificent 18th Century Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City. Emperor Qianlong was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty whose six-decade reign (1735– 1796) was one of the longest in Chinese history.
R Rolls-Royce Chauffeur-driven hotel limousines are the preferred option for guests making their way from Beijing International Airport, as timing can be unpredictable with the cityâ€™s traffic and weather conditions. Guests of The Peninsula can escape the elements in blissful comfort with the hotelâ€™s luxurious limousine fleet, which includes two exquisite Rolls-Royce Phantoms, 10 customised BMW 7-Series, and two Mercedes-Benz Vianos.
S Silverware Much of the silverware in use at The Peninsula Beijing is modelled on the original pieces created for The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels in 1928 by the prestigious English manufacturer Roberts & Belk, which has been reproducing the same design of silverware and cutlery since 1925.
T Tea The discovery of tea has been claimed by various historical figures and periods, but the most charming theory comes from the legend of Emperor Shen Nung. Around 2737 BC, he was relaxing under a tree waiting for water to boil on an open fire when a few leaves drifted into the pot. The Emperor was so intrigued by the aroma wafting out of the pot that he decided to try it and was amazed by its refreshing qualities and wonderful flavour. The celebrated Peninsula Afternoon Tea tradition continues each afternoon at The Peninsula Beijing. A total of 12 hand-selected teas of exceptional quality are on offer, with The Lobby staff receiving in-depth training in how to communicate information on each of the teas to guests. The teas are supplied by UK-based JING Tea, which sources the finest tea producers in the world to create an inspired tea culture.
U Ultimate Providing the ultimate in cultural immersion, The Peninsula Academy, launched in 1997, provides in-house guests with the chance to learn about and gain exposure to the rich culture of the capital and its hidden gems in a variety of bespoke programmes for individuals, groups or the entire family. The programmes give guests unprecedented access to historical, cultural and local lifestyle activities in Beijing including the once-in-a-lifetime helicopter tour of The Great Wall, a rickshaw hutong tour, a kite-making class at Tiananmen Square and moreâ€Ś
V Villeroy & Boch Villeroy & Bochâ€™s interpretation of the â€˜Secret Gardenâ€™ theme in Jing features one of the branches of the trees in the garden. Young, modern and fresh, whilst at the same time reviving traditional Chinese elements with modern accents, and made from the finest premium bone porcelain, the plates were made in Germany and meet the highest standards of quality both in terms of material and manufacture.
W Wine A much larger wine cellar than before has been built in the new Jing, which also houses a tasting table and boasts a hand-painted ceiling. The cellar holds up to 800 bottles of wine, including a large selection of 1989 Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne vintages (marking the year that The Peninsula Beijing first opened). The collection also includes up to 40 biodynamic wines and exclusive Champagnes in large formats. The most valuable bottle of wine in the cellar is a US$49,000 bottle of Chateau Petrus 2011. The Peninsula Beijing is also working with winemakers to do experimental blending sessions with guests so they can create their own unique bottle of wine with their name on a Peninsula label.
X Xinjiang Xinjiang, a multicultural intersection of the Silk Roads, is the birthplace of artist Qin Feng, who created the two spectacular 5 metre-high ink paintings on either side of the grand staircase. Inspired by his upbringing in Xinjiang, and considered a leading ink painter, Qin Feng uses traditional calligraphic materials but employs his brush with the unrestrained energy of the Abstract Expressionists. Qin has depicted the sun and the moon on a strong cobalt blue background, representing day and night, as well as referencing Beijingâ€™s iconic Temples of the Sun and Moon.
Y Yun Affording spectacular views of the ancient and modern capital, the rooftop Yun cocktail bar and terrace at The Peninsula Beijing is the highest bar in the Wangfujing area of the Chinese Capital.
Z Zalto Technical perfection is the basic principle of the Zalto Glass Manufacture in Austria. Zalto glasses have always been produced following a tradition of using only the most highly skilled glass-blowers working with a selection of the best raw materials. This tradition, and the resulting fineness of each glass, echoes the delicate virtuosity of the great Venetian glass artists of the Renaissance. At Jing, Zalto glassware is reserved for premium wines that require the maximum level of appreciation.
A MAN For All REASONS TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
With The Peninsula Beijing under siege from hundreds of contractors jockeying for space with guests and more than 500 staff, the job of holding the fort during the hotelâ€™s monumental renovation fell to Resident Manager, Patrick Behrens. With many years of industry experience having worked in Germany, Cambodia and Singapore (twice with current General Manager, Joseph Sampermans), Behrens describes his job as similar to fire police, especially with all the various activities taking place in the hotel.
s the name suggests, a Resident Manager lives on the hotel property and is basically permanently on call. Assisting the General Manager to run The Peninsula Beijing, Patrick Behrens is charged with overseeing the operational departments that include Food & Beverage, Rooms, Engineering and Security, ensuring that the service, culinary quality, the rooms product, cleanliness, safety and housekeeping issues are up to the impeccable Peninsula standards. This is a tough call considering that during the renovation the hotel was basically a construction site – albeit a very tidy one! Dealing with potential security problems and safety hazards and resolving on-site issues at the hotel (relating to guests, employees or the property) and how these impact on the service expected from a Peninsula hotel was a major challenge, yet the least resistance came from the guests. “We were very honest from the beginning with our guests,” says Behrens. “We also had to be equally forthright to all our travel partners, as a large part of our business comes from online travel sites and agencies in China.” The project team conducted extensive studies before actually starting the renovation, looking at the best scenarios as to how to phase the exercise in order to limit the disturbances to guests and operations as much as possible. The first scenario they looked at was to occupy whole floors and leave buffer floors in between. But that was not possible because of the structure of the building and the additional reinforcement that was subsequently discovered to be required from knocking two or three rooms into one large suite. It was decided to occupy the building by wing to maximise occupancy while minimising disturbances. The hotel gave notice that renovations were going on and for guests and visitors to expect disturbances, stressing that they still remained committed to providing the usual Peninsula service within the limitations facing them.
“If for a few days, unfortunately, there was no gym because we had to do some piping work, or through various constructionrelated interruptions of services be it water, electricity and so forth, we tried to make it as pleasant as possible,” Behrens explains. “We offered compensatory services and more amenities to our guests, such as a free pressing service or more flexible check-in and checkout times.” Indeed, any guest checking in and saying this was not what they wanted, the hotel had an arrangement with nearby hotels, with the famous Peninsula Pages mobilised to bring the guests and their accoutrements across the road. “We asked no questions nor charged any cancellation fees, because we understood them,” says Behrens. “We wanted people to come back once we were completed, so that was far more important than short-term gains.” There were also many guests who knew about the renovations, who have been staying at the hotel and who actually didn’t mind the noise. “I received letters from regular guests informing us that they were coming back to stay at The Peninsula,” Behrens recalls. “I wrote to them and said, are you sure? There’s a great deal of work being done, and inconvenience expected. But they all wrote back stating, ‘The Peninsula under renovation is still better than any other hotel in Beijing.’ This sums up the sentiment of many of our regular customers.” Taking extra care of these hardy inmates was surprisingly a little easier, despite the orchestrated turmoil all around, and Behrens actually made the best of having less rooms – any number between 150-160 depending on the construction schedule, down from the original 525 – and having kept the full complement of staff the hotel, he was able to provide a lot more service, with swifter deliveries and offer a great deal more personalised agendas to really look after each guest, as only The Peninsula can.
The Peninsula also has a duty of responsibility and care for its staff. Dealing with employee concerns in terms of the renovation and its impact was a fundamental part of the planning process, which Behrens explains has been a long time in the making. “The journey started almost two years ago; the anticipation process went through certain journeys as well. Joseph [Sampermans], the General Manager, started this journey when he came to Beijing and basically told the staff that we had to renovate because we were not the best any more.” The company timed a number of milestones to compensate and to generate some positivity, such as prioritising the renovation of the staff dining restaurant which opened at a time when the working conditions were at their worst. This had a really positive response and the staff are very happy with the standard of the restaurant and, as the story goes, with happy staff you get happier guests. The commitment to the staff dining restaurant is outstanding and Behrens credits the success to a great team effort of the Engineering Department who put a lot of thought into planning and making it a functional and comfortable space. The Executive Chef also put many of his experienced chefs from the various frontof-house restaurants into the staff restaurant to raise the standard of food and that of the service teams. “Once again it was our attention to detail, detail, detail,” says Behrens. “We really put a lot of thought in there. A dedicated noodle counter was one of the ideas that the staff recommended and everybody is proud of it. We have installed computer tables and a beverage area as well as changing the menus every day. From that moment I believe it was a turning point in a way, because the staff
could see that now the level of standard was real, and also what the company was doing for them.” During this whole process the retail arcade, China’s first luxury mall and jam-packed with about 40 designer brands, remained open. Keeping the operators happy was another task that Behrens has had to balance. “The retail tenants were obviously concerned,” says Behrens. “But we worked together with them to come up with a programme whereby we would reward shoppers. There were actually still a good number of people shopping every day who braved the maze of hoardings, and if they made a certain purchase level, they were entitled to dining or spa vouchers. So, apart from the operational goals, has Behrens been managing a host of crises? How did he deal with meeting customer expectations when they were confronted with a series of temporary walls instead of grand stairways and gilded columns? “I don’t think that there was a real crisis,” he responds. There were a lot of small situations and set-backs, but once again, we had strategies in place to be able to handle them.” Behrens sees the relaunch as a unique opportunity. He believes that every city has one hotel that springs to everyone’s mind when asked which one is the best in town. “In Shanghai people say it’s The Peninsula, and in Hong Kong it’s unquestionably The Peninsula, but there really hasn’t been that kind of destination recognised in Beijing,” he adds. “But I think that with our history, our dedicated and passionate staff, plus the new, larger rooms and new dining and recreation facilities, it is a fantastic opportunity for us to really re-establish The Peninsula Beijing in that niche; whereby there’s no other hotel that you’d want to stay in if you come to Beijing.”
ONLY The BEST TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Gian MĂźller is Director of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Beijing. He joined the newly transformed landmark hotel in November 2015, and during his eight-year career with The Peninsula Hotels, he has undertaken F&B management roles at the Groupâ€™s properties in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Paris.
Swiss national, Gian Müller began his career in 2004 at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Switzerland, and in 2006, he relocated to Asia to become a Food and Beverage Management Trainee at The Peninsula Bangkok. His next move was to join the Corporate Management Trainee programme at The Peninsula Hong Kong. During his training, he worked in various departments, including the property’s prestigious Felix and Verandah restaurants. The programme also gave Müller his first taste of working in Mainland China as part of the opening team at The Peninsula Shanghai. After successfully completing the Corporate Management programme, Müller became Assistant Manager of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and assisted in the planning of the hotel’s extensive 85th Anniversary celebrations. In February 2012, he was promoted to Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, where his responsibilities included overseeing the 380 staff working across seven restaurants, three bars and the hotel’s banquet operations. A move to the French capital followed. As Assistant Director of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Paris, the first property in Europe for The Peninsula Hotels, Müller assisted in the management of 220-person division, including three restaurants, two bars and the hotel’s banquet operations. Now firmly settled in the Chinese capital, Müller is excited to bring his global experience and culinary passion to The Peninsula Beijing. The Peninsula(TP): What is your vision for the new Peninsula Beijing? Gian Müller(GM): This is unique challenge for our talented F&B team. Following the spectacular transformation of the property, we are working hard to reposition the hotel as the finest dining destination in the Chinese capital. The stunning new Chinese and international dining concepts blend the very best of traditional and modern cuisines, and we look forward to delighting diners with inventive new menus and highly personalised service. It’s all about making our guests feel special. TP: How has each dining venue changed following the renovation? GM: The biggest transformation in terms of dining is at Jing. We wanted to create a very down-to-earth, farm-to-table experience,
so we removed all the more formal elements that previously existed. The menu is easy to understand and is unpretentious. Some dishes are prepared table side, which allows for a greater interaction between the staff and the guests, and also gives the chef the opportunity to learn about diners’ specific preferences. For example, if he sees that a guest enjoys a particular cut of meat, when he gets delivery of a special cut later, we will call that guest and give them first priority to come back to the restaurant and enjoy it. With The Lobby, our primary objective was to recreate a restaurant that serves the finest afternoon tea in the city, with classic Peninsula service and exceptional menu offerings. We are offering 12 different types of seasonal teas which the staff take time to explain about to our guests, adding to the experience we want to offer. At Huang Ting, our signature Cantonese restaurant, we have added a tea lounge at the entrance where we offer 50 different types of premium Chinese teas which are prepared in front of guests in a form of ‘tea ceremony’, again in an effort to enhance the overall dining experience. TP: Has wine become more important in the overall F&B offering? GM: Absolutely. Wine has become increasingly important for us, so much so that we have created a much larger cellar in Jing which can store up to 800 bottles. Chinese consumers today are extremely knowledgable about wine, so we have an extensive selection of very high quality product. We also have an excellent range of Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages from 1989, the year that the hotel first opened. TP: How did you go about procuring the tableware for Jing? GM: We were very fortunate to be given a great deal of freedom to procure the finest products and unique pieces that often have great stories behind them. We commissioned one of the best purveyors of ceramics, Villeroy & Boch, to create exclusive flatware for us - the plates are decorated with a motif that represents one of the branches in the ‘secret garden’, which is the overall theme on which Jing is based. We also sourced some of the finest specialised knives from the French company Laguiole, which we believe will become a talking point of the restaurant. In fact, we want everything that we do to be talked about, not only in Beijing, but wherever our guests come from…
ROOM To GROW TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
Despite the title of this article, The Peninsula Beijing is actually reducing its number of rooms, not growing them. The growth is in the fact that the remaining guestrooms will more than double in size and for Michael Vincent Reyes, Director of Rooms at the hotel, this represents an advancement in his career as well as increased responsibility.
ichael Vincent Reyes has been with The Peninsula Beijing since October 2013, coinciding with the inception of the renovation project that the property was about to undertake. Prior to that, Reyes had the opportunity to fully immerse himself in The Peninsula’s distinctive style of hospitality with four years at the Peninsula Bangkok as Front Office Manager and prior to that, after graduating from hospitality college in the Philippines, five years with The Peninsula Manila, where he worked on the front desk as a receptionist moving up to concierge and then front office. During his time at The Peninsula in Manila, Reyes was also given the opportunity to be part of the pre-opening team of The Peninsula Shanghai, which subsequently led to him lending his experience to the opening of The Peninsula Paris. These postings honed his hospitality and operational skills for the ‘new look’ Peninsula rooms that were to be instituted into the company’s Beijing property. “The magnitude of this whole project is different to anything that the Peninsula has undertaken,” says Reyes. “With Shanghai and Paris, it was a completely new hotel build. Here in Beijing, we’re here, we are operating and it’s not a typical upgrade – it’s really a landmark renovation. The scale of this project is on the same level as opening a brand new hotel, which is essentially what we are doing,” he adds. With walls being knocked out whilst the hotel remained operational. However there are guests who still want to come despite the inconvenience of the obvious construction and all that entails. “I put it down to loyalty,” explains Reyes. “Our guests have such a deep connection to the hotel, it doesn’t matter what state it is in.” In his current role, Reyes oversees more than 200 staff in the Front Office, Housekeeping, Florist and Fleet departments, and with the constant changes due to the structural phasing of the work,
and with floors and rooms coming in and out of service during the next few months, he has his work cut out to ensure that guest services run as efficiently as possible during this time. Reyes admits that the past two years have been a challenge, but he says that the experience has been phenomenal and that he has grown in terms both character and vision and wouldn’t change any of it, “despite the enormous amount of stress and ensuing hair loss – an occupational hazard,” he muses. With the hotel effectively halving the number of rooms but doubling their size, Reyes believes that larger rooms are what the market is now demanding. “We know that space has become a commodity, especially with the Chinese consumers, who now make up more than 50 percent of our guests, therefore having the largest rooms in the city is testament to the brand’s understanding of what its customers want. For us, everything is business or first class.” “It’s a much bigger scope of work than what I had in Bangkok,” says Reyes. “That’s why I look at how fortunate I actually am, in that the company has given me this opportunity. For a gentleman like myself, educated from a local hotel school in Manila, it’s a dream come true.” Reyes credits the support of his colleagues and the motivation and encouragement that The Peninsula gives to all of its staff, saying that it really does feel like being part of a family. It is fitting that the group works with hospitality schools in Beijing and around the country, giving their graduates the chance to start their careers with a supportive and inclusive path for growth within The Peninsula group. In a commendable end to the conversation, Reyes concludes: “I want to be able to inspire future generations of staff who are starting out in hospitality, and for them to be able to achieve what I have at The Peninsula.”
THE Front LINE
TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
A native of Harbin, Leigh Li arrived at The Peninsula Beijing almost two decades ago. Making her way steadily through the ranks, she now holds the position of Front Office Manager, overseeing, amongst other things, a new form of check-in at the hotel.
The Peninsula(TP): You have been working for The Peninsula Beijing for almost 20 years. How did you work your way up to your current position? Leigh Li(LL): I started at the hotel in 1997 working on the Club Floor, then I transferred to one of the then restaurants, ‘Inagiku’, where I managed to learn a little Japanese. I was subsequently given the opportunity to take up a position in the Front Office as it was very short staffed at the time. It was there that I was able to learn a great deal and in turn build my confidence. I was eventually promoted to a supervisor position and the Director of Rooms then persuaded me to take up a role as a Concierge, although I was reluctant at first. Once I got used to it, I became more and more motivated to improve myself and I must say that I still continue to learn a lot every day from the guests, the staff and my superiors. In January of this year (2016), I was promoted to my current position of Front Office Manager, which I am delighted about, as it gives me the chance to continue learning. TP: What are the main challenges involved in your latest role? LL: There are many daily challenges, but this is part of the job. We manage to learn through experience how to deal with these challenges, and in fact every situation offers me a way to grow and improve. Now that we have completely changed our check-in/ check-out system, the challenge is training people to learn to use this one-stop service which involves checking guests in using an iPad in the comfort of their room. Another challenge is making sure that the two service desks that we have at the hotel entrance are multi-functional. The staff must have excellent communication skills and be able to adapt to any situation that involves ensuring the highest level of personalised guest service. TP: One of the major changes that has taken place at the hotel is the combining of the front desk and concierge. What are the benefits of this and does it mean that less staff are required in your department? LL: Conventional hotels have always had these separated, with the front desk handling check-in and check-out procedures and the concierge desk handling guest enquiries and requests. We are now fully mobile, as we want to create a more seamless environment to make everything easy for the guests. The difference in guest demographics played a role when we looked at the flexible check-in/check-out system that this mobile format would present. Beijing was deemed to be easier to manage, as guests who come for business tend to check in and have their breakfast, go to their meetings and then depart directly. Similarly for leisure travellers, as Beijing’s flights aren’t geared to very early
arrivals and extremely late departures such as, for example, in Bangkok. In order to be fully aware of individual guest preferences and requirements, we spend at least 90 minutes every day going through all guest arrivals for the following 10 to 14 days. This creates the ability to connect with our guests on a more personal level. The new system doesn’t mean that we have less staff. I still have my original concierge team of five people, and we have a total of 11 people in the department, including two deaf ladies who take care of data input in the back office. We will always maintain a close level of guest contact as this is key to ensuring that we anticipate and then ultimately exceed their expectations. TP: With these new systems in place, have you had to recruit new staff to ensure maximum efficiency and seamless integration? LL: Yes, we want to maintain the highest level of service, so we have recruited new staff who are technologically savvy and are able to communicate in various languages. I also had the benefit of one month of cross-training at The Peninsula Tokyo. TP: What is one of the most fulfilling tasks you have achieved on behalf of a guest? LL: I had one guest who arrived with a long list of things he wanted to do all over China - the very best of everything - from the most luxurious hotel in Mongolia to the best cruise through The Three Gorges. I spent a great deal of time organising the most detailed itinerary for him, although I hadn’t experienced any of the hotels or cruises myself, so I had to take a slight risk. A month later I received an email from the guest saying that every detail of his trip was perfect and he was delighted. He had one small request, which was that he had purchased an artifact from a shop in Mongolia, but they had shipped the wrong item to him and he asked me to help with the situation. So I contacted the shop and had them send the correct item and the shop owner even said that the guest could keep the item that they had wrongly sent. TP: What is the best aspect of your job? LL: Each time I am able to solve a problem for one of our guests, I feel very fulfilled. I like to be around people; it’s part of my personality. Once a guest left a very expensive vase at a restaurant at Xian airport and he just casually mentioned it to me three days later, thinking that he would never be able to retrieve it, but I managed through various calls to the airport to actually get it back. The guest was overwhelmed and I felt like I had exceeded his expectations. These matters are very important. If you try your best, you will satisfy both the guest and yourself, and also if you don’t try you’ll never know!
Layers OF Hospitality TEXT: TONY SMYTH IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
If anyone should know the workings of The Peninsula Beijing inside out, itâ€™s Ludy Li, Director of Housekeeping. Having been with the Chinese capitalâ€™s first 5-star hotel from the beginning, Ms Li has racked up an incredible 27 years since the property was first launched as The Palace Hotel.
udy Li has seen many changes during the 27 years that she has worked at The Peninsula Beijing, and not all of them have involved sheets. Even in those early days The Peninsula set new and higher benchmarks for guest service that hadn’t been experienced in any other hotel in China before. Commenting on these changes, Li says that the hotel was the epitomé of luxury then and still is. This she attributes to the continuing training that the company advocates for all employees. In preparation for this renovation, Li herself had to adapt to the new order with coaching in the new systems and latest technology employed by the hotel through groundwork trips to The Peninsula Tokyo and The Peninsula Hong Kong for several months, as these properties had already adopted these innovative practises. Many guests probably think of housekeeping as the daily sweep through their rooms, fluffed up pillows, fresh towels, and that nice piece of chocolate or flower placed on their bed at sundown (along with the room service breakfast menu). These are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the Housekeeping Department. Li has many feathers to her duster, which makes a clean sweep throughout front-of-house and back-of-house operations. As Director of Housekeeping, Li’s remit encompasses several departments that directly and indirectly engage with the guest experience, from the observable to the invisible aspects of running an efficient hotel at all levels. Her division ensures that all guestrooms, lift lobbies and corridors are kept spick and span. With the room count at The Peninsula Beijing reducing to 232 suite-type residences, once
renovations are complete, down from 525 guestrooms and suites, one would have thought that would mean a reduction in room attendants. Not so at the Peninsula. The reduction in room count is mitigated by the larger size of each new suite. With the minimum sized room at 60 square metres, and a host of new materials and surfaces to maintain, Li has kept her team of loyal attendants and has fastidiously overseen a training campaign in the mock-up suites to familiarise them with the duty of care and attention to details (of which there are many) that are required on both a daily and a weekly basis. Even with less rooms, time is still a crucial factor and many hours have been dedicated to perfecting the necessary care and attention needed to service each room whilst not compromising on quality or inflicting damage to the delicate surfaces and finishes. New bio-degradable and chemical-free cleaning products and cloth materials had to be developed to ensure that the elegant gilded screens and lacquered surfaces would stand up to the rigours of constant use and upkeep. Another department within housekeeping that has undergone a major overhaul is the laundry. With new super-soft, 230 thread count Frette sheets in all rooms, Li had to evaluate the life-cycle and shrinkage through a series of constant ‘test washes’ using various gentle detergent formulas to safeguard the integrity of the cotton as well as the comfort of the guest. Li is especially happy with the new wider flat ironing machine that easily presses the king-sized sheets with a crispness fit for royalty. Added to this is the care of the various new linens that are used by the food and beverage department in each of the hotel’s
dining outlets. These proved to be difficult to treat, especially the napkins and tablecloths from the Chinese restaurant which often seem to get as much of the meal on them as the plates. Again, working with Ecolab, The Peninsula Hotels’ hygiene partner, a series of formulas and processes were worked out, leaving no stain on Li’s reputation. The new look and feel of The Peninsula Beijing corresponds with a makeover of staff uniforms for front-of-house, F&B and office employees. The new uniforms were specially designed by Caroline Deleens, the first French designer to found her own fashion brand in China, and who previously designed the uniforms for The Peninsula hotels in Shanghai and Paris. Some of the new uniforms feature a subtle use of the hexagon, which is incorporated into the overall design of the new Peninsula Beijing. The Mandarin collar used in most of the uniforms is an expressive symbol in Chinese culture, distinguishing China’s dress codes from those of the West. With its crisp, vertical design, it suggests a confident and assertive personality. The collar survived great periods of turmoil in China and became a symbol of the strength of the Chinese people. Knots, as featured in selected uniform buttons, have also played an essential role in Chinese history, evolving into ornaments for decorating clothes and accessories during the Zhou Dynasty. Chinese knots are double-layered and symmetrical and embody good wishes for the pursuit of happiness, prosperity and love. The
knot’s exquisite elegance, ever-changing shape, and profound expression have made it synonymous with China’s sophisticated culture. Depending on the nature of their job, each member of staff is allocated up to three uniform sets, which also fall under the purview of the laundry department. A team of tailors and seamstresses are on hand 24 hours a day to do fittings (for new uniforms and recruits) and alterations, to muster the troops ready for the inscrutable inspection of the General Manager. A button doesn’t stay lost for long at The Peninsula, and with an automated uniform rack installed, staff can immediately get their freshly laundered and pressed threads by swiping their ID card at any time of the day or night. Housekeeping is also responsible for all the public areas in the hotel as well as cleaning the F&B outlets at night. From keeping the floors free of dust to folding the tissue roll in the washrooms, attendants vigilantly keep the property in pristine condition. Even the 30-plus luxury brand stores benefit from the material swipe of Li’s corps of attendants. The Peninsula Beijing had the first luxury mall in China and is the only hotel that takes care of cleaning the interiors of the shops in its affluent arcade. “Making our staff happy by providing a platform to make their work more convenient and less stressful is one of the goals that The Peninsula strives for,” says Li. “But of course, the ultimate goal is to make our guests happy.”
THE Art OF Relaxation TEXT: ANN TSANG IMAGES: ANTONIO SABA
The Spa at The Peninsula Beijing first made its debut in the Chinese capital in 2008, somewhat fitting as it coincided with the staging of the Beijing Olympic Games.
he Spa at The Peninsula Beijing was originally designed by Henry Leung, the man behind the most recent full-scale renovation of the hotel. Fusing traditional Chinese elements with a contemporary flair featuring marble, aged wood and textured granite, The Spa also features an indoor heated swimming pool, an expanded Fitness Centre, and a new multipurpose studio which remain part of the relaxation facilities on the third floor. The Spa facilities include 11 treatment rooms, including two Private Spa Suites for VIPS or couples; separate male and female thermal relaxation facilities including steam baths and saunas; relaxation areas; full amenity locker rooms ; and a reception with a consultation area, retail area and an Asian Tea Lounge. One of the original 12 treatment rooms has now been repurposed specifically for physiotherapy consultations, a new offering at The Spa. To ensure an environment of tranquility, all treatment rooms are designed to eliminate sound and competing scents from other rooms, and even the air-conditioning systems are isolated to minimise any potential distractions. All rooms are multi-functional to accommodate both facial and body treatments. Heading up operations at The Peninsula Spa in Beijing is Spa Director, Zoe Zhong, who prior to taking up this appointment three years ago, worked for five years in the front office at the hotel. “When I was asked to take on this role at The Spa, it was an exciting challenge for me,” says Zhong. “It’s somewhat akin to running your own business, which was a prospect that really interested me.” Zhong believes that both visitors to Beijing and local residents will benefit greatly from the upgrade of The Spa and its new offerings. “Most people travelling to the city are doing high levels of business or a wide variety of energetic activities whilst they are here. They also have to face a dry climate and do a great deal of physical work battling with elements of Beijing,” she says. “In addition, wellness is a rapidly developing trend in China, so we have created specific holistic programmes which are tailored to specific individual needs, with all of our staff working in tandem to deliver maximum benefits to our guests, all under one roof. The Peninsula Spa is able to offer a full range of services to help guests to relax, revive and rejuvenate.”
To begin relaxation upon arrival, guests may enjoy specially selected tea during an in-depth wellness consultation. Encouraged to arrive one hour prior to treatment, they can then luxuriate in the Thermal Suite, a range of heating and cooling experiences to cleanse the skin, relax and soothe aching muscles to prepare the body and mind for treatment to follow. The separate male and female Thermal Suites include a steam bath, sauna, lifestyle shower and ice fountain. ESPA has especially created two unique body treatments for The Peninsula Beijing as part of the famous Peninsula Ceremonies: the Jade Hot Stone Massage and Vital Qi. The former is a unique experience, harnessing the beneficial properties of jade, often referred to as the ‘Stone of Heaven’, uniting with the powerful effects of ESPA aromatherapy products to ensure a thoroughly unique spa experience. Vital Qi is a combination of authentic Chinese meridian massage and reflex zone foot treatment, drawing from the traditions of ancient Chinese massage therapies. “We have taken Chinese influences and incorporated them into all aspects of The Spa, from the Imperial garden elements, red glass etchings and stone carvings in the décor to the Eastern philosophies which form part of certain treatments,” says Zhong. The Peninsula Beijing is also the first hotel in China to collaborate with luxury skincare brand Biologique Recherche, which has more than 40 years of experience in developing advanced skinpampering products that both repair and protect the skin. The product line combines high concentrations of botanical, marine and biological extracts without using any artificial fragrances, meeting the ever-growing demand for fast results without invasive or harmful techniques. All the therapists at The Peninsula Spa are highly skilled, having undergone a 10-week intensive ESPA training course. “Eight of our nine therapists have been here since The Spa first opened in 2008,” says Zhong. “All of them participate in annual training sessions, which ensures an excellent level of knowledge in terms of the latest treatments and developments in the area of wellbeing. The quality of training is exceptional, which helps us to maintain a very strong brand.”
THE Ultimate ACADEMY Launched in 1997, The Peninsula Academy provides in-house guests with the chance to learn about and gain exposure to the rich culture of the capital and itâ€™s hidden gems in a variety of bespoke programmes for individuals, groups or the entire family. The programmes give guests unprecedented access to historical, cultural and local lifestyle activities in Beijing including the once-in-a-lifetime helicopter tour of The Great Wall, a hutong tour by rickshaw, a kite making class at Tiananmen Square and more.
A Journey to Rebalance Your Chi This Peninsula Academy reveals the historical significance of the Temple of Heaven to events of paramount importance in the Chinese imperial calendar. The journey begins with a chauffeured transfer to a morning private tour of the historic park, where a tai chi master will offer insight into what went on behind the cleverly constructed building commissioned by the Qing Dynastyâ€™s Emperor Qianlong. Guests will be whisked away to personally experience the basic movements of tai chi. This fascinating exercise is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi or energy force thought to stream through the body. Tai chi is also said to promote a balance of oneâ€™s yin and yang, gently keeping your opposing elements in harmony. The experience culminates in a Naturally Peninsula brunch at Huang Ting to enhance your rejuvenating experience.
The Art of Dumpling Making With a history of over 1,000 years, Chinese dumplings or jiaozi as they are known, are one of the most time-honoured dishes in Chinese cooking. Eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this doughy staple of the local diet is generally vegetable or meat-filled, boiled, steamed or fried and dipped in soy-vinegar. The Peninsula Academy’s unique introduction to this ancient fare begins with a visit to ‘Food Street’ (Hu Guo Si Da Jie) where guests can fuel up on a typical Beijing breakfast of jian bing (savoury crepes). Participants will then absorb the sights and smells of the 60 year-old Si Huan fresh market with a Peninsula chef, picking the freshest produce, spices and oils to personally recreate the classic dumpling. An exclusive masterclass with Chef Zhao follows. Guests can create their own dumpling in-house with the expertise of Chef Zhao and his guidance. This culinary and cultural extravaganza culminates in a four-course dumpling lunch at Huang Ting.
A Glimpse of The Royal Past: Bespoke Tea Ceremony For almost 500 years, from early in the Ming Dynasty until the fall of the Qing in 1912, the Forbidden City in Beijing served as the centre of Chinese Imperial power. Though the capital and palaces of the former Mongol Yuan Dynasty were near the site of the present city, the vast palace that we know today, and its spatial location within the town that surrounds it, was very much the fruit of Emperor Yongle and his architects. Yongle’s dream of red mansions is now the largest surviving monument to China’s Imperial past. Following the incredible achievements of Yongle, Emperor Qianlong was also an integral part of the success of Chinese sovereignty during the Qian period. This programme provides an insider’s view of the intricate architecture of this majestic city and gives a glimpse of how the Chinese royals once lived their extraordinary lives. The journey continues at Huang Ting with a mouthwatering feast to complement the participants’ personalised tea ceremony.
Reliving THE Past B
eijing’s hutongs populate the capital city far and wide and are an essential sight to be seen to really grasp an understanding of the history of the place, its development and its residents. In contrast to the modern, multi-lane, highwayesque roads that rumble through Beijing, the hutongs that lie directly alongside them in most cases are quiet havens of peace, home to communities of Beijingers who in many cases have lived there for generations. Many have been developed over the years, some becoming artistic enclaves for the hip and trendy, others being home to the elite, while a number have barely changed since they were first established in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Hutongs come in many shapes and sizes, understandable since sprawling Beijing was once made up entirely of thousands of hutongs, the small alleyways that cross the city and on each side feature the typical courtyard houses of the Yuan Dynasty, which was when these narrow streets first began to appear. Following the Mongol takeover of Beijing and the reduction of the city to rubble, the buildings and the formations of them that developed centered around these hutongs. Over the years, more and more were built as the city grew and at their peak, there were reportedly more than 6,000 hutongs in the 1950s. However, today these numbers have seriously diminished, due to the rapid urban development of the city, particularly in recent years. Many hutongs were bulldozed and f lattened to make way for larger roads and bigger and better buildings. Today there are around 1,000 hutongs left in Beijing, 80 percent of which are owned by the government, with most located within the city’s Second Ring Road. Nan Luo Gu Xiang is an extensively refurbished hutong just north of The Forbidden City where China’s hippest youth have flocked to, seeking out trendy bars as well as the eclectic stores offering everything from traditional arts and crafts to fashionable clothing. Nan Luo Gu Xiang was built over 700 years ago, during the Yuan Dynasty. In 2006 the whole of the Nan Luo Gu Xiang area was renovated by the Beijing government who saved it from destruction, unlike many other areas of old Beijing which were destroyed, particularly in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games. An influx of stores, cafes and restaurants followed, the likes of which have attracted Beijing’s artistic-types, as well as the slightly more adventurous tourists.
TEXT: RACHEL DUFFELL IMAGES: LUCY MCNALLY
Steeped in history but still home to many Beijingers, today’s hutongs not only offer a glimpse into the city’s past, but reveal plenty about the capital and its dwellers today. The Peninsula Academy offers historic and illuminating tours of hutongs that represent both old and new, representative of the many changes that Beijing has experienced over the years.
Off the main street are historic hutongs in the typical style of the period, with eight running out to the west and another eight opposite extending to the east, all perpendicular to Nan Luo Gu Xiang and offering a glimpse into China’s past as well as the architectural traditions of the Yuan Dynasty. Once anticipated to be a busy commercial street, over the years the lane quietened down, becoming a residential area where courtyard-style houses were home to Imperial officials as well as the elite of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Many of the establishments along the main thoroughfare today have embraced the historic culture of the area and designed their store fronts and facades to be in keeping with the surrounding heritage and preserve the ambience of the lane. Not far from Nan Luo Gu Xiang, Qiangan hutong was also home to the city’s aristocrats and officials. From the design of the courtyard houses, or siheyuan, you can decipher the status of the families who once lived in them; the more complicated the structure and embellishment of a building, the higher in status the family must have been, in most cases. However, many have been rebuilt in recent years, albeit in a style in keeping with traditions. The courtyard homes that line the hutongs are fronted by large gates which indicate the status of their occupants. Generally south facing, because the majority of hutongs run from east to west, and therefore in keeping with feng shui, there are signs in Chinese characters outside each doorway which indicate whether the home today is government or privately owned. However, a hundred years ago things may have been different with most of the houses in this hutong being home to government officials. The number of beams above the doorway indicated status and in these historic hutongs you can establish who once lived behind the closed doors. Two beams meant a low ranking official lived in the home, while four indicated a high ranking official. The Emperor’s abode in The Forbidden City quadrangle featured 12 beams. On either side of a doorway were stones. If they were in the shape of drums, then the official was military, and if they represented a square stamp, the inhabiter of the home was a civil official. The higher the threshold, the higher the status of the person, though every household doorway featured a threshold as part of a Chinese tradition to keep out ghosts, which stone lions outside some of the doors also attempt to achieve.
Entering a courtyard, the number of steps up to the gateway was another indication of status, with three steps reserved for a low ranking official, five for a high ranking official, seven for a prince and nine for the Emperor. Common people were supposed to climb just one step into their courtyard homes, but whatever the number of steps, it was essential that there was an odd number, not only good feng shui but also because odd numbers are yang, or male, meaning power, as opposed to ying, or female, meaning shadow. Passing through the doorways, some are adorned with pictorial decorations, perhaps a gourd, the Chinese for which sounds similar to that for happiness or long life, or with a representation of a pomegranate, the seed-filled fruit symbolic of a prayer for boys. Inside, the courtyard homes are large and could be home to just one family or many. A family of two or three people might share two rooms in a government-owned home, while a private house could be made up of between ten and eleven rooms all for one family, albeit three or more generations of that family. In the
past, the abodes could accommodate numerous families who would share many of the facilities, including the dining room and kitchen. Today many courtyard houses in the centre of Beijing have been renovated, some to become museums, others as homes for rich Beijingers, with prices far higher than those for the most prestigious apartments. Others remain home to local families who have lived there for decades, if not longer. These are just examples of a few of Beijingâ€™s many hutongs which are all characterised by different elements, depending on who has lived there over the years - officials and the elite or merchants and artisans - and how they have changed and developed along with the rest of the city. With many too narrow to be traversed by cars and vans, take a bicycle tour of a hutong, the most noteworthy signified by a red street sign with the name of the hutong in white, or just wander down the ramshackle streets and experience another of Beijingâ€™s many facets and delve into the cityâ€™s history and the culture and traditions of its inhabitants.
Say “I Do” at The Peninsula Beijing The Peninsula Beijing has curated magnificent weddings for more than 27 years. The hotel’s specialist wedding team tailors every aspect of your dream wedding to create a magical day to cherish forever. Whether you are hosting 300 guests or an exclusive gathering of close family, a selection of luxurious wedding venue themes is designed to suit your own personal style and preference. On your enchanted day, make a grand entrance in The Lobby following an unforgettable drive around Beijing in a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Curate your own gourmet banquet of Asian or global dishes tailored by our skilled chefs, and experience a bespoke wedding ceremony or cocktail reception at Yun with picturesque views of Beijing as the backdrop for wedding photographs to treasure. A marriage in China usually means extended family and friends coming together from far and wide to take part in the joyous occasion. The Peninsula Beijing offers a range of luxurious accommodation to meet the needs of even the largest of wedding parties. The Peninsula Beijing offers a selection of stylish venues ideal for all weddings, from The Grand Ballroom to charming rooms for more intimate celebrations. If your dream setting is more exotic, perhaps consider a reception at one of Beijing’s many historical sites, including The Great Wall… 148
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