Majestic with a touch of intimacy
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-17 10:40

Majestic with a touch of intimacy 

The lobby of Grand Hyatt is a good example of its contemporary, but not flashy, style.

Most guests arrive at Grand Hyatt Beijing along the driveway that winds to the back street. A really dramatic entrance, if it can be arranged, is to disembark at the curb of Chang'an Avenue and ascend the flight of 39 stairs. Brush past the fountain, and with the concierge holding the door for you, glide into the lobby. Viola! You'll feel like the grand dame of a great city.

There is not just one element that puts "grand" into Grand Hyatt. It sits in the middle of the Oriental Plaza, the nation's biggest commercial complex, right across the street from the imposing Ministry of Commerce. Its high-ceilinged lobby has a full wall of glass, overlooking the expansive front and, farther down, the famed boulevard with its 12 lanes of quietly swarming traffic.

Everything here is majestic. Yet, with the inward curve, the building manages to look secluded, as if it's an oasis in the middle of metropolitan bustle. And don't pass over the view at the back. Stretches of green roofs are a gentle reminder of what old Beijing used to be. Many rooms, especially the diplomatic suites, offer partial views of the Forbidden City, with grand palaces and twinkling yellow tiles looming in the distance.

The Grand Hyatt has a contemporary style that's not flashy. There's a certain timelessness to it. The "grandness" is tastefully calibrated so that it does not overwhelm your senses. Part of the reason is a subtle touch of intimacy. The 1,142-sq-m multifunction venue for events is called "the residence". It has a 4-m ceiling, yet it can be partitioned to fit a 14-people board meeting. On the other hand, it can accommodate 1,500 guests at once, with two coffee bars and a full interactive kitchenette.

What's more amazing, the 825 guestrooms and suites are decorated like residences. The lights can be remote-controlled. The color schemes are soft and easy on the eye. There is even a frame for a family photo on the desk.

No wonder the hotel attracts not only the business crowd but also families. Enter Club Oasis and you'll find yourself in a tropical paradise, with a 1,500-sq-m sapphire pool, lush vegetation, stone statues, grottos, palm trees and a starry night above. The Las Vegas-style virtual ambience is perfect for families with kids while the adjacent gym and spa are good places for those on business trips to unwind and re-energize after a busy day of wheeling and dealing.

The blend of Western and Oriental traditions is visible in the cuisine as well as the dcor. Da Giorgio, located on the mezzanine level, offers a succinct menu of classic Italian food, prepared from fresh produce and often in extra virgin olive oil. Made in China is so popular you'd better book in advance to guarantee a seat.

Its Peking Duck is among the best in the city, served with a presentation unlike anywhere else. For example, the duck soup, the most mundane part of the Beijing delicacy, comes not in a big bowl, but in individual bamboo tubes. The open kitchen enables you to observe the roasting technique, and the wine cellar near the entrance is more fusion than strictly Chinese.

If you want a more traditionally Chinese dining experience, you can ask for one of the five elegantly decorated private rooms at Noble Court, a Cantonese restaurant with master chefs from Hong Kong.

For all the architectural grandeur, innovative dcor and excellent facilities, the hotel, says Malcolm Zancanaro, its manager, values its staff as its biggest asset. "The best guidebook in our hotel is the concierge," he illustrates. He recounts a story about a guest whose ATM card was "devoured" by the machine. The hotel staff made many calls and got it back for him.

"Our staff takes pride in what they do," the Australian native adds, and he is "proud to work with this team".