With The Middle House opening this year, the House Collective gives us yet another fascinating opportunity to see how its design approach plays out across a new property. If Kengo Kuma lends a hyper-modern traditionalism to The Opposite House in Beijing, and Andre Fu infuses The Upper House in Hong Kong with seamless serenity, while Make Architects celebrates Chengdu’s storied architectural history in The Temple House, what does Piero Lissoni bring to The Middle House in Shanghai? A cultural clash essentially, mining richness in diversity, perfectly suited to a city that has always been at the crossroads of East and West. Hence a hotel designed along European ideas of scale and proportion, but enhanced by the very best of the Orient – emerald-hued bamboo-imprinted ceramic tiles in the foyer, a kimono in the lobby adorned with 12,000 handmade porcelain butterflies, carved wooden lattice screens and “lights out” switches reimagined as thick tasselled ropes of silk in the rooms. “The House Collective is all about being soulfully individual and we believe in having each hotel designed for seasoned travellers who seek a different, intimate and personalised experience,” says Dean Winters, group director of operations at Swire Hotels. “Each has its own sense of style, inspired by the distinctive location which gives each hotel its very own unique identity, yet there’s a consistent flair that connects across the houses.”
There is no need to leave the property, with a heated 33m swimming pool, a spa to offer a wide range of relaxing treatments, and a gym to appeal to anyone who takes fitness seriously. World trainer fitness concierges will customise workouts for you – or, better yet, try something new and run or cycle with a Hypoxi machine, which raises your core temperature and burns up to three times more fat than conventional exercise does.
VERY FINE DINING
Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, its two in-house restaurants are worth a visit. Chef Stefano Pace brings Roman flair to the dishes at Frasca – making his own pasta and soaking meat in milk for the scrumptious pappardelle veal ragout, as well as presenting the truly divine pinsa Romana, a deliciously salty, crispy alternative to pizza, layered with stracciatella cheese and juicy vine-ripened tomatoes.
At the other end of the spectrum, Shanghainese chef Tony Ye puts together a menu blending the best of Cantonese, Shanghainese and Sichuan cuisines at Sui Tang Li. The dim sum is exquisite – hairy crab xiaolongbao explode in the mouth in a symphony of beautifully balanced tastes, while yellow croaker wontons arrive in a broth of full, rich, creamy flavours. “We use no dairy,” says Ye. “Only boil the fish, bones and all, into soup for hours, till it reduces by 70 per cent. And we use live fish, straight from our own fish ponds on the hotel property.”
IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
A walking tour through some of the most interesting quarters in the city is available with Bespoke Travel Company, which puts together specialised tours for discerning visitors. Its Shanghai guide Sam Braybon leads you to tucked-away art galleries, hidden gardens and Art Deco architectural gems amid unassuming lane houses. Blending history, current affairs and culture, Braybon gives a fascinating new spin even to well-known landmarks, revealing unknown facts and intriguing characters and making you see the city in a whole new light.
THE UPPER HOUSE
Here’s reason to add the Andre Fu-designed property in Hong Kong to your city-hopping.
Welcome to The Upper House, where the public spaces are small, and the private spaces are large. It’s notable how a hotel with only one restaurant, no spa, no swimming pool and a small lobby can still give the visitor a sense of enveloping luxury and pampered calm. It might be the rooms, the largest in space-starved Hong Kong. Or the extraordinary 270-degree views in their suites. It might be the sleek, cohesive interiors designed by Andre Fu. But, most probably, it is the outstanding guest experience that every visitor enjoys.
The hotel boasts 40 members in its guest experience team, who take care of bookings and planning for guests, to the point of crafting and conducting a foodie tour through a specific neighbourhood, or even acting as hiking guide and companion through Hong Kong’s famous trails. “We broke down the job barriers between concierge and front office so that each member in our team is in charge of a guest, thereby fostering a more vibrant relationship,” says director of guest experience, Sabrina Klick. “Our guests are discerning travellers who are looking for a refreshing break from the often predictable experience. Our team is encouraged to act on the spur of the moment, to dare to be different and have fun. This work culture helps us create intriguing and personable experiences for our guests.”