Rating: **** (4.5 out of 5)
Opened in 1893, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City was the world’s largest hotel and one of the grandest at its time. It was where the concept of room service was invented, where women were first permitted to stay without being chaperoned, and where investigation of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic was conducted. In 1947, billionaire hotelier Conrad Hilton purchased the New York landmark along with the rights to use its name for other premises. I had the pleasure of staying at the Waldorf several years ago during one of my annual trips to New York. The hotel manager upgraded me to a one-room suite and I became a big fan ever since.
|Waldorf-Astoria, New York|
And so when I learned that the Hilton Group opened the first Waldorf outside the United States in, all of places, Shanghai last year, I knew I had to give it a try. Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai is located at the south end of the Bund, in a century-old Baroque Revivial building where the historic Shanghai Club once stood. During the city’s occupation by foreign powers, the Shanghai Club was where Englishmen socialized over cards and booze. The founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 saw the decline of the imperialist symbol and the building fell into disrepair. To give you a sense of the neglect the iconic structure had endured, KFC sold fried chicken on the ground floor for six years in the 1990s! It wasn’t until recently that the Hilton Group was entrusted by the city to restore the dilapidated building to its former glory.
The best part about staying at the Waldorf Shanghai is access to the historic building. From the tiled foyer and turn-of-the-century elevators to the library lounge and the famous Long Bar that boasts a 34-meter bar counter, the old wing of what is now a five-star luxury hotel is a time capsule that transports you back to Shanghai’s heyday in the 1920s. It is romance, nostalgia and a history lesson all wrapped into one, right at the comfort of your own hotel.
The service at the Waldorf is top-notched, which in China is the exception rather than the rule. My in-room telephone has a “personal assistant” button. I needed a convertor for my laptop plug and within minutes a smiley butler clad in a full tuxedo showed up at my doorstep and handed me the plastic thing on a silver platter. Yes, literally a silver platter. That’s what I call "going the extra mile."
|The foyer restored to its former glory|