Many know Beijing as the city home to China’s first ever Olympic Games back in 2008, but it is so much more than that! Beijing acts as a cultural and political hub and is home to some of China’s most renowned monuments such as The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and other glorious wonders. The city is so full of activities and rich with Chinese history, that makes it a must visit destination if journeying to China!
One sunny Saturday morning, I took the speedy five hour bullet train ride a grand 1,300km from Shanghai to Beijing, the country’s capital. Much like Australia’s own capital city Canberra, the city is planned and a height limit exists on many buildings. This makes it markedly different from other Chinese cities like Shanghai which is dominated by a myriad of skyscrapers towering miles above the world!
As a rising metropolis, the growing market in Beijing offers the ideal environment to elicit the recent welcoming of the incredible Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Sitting just off the main street Wangfujing Lu in Beijing, the Waldorf Astoria transports visitors away from the hustle and bustle of peak hour traffic and into a modern oasis of elegant finishes encompassing a relaxed yet refined atmosphere.Unlike typical hotels, which greet you with huge open lobbies and an expansive room of activity, entering the Waldorf Astoria Beijing creates a new intimate experience. Guests are led down a sleek corridor to be checked-in and personally greeted, initiating the ultimate luxury experience. In the hallway sits a beautiful old Grandfather clock– a signature of all Waldorf Hotels, ticking away in all its glory.On the left hand side of the entrance is a sophisticated bar with plush lounges lounge and a high topped bar, great for perching whilst enjoying the hotel’s signature cocktail named Peacock Alley– aptly after the bar itself.Meanwhile on the right, one finds a wooden panelled sitting room lined with books. The walls are decorated with chic fans, beautiful Chinese pottery & fine china leading toward a small cabinet filled with enchanting sweet treats. The room is designed as a place to relax, unwind and read a book surrounded by cozy and quiet surrounds.At the heart of this hotel is its impressive contemporary art collection. This is especially fitting in a city such as Beijing, given its cultural sites and historical significance. Key to this is the artwork of awe-dropping proportions and beauty, which details a face which can be interpreted as either male or female. The ambiguity of this is key to understanding the hotel as a mix of both Chinese and Western influences.Entering the reception and concierge area at the end of the corridor, one is greeted by a sweeping spiral staircase. At the bottom sits two wrought iron bird cages intertwined with gorgeous pink orchids boasting vibrant colour and mesmerising beauty.The third level of the hotel is home to the signature Chinese restaurant and a series of private dining rooms for celebrations and events. It has a huge impressive temperature controlled wine cellar that flanks the corridor to enter the restaurant. Private dining is a particularly important concept in Chinese culture, where families and friends come together over a traditional Chinese meal to celebrate special occasions. The circle table is a principal part of this, representing the union of people together and eternity, as circles never end. During Chinese meals, the food sits in the centre of the table on a lazy susan, passed around and shared between guests. The circular format also allows inclusions as everyone is able to talk to each other from no matter where they are sitting. The place settings in the restaurant were particularly beautiful, crafted especially for the hotel with hand painted illustrations. The art continued with an amazing wall piece of a circle created from chopsticks, extending the symbolic circular theme! Meanwhile the standout private dining room ‘Home’ transports those after a unique and personal experience, to the comfortable confines of a home away from home. With its own personal kitchen and lounge in an open plan expanse, it is how I envision my dream kitchen and dining room to be. It is especially popular for marriage proposals with its décor particularly symbolic and fitting to represent the life two people will go on to share together.We were lucky enough to dine in their French restaurant Brasserie 1893 which recently won the dish of the year out of all Waldorf Astoria’s across the world. Head chef Benoit Chargy has created a French menu inspired by his Chinese backdrop with subtle fusion twists incorporated across the menu. To exhibit the very best of this, we enjoyed the Taste of Waldorf Beijing menu which includes the top signature dishes all specially designed by the Beijing kitchen. Treated first to some David Herve French oysters (¥448 or AU$95 for 6) these sat atop a handcrafted ice sculpture, decorated with pretty pink flowers proving almost too pretty to eat! Flown straight from France to Beijing, these meaty and delicious oysters are accompanied by a fresh shallot dressing, acting just as tantalising as they looked!Oddly enough, the Waldorf Astoria is home to the Waldorf salad! The restaurant has placed a modern Chinese twist on the American classic serving it “Beijing style” (¥98 or AU$20) with shredded meaty bits of duck leg confit compressed and served in neat cubes beside the typical ingredients of celeriac, apple and walnuts. Served gorgeously with little flowers garnishing the salad, the duck meat was particularly yummy, and I loved the unconventional way it had been served up in little cubes! Our other entrée was a light and healthy Asparagus and Feta salad (¥98 or AU$20) consisting of mache, cucumber, feta, avocado, raspberries, toasted linseed, finished with a subtle lemon ginger dressing. The dish was plain and simple, nothing too fancy but still showcasing fresh good-quality produce that makes you feel good. Next was the piece de résistance and champion dish of the Taste of Waldorf Astoria competition. Named ‘Jing Roll’ it is featured on all 25 international Waldorf Astoria hotels. Thin cabbage leaves house pieces of juicy Wagyu meat alongside aromatic spices and raisins delivering sweet bursts to the mix. A creamy sweet purple potato puree complements the dish which is crowned with fried enoki mushrooms and served with a light hoisin sauce. I absolutely loved this, the meaty Wagyu mince was enhanced by some incredible Chinese spices and finished perfectly with the crunch of the fried enoki mushroom!For the mains we enjoyed Herb Crusted Fillet of Cod Fish with asparagus, sautéed fava bean and coriander foam. This delightful plate delivered some of the most flawlessly cooked white fish I’ve ever tasted. The fish fell apart effortlessly when pierced with a knife and melted in your mouth. The foam was a cool textural component with the welcomed addition of fresh dill enhancing the flavour composition. Another seafood dish of Boston Lobster Flambé (¥588 or AU$115) included butter poached pieces of lobster with green vegetables in a brandy infused bisque. The lobster meat was tender and matched expertly with the moorish tomato based seafood bisque. Full of flavour the sauce exploded with an exquisite tomato richness!Meat is very popular around China, and a favourite on restaurants serving Western menus is steak. The Chilean Short Rib Wagyu Beef MB8 with roasted vegetables, truffle potato and tomato veal jus satisfied my inner Aussie meat lover! This simple but faultless dish was served with a clean jus and a small assortment of vegetables. The jus was rich, sticky and full of beefy flavour, I definitely could have eaten it just by itself, it was that good! The meat itself was particularly tasty, cooked to a juicy pink medium rare — I especially loved the addition of fresh mushrooms! During the meal we also learned that the world famous Red Velvet cake originated in the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and that the chef had created a unique Beijing Style twist on the cake (¥78 or AU$15). A small pink sphere housed a moussey and airy cake accompanied by yoghurt sorbet, almond crumble and passionfruit sauce. This was interesting and unusual, but still a lovely addition to the meal! Little did we know, that the best was yet to come! We also tried the original version of the Red Velvet not on the menu, but available in the hotel’s drawing room. The elegant plate presented in front of us, included rich decadent layers of chocolate cake sandwiched between a sweet cream cheese filling. With my self-confessed cake obsession and love, I was consumed by its delectable and velvety goodness.The standout dish that will stay in my mind forever was the Chocolate Soufflé with raspberry pannacotta sauce and vanilla icecream. This was heaven! Presented in a cute but generously sized coffee cup, the light souffle was the perfect texture and ultimate chocoholics (like me!) dessert. Served with a little pot of raspberry puree, pouring this into the middle of the cake allowed the centre to collapse, giving way to the chocolate equivalent of liquid gold gooeyness. If I was to pick a last meal, this would definitely feature and have to be one of the most outstanding desserts I’ve ever eaten! (Yes, really!)For those looking for an indulgent dinner or hotel stay in China’s capital city, I could not recommend the Waldorf Astoria Beijing more highly. Its polished finishes and eclectic art pieces transport you to another world of class, culture and utter elegance. Complemented by two amazing restaurants and world class chefs, this is definitely worth a visit if you like the finer things in life.
Taste of Waldorf Beijing Menu for 2 people includes Asparagus salad, Jing Roll, choice of Lobster or Steak main, Chocolate Soufflé and 2 glasses of Louis Roederer champagne for ¥1560 (AU$310) + 15% service charge.
Waldorf Astoria Beijing
5-15 Jinyu Hutong Dongcheng, Beijing, 100006, China
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Waldorf Astoria Beijing