Treaty of Nanking

Mood Indigo: reflections of old Shanghai colour your stay

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am


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The Indigo chain of hotels prides itself on making its designs reflect local neighbourhoods, and its first Asian branch is no exception. As soon as you enter the Hotel Indigo Shanghai, everywhere you turn, you see subtle - and not so subtle - reminders of the colourful old Bund.

'There are a lot of stories here, and we wanted to create a little experience of what the neighbourhood is all about,' says general manager Bruce Ryde.

Ryde led the entire staff, from top management to front desk, on a two day foraging trip to Jingdezhen, China's ceramics capital, to search for tea sets, local furniture and decorations. In the lobby is a bicycle that has been dunked in bright yellow paint. Behind it stands a painting of a traditional Shanghai street scene.

As you check in, your attention is drawn to the wavy wooden wall and front desk, which have an undulating effect similar to the Huangpu River outside the door of the hotel. Old Shanghai street lamps, which originally stood on the docks before they were refurbished, give the lobby an old-time feel.

By now, your eyes are darting around, looking for other design features linked to the neighbourhood. The motif on the hallway rugs, for example, turns out to be an abstract reproduction of streets on an old Shanghai map.

The rooms are impressive - a nice mix of modern features and old Shanghai made to look new. Each one is individually designed and has local furniture and hardwood floors.

'The idea behind the guest rooms was to use locally produced building material that might have been reclaimed from demolished old homes,' explains Andrew Moore, regional co-president of Hirsch Bedner Associates, the lead designer on the project.

'Thus, wide panelling, with characteristic Shanghai woodworking details and Shanghai grey brick were used.'

The circular rugs in the middle of the room are based on an old Shanghai motif, but the bright reds, blues, yellows and greens update the look. On the walls over the bed are black-and-white photos of Yu Garden, which local photographers were commissioned to shoot.

The spacious modern work desk has convenient outlets, and free Wi-fi is available. Rooms are also equipped with top-grade 42-inch flat-screen televisions, sound systems and docking systems.

The small details are also a treat, from the reclaimed Shikumen brick walls and individually designed tea sets to the tea leaves from a local supplier, White Rabbit candies in a glass jar and home-made cookies.

The Hotel Indigo Shanghai is the only hotel in the city that sits directly on the Huangpu River front, which means the hotel has the most spectacular views of the river crowded with boats, the magnificent modern architecture across the river in Pudong, and the gracious old architecture in Puxi that snakes along the majestic Bund.

Guests may end up spending an unusual amount of time in their bathrooms. Over-sized wet rooms are equipped with showers and a generous bathtub. I showered looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows at ships 27 floors below, the boat horns drifting up to my room. The toilets are hi-tech Japanese electronic models. The only throwback to old Shanghai is the blue and white wall tiles.

If you're looking for something special, splurge on one of the suites, named Past, Present and Future, each tastefully designed, with large terraces and magnificent views.

Indigo's restaurants are under the stewardship of Australian executive chef Julie Donohoe. The Char Bar & Grill was a pleasant surprise, serving some of the best Western food I've tried in the city. My dinner began with the hotel's own smoked salmon, crab cakes and a foie gras parfait. Black cod was served with a long paintbrush so guests can brush the fish with the tasty star anise and lime syrup. Pumpkin puree is smeared on the side with baby carrots.

We enjoyed a mixed plate of meats, including an excellent Blackmore wagyu steak imported from Australia, served with four types of mustard. Several kinds of salt were available, from Himalayan pit salt to Murray River salt from the biggest river in Australia. We finished our meal with a delicious banana cheesecake.

Much thought has also gone into creating functional public areas. The 'Me Space' is equipped with Mac desktop computers and massage chairs, and a comfortable library is stocked with books about Shanghai. A well-equipped workout centre and the infinity swimming pool on the seventh floor have great views of the south Bund and the Huangpu.

Visitors to the hotel will never be at a loss for things to do. The Bund has five kilometres of dazzling architecture; also nearby are the Yu Garden and Bazaar, the Dongtai Road antique market and Shiliupu, a popular commercial centre.

In the evening, walk 10 minutes to The Cool Docks, the Bund's newest nightlife hotspot, packed with restaurants, cafes, bars and shopping.

Bund for glory

Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund 585 Zhongshan Dong Er Road Huangpu district
Tel: +86 (21) 3302 9999