What is it? Changsha lies some 650km more or less due north of Hong Kong, and the Meixi Lake Hotel forms part of a newly developed area west of the city. The hotel is one of a brace of chamfered steel-and-glass 52-storey towers tailed by a shopping centre modestly dubbed the Mall of Splendors. More enticingly, an arts and culture centre designed with roller-coaster roofs by the late Zaha Hadid is under construction next to the property, and is due to open in June.
The hotel’s interiors might be described as “Maohaus”, with numerous Chinese paintings and objets d’art enlivening the lofty lobby and other public areas. The architects claim to have been inspired by a poem of some antiquity depicting a fisherman who discovers a hidden paradise behind a grove of peach trees, and draw the obvious parallel.
And the rooms? There are just seven suites and 303 regular rooms. The bathrooms, rather than being tucked away, run parallel with the bedrooms, starting with shower and loo at the back, and passing double vanities (with striking turquoise soap dishes and amenity boxes) to end at a tub that’s angled to take in the view, which from many rooms includes the lake and Yuelu Mountain.
Rich, muted colours characterise the bedroom while a peach motif gently repeats itself on the soft furnishings. Best of all, these are rooms that are easily navigable: plainly marked light switches, a spacious safety box tucked away within the similarly commodious walk-in wardrobe, bathroom scales that don’t require any fiddle-faddle. The television faces the bed – which is grand enough for a very portly king plus consort – and includes international channels among its multifarious Chinese offerings.
What’s there to eat? The culinary day starts at The Field, with a buffet that covers pretty much all the Chinese and international bases, served on a deck overlooking the lake. The egg and noodle stations in particular deserve a round of applause. Lunch and dinner are also served here but, for Cantonese and particularly fiery Hunanese fare, it’s Tao Hua Yuan’s (The Peach Garden) elaborate private dining rooms that pull in the city’s VIPs. The Tea Room (below) lives up to its name, with its mahjong tables proving as popular as its brews.
For fine wine and equally fine steaks, the answer is Chic & Twist On 5 – try saying that with your mouth full. In the Lobby Lounge, pencil-thin, qipao-garbed demoiselles dispense cocktails such as the Mandarin Sidecar (garnished with a Hunan chilli) while a grand piano tinkles merrily away by itself.
Anything else we should know? Both the fitness centre and the heated indoor pool (top) grant views of the up-and-upping cultural centre while the spa’s 14 treatment rooms (below) provide the sort of respite that might be expected; the reflexologists are especially adept at their craft. To venture further afield, board the bilingual subway from the station at the rear of the hotel.
Mao Zedong ranks lower in the popularity stakes than in previous years, but his term at the Fourth Normal School of Changsha roughly a century ago is still commemorated both at Orange Island, where he used to swim and mull the country’s future with fellow ideologues, and his one-time place of study. Huangxing Road is pedestrianised, and is as entertaining for its costumed, regimented, chanting squads of touts – plus its statues of tradesmen in days of yore – as its shopping and dining.
What’s the bottom line? Rates start at 700 yuan (HK$790) for a deluxe room, including one buffet breakfast. For more details go to starwoodhotels.com/luxury.