Some days we come home and everything feels wrong. The couch is a half-metre too short, too firm, or too soggy. It’s too far from the TV. Or far too close. The remote control has gone missing – between the cracks in the cushions maybe, or behind the fridge. Maybe the dog ate it. And when you get to the fridge, weighed down by exhaustion and hunger, you find there’s nothing in it except a tube of tomato puree, a desiccated orange, and some eye drops. Quelle horreur!
In the fascinatingly arbitrary world of global travel, one aims to leave these random niggles behind. We pray that our flight will be smooth, our taxi drivers reasonably sane. And most of all, we pray that our hotel will be welcoming, efficient, professional, its staff helpful but not over-attentive, the choice of room service bounteous and juicy, and – an added bonus if we are lucky – that it will have a late bar for those lucky enough to travel with leisure, and not work, in mind. Just sometimes, we find all of these things and more, packaged up in one bijou residence.
Such is the case with Hotel G on Gongtixilu in Chao Yang district. The hotel itself is easy to overlook from the outside. Discreet and sombre-hued, it stands apart from Beijing’s bigger, flasher hotels, and some of the smaller boutique operations that seek to offer epic luxury. Hotel G doesn’t go in for flash. Nor, really, is it the place to decamp for the ultimate spa experience – though their spa and gym are professionally done and a welcome diversion in a city whose air can often be less than wholesome.
Hotel G is less – and more – than this. Really, this is probably the best genuine boutique hotel, certainly in Beijing, and probably in the whole of China. There are several reasons why this is true.
First, this is a hotel that welcomes you in. Unlike our anti-deluvian house, with its disappearing remote control and poorly stocked fridge, Hotel G is the sort of home you would really like to have. Inside the beds are massive (and, of course, someone makes them for you, often twice a day). The mini bar is so well stocked it would make Henry VIII blush. Room service is speedy, and the range of food broad without being dizzying.
The rooms themselves are perfectly fit for purpose. They are quirky – the windows change colour according to your own whim as well as the time of day. You can make the room as warm or cold as you want (Beijing can be freezing in the winter but stultifyingly humid in the summer months) – yet Hotel G still provides guests with plush bedspreads and blankets just in case the chill drives you under the covers. A genuinely grand bathroom and a power shower complete the initial experience.
But Hotel G, again, is about more than just appearance. The hotel itself is a never-ending surprise. So many places get the little things wrong. They are helpful and courteous, yet cannot suggest a single place for you to eat other than the McDonald’s at the end of the street. The bar is nice, but it closes at 11pm. Everyone in the restaurant is super-friendly, but everything on the menu tastes like chalk washed down with river water.
This hotel manages to avoid every one of those pitfalls. The bar stays open late, into the wee small hours. The staff are friendly and – a rarity in any hotel – bearing a generous sense of humour. The architectural style here is almost whimsical – a foyer clad in purple alongside a horseshoe bar and, nestled in between, a pool table. The buffet starts early and has everything you could possibly need. The kitchen staff stay late, and cook you what you want, when you want.
Best of all, the concierge appears to know what you want before you have even asked. If you enquire, say, about the best local Hot Pot or Beijing duck restaurant, Hotel G will guide you down the street to the best one in the city – the one the locals go to. Hire a bicycle or organise a tour from here to see the Great Wall – there is literally nothing these guys cannot do.
And at the heart of the matter sits Olivier. Big, bearlike, chain-smoking Olivier is old-school, a very welcome blast from the past. His cherubic features and strong Gallic accent make talking to him a pleasure. He has managed hotels across the world and he knows what makes a place tick. His staff love him (oh so rare in any hotel, believe us!) and when that is the case, you usually have a belter of a place on your hands. Olivier doesn’t dwell when people want to be left alone but, like a benign dictator, or even TS Eliot’s Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, he always seems to be there if he is needed.
Go to Hotel G and enjoy it – you really will. There are so few places around the world that mange to walk the line between being friendly and over-engaging, between professionalism and officiousness, and between having the requisite local knowledge about a city, and knowing how to parse that wisdom and guide a guest to exactly the correct restaurant, tourism site, shopping mall or park, in order to make their trip complete. Hotel G is a hotel that makes no promises, but delivers more than any hotel which does. It is a little gem of a place and it should not be missed. When you are in Beijing make it your home.
The Stylebible airline of choice is British Airways, return economy fares start as little as £550, they fly three times a day and the times work out perfectly for adjusting to jet-lag. We’d recommend the 4pm flight which gets you in at 10am the following morning – book online at www.ba.com .
For those travelling in First or Business make sure you stop in at the BA executive Lounge, our tip to best beat jet lag is to eat before you fly and don’t drink alcohol on board, instead we’d recommend choosing something from the menu in the lounge and having a glass of champagne before you take off.
No.A7 Gongtixilu, Chao Yang District, Beijing, 100020, China
Tel: (+86 10) 65523600 | Visit the Hotel G web site