The Middle House, Shanghai

The Middle House, Shanghai



Arriving
to the Middle House, as with
arriving in
Shanghai
itself, is disconcertingly serene. Ferried from the
airport, battery-powered motorbikes zip along passed unannounced,
buoyant umbrellas bounce on by and the streets are broad and
largely unpopulated. In a city of 25 million people, you feel
incomprehensibly unrushed and unfazed. In effect, once you land you
can expect an easy Eastward transition, void of trepidation.


Shanghai’
s crossroads identity of old and new, this “East meets
West” ideology comes full circle in noted designer Lissoni
Associati’s vision for the Middle House. Pairing contemporary
Italian design with a more traditional Chinese aesthetic, materials
of porcelain and ceramics, as well as bamboo and sumptuous
lacquers, form the strata of the hotel. An impacting six-metre
long, three-metre wide Moreno glass chandelier (that could make
Liberace weak at the knees) hangs front and centre in the hotel
lobby, beguiling guests on arrival. In counterpart, a series of
delicate flower displays are set out on lacquered trays in the
hotel’s signature shade of emerald green. This bicultural identity
and sense of yin and yang, is bred throughout the Middle House.
Offsetting the predominantly minimalist surrounds, the hotel’s zany
art collection – totalling some 690 artworks (50% of which are
Chinese) – speaks volumes. Double Joy – an abacus constructed of
porcelain dumplings, which promulgates on the joy of math and
dumplings – sums up proceedings rather nicely; this is a place for
business, creativity and food.

Rooms

Minimalism gets a reboot with punchy rugs, a maxi-bar and an
elaborate walk-in wardrobe. Dark wood floors offset the otherwise
subdued rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows provide impressive views
of the city’s metropolis. Streamline silhouettes and muted hues are
offset by contemporary table lamps and oriental-style nightstands.
Even the smallest room – 60m – feels generous in size despite
coming fully furnished with a sofa, desk and suspended TV. The beds
are sinkable and sleep-inducing. Mr Goodnight (a large blue tassel
suspended from your ceiling that serves as a master switch) is at
hand for those easily frustrated by multiple switches and buttons.
In tech terms, the rooms at the Middle House are well wired –
there’s the smart bedside charging hub, the blackout blinds and the
Native Union x La Boite music speakers. The bathroom is rather
coquettish – not least because of its glass wall surrounds. With a
quick-filling almond-shaped tub, an evening soak is a near
certainty. Shallow-set granite twin sinks and a well-stocked beauty
cabinet mean there’s no knowing if you will ever choose to leave
your room.

Divided between two 14-storey towers – 111 rooms for hotel
guests and 102 serviced apartments for longer-stay residents across
the way, space is certainly not an issue at the Middle House. The
boutique lodgings maximize on space with a lighter colour scheme
than that of the standard hotel rooms and a homier feel – read
mismatched bedside cabinets and lamps, a dishwasher and a fridge
and comes with a two-week minimum stay requirement. Whether
residence or hotel guests, your wardrobe is probably going to be
your favourite composite of your suite. Complete with
floor-to-ceiling hanging space, ironing boards, generous shelf
space and a multitude of handy accessories and a full-length mirror
there is also a small selection of exercise equipment toward the
back of the wardrobe. Once you’ve dug out your Space Cycle (Asia’s
answer to Soul Cycle) free-weights and Lulu Lemon yoga mat we feel
some pre-breakfast, self-guided practice coming on.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served at Café Gray Deluxe and is a la carte only.
From dim sum to mango with brown sugar, noodles to granola, there’s
a crisscross menu that compliments the hotels’ core vision. If
weather permits enjoy breakfast on the terrace for a view of the
city.

How about lunch and dinner?

If you do one thing at this hotel – eat. Don’t try off-site
dining (well do but only to prove us right); just eat here. Yum cha
it up. There’s no want for choice either with three contrasting
restaurants on site – one located in the hotel tower and two in the
residence building.

Following the success of the collective in Hong Kong, New-York
based chef Gray Kunz has opened Café Gray Deluxe Shanghai. Open for
both lunch and dinner, standout menu items include the sea bass,
the buratta and the steak tartar. The three-course brunch is also
not to be sniffed at.

Across the way, Sui Tang Li, a contemporary Chinese restaurant,
solidifies all that is great about fusion food. Combining
Shanghainese, Cantonese and Szechuan flavours and culinary
traditions, the result is nothing short of delicious. Dim sum
enthusiast should order the game-changing hairy crab xiao long bao;
the prawn medley is pretty great too. For drinks, order a fragrant
“golden buddha” or a “naughty ball” (made with the fun but sickly
addition of Yakult) and for a mid-meal palette cleanse, order some
delicate Puerh tea.

With reams of fresh pasta, seasoned-to-perfection beef and oh so
delicious charcuterie you won’t even care that you’ve made the
uncouth decision to go to an Italian restaurant while in Shanghai.
At Frasca, Italy is the constant theme. Italian holiday posters
rest behind frosted panes of glass and modest compilations of
ceramic plates hang on certain walls. Long tables dominate the
floor space in a nod to family-style dining.

There’s a quirky string of continuity running across all three
dining spots – most food is served in groups of threes. We’re
reading it as both a nod to the trinity of restaurants, but also as
numeric symbolism for happiness, wealth and health.

Is there a bar?

There’s a small, well-stocked bar tucked to one side on the 3rd
floor, but if Café Gray is anything like its sister spot in Hong
Kong, a buzzy clientele are sure to be imminently booking their
tables. It’s not quite that frenetic just yet but we’re optimistic
– and in the meantime, the outdoor patio is a lovely spot for a
chilled espresso martini.

Amenities

There’s a spa and wellness centre, a gym plus hotel residences
featuring more spacious living areas and working kitchen.

Within a short distance you’ll find…

The Swire-owned HKRI Taikoo Hui shopping centre is a mecca of
cafés, boutiques and gadget stores for those who want to lazily
explore pastures new (even if those pastures are only two minutes
away on foot). On the top level of HKRI Taikoo Hui you’ll find the
blush-pink Cinker Pictures ¬- a stylized boutique cinema that runs
movies three-times daily.

For something a little further out, the low-lying buildings and
expansive avenues synonyms with Shanghai’s French Concession make
it one of the city’s most inviting districts. While the area isn’t
exactly close by, you can always take a complimentary bike from the
hotel lobby to ride across town. On arrival, following your initial
explore, head to Ferguson Road for an afternoon of snacking and
shopping. With a mix of traditional hole-in-the-wall food vendors
and some spangly new brunch spots -creperie and brunch spot, RAC
has just opened and comes with a lofty wait time – there’s no end
to the finds on this street. Bargain-price converse-style trainers
from FEIT in a shop the size of your wardrobe is a good starting
point.

Things you should know

The Lab MI XUN spa in the basement level of the hotel is an
experience not to be missed. Stocked with LVMH owned Cha Ling
beauty products, facials here are soft and supple. Invest in an
HYPOXI session for novelties sake and tester claims of tripled
results for standard-level exertion in the HYPOXI studio (it’s
basically a bike that sits in a heat pod). On -1 you’ll also find
the workout centre, which encompasses the yoga studio, juice bar
and the aforementioned HYPOXI room. The concrete gym, flanked with
mirror and black lacquered bamboo tiles is a subtle continuation of
upstairs bolder motifs, carry’s through in various guises, right
down to the signature emerald-tinted shower doors and enamel green
lockers.