In July 2019, I checked into the Grand Executive View Suite at Grand Hyatt Taipei, the island’s largest hotel with a staggering 850 rooms and a whopping 9 dining concepts. Situated in the commercial and shopping Xinyi district and minutes away from malls such as ATT4Fun and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place as well as various eateries, shopping arcades and night markets, the hotel also has the distinction of being the only hotel to be directly connected via bridge to the iconic super-tall skyscraper Taipei 101. The property is 45 minutes away from Taipei Taoyuan International Airport and a short walk away from both the Taipei 101/World Trade Center and Taipei City Hall metro stations.
Notable former guests at the hotel include former head of states such as Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher as well as famous celebrities such as Beyoncé, Hugh Jackman, Nicolas Cage, Avril Lavigne, Hidetoshi Nakata and Imagine Dragons. Jackie Chan was a guest just one week before my stay.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Classic grandeur and dining mecca in Xinyi.
The must-dos (if any): Have breakfast at Café, dine at Pearl Liang and Irodori, enjoy canapes at the Grand Club Lounge, go for one of Oasis Spa’s signature treatments.
GRAND HYATT TAIPEI
Recently renovated in 2015, the hotel strikes a lavish marble and gold chord the moment you step through its doors. The lobby features a grand chandelier, big balconies, flower-adorned water fountains and a three-storey high glass atrium which allows abundant natural light to stream gloriously into the space, along with internationally-renown artworks such as a giant wooden sphere by Korean artist Jae Hyo Lee and the eerily hyper-realistic “Standing Guard” sculpture by American artist Marc Sijan.
Conspicuously missing from the opulent lobby are the iconic twin talismans which used to grace the lobby and which ominous likeness has been reproduced in countless “Haunted Hotels” listicles, no doubt due to the effectiveness of the same ghastly visual which accompanies these listicles. (Giant talismans aside, vintage graininess and the kind of sickly greenish lighting which typically signifies the presence of the supernatural in any ’90s and ’00s Hong Kong horror film would spookify a photograph of a modern-day McDonald’s outlet or even a candid capture of hippopotami in a lake). Most Chinese people would have come across at least one rumour about Grand Hyatt Taipei, ranging from hair standing on end at the washroom of Italian restaurant Ziga Zaga and the appearance of pot-bellied Japanese guests in the room at night to the one about Jackie Chan allegedly storming out of the property at 3am in the morning after a particularly disquieting in-room encounter.
The rumours likely originated from the widespread misconception that the hotel site used to serve as a prison camp during the Japanese Occupation where executions took place. In actual fact, the site on which the hotel sits – which extends beyond the hotel to the land beneath nearby buildings such as Taipei 101, Le Méridien Taipei and and W Taipei – used to serve as a supplies storage space and, after the Japanese surrender, a munitions factory. To date, I have not heard of war-time apparitions stalking the frequently bare-bodied, rainbow unicorn float-riding party people at W Taipei, unless of course the Marriott Bonvoy-member ghouls there prefer to adopt a passive, voyeuristic role, which is probably more distressing than if they actually did reveal themselves. In any event, Jackie Chan’s recent return to the property should speak to the veracity of that specific tale.
In terms of wellness and fitness facilities, the temperature-controlled outdoor swimming pool on the 5th level is set within a spacious lush landscape with lounge areas as well as a pool bar. The Club Oasis on the same level comprises two 24-hour gyms, an exercise studio and wet areas with a sauna, a steam room and two whirlpools. The wet areas are strict no-clothing zones, and although I contemplated making a quick visit, the sight of all the mature dachshunds and milk moons led to a swift exit.
Elsewhere, the Oasis Spa offers professional treatments in repurposed guest-rooms on the 6th level using Kerstin Florian products. I went for the 2hr “Renew” treatment – comprising a eucalyptus scrub and fusion massage – and opted for the cinnamon fragrance, which thankfully played it more Starbucks than Auntie Anne’s in olfactory intensity and mouth-watering qualities. My therapist, Tina, made me feel completely at ease, and she possessed certain memorable moves which I have since christened “Thumb-Index Finger Twist” as well as “Slobbering Lickitung Tongue Graze”.
Being a pet-friendly hotel, the property offer special rooms and packages for those with fur-kids.
GRAND EXECUTIVE VIEW SUITE
Boasting a panoramic view of the city and directly facing the iconic Taipei 101, the 83sqm Grand Executive View Suite plays it all sophisticated residential meets Japanese calm, featuring a blend of light and dark woods, calligraphy paintings, statement furniture pieces as well as a variety of coffee table books and magazines.
The spacious living room has a circular dining table which can double up as a work station with sockets and USB ports, a comfortable sofa around a coffee table as well as a 55” flat-screen television. The pantry is equipped with a minibar, Nespresso machine and Twinings teas. Elsewhere, the bedroom and bathroom windows possess foldable colonial-style plantation shutters which allow you to customise and control just how much sunlight you would like to have.
Overlooking the bustling Xinyi commercial district through tall windows, the marble bathroom features double vanities, rainfall shower facilities within a glass-partitioned stall as well as a freestanding bathtub. While the plantation shutters next to the bathtub have limited mobility, the freely foldable shutters in the shower stall which faces the rooms on the opposite block should please nudist colonists and serial exhibitionists alike. Bathroom amenities are from Salvatore Ferragamo.
Breakfast is served at Café, the international buffet concept on the lobby level. The buffet selection is fairly extensive, ranging from the usual cold cuts and meaty Western breakfast sides to the egg and noodle stations. The highlights were the array of Chinese and Taiwanese dishes such as Taiwanese Breakfast Glutinous Rice Ball, Wok-fried Egg Bean Curd with Pickled Black Bean & Oyster, Taiwanese Braised Pork with Chicken and Rice, Steamed Red Bean with Osmanthus Bun, Tea Leaf Eggs, Tomato Eggs, Pumpkin Congee and the daringly spicy Bitter Gourd with Chilli. One should go for the window-side seats which overlook the adjacent garden and make for a sunnier and happier morning experience. After breakfast hours, Café offers various buffet presentations throughout the day, and is the hotel’s most popular dining venue.
Irodori, the other all-day buffet concept in the hotel, provides an authentic Japanese buffet experience in a live kitchen setting. The spread is pretty spectacular, with the following counters available: a raw seafood bar with prawns, crabs and scallops; a sushi and sashimi counter offering classic cuts like salmon and tuna options; a steamer counter with dishes such as Nameko Mushroom Steamed Egg and Bream Belly Kabayaki Rice; a tempura counter with shrimp and vegetable tempura; a grilled meats counter with highlights being the grilled whole fish, lamb chop and Australian Beef Tenderloin Teppanyaki; carb station with Seafood Okonomiyaki and Seafood Noodles; a soup station with Herbal Pork Shabu Shabu and Seafood Soup; and the wonderful dessert station offering delicious Japanese sweets such as Red Bean Agar Yokan and the amazingly soft trio of Brown Sugar Peanut Rice Cake, Red Bean Rice Cake and Black Sesame Rice Cake. Texturally some of the best mochi I have ever had.
Pearl Liang serves traditional Cantonese cuisine and dim sum, and is one of the more popular dining concepts in the hotel. Unlike some Cantonese restaurants which tend to equate dainty to exquisite when it comes to dim sum, Pearl Liang appears to believe that size does matter, with the seafood portions being much more than generous on various occasions such as the ingredient-laden Fried Rice with Scallop, Shrimp and Dried Mullet Roe and savourily perfumed Steamed Prawn Dumpling with Black Truffle. The Steamed Pork Dumpling, Abalone and Prawn was a particularly egregious offender, being able to be consumed in one mouthful only by the likes of Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts. One of the show-stoppers from our dim sum lunch was the Baked Barbecued Pork Bun with Almond Cream Crumble, which possessed an alluring milky sweetness of crust.
Yun Jin presents fine Chinese regional flavours from areas such as Beijing, Sichuan and Taiwan in a refined setting. In contrast to the comparably clean flavours of Pearl Liang, Yun Jin plays it decidedly more hearty and provincial in its offerings, from the gloriously indulgent and almost liquified gelatinousness of the Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable to the hammer-hitting mala impact of the Szechuan Pepper Broth Poached Taiwanese Beef. Those who enjoy pig offals would adore the Spicy Braised Pork Intestine with Blood Pudding, with the former being the right amount of gamey and the latter possessing a jelly-like firmness to their cakey softness.
The 2019 Michelin Guide-recommended fine dining restaurant Bel Air Bar and Grill specialises in continental European cuisine with an emphasis on premium steak and seafood – think Oven Roasted Tiger Prawn with Crispy Muesli and Hollandaise and U.S. Beef Tenderloin Rossini Style 120g with Foie Gras. The space plays it all European/Swiss-influenced medieval romantic with its stone-brick pillars and gushing central fountain, and is said to be one of the most sought-after marriage proposal venues of the city, with one particular table seeing an outstandingly high success rate. The presentation of the dishes here – from the amuse bouche Taro Sago Beehive Kuih to the yin yang-inspired Herbal Sweet Shrimp Tartare with Caviar and Cauliflower Panna Cotta – is the most beautiful and elaborate of all the hotel’s dining concepts.
Italian restaurant Ziga Zaga serves modern Italian cuisine in a vibrant setting before transforming into a nightclub with live band music after 9.30pm. In contrast to the proper classiness of Bel Air, Ziga Zaga is markedly more casual in spirit, with your choice of tables near the stage for a more lively experience as well as window-side booths with greater privacy for casual business meetings, low-key romantic dinners and friendly catch-ups. The air in the restaurant gets more electrified as the night goes on, as the combined power of inhibitions lost as well as the pumped up energy from the live music draw people out of their comfort zones and into a more carefree state on the dancefloor. Highlights from our dinner include the olive-tinged Grouper “En Papillote”, oceanic flavour-steeped Baked Seafood Linguine with Pizza Crust and juicy U.S. Angus Beef Tenderloin “Tagliata”.
Cheers is the casual lounge concept on the lobby level with a bar as well as outdoor terrace seating, ideal for corporate meals as well as casual drinks. Located on the 2nd level, Cha Lounge offers European-style afternoon tea as well as a hearty buffet dinner – think unlimited servings of roast chicken, roast beef, pork knuckles and more – on weekend nights.
Elsewhere, the Pool Bar on the 5th level provides drinks and snacks for your poolside enjoyment. Rounding up the list is the hotel’s cosy Lobby Lounge near the entrance as well as Baguette, the takeaway concept which provides a range of exquisite pastries and sweets.
GRAND CLUB LOUNGE
Located on the 22nd floor of the hotel, the Grand Club Lounge offers panoramic views of the Taipei city skyline in an intimate setting. While the humble breakfast selection pales in comparison to the glorious spread at Café, the evening cocktail experience was fairly impressive, with some of the canapes (such as the ultra-soft mochi from Irodori) being lifted from various other dining concepts in the hotel (something I very much appreciated at Conrad Tokyo). The choice of bubbly is Chandon, with a selection of wine and spirits for your own self-service bartending. The hot food station served Taiwanese oyster omelette that evening, which plays it more briny and starchy than the Singapore version but is given a lightning jolt of life by the different spicy dips.
The Grand Hyatt brand has always prided itself on the strength of their F&B concepts across their various properties and this hotel is no different, proving to be quite the dining mecca of the city with its array of concepts equipped to meet every conceivable need and occasion.
As for things that supposedly go bump in the night, I am happy to report that the scariest thing which I encountered was my expanded muffin-top.
Grand Hyatt Taipei
2 SongShou Road
Taipei, Taiwan 11051
This review was written at the invitation of Grand Hyatt Taipei.