In January 2020, I checked into the Club River Room at Rosewood Guangzhou, which opened its doors in September 2019. Occupying the top 39 floors of the 108-storey CTF Finance Centre in the city’s business district of Tianhe in the vibrant Zhujiang New Town and soaring 530 metres tall at its highest point, the 251-room hotel bears the distinction of being the current tallest five-star hotel in the world. The hotel is located around 45 minutes away from both Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport as well as Guangzhou South High-Speed Train Station, with easy access to Zhujiang New Town metro station and Huacheng Dadao Station. Nearby attractions include the Canton Tower, Guangdong Museum, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Guangzhou Opera House as well as the popular K11 Art Mall with its blend of art, fashion, dining and retail which can be accessed via the ground level.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Record-breakingly sky-high urban oasis in Guangzhou.
The must-dos (if any): Take in unrivalled city views from your room, enjoy evening cocktails and canapes at the Manor Club, have a drink at Too-High, dine at Lingnan House, disconnect at Asaya Active.
The architecture of the record-breakingly tall 108-storey CTF Finance Centre comes courtesy of American architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, who also designed Otemachi Tower (aka the Aman Tokyo building), Rosewood Bangkok and Rosewood Hong Kong. Toronto-based design firm Yabu Pushelberg (behind Park Hyatt New York, London Edition Hotel and the newly-open Park Hyatt Shenzhen) took the reins for the property’s interior design.
Past the hotel’s stately vermillion-red lacquered front doors and the five-meter-high ground floor lobby, guests can access the hotel lobby on the 95th floor by taking one of the world’s fastest elevators, which travel 21 metres per second. Upon arrival at the sky-high lobby level with its elegant residential touches, you would be greeted by the surreal juxtaposition of the outdoor garden terraces’ lush greenery with the expanse of clear sky right beyond. From the lift lobby, a plushly carpeted walkway leads you to the check-in counters, past which another elevator lobby takes you to the guest room levels as well as the Manor Club and restaurants located on the building’s highest floors.
Like most other Rosewood properties, exquisite artworks can be found throughout the premises, from the blue flowerbed piece in the grand entrance hall by Sichuan-born artist Zhuang Hong Yi – crafted using traditional Chinese rice paper – and various paintings from Chinese artists such as Pan Jian, Kaixuan Feng and Ye Cheng adorning the walls of the hotel to the social media-iconic “Balance” installation on the lobby level depicting a generously-hipped dame maintaining her balance whilst walking on water.
The hotel houses a whopping seven F&B concepts, all of which have their own outdoor terrace space for al fresco dining: Japanese restaurant Brick Iron and the adjacent cocktail bar Too-High Bar, both of which are situated on the 107th floor and enjoy the distinction of being the highest restaurant and bar respectively in Mainland China; afternoon tea lounge Patina Living Room and all-day dining restaurant Patina European Brasserie & Terrace on the 95th floor; Chinese restaurant Lingnan House and gastrobar Brick Lane, located on the 5th and 6th floor respectively and connected via a staircase; and grab-and-go eatery, patisserie and deli Sesame on the ground floor.
In terms of wellness, the hotel’s impressive Asaya Active is one of the region’s largest wellness centres. Spanning across the 93rd and 94th floors, the wellness centre offers relaxation lounges, a yoga studio, a 25-metre long indoor pool with jacuzzi facilities, a sprawling fitness centre with the latest Artis range of Technogym equipment as well as spa facilities with steam and salt rooms, daybeds and temperature therapy pools. The entirety of the two levels feels like the premises of a luxurious spa, and Asaya Active certainly redefines the concept of wellness facilities for hotel guests, with the amenities feeling like actual itinerary events given the luxuriousness involved as opposed to mere incidental facilities available to staying guests.
In addition to the property’s guest rooms, the building also houses Rosewood Residences Guangzhou’s 355 serviced apartments for those seeking longer-term stays.
CLUB RIVER VIEW ROOM
Overlooking the Pearl River and proudly looking down at the top of the 103-storey Guangzhou International Finance Center (!), the 56sqm Club River Room channels a refined Chinese residence, featuring warm wood and royal blue lacquer accents, neutral and earthy tones as well as flashes of Chinese tradition, from the Chinese artworks which adorn the walls and the decorative calligraphy brush to the large lion stamp seal on the work desk and the specially-designed tea set in the pantry. A bronze-framed screen partitions the sleeping area from the window-side living area where guests can unwind and take in the magnitude of the rare city view from such a high floor.
The room features modern technological touches, including automatic blinds and sheers, a 42” Philips HD TV and a Bose sound speaker for amping up the beats. Elsewhere, the pantry is equipped with Nespresso and local Chinese tea-making facilities, while the mini-bar is stocked with a bottle of Peddler’s Gin (China’s first craft gin) and Rosewood Guangzhou-branded Negroni along with the usual sparkling water, beers, juices and soft drinks.
The travertine-clad bathroom features two mirrors (but just one sink, with the other serving as a dresser), an additional lighted make-up mirror, a built-in bathtub and rainfall shower facilities. The stridently perfumed bathroom amenities are from Lorenzo Villoresi (Rosewood Yangon uses a different, more botanical scent from the same perfumer).
Club room guests enjoy access to the Manor Club, China’s highest elevation club lounge.
Breakfast is served at Patina European Brasserie & Terrace, the all-day dining concept on the 95th floor. Bathed in soft pastel tones, the airy and open setting features open-plan kitchens, outdoor terrace seating and impressive panoramic city views. The breakfast selection includes a variety of fresh fruits and juices, an extensive range of pastries, egg dishes, Western breakfast sides, Asian buffet staples such as fried rice and stir-fried noodles, assorted dim sum and a noodle station with a wide array of condiments such as the famous Lao Gan Ma chilli. Beyond breakfast, the restaurant serves executive business set lunches, weekend brunch and European-inspired fare with an emphasis on seafood dishes (think Lobster Linguini and Grilled Octopus).
On the same level, the lobby lounge Patina Living Room serves afternoon tea, pastries and beverages such as specialty Chinese teas, champagnes and wines. Boasting spectacular frontal views of the Canton Tower, elegant brass and copper touches, contemporary geometric art installations and Chinese flourishes such as traditional silk screens, the beautiful and energetic space is one of the hotel’s most popular social venues.
Located on the 5th floor, Chinese restaurant Lingnan House serves fine Cantonese cuisine inspired by Canton regional classic dishes and Shunde cuisine as well as a range of Cantonese barbecue and dim sum options. Designed by Tokyo-based interior design firm Super Potato, the restaurant plays it all opulent Chinese mansion with its lantern-inspired fixtures, plush leather furnishings and manor-like dark wood-paneled walls. The expansive space is divided into various zones, with each distinct area offering a unique dining experience, from cosy booth seats and counter seats with direct views of the dynamic show kitchens to the glamorous main dining area with plush leather armchairs.
I had dinner at Lingnan House on the first night of my stay. Whilst I am proud that I managed to take Higher Chinese as a subject back in secondary school, all such pride drained away as I perused the Chinese-only main menu, and ultimately I decided to focus my energies on their seasonal menu which did have English translations. While the disappointing Crabmeat and Tiger Prawn Dumpling did not possess the goods to back up its swaggy promise with the dumpling fillings being decidedly anonymous, the familiar Braised Tofu with Shrimp and Chilli and comforting Poached Watercress and Minced Fish Meat in Supreme Fish Broth delivered the requisite flavours with an unassuming confidence. The bitingly-scented Sichuan-style Spicy Deep Fried Chicken Wings was quite the come hither tease, being gentler on your mouth than its initial come-on may suggest. The best dish of the evening was the masterful Green Peppercorn Prawn Angel Hair Pasta, which possessed a delectable numbing creaminess with a high slurp factor.
An elegant staircase directly connects Lingnan House to tavern-style gastropub Brick Lane on the 6th floor. Comprising distinct craft beer bar, wine bar and cocktail bar spaces, the concept offers an extensive selection of draught and craft brews, cocktails and premium wines along with grilled platters, skewers and Asian-inspired bites accompanied by live music in a chic, industrial setting.
Located on the 107th floor, Japanese concept Black Iron offers an extensive menu comprising seafood, sushi and sashimi, teppanyaki, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu options. The sexy dining space boasts a lounge area featuring dramatic floor-to-ceiling Victorian murals, six different show kitchens and distinct dining areas separated by jet-black metal partitions. The teppanyaki menu offers Rossini, Canadian Lobster, Black Cod Fish, Live Abalone as well as Australian Wagyu Score 9+ and Australian Angus Score 4+ options, while the hot pot menu includes Angus Sirloin Shabu-Shabu, Oriental Seafood Hot Pot, Guangdong Chicken or Seafood Hot Pot and Aromatic Spicy Chicken Seafood Hot Pot. After starting off with the luscious Oyster with Black Truffle, we ordered the Australian Wagyu Beef Sukiyaki, and was pleasantly surprised that the staff was on hand to assist with the cooking of the beef slices for us, which was rather atypical for a sukiyaki/shabu-shabu experience. Elsewhere, the Atlantic Cod Fish from the teppanyaki station deftly straddles the line between flaky soft and chewy firm, and the Sakura Shrimp Rice was addictively scrumptious.
Situated on the same level as Black Iron, sophisticated cocktail bar Too-High Bar serves innovative and classics-inspired cocktails as well as a range of wines, whisky and sake in a live music setting. The tipples I tried (Sazerac and Blood and Sand) were head-knockingly spirit-forward, while the dulcet tones of reggae-soul singer Keishera added a very old school, sexy and international feel to the proceedings, which was refreshingly different from the dancey, DJ-driven aural experiences I had at other high-floor cocktail bars in other hotels such as Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou and Park Hyatt Guangzhou.
Rounding up the F&B options in the hotel is Sesame, the cafe on the ground floor which offers grab-and-go bites, breads, cakes and pastries as well as hot beverages and wines.
Perched on the highest level of the hotel on the 108th floor, the Manor Club bears the distinction of being China’s highest elevation club lounge. Available only to the hotel’s most esteemed guests, the exclusive social space boasts private check-in and check-out facilities, spacious lounge and dining areas as well as wraparound outdoor terraces which offer stunning purple ombre sunset views.
The afternoon tea presentation features cold brew teas, fresh fruits, savoury pastries such as char siew puffs as well as patisserie-style dainty sweets like Red Velvet Cake, Lemon Tart and a deliriously sinful Chocolate Tart which is probably the product of procreation between a Mars Bar and Snickers Bar. However, the evening cocktail and canapes presentation left a deeper impression, boasting an extensive alcohol selection with proper bar spirits and pours – think Diplomatico and Plantation rum, Botanist and Citadelle gin, Tried & True vodka, Macallan 12 Year Double Cask and Lagavulin 12 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky along with Chandon brut and Deutz champagne. A la minute dishes such as Wagyu Sliders with Onion Compote and Cheddar Cheese, Baked Gnocchi with Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce and Beef Brisket Noodles with Choi Sum and buffet options like Pan-fried Gyoza, Prawn Salad, Japanese Tofu and a naughtily moist Rum Baba assist in the lining of one’s stomach amidst all the liquid festivities. A small selection of cocktails such as Negroni and Martini are also available for order.
As of the time of this review, the Manor Club does not offer a breakfast food presentation.
While the unique experience of staying in the world’s highest hotel should justify the price of admission alone, it must be said that just like all other Rosewood hotels in Asia which I have visited, the property is strikingly beautiful in its interior design and has a very confident and varied food and beverage programme. Lingnan House and Black Iron are stunningly designed restaurants, while Too-High Bar is an essential bar experience in Guangzhou.
A truly remarkable property, and one you should check out at least once.
No. 6 Zhujiang Road East
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China