JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai At Tomorrow Square – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The JW Marriott Tomorrow Square is without doubt one of the most impressive towers dominating the immediate city landscape and is the eighth tallest building in Shanghai. At 285metres, it is a sleek, vertical tower, which culminates in four sharp-edged, perpendicular triangles at the very top, surrounding a dome.
One gets the discreet whiff of some expensive fragrance as one enters the lobby at street level. The hotel has 60-floors, of which 1-37 are given over to the Marriott’s executive offices as well as office space that is rented out. Therefore, hotel check-in happens on the 38th floor!
As one enters the hotel lobby then, one is faced with a sophisticated, well-appointed lounge more suited to that of a mansion than a hotel, done up in crimson and fawn covered armchairs and sofas, with soft music playing in the background; a lady pianist is in attendance on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Two tall, bronze sculptures of ladies holding traditional styled Chinese fans are placed at opposite ends of this cozy lounge space; the sculpting is so finely done that from a distance the statues appear nude, until one gets closer and sees the delicate edging of the cheong san (traditional female Chinese attire.) This lounge is an exceedingly elegant space and appears quite popular with the Shanghainese as it is always full, particularly during evening high tea hours.
Off to the right of the lounge is a sweeping staircase with a glass balustrade, rather grand, over which hangs a magnificent chandelier, shaped like a bunch of grapes. To the left of the lounge is the Reception counter.
The lifts leading to the upper floors are wide and done up in a pale gold colour. Paintings in pastel water colours line the corridors, while the carpeting is in grey with lotus flower imprints in muted red; everything speaks of understated luxury and high standards. The JW Marriott Tomorrow Square has a 342-keys inventory. Categories are as follows: Deluxe Room (38sqm); Premier Room (38sqm); Corner Room (42sqm); Executive Room (38sqm); Executive Corner Room (42sqm); Studio Suite (50sqm); Executive Suite (66sqm); Chairman Studio (75sqm); Presidential Suite (158sqm) and the Chairman Suite (223sqm.)
The Chairman Suite is the largest room in the hotel and is done up in warm browns and reds. There is a small, guest powder room near the entrance. The living space has a grand piano and a 60inch large screen television on an absolutely beautiful black cabinet painted with Chinese nature scenes. Throw cushions in green, gold and red complement the whole. This room also has a work station and an eight-seater oval dining table. The bedroom is done up in leaf green and muted red, with dull gold, printed drapes and a canopied bed. There is an oval-shaped work desk here as well.
The walk-in closet is a long, narrow space, leading to the bathroom, which is also carpeted in leaf green, but with a different pattern. The oval bathtub actually has a settee placed in front of it! There are twin washbasins, which are separated by the bathtub space in between. A dressing table has been placed beyond this room, by a window that gives on to a sweeping city view. The curtains in this space have delicately patterned golden yellow flowers on a cream background that impart a touch of elegance to this otherwise ordinary routine.
The Chairman Studio is smaller in size, with no living room but a very spacious bedroom with canopied bed as well, this time with gold furnishings. Otherwise, it is a similar colour theme as the Chairman Suite. The bathroom does not have a walk-in closet and there is no settee; everything else remains the same.
The base category is the Deluxe Room, which can offer twin as well as double beds. The room is simply furnished, with an armchair, small, round table and circular study desk.
I stayed in the Corner Room, which has a short passage lined with a trio of pastel water colours in pale lemon and mauve hung on a silk panelled wall. A huge bed faces the window that gives on to a sweeping, panoramic view of the city. Although the room itself is spacious and oblong-shaped, the space between the bed and the work desk is slightly cramped. An armchair and footstool is placed beside the bed. The linen has a faint concentric circle design; quite unusual as most hotels like their linen plain, while the bedroom slippers are in soft grey. The room has plenty of such subtle luxury touches, leaving one in no doubt that one is at a JW! The bathroom is a square-shaped space, with cylindrical, blown glass lamps on either side of the circular mirror, which itself is set against a square pane of glass giving on to sheer city vistas. Indeed, the bathtub is placed so can one lie back for a soak while enjoying the twinkling night lights of the city – of course, there are roller blinds should you wish more privacy. There is some sort of fancy anti-slip coating on the bathtub itself – rather than the typical smelly bath mats – while the power shower also offers massage jets. Towels are of the outsize, bath size.
All rooms have espresso machines, 60-inch!television screens and bathtubs. Other room amenities include tea/coffee maker, electronic safe, iron and ironing board and toiletries from Aromatherapy Associates.
F&B options include the tasteful (pun unintended!) 58-covers Lobby Lounge. As mentioned above, the high tea here is extremely popular and, instead of the usual round cake stands, it is served on geometrically aligned clear glass panels in tiers. The 360 Gourmet Shop provides a range of pastries, breads, soups and sushi; the 132-covers Marriott Café is the all-day dining outlet; Wan Hao, with 104-covers and an additional five private dining rooms, showcases traditional Cantonese cuisine and is open for lunch as well as dinner service; California Grill, the signature outlet, has 89-covers and is open for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch, while the 94-covers JW Lounge is a bar open only during the evenings – it offers one of the most extensive champagne lists in Shanghai. California Grill is a hushed space with an open kitchen concept and a red colour theme of red tablecloth and red and black salt and pepper shakers, while the PDR here is rather fancy, with chandeliers and table candelabra! I would be remiss here if I did not speak of the perfectly grilled lobster, while the soup service was almost a performance, with the waiter ceremoniously pouring the soup over crunchy fried onions and diced mushrooms. I must also make special mention of the breakfast buffet at the Marriott Café that includes at least one Indian dish daily, be it semolina pudding (upma), aloo-chhole and suchlike.
The Executive Lounge is on the 59th floor – but it is not that of which I wish to speak. I would like to particularly draw attention to the fact that the entire 60th floor, accessed by a stairway from the Executive Lounge, is given over to a – library! Whoever heard of libraries in this day and age where people are glued to the mini screens of their smart phones and that too, for a hotel to devote an entire floor to one?! The JW however, has indeed pulled this off and most successfully too…the room has comfortable armchair seating with table lamps and that wonderful, slightly musty smell that a lot of books placed together somehow manage to exude. The shelves are lined with Chinese as well as English titles, with one shelf given over to children’s books. Such a marvellous concept. I may add here that the JW takes its book inventory very seriously indeed; if guests wish to issue any books, it must be first entered into the computerized system along with the room number.
The meeting rooms are not in the main hotel building but in an annexe so that resident guests are not bothered by the noise/crowds of corporate events however, both buildings are connected internally by lifts. The annexe offers elevators as well as escalators. House phones in dull gold are discreetly placed to the side. A simple plaque thoughtfully outside each meeting room states: ‘Thank you for letting us orchestrate your journey.’ Convention facilities include the JW Ballroom which can take 400pax cocktail style and can be partitioned into three smaller halls. The Junior Ballroom can accommodate 100pax cocktail style. There is a VIP Lounge across from the ballroom, which is essentially a waiting area and can accommodate about 20pax. The foyer outside the JW hall is rather large and also includes a terrace area. Apart from this, there are eight separate rooms, with a capacity of 20-80 pax depending on requirement. The JW provides free wifi for all its guests; do remember that social media, including Google and therefore Gmail, is banned in China although strangely, one is able to connect to WhatsApp from this hotel. People get around the ban by downloading VPN’s – do bear in mind this is illegal. However, WeChat is allowed.
Relaxation facilities include two swimming pools, which are reached by an atrium walkway. The outside pool is slightly smaller and also has a children’s pool, while the indoor (heated) one is longer and bigger, with an atrium roof. Two lifeguards are in attendance here. Both pool areas have sun loungers and snacks/ drinks service is available. Beside the pools is a small shop selling swimwear. The JW Marriott Tomorrow Square has a small, adequate gym. There is a spa as well, operated by outside management; Marriott resident guests receive a RMB100 discount voucher.
Most front-of-the-house staff speak good English. Front Office staff is cheerful and efficient. The concierge team is friendly and knowledgeable. F&B service at California Grill is par excellence, while the team at the Marriott Café sometimes gets hassled by the breakfast crowd, although the chefs cope with the rush admirably. Once again for a Shanghai hotel, my vote would go to the Housekeeping ladies who, even while not speaking English, somehow manage to get your point and are always so jolly and helpful. Pest control at the hotel could be improved upon. It would also be nice to add jet sprays in the bathrooms.
The JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square is ideally situated, right across from People’s Park and the metro station by the same name. People’s Park holds the famous weekend “Wedding Market’, where parents come to find brides or grooms for their children; most Shanghainese still believe very much in the arranged marriage concept. There is a small supermarket beside the hotel. A 10-minute walk from the hotel on the opposite side, past the People’s Square and the Shanghai Grand Theatre, will lead you to a shopping avenue. People’s Park metro station is one of the biggest in the city, offering a multitude of shops, eateries and ICBC bank ATM. Line 2 will lead you to most of the city’s popular sights; if you wish to go to Yuyuan Gardens or the Bund, take Line 2 and change at east Nanjing road for Line 10 to Yuyuan Garden stop. The gardens itself are wellknown with some temples, moreover, there is a huge market here mainly for souveniers, frequented by domestic as well as foreign tourists. Be warned that there is plenty of walking to be done here, so wear sensible footwear. A short ten minute walk from Yuyuan Gardens is the Bund on the Huang Pu river, possibly the most popular area in Shanghai even among the locals, with its monument to the People’s Heroes and with magnificent skyscrapers such as the delicate Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower – the tallest in China and second tallest building in the world! You can also do river cruises from the Bund. Just below it is the Bund tunnel (you need to buy tickets) and beside it are standard eateries such as Subway, Starbucks and suchlike. If you wish to go shopping for cheap goods, take Line 2 all the way till Shanghai Science and Technology Museum stop, which has the famous AP market (also known as Xinyang market) within the station itself. For any further information, please consult the very friendly concierges at the JW.
Most major airlines fly into Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, while a few fly into Hongqiao Airport. Don’t be alarmed by what you read regarding distances; Pudong is certainly not unmanageable. You can take the Pudong Airport Shuttle Bus into the city, to People’s Square stop (60-minutes, fare, RMB22 per person) however, my sincere recommendation would be to take the Maglev. The Maglev is billed as the fastest train in the world, going at a speed of 431kms per hour! It takes only eight minutes to get to Longyang road, from which you connect to Line 2 for People’s Square station; cross the road and hey presto! There you are at the JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square. The ticket is not expensive either – remember, you get a 20% discount if you can show your air ticket for the same date. With this discount, the Maglev ticket is only RMB 40 per person, however, if you take the combination Maglev + one day Metro pass, it is only RMB 55 per person (The one day pass itself is usually RMB 18.)
JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square
TEL: +86 2153594969
WEBSITE: www. jwmarriottshanghai.com
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.