Art-will travel to Yi House

08:52, April 27, 2010      

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Photos: Courtesy of Yi House

Parents or friends visiting? If they're culture lovers, perhaps a little outré or simply prefer an alternative to the corporate monoliths dominating Beijing's high-end hotel scene, hope has now arrived in the form of Yi House. Nestled in the northeast corner of the 798 Art District near D-Park, the hotel lays claim to not only being Dashanzi's first but also one of the few boutique hotels in Beijing worthy of the name.

Occupying a former wasteland on the site of a 19th-century crystal factory, Yi, a year-and-a-half in the making, styles itself as "a place art lovers can call home" - which means you won't just be finding art on the streets and galleries of 798 but also in the hotel itself. Photographic portraits by Chi Peng hang in every suite, permanent Bauhaus graffiti murals by Franck Privat flank the building and the lobby features new exhibitions, curated by owner Shauna Liu, the first displaying Italian photographer Marco Beretta.

All 30 rooms are decorated in a blend of traditional Chinese art styles and art deco modernity. "Too much Chinese is too heavy," explained Liu, a former banker who surprises by having no professional training in art, despite having designed all the furniture. "The primary colors are black, white and green," she told Lifestyle. "I don't like minimalism - too boring - but I also don't like things too noisy."

The unusual lift that greets guests in the main lobby, resembling a tiled shower, seems to establish their ethos, a vigorous change from the drab formalism favored by those Hiltons and Westins. Features like the glass bathroom wall in the superior suite (3,200 yuan), which fails to conceal the most intimate toilet from one's fellow guest, will suit the bohemian tastes of their more ostentatious visitors. A view of the bed in the same room is blocked by a wardrobe featuring a pleasing modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese classic baizitu (Portrait of a Hundred Kids), the meaning of which seems to hint playfully at what lies behind.

Photos: Courtesy of Yi House

There'll be things to enjoy for non-staying 798 patrons too; they can pop in for a drink at the Gossip Bar, which aims to liven up the district's nightlife by serving cocktails till the early hours, or try eating at the restaurant, Fennel. "Every café is the same [in 798]," Liu lamented. "Fennel is a place with a full menu, the same prices as elsewhere but with bistro quality."

Judging by the selection of canapés at Wednesday's opening party - which included deep-fried oysters with asparagus soup, crispy pork belly (with English mustard), escargot in garlic and parsley, moules marinières, roasted chicken satay and a seemingly endless array of freshly shucked Tasmanian oysters presented with garnishes including grapefruit, ginger and red chili - ex-Raffles Beijing chef Christian Hoffman's menu will be something worth visiting for alone. The theme is Mediterranean seafood, including something rare in Beijing: reasonably priced fruits de mers platters, starting at around 450 yuan for two. Lifestyle will bring you more on Fennel in our food section next month.

Boasting an array of services to rival any Park Hyatt, from 24-hour room service to flatscreen cable TV, gym and airport pickups, Yi House's 798 location has begotten some bespoke extras that seem unique, such as exclusive access to galleries, personalized tours and, no doubt, those amusingly flamboyant arty types the place is bound to attract. It seems Yi may yet live up to its grandiose name, which puns on its multi-meaning Chinese character - "a guest house" and "without equal."

Address: 706 Hou Jie No. 1, 798 Art District, Jiuxianqiao Lu 2 Hao Yuan, Lido District

Tel: 6536-1818

Prices: Single, 690 yuan; standard double, 970 yuan; deluxe, 1,300 to 3,200 yuan


By Robert Foyle Hunwick

Source: Global Times/Agencies


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