The first thing The Opposite House does right is that it doesn’t act like a hotel. For instance- there is no real ‘reception’, as such. On arrival you head to a relaxing little seating area to the right of the entrance where a succession of trendy young men and women do all the bureaucratic legwork for you.
In a way this feels more like a lived-in exhibit or gallery than one of the best boutique hotels in Asia. Nothing is spared in cost of construction. Particularly in the impressive interiors. This is rare in a city like Beijing, where corners are always being cut. Indeed, downstairs, with its airy ceilings and funky chairs and a reception that’s as roomy as any penthouse suite, you do feel like you are in an art installation.
That sense of wandering through a modern painting continues downstairs, in the splendid swimming pool (a rarity in this desert city) and in the rooms, which are spacious, elegant in a modern minimalist way and well appointed.
But the modern user-friendly details are what make the hotel tick. Many regular hotel-goers would happily trade languid artistry for a television and a DVD that actually work, separately and in harmony. Or for room service that both speaks English and has pretty much whatever you order, to hand, and ready to bring on a plate. Happily, The Opposite House manages to tick both of these boxes.
For those on a working holiday, the desks are broad and deep and sturdy. Baths are – in keeping with the Japanese architect – square and wooden, set alongside a power shower. There is also enough cupboard space to host a dinner party.
But the hotel’s real USP is location, location, location. Within ambling distance of the hotel sit some of the city’s best watering holes and eateries. Start close to hand at the Mesh Wine Bar & Restaurant, inside the hotel itself. You can return later - it continues well into the wee small hours and is one of the friendliest late-night hangouts in town.
The Hidden Tree restaurant is round the corner – a famous old Belgian beer house hidden deep in the alleyways (ask at reception for directions). A plethora of Mongolian hotpot eateries are close to hand – again, ask for the best in town, many are nearby. For those craving a steak and a cold beer, try the Outback Steakhouse at the vast Worker’s Stadium ten minutes walk away. Or hop in a cab and head for the best Beijing duck in town.
Most of all, this is a hotel that lets you be. Like its sister in Hong Kong, the classier-than-classy Upper House, also owned by Swire Hotels, The Opposite House lets you relax and take in your surroundings.
You don’t get the sense of being pecked at, hovered over, or over-serviced, as you do in so many landmark hotel chains. Staff are always on hand when needed but they always know when to drift serenely into the background. This is what a boutique hotel should be: a place of great comfort and serenity. It is also a place where you feel part of an adventure, just by walking into the lobby. Most of all, however, it is a place where you can let your soul breathe.