Mar 1, 2016
For no reason other than self-indulgence, we fancied a weekend away without the added burden of train or plane tickets. Hence, a quick staycation. There are a number of places to choose to do this in Suzhou, we know, but we went for an undeniable touch of class with the Hyatt Regency at the north end of Times Square.
The hotel is quite new and the rooms are lovely, with the bath being the most appreciated feature, as like many apartment dwellers in Suzhou, we lack one at home. The TV has a selection of Chinese and English language movies for free and the bedroom is airy and light. The views over Jinji lake are delightful as well.
First port of call for us was a swim in the pool and then a visit to the Regency Club room. Access to the Club room means booking a slightly more expensive room but it does offer great value for money in that in the early evening you can drink from a selection of beers, wines and spirits and eat from a varied and delicious buffet that includes cooked and chilled meats, fruits, salads and desserts. If we hadn't already booked dinner in the restaurant, this spread would have done just fine.
Talking of restaurants, The Hyatt offers three to choose from and we have eaten in two of them. The Market Café buffet is the best choice if you are really hungry or if your party can't decide whether they want to eat Western or Eastern food: the buffet has a wide range of both. The food in the buffet is hearty and delicious and no-one seems to mind how much you eat. There are great meat and seafood options, including roast duck, sushi and sashimi and when they are in season, local hairy crabs. For dessert there is a selection of bite-sized cakes, ice creams and pancakes. This can all be finished off with a cheese and bread plate. All washed down by house white or red. The buffet has become a regular part of our Suzhou dining experience and is great value because of the high quality of all of the food on offer. It is wise to book ahead at the weekend, as it is often full of diners.
The Hyatt’s Head Chef, Ahmet, from Turkey, heads the kitchen in the Fireplace a la carte restaurant, and it was here that we were headed this weekend. The Fireplace is not much to look at inside – functional rather than decorative, like most hotel restaurants – but it does have a large well-stocked bar and the atmosphere is genial and relaxed. Ahmet has run the kitchen here for a year and a half and says that working with his young Chinese staff is both a learning and a teaching experience. He is proudest of his duck foie gras appetiser, steak tartar main and tiramisu dessert. We didn’t follow all of these choices but I can say that the foie gras is unmissable, the fish dishes delicious and the baked Alaska rather too rich for my taste. Everything in the restaurant was delicious, even the salads. Eventually, we hope to have tried everything on the menu.
If you plan to make a trip to one of the Hyatt's restaurants a regular occurrence then they offer membership of a special club, which for around 2,300 RMB per year gives you several discount vouchers, a free night's stay in the hotel and up to 50% off of the food element of your bill, before taxes are applied. Regular dining as club members really does pay off.
So next time you have a case of the blues and fancy a treat and a half, and don't mind paying a little more than usual, then we heartily recommend a staycation at the Hyatt. As my old pal, Dave Fryatt used to say on this very website, "Go on, treat yourself..."
About the Column
Markus is from the Isle of Wight in the UK and had been living in Suzhou since 2013. It is his first time living in China and before this he was in London. He has been teaching English all of his adult life and in HE since 2000. He is lucky to have his wife with him in Suzhou and together they are making a new life. His interests include eating out (a lot) and exploring local areas on his ebike. And recently, walking a doggie.