Update: Yang Sing Oriental Hotel has sadly closed in March 2009, just a little under a year since its opening.
You have undoubtedly heard of – if not dined at – Yang Sing restaurant in Princess St in Manchester. Founded in 1977 by the Yeung family of renowned Cantonese chefs, the restaurant went from strength to strength to become the epitome of Cantonese cuisine and to set a standard for all future ethnic restaurants. In over 30 years of Yang Sing history the founders and the staff have been seasoned with experience, which included a 1997 Christmas fire, but most importantly – many a rave review highlighting the impeccable service and inimitable food. Add to this the glorious awards and the fact that the restaurant, originally located in George St, subsequently moved to Princess St where in 2006 it has been refurbished in the 1930s Shanghai style – you will see that Yang Sing (this is a phonetic translation of the nickname of the city of Guangzhou in Southern China; it means “The City of Goats”) is clearly dedicated to be the best. As the diners say, “Yang Sing is about the only Chinese restaurant in England which doesn’t compromise on taste to suit a Western palate and at impressively affordable prices“. The prices are estimated to be £25-34 per person, and you can check their banquet menus and wine list, or have a look at the sample of à la carte menu.
The entrepreneurial spirit clearly runs in the Yeung family, which is the reason why several years ago Mr Kui Man (Gerry) Yeung OBE conceived of a Yang Sing Oriental hotel, also located in Princess St, next door to the restaurant. The multibillion venture started officially in 2007 and was a conversion of a cotton warehouse and a bank. In the words of Mr Yeung, “people have had 30 years of corporate hotels, where each Hilton, Holiday Inn or Marriott is the same, and they are looking for something a bit different“. With the boutique hotel market on the rise, the conversion plan for Yang Sing Oriental was a timely move.
The tagline for the new business is “East meets West, and service meets style“. I was invited to the opening ceremony of the hotel on 8 July, and I cannot really comment on service as yet (apart from that the staff were smartly dressed and very helpful). The rest, however, is perfectly true, especially where style is concerned. Hargreaves were contracted to convert the building into a landmark 48-room hotel. The interior retains some original features, like wooden beams and cast iron columns, as well as some marks in the rooms highlighting the places where the equipment used to stand. This certainly makes Yang Sing Oriental a boutique hotel with the difference, if only because it does not shun from exposing its working-class background (a cotton warehouse, that is).
The magic begins at the Oku Champagne Bar where you are being served a madly extensive champagne menu (I am scared to type in the number!), and the Orient-inspired bar menu is created by Robert Kisby and Harry Yeung, Gerry’s brother. Take a lift from there to one of the floors, and you are greeted with a tranquil corridor decorated with white orchids in floor vases. The doors with the portraits of ladies, whose faces reminded me of women in Wong Kar-wai’s films, lead you to individually decorated rooms.
I must be quick to admit that I do not stay in hotels very often (or as often as I would like), so I cannot say much about the facilities for disabled visitors in other places. In Yang Sing Oriental at least one room’s bathroom is designed specifically to accommodate someone who uses a wheel-chair.
With each room designed individually, you are spoilt for experience and are left craving for more – or rather wondering, what other rooms are like. I can tell that of all those I visited I was particularly captivated by the one with glass walls. Whereas we are more or less used to having a clear divide between the bedroom and the bathroom, in this room the two are practically not separated, except for the glass screens. The only drawback of this particular room may be the space, which is small. However, if you are looking for a weekend break with your second half, this room may be perfectly suitable. In the Emperor suite on the top floor you are treated to a telescope and a spiral staircase that leads to the meditation space. I found the lime-green and pink decor of one of the rooms modern and refreshing, and, like many visitors and members of staff, loved the sumptuous Oriental suite that overlooks the corner of Princess St and Portland St. The window opens the view on the Chinatown in the foreground and the Britannia Hotel in the background, and the Gay Village part of Princess St on the right.
The hotel boasts a gym and a spa (neither of which I tried, for obvious reasons), complimentary Wi-Fi, secretarial services, and a hi-tech meeting room. You can further “customise” your stay with a choice of Japanese silk duvets and a scent for your room. Finally, Sutra Lounge is a guests-only space, once again adorned with white orchids and featuring warm white, golden and brown shades in decor. Cue in pillows, candles, a rustic bed, drapes and “silks” (this is how they used to call Oriental fabrics in Tudor times), and here is your Yang Sing Oriental – a uniquely-Eastern hotel at the heart of one of Europe’s top business cities.
The opening event featuring the Dragon dance was hosted by Peter Aust, and I would like to thank Collette Walsh for the invitation. The hotel is officially opening for bookings at the end of July, and, being a Manchester resident, I will probably not book in for a stay – unless I have the reason to check into that glass-screen room for two (as a matter of fact, all rooms are sound-proof). But the memory of the visit is indelible, and I am sure it will transpire into some decor and comfort regeneration in my current abode.
For more pictures from the night, visit Yang Sing Oriental Flickr photoset.