Whether you land on the rooftop helipad or glide up in one of the hotel’s Rolls-Royce Phantoms, any arrival here will always involve a delicious sense of theatre. Opened in 1928, and transmogrified in 1994 with the addition of a 30-storey tower, this grandest of Asian dames is a triumphant marriage of old and new.
The 300 rooms and suites were given a vigorous makeover in 2013, shifting the interiors to pared-down Oriental chic while upping the technology. But glorious as the nail dryer, free international-call phone and bedside tablet fluent in 11 languages may be, The Pen’s killer appeal is traditional service. Chief concierge Echo Zhu is a Beijing-born, 21st-century, female Jeeves; sommelier Dheeraj Bhatia is on first-name terms with the cellar’s 1,000-plus labels.
And who could be left unmoved by the pillar-box-hatted pages’ cheery salutations as they swing open the main doors? Otherwise, the spa and Roman-themed pool are inspirational, and the restaurants remain unchanged and as popular as ever – in particular Gaddi’s, where the roasted pigeon breast sets the benchmark for fine French food in this city. A tried and trusted institution? Yes, and thank goodness for that.