There was a lot of talk about The Den closing. This is partly due in part to the fact that they kept “almost” closing and then re-opening between the end of 2015 and mid-2016. But main reason for all the coverage is because, whether you want to admit it or deny it, we have ALL been to The Den. Even if you regret everything you’ve ever done or witnessed at the Den, you have to admit that their Eggs Benedict at 5AM really hits the spot.
A Beijing expat black hole that was always in its prime between the wee hours of 3am-7am, this was the official home of the Beijing Devils Rugby team and many of their infamous parties, and most importantly, this was probably the only establishment in Beijing that was NEVER closed. You heard me correctly – The Den was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to cater to the great demand Beijingers continued to ask of it. That says a lot considering the Den has been open since 1997, which also happens to make this one of the longest lasting venues in Beijing.
So what happened to The Den and why did it close this year?
The Den: R.I.P.
The answer: CHAO. Well, maybe that’s not fair. While many are still shouting “Long Live The Den” at the top of their lungs, maybe it was time for The Den finally close its doors. In any case, The Den has seen its final days and has made way for the opening of one of Beijing’s newest hotel openings – CHAO.
An interesting beast, CHAO hotel is a renovated boutique hotel named after the the Chinese character Chao 巢 meaning nest and comes equipped with unique function room and private spaces, 180 guest rooms and a bar and restaurant called their Club Bar and Living Room.
“A home, a warm and welcoming nest. At CHAO we have designed and created a series of spaces for every context of the Good Life: work and leisure, meetings and socializing, travel and living. At the core of these spaces are a series of curated experiences that aim to inspire and elevate a quality lifestyle. Through the collective power of our membership platform, we aim to make discovery more effortless, connections more seamless and the Good Life more accessible.” – CHAO
Located just south of The Den on Gongti
Not your average hotel, CHAO uses multi-level and design-focused spaces to showcase its crazy-massive gallery space (exhibitions coming soon), an outdoor swimming pool, chef’s table, boardroom, meeting rooms, ballroom, and they even have a cinema and amphitheatre designed for performance art shows. One of the most interesting spaces is their futuristic function room called “Glasshouse” which is designed to host art exhibitions, fashion shows, wedding ceremonies, private dinners or cocktail parties of up to 200 guests. One the one hand, this is a really versatile and massive space with a lot of potential and on the other hand, it happens to look like Air BnB‘s logo. Coincidence? Probably.
Haters are probably gunna hate this brand-spankin new modern, contemporary art hotel especially if they blame CHAO for The Den’s closure, but let’s be honest – people who will go to CHAO are probably not the same demographic of those who went to the Den and the fact remains that Beijing needs more boutique hotels with personality and purpose. In the same way that The Den built a strong community dedicated to late-night sports (watching) and binging booze, CHAO is playing host to many different communal work and event spaces geared towards bringing creative and social minds together.
While CHAO is an impressive space with thoughtfully decorated and designed spaces, it can also feel quite disconnected and not a fluid experience.
The same disconnected feeling found in the hotel’s flow can be said of the menu of their first-floor restaurant called the Living Room.
The food is by and large very tasty, but the menu is incoherent as it jumps between different world cuisines in a desultory fashion. There is a large set of Chinese dishes yes, but even here, there is no theme. Xinjiang lamb, Cantonese pork. Both were very tasty dishes, but it does make choosing your food a little confusing. While you’re at it, would you like some tacos? Go ahead! And don’t forget to order a Poutine while you’re at it. Cause you can.
“A place to work on your laptop, talk shop with a client or to relax and unwind with friends, make this your living room in the city. The food experience here is casually refined, with a lively and social atmosphere; the signature here is a global offering of small munchies and jumbo dishes to be shared, from tacos to wood-fired pizzas to Peking duck.” – CHAO
I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable sitting in this swanky spot with just me, myself, and my laptop, but I would agree that they certainly have a “best hits global menu” with dishes from a range of cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, French, and Oven-Baked Pizza (yes, pizza can be its own cuisine too).
Living Room’s Entrance on the 1st Floor of CHAO
Club Bar Next to Living Room
Living Room’s Main Dining Room
(Photos Courtesy of CHAO)
Pork Carnitas Tacos (RMB 38 per piece)
Hamachi Tiradito Ceviche (RMB 58)
Mushroom Sashimi (RMB 68)
Red Mediterranean Prawns (RMB 78)
I understand the dilemma – as a hotel, you have Western guests who either don’t like Chinese food or want to only get the greatest hits, or you have Chinese guests who will damn you for not doing authentic Chinese regardless of how you make it. I can’t help feeling though that in an attempt to please everyone, they have compromised too much.
There was no live music when we dined at Living Room, but here’s the stage for live performances
Tour of CHAO’s Hotel Rooms:
“Every Chao guestroom is a unique address, and arrival is all about discovering the details that make each its own space. Our rooms are informed by casual luxury, designed with style, understated elegance and environmental stewardship in mind. We have embraced a new standard: provide a relaxed and generous space with ample daylight accented with authentic, responsibly sourced materials. All guest rooms feature handcrafted CHAO furniture made from solid walnut and hand-shaped leather. Guests enjoy free WIFI, snacks, VOD, Nespresso coffee, artisanal teas, phone calls and every room is fitted with an exclusive home bar with all the accessories needed to reproduce your favorite cocktail right in your room.”
Rooms range between 6 types of rooms and with the exception of their rooms with twin beds, most all other rooms have a king size bed with 600-thread count linen and custom furniture and funishings. Starting rate is RMB 1,750 per room per night and goes up from there.
CHAO Suite 80
Like a Plush Modern Apartment in a Very Long, Linear Layout
CHAO Signature 60
“Our signature room is a 60m2 studio with a king bed fitted with 600-thread count linen. The large space features handcrafted custom furniture, responsibly sourced materials and all organic amenities echo a new type of luxury. We want the experience here to feel like staying at your friend’s home, so make yourself a bubble bath, enjoy the free mini-bar, and the LeTV VOD service with top-of-the-line HIFI stereo multimedia system.”
Time for a Cocktail or Two
Bathroom Area Behind a Sliding Door
Toiletries with Clever Sayings – “Always Remember It’s Better To Arrive Late Than Ugly”
CHAO Hotel Contact Details:
- Address: No. 4 Workers’ Stadium East Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
- Tel: 010-58715588
- Website: http://ilovechao.com/
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.