The legend of Shangri-la, a mythical valley which is supposed to be heaven on earth became popular after the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. In the book the protagonist goes in search and finds the long lost valley of Shangri-la when he is there he finds inner peace and love. This is what the Hotel of the same name models itself on.
In our modern times it can be hard to find any peace let alone inner peace. We are hyper-connected to the world around us through our phones and tablets. As I come to check in to Vancouver’s Shangri-La hotel, in the fashionable Coal Harbor district, I can feel my phone buzz in my bag. I look at it and two emails sit waiting for my attention. I ignore them and commence with checking-in. Maybe the relaxing music and sound of water trickling in the marble and wood paneled lobby is already having an effect on me.
I deal with the emails once I get to my room, maybe it hasn’t worked quite yet. My room is on the 10th floor and there are tall glass and steel office buildings all around me. Down below I can see the humdrum of the end of play – people queuing for buses, rushing to get to the train and cars trying to out run the traffic lights. I can see all this happening through the floor to ceiling windows but I can’t hear it.
The bedroom is spacious with dark wood paneling, but the darkness is off set by the floor to ceiling windows. I decided to embrace the idea of calm and peace, after I took care of those emails I ran myself a deep bath in the marble bathtub. Their toiletries are from L’Occitane, which is one of my favourite skin care brands; the bath oil provided fills the room with a lovely scent. I get in and enjoy a rare moment where I can read my book. I have left my phone on the vast bed and the door is shut. I could get used to this.
After my relaxing bath my partner turns up and we head off to MARKET by Jean-Georges, the hotel’s signature restaurant. This is the first restaurant in Canada for three star Michelin chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The menu is a collection of his most popular dishes, which is customized to British Columbia’s local larder. My partner and I went for the tasting menu, which is changed every month. This month it’s a taste of autumn. The first course was Madai Sashimi with warm back truffle garlic toast; I loved the contrast of the salty fish and the sweet black truffle. The second course was my firm favourite caramelized sweetbreads and pumpkin, maple crackling with sherry vinegar emulsion; the mix of warm autumnal flavours with the delicate taste of the sweetbreads where just what I wanted on a cold rainy evening. Sablefish with gruyere broth and beluga lentils and carrots was my partners favourite, even though he generally dislikes broth. The meat dish came close second butter poached venison, purple potato mash with cabbage and pomegranate. The meat was so tender it melted in the mouth and went beautifully with the Blue Mountain sparkling wine I’d ordered. Blue Mountain is my favourite local winery and the Shangri-La stocks their wears in abundance. My partner, who is becoming a somewhat of a beer connoisseur, went for an IPA from Washington state. The dessert was a celebration of apples with apple confit, green apple sorbet, rich pound cake and apple chips.
After dinner and an aperitif at the bar, we wondered back up to our room stuffed full and relaxed on the bed was my phone – I’d hadn’t even realised I’d left it behind.