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A peek inside Beijing's new high-design hotel Chao

Time Out takes a tour of the Gongti Bei Lu lifestyle space and hotel

'First looks' are initial sneak peeks at a new venue. Unlike reviews, which are strictly anonymous and paid for by Time Out, 'first looks' may be based on press trips or other non-anonymous visits.

What is it? A new hotel and lifestyle house in Sanlitun. When we stopped by Chao, Monocle editor Tyler Brûlée posed the question, 'How does good design improve quality of life?'

Taking a break from the busy city in the venue’s cool grey surroundings, this seemed a bit of a rhetorical question.

Lounge space in the Chao lobby

What's there? The completely-renovated space offers two restaurants, a bar and lounge, cinema and amphitheatre, 180 high-design hotel rooms (starting at 1,800RMB per night) and 40 apartments, parked as some prime real estate on Gongti Bei Lu. The brand also has a newly opened co-working space near the Olympic Park. Needless to say, Chao is an ambitious project.

Just inside the door, velvet chairs offset the stripped-back minimalism of the building. The lobby gives off subtle parking garage vibes, but with old Beijing hutong doors as floorboards – it’s the kind of parking garage that all your coolest friends hang out in.

Casual dining concept at Living Room

On our visit, the food concepts were still being finalised but a peek at the menu of the first floor restaurant Living Room showed variety: Peking duck, Sichuan chicken, Mexican tacos and pizza, all arriving as small dishes made to share.

We’re told that the upstairs Drawing Room will be a Western fine-dining restaurant and will eventually serve afternoon tea.

A prime new spot for Beijing weddings at The Glasshouse

Anything else? Based off the Soho House-model, Chao offers a private members' club, with fees starting from 4,000RMB annually. With access to the small-but-stylish gym, rooftop terrace and wading pool, and chill time in cosy surroundings, the membership seems to pay for itself.

But according to the Chao team, the Clubhouse’s main draw is access to their extensive events lineup. Promises of mouth-watering international food events, brand collaborations and pop ups, and inspiring guest speakers have us asking 'how can we sign up?'

A members-only lounge in The Penthouse

Well, you can’t. You have to be invited by an existing member. And then you have to apply.

The verdict? Until that invite appears in your inbox, with ample space open to the public and lots going on, Chao offers a little something for everyone with design in mind.