The legendary Raffles hotel is back in Singapore after two year.
Where is it?
Well, it used to face the beach, as Kipling described in From Sea to Sea: ‘Providence conducted me along a beach... to a place called Raffles Hotel’, but the only beach-like thing about it now is its address on Beach Road, as Singapore has built on reclaimed land squeezing in more high rise housing and luxury office space.
It sits right in the centre of the city with views from its roof-top swimming pool of the extraordinary Marina Bay Sands and the War Memorial, both of which are landmarks on Singapore’s skyline
In a word, imposing – inside and out. Originally opened in 1887 as a 10-room bungalow, the familiar, neo-renaissance style edifice we see now was designed by British-born architect RAJ Bidwell and opened in 1889 to much acclaim. With wide verandas and endless columns, verdant lawns and palm trees and a towering doorman magnificently clad in a white military uniform inspired by the British East India Company, Raffles cuts a dash.
Interiors, overseen in this huge two-year refurbishment by leading interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, supported by Aedas, a global architecture and design firm, keep the 60-foot high gleaming white lobby, the grandfather clock which strikes the quarter and has been with Raffles forever, the antique opium bed, the sweeping wooden staircase and has overlaid it with contemporary elegance.
A new Writer’s Bar comes equipped with old books and typewriters whereas before it was just a corner.
La Dame de Pic Restaurant is a symphony of dusty pinks and woods and subtle lighting. And the rooms have been lightened and brightened, fitted with 21st century technology but not at the expense of its much loved 19th century soul.
There is a spa which offers gemstone-themed treatments such as facial massage of acupressure points using a rose quartz wand alongside treatments using the natural, organic Isun skincare line. There are plunge pools, saunas and steam rooms. There is a 24-hour gym with the latest equipment and a swimming pool which opens from 6am until 9pm.
There is a row of shops in the Raffles Arcade including the hotel’s own boutique which sells an enormous variety of brand souvenirs from posters to cushions and books on the history of the hotel and on Sir Stamford Raffles.
Every suite comes with a butler, on call 24 hours, who will pack and unpack your suitcase, press your clothes, deal with any restaurant reservations, sightseeing advice and even run your bath should you feel the need for help.
Food & Drink
This is where the biggest change in the newly renovated Raffles can be seen. For so long an innovator in its early years, its later ones failed to keep pace with the rapidly growing dining scene outside its doors. Now, once again it has brought to Singapore something new. Anne-Sophie Pic, a 3* Michelin chef from France whose own family’s culinary history dates back to 1889, resonating with the story of Raffles, here marks her first foray into Asia. Extraordinarily delicate dishes include wild turbot with a Granny Smith apple broth, marigold and tarragon and Wagyu beef, cooked over coals with smoked beetroot rose and lovage.
Joining her later this year will be Alain Ducasse whose restaurant BBR will be housed in the Bar and Billiard room, infamous as being the place where the last tiger was shot in Singapore in 1902. He will offer a Mediterranean sharing and grill concept.
In the newly restored Raffles Arcade, Singapore-born Masterchef Jereme Leung will bring his modern Chinese dishes to Yí, whilst carnivores will be well served at Butcher’s Block where meat specialists can advise on cuts and pair dishes with the extensive wine library.
Traditionalists will be satisfied by the continued presence of the Tiffin Room, its original wooden floor reinstated, a constant since 1892, serving Northern Indian specialities, many in gleaming copper Tiffin boxes. And too the Raffles afternoon tea, where in the grand lobby smoked salmon sandwiches with squid ink bread, homemade scones with rose petal jam and a glass of champagne pull in le tout Singapore.
The new Writers Bar, just off the hotel lobby pays homage to the giants in the literary world who walked these corridors from Joseph Conrad to Somerset Maugham to Noel Coward, as well as first writer-in-residence, Pico Iyer.
Of a small and select cocktail list, created by Head Bartender Paul Hammond, try Eternal Youth, a concoction of Raffles signature 1915 gin, Champagne Billecart-Salmon, lemon vermouth and Forever Elizabeth.
But, of course, no visit here is complete without a sojourn in the Long Bar, the famous Singapore Sling in hand and a scattering of peanut shells on the floor beneath you, a nod to the old days of plantation owners who littered happily long before Singapore became the clean state it is today.
To sample the diversity of city life, head to a Hawker’s market for the famous chicken rice, walk through the beautiful Botanical Gardens (don’t miss the National Orchid Garden) and dip into True Blue, a local Peranankan restaurant with tasty home cooking, before heading to the National Museum to learn about Singapore’s history.
Round off the day with a cocktail at Atlas, one of the World’s Best Bar’s and pulsing with Art Deco glamour.
There are now 115 to choose from, up from 103 since the renovation. The grandest, The Sarkies and Sir Stamford Raffles are in the main building and have hosted the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. All the suites are designed to provide three separate spaces with an entrance parlour, a bedroom and beyond that a bathroom.
Previous colours have been replaced by white on white with colonial touches from teakwood floors to brass light switches. A mini bar comes in a leather travelling trunk.
The bathroom, with a deep stand-alone bath tub and rain shower comes in white marble with a black and white tiled floor in a Peranakan design.
Amenities, custom made for Raffles are from Ormonde Jayne.
Outside each door on the wide teakwood corridor, shaded from the sun and the wind are tables for two, perfect for room service breakfasts.
Lovers of Grande Dame hotels, the discerning traveller and traditionalists.
When to go
Singapore is really a year round destination but between February and April are the driest months.
To book visit raffles.com/singapore
Source : Standard.co.uk