So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special? This is the grande dame of Singapore that dates back to 1887, where royalty and celebrities have rested their weary heads.
But despite its advanced age, there are no issues with creaky floorboards or noisy pipes. In fact, it is arguably one of the newest hotels here, having reopened only last year after an extensive three-year refurbishment.
Everything in the all-suites accommodation is spanking new, from the furniture to the high-tech room controls. But an old-world charm remains, both in the colonial architecture and historic artefacts that include a grandfather clock believed to predate the hotel. It still chimes every hour from the lobby.
Guests are greeted at the entrance by the hotel’s iconic Sikh doormen, who are so much a part of the hotel their image is printed on gift shop souvenirs.
The suites are designed in a mix of old and new. The switches, for example, come with old-fashioned knobs. Flicking one up sends the curtains rolling up.
I love the faux leather trunk in the sitting room, which I imagine was used by rich travellers on ocean liners in the past. It opens into an awesome drinks cabinet you wish you could take home – if not for the fact that a hefty sum will no doubt be slapped onto your room bill.
What about the restaurants?
Foodies are spoilt for choice with four in-house restaurants.
For dinner, pamper yourself at La Dame de Pic, where chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s elegant French cuisine sets the mood for a night of wine and roses.
Then lunch the next day on dim sum and dishes from different Chinese regions at yi by Jereme Leung. But make sure you leave enough room for Butcher’s Block in the evening because you do not want to miss its excellent bone-in steaks. And you shouldn’t skip the Iberico pork sando either.
WHERE: 1 Beach Road
INFO: Go to rafflessingapore.com
RATES: The hotel’s packages for August and September are all taken up. It has a new package valid from Oct 1 to Dec 13 offering 25 per cent off the best available rates for a minimum two nights’ stay. It includes breakfast for two and 15 per cent off at all its restaurants and bars, Raffles Spa, Raffles Boutique and the Floral Boutique by Raffles.
If you can squeeze it in, go for lunch at Tiffin Room before you check out. Its tiger prawn kebab is the bomb and the curries are not to be sneezed at either.
BBR by Alain Ducasse is still closed, and so are the Long Bar and Writers Bar. But you get to claim your complimentary Singapore Sling at the Grand Lobby at tea time or during happy hour at the Raffles Courtyard, along with free peanuts.
How’s the breakfast?
You order as much as you want from a menu that reels off Western items, such as eggs, waffles and pancakes, plus Asian favourites like nasi lemak and mee goreng.
Definitely get the congee. It comes with a range of condiments like fermented beancurd, pickled turnip and a whole crispy dough fritter.
You can enjoy the meal in the Tiffin Room or the Grand Lobby. If the weather is good, go alfresco in the Palm Garden beside an antique cast-iron fountain that was originally from the Telok Ayer Market.
Please tell us there is a spa.
The Raffles Spa reopened early this year and now operates from Wednesdays to Sundays.
Located in the Raffles Arcade facing North Bridge Road, it boasts spacious treatment rooms with attached shower and locker facilities. So you can change and wash up before going back to your suite.
I wouldn’t suggest venturing there in your bathrobe because the gates through the courtyards are now locked and you have to traverse a public area.
What else is there to do?
Book the guided history tour of the hotel and be regaled with tales of the escaped circus tiger that wandered into the basement of The Bar and Billiard Room (now BBR) and the tradition of Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again (1929) being played in the lobby at 8pm daily without fail.
You’ll also walk down a gallery lined with photos of famous personalities who have visited the hotel, including Queen Elizabeth II and actress Elizabeth Taylor as well as famous authors like Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Coward. Among the latest photos is one of the Singapore cast of Crazy Rich Asians (2018). Some scenes were filmed there.
The tour is usually over-subscribed but fret not. You can come back for it days or weeks after you check out.
Why sleep in when you can get an early start to the day, right?
Work up an appetite for breakfast with a swim or by sweating it out at the gym. You will need it to pack in all that food.
The pool is on the rooftop of the main building and if you are not a hotel guest, you never get to see it. It is good for laps and boasts views of a colonial-style bar set against the modern Raffles City.
Over at the gym, the range of gleaming Technogym equipment is comprehensive enough to give you a good workout.
Advanced booking is required for both the pool and gym, but chances are few people will be fighting with you for a spot before 9am.
Verdict: Bliss or miss?
The suite is so spacious and comfortable that I can happily laze in it the whole day – except that it would be a waste not to explore the parts of the building that are not open to the public.
I love the expansive black-and-white bathroom too, which comes with his and hers sinks.
To minimise contact, check-out is done remotely. You just need to call the butler on the phone and leave the key on the table before you leave.
There is a care pack thoughtfully placed in the suite containing masks, sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes inside a reusable cloth pouch.
You take that home with you, together with the memory of a grand experience.
Book your stay from Wednesdays to Sundays, because Raffles Spa, Butcher’s Block and La Dame de Pic are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
• This staycation was hosted by Raffles Singapore. This is the third instalment of a weekly staycation series.
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