BEST FOR History, charm and Singapore slings
DON’T MISS The hotel tours with resident historian Leslie Dunker
PRICE Internet rates for a Courtyard Suite King room start at $684.
CONTACT 1 Beach Road, 189673 Singapore. Tel 65 6337 1886. raffles.com
VERDICT Novelist James Michener once wrote, “To have been young and had a room at Raffles was life at its best.” As someone not-so-young, I respectfully disagree: To have a room at Raffles anytime is life at its best.
BACKGROUND Raffles Hotel dates back to 1887 when the Armenian Sarkies brothers took over an older property and renamed it after Thomas Stamford Raffles, who established the British presence in Singapore. The hotel has been added onto, and recently reopened after a two-year restoration. The results are nothing short of spectacular.
WHERE IS IT? The hotel is located on Beach Road which, in 1887, was actually the beach road. With the passing years the bay was filled in and the city’s iconic skyline literally sprang up around Raffles, which puts it pretty much in the middle of everything.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Upon entering the main building, a classic opulence greets you – along with the stately Sikh doorman in his brilliant white turban, who welcomes guests in warm, typical Singaporean fashion. The three-story main building, opened in 1899, is also stately and equally imposing. The rest of the hotel is an aggregation of buildings added on here and there, now and then. All the nooks and crannies may be a little confusing to the first-timer, but I found exploration to be an adventure.
ROOMS My Courtyard suite was divided into three large areas; sitting room, bedroom and bath. The high ceilings, dark wood floors and details hearken back to the hotel’s colonial roots, but modern amenities are anything but old-fashioned; Internet is fast, and room functions are controlled from two touchpads which even allow you to summon your own butler. (Mine was named Priscilla, who served me a Singapore Sling which I sipped upon the veranda.) The amazing marble-clad bathroom was enormous, with elegant stand-alone soaking tub and a monsoon-capable rain shower. Bath and body products were from Ormonde Jayne.
FOOD AND DRINK The hotel has so many F&B options, it’s hard to do justice to them all. Chef Alain Ducasse and three-Michelin-star Chef Anne-Sophie Pic both are making debuts here. Yi by Jereme Leung offers a sophisticated setting and contemporary take on traditional Chinese. There’s steak in the Butcher’s Block and tea in the Grand Lobby, and of course the Tiffin Room is a Singapore tradition.I found the famous Long Bar to be somewhat disappointing – with a long wait to get in and crowded with tourists, but great for people watching. Much more to my taste was the Writers’ Bar just off the lobby.
MEETINGS AND EVENTS During the recent renovation, the former Jubilee Hall theatre was done over into the hotel’s new Grand Ballroom with space for up to 300 guests. The old ballroom was also got a facelift. And there also are plenty of other venues available for get-togethers both indoors and out.
SPA Raffles Spa in the Arcade was being finished during my stay so hadn’t open yet.