Declared a National Monument in 1987, Raffles Singapore, an iconic colonial-era property, is one of the most illustrious hotel addresses in the world. But, does the city-state’s grand dame merit its splendid reputation? The answer is a resounding yes.
Opened in 1887, Raffles Singapore’s glorious white façade stands on a sweeping gravel drive on the once aptly-named Beach Road – the site previously overlooked the waters of the Singapore Strait. That view is now replaced with modern downtown towers – evidence of the city’s rapid growth as a global economic powerhouse.
For those that can bear to peel themselves away from the five-star facilities, Raffles Singapore is in a great central location for exploring this oft-underestimated city: it’s just a short walk to a number of Mass Rapid Transport stations as well as such cultural treasures as the National Museum of Singapore (10 minutes), and Gardens by the Bay (20 minutes.)
Service & Style
As you would expect of a luxury hotel, service is near faultless. Crucially though, it’s far from robotic; this being Southeast Asia, it’s also extremely warm, gracious, genuine and open-hearted. Every room category is served by Raffles Singapore’s team of dedicated butlers, who carry out their duties with efficiency and enthusiasm – whether it’s simply bringing an extra pillow to your room or something far more extravagant: the team have been known to organise a society wedding at the drop of a (top) hat or track down precious lost belongings with the aplomb of sleuthing detectives.
While Raffles Singapore keenly doubles-down on its heritage – notably in the form of the wonderful liveried Sikh doormen who greet you with a tip of the turban and a ‘welcome to your home’, this is not a hotel stuck in the past. Here, the classic is effortlessly blended with the contemporary: the famous antique grandfather clock in the Grand Lobby – one of the oldest pieces of furniture in the building – is now joined by a glittering new 8,214-piece crystal chandelier that drips from the ceiling skylight.
A recent, two-year-long renovation has not only spruced up the building to its tickety-boo best, but also seen the introduction of welcome modern touches such as in-room check-in so you can head straight to your suite upon arrival, and iPad-controlled fixtures and fittings in your room to dial up the feeling that you’re barely having to lift a finger as you are waited on hand and foot.
Rooms & Facilities
There are 115 suites, which begin with the Studio Suites and become larger and more luxurious as they move through the Raffles Singapore range up to Palm Court, Promenade and Presidential. I stayed in a sparkling Personality Suite (named after John Wayne who visited Raffles in the 1970s), comprised of a small reception-parlour area leading to the teak-wood bedroom and ensuite white marble bathroom with an old-style tub in the centre of the room (your butler will offer to run you a bath – the height of indulgence.)
Beyond the pristine but welcoming rooms, for those wanting to go on a shopping spree right on the doorstep, you’ll find the Raffles Arcade with the brand’s own store alongside luxury retailers such as Hublot, Rolex and Patek Philippe. There’s also a rooftop swimming pool, a well-stocked fitness centre and luxuriant spa. In such a historic building, there is also great pleasure to be had in simply sitting in the shade beside the beautiful courtyard lawn and soaking up the surroundings (sometimes with the added mesmeric distraction of ‘James’, the machine which automatically keeps the grass as trim as a bowling-green.)
Food & Drink
Raffles Singapore boasts a wide variety of options from the more informal Butcher’s Block steakhouse to the fine dining of one-Michelin-starred La Dame Du Pic, the Singapore outpost of renowned chef Anne-Sophie Pic. In an elegant dining room designed in a soft palette of oatmeal, pink and plum, guests can enjoy her exquisitely presented tasting menus that blend French cuisine with occasional nods to Asia.
I sampled the spectacular ‘Experience’ menu which included Pic’s signature berlingots – pasta parcels served in all of her restaurants worldwide (here made with mushrooms, pepper leaves and ginger); madai (similar to a sea bream) from Shikoku, Japan, accompanied with celeriac, dill and a saffron jus; and a fabulous white mille-feuille dessert infused with oolong tea, ginger flower and yuzu.
The Grand Lobby plays host to Raffles Singapore’s renowned Afternoon Tea – complete with harpist – an impressive offering of champagnes, sandwiches, desserts and petit fours that include raisin scones with rose petal jam and a deliciously different take on the smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich which is made with squid ink-flavoured bread. Elsewhere, you’ll likely find tourist queues for the Long Bar – the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail; far more appealing I found is a quick call to the butler team who will spirit one up in seconds in the comfort of your own room.
Rooms: from £800 per night
Address: 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673