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First Look at the New Look Raffles Singapore

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Raffles Hotel Singapore

Raffles hotel in Singapore has today reopened following a two and a half year, multi million dollar refurbishment. Here’s what to expect from the revamp by interior designer Champalimaud and architect Aedas.

The grand lobby has a fresher feel and a new, stunning take on a chandelier. Afternoon tea will now be served here rather than being side lined to the Tiffin Room (more on which later). The heavy wooden reception desk with pigeon holes behind has been replaced by a more inviting desk and chairs, more in keeping with luxury 21st century hotels.

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Grand Lobby at Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Reception at Raffles Hotel Singapore

 

Off the lobby, the Grill restaurant has been replaced by a new venture from chef Anne-Sophie Pic whose restaurant in France holds three Michelin stars.

The room is almost unrecognisable from the former Grill with softer tones and furnishings though the white columns and French windows overlooking the Palm Court remain.

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La Dame de Pic at Raffles hotel Singapore

It’s also gratifying to see that the alcove tables in the restaurant still in situ, albeit with a more modern edge. Statement lighting abounds here too.

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La Dame de Pic at Raffles Hotel Singapore

On the other side of the lobby the Tiffin Room, serving Northern Indian cuisine, has re opened. This too has been given a transformation with the addition of open shelving displaying tiffin boxes (naturally) and Chinese porcelain and again, statement light fittings. The new furniture with a nod to colonial style (dark wood and rattan) is said to be inspired by the hotel’s archives.

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Tiffin Room at Raffles Hotel Singapore

Elsewhere in the hotel, a new Alain Ducasse restaurant in the Bar and Billiard room and Yì by Jeremy Leung are due to open in September.

All the suites have been restored and look lighter while retaining a heritage feel. The separate parlour room has been retained in the Stateroom, Promenade, Courtyard, Palm Court and Personality suites – a good choice since it’s so synonymous with guest rooms at Raffles.

Updated technology and bathrooms also figure with Peranakan inspired tiles in the latter – in homage to the Chinese Malay settlers in Singapore.

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Courtyard Suite at Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Courtyard Suite Parlour at Raffles Hotel Singapore

To celebrate the opening Raffles is offering two special rate packages:

Opening Package
From now till 31 October 2019 guests may upgrade their stay for S$120 plus taxes
per night including additional privileges of daily breakfast for two either in their suite, on the verandahs poolside or at Tiffin Room. They will also receive a $100 daily
credit for spending at the Raffles Spa or at one of the restaurants. A commemorative Raffles heritage souvenir and guaranteed late checkout until 3.00pm is also included.
Staycation Package
Available to residents of Singapore, this staycation offers a 50% reduction
on an adjourning suite for families to stay together. The package includes daily semi
buffet breakfast for two adults at Tiffin Room, where children can dine for free (for
two children aged 12 and under), S$50 Raffles Spa Credit per adult per stay, Raffles Children Customised Programme, Complimentary souvenir for children from the Raffles Boutique, guaranteed late check out till 3pm, early check in at noon, subject to availability, 10% off Raffles merchandise at the Raffles Boutique. Adjourning suites are subjected to availability of interconnecting suites.
More details on offers are available at www.rafflessingapore.com and enquiries
or reservations can be made via singapore@raffles.com

What it’s like to Sleep in the World’s Most Luxurious Bed

 

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The bed at The Savoy’s Royal Suite

[UPDATE: Savoir Beds is opening a store at the refurbished Raffles hotel in Singapore in August 2019.]

When it comes to sleeping I’m definitely in the Princess and the Pea camp, I tend to toss and turn throughout the night rarely getting a restful 8 hours. So I was intrigued to check into the Royal Suite at The Savoy, London where an exclusive handcrafted bed has been installed promising a superlative sleep.

Befitting the vast suite (it takes up the entire river side of the fifth floor) decorated in an elegant Edwardian style, the bed itself looks straight out of a fairytale. And the ornate four poster king with draped canopy has added advantages in a handmade box spring base, mattress and topper valued around SG$150,000.

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Sitting room in The Savoy’s Royal Suite

As with all the best mattresses The Savoy’s are made with horse tail between pocket springs. The one in the Royal Suite also features a hand tufted topper made by yarn specialist Tengri from rare fur – hand combed once a year from yaks roaming the Khangai mountains of Mongolia. Their hair is softer than cashmere with exceptional temperature regulating properties so perfect for aiding sleep.

It’s the creation of prestigious British brand Savoir which has been hand making beds for the hotel for over 100 years. When Richard D’Oyly Carte opened The Savoy in 1889 he set new standards for luxury hotels in London. He couldn’t find a bed maker that met his exacting criteria so Savoir was formed to create beds for The Savoy.

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The Savoy hotel London

My first impression is that the mattress is surprisingly firm. But it also has just enough flexibility and I don’t feel any points of undue pressure – it’s just right, as Goldilocks would say. I close my eyes with the intention of a 20 minute afternoon nap and I wake up over an hour later.

The true test though comes after supper in the suite’s dining room overlooking the Thames (the view that Claude Monet painted) and impeccably served by morning coated butlers. While I still wake up several times in the night as is my wont I immediately fall back to sleep each time. Even more remarkably the back pain I’d been feeling the day before had disappeared.

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Dining Room in the Royal Suite at The Savoy 

Usually (and frustratingly) I’m not able to lie in, restless to get up by 7am, but here I found the opposite. The only thing that eventually tempts me out of bed is the thought of Omelette Arnold Bennett for breakfast: made with smoked haddock, hollandaise sauce and cheese, perfected for the writer while he stayed at The Savoy in 1920s. After a call to the butler I’m tucking into this moreish dish and taking in the marvellous London view. Did I feel I’d slept in a bed fit for a king or queen? A resounding yes.

https://www.thesavoylondon.com

Savoir Beds Raffles Hotel Arcade #02-08, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188719

Tel : +65 6261 2788

How to Holiday like a Crazy Rich Asian

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SkyPark Infinity Pool at Marina Bay Sands Hotel

[UDPATE: Raffles hotel Singapore is now re opened – August 1st 2019, Chijmes is now closed.]

Sarah Jessica Parker once remarked that New York was the fifth star of Sex and the City, similar could be said of Singapore in the Crazy Rich Asians movie. Not only does the Lion City hold its own among the ensemble cast that includes Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Contance Wu and Michelle Yeoh, it’s a veritable scene stealer.

Based on the book by Kevin Kwan the film is about a young American Chinese woman, Rachel Chu, visiting the home land of her fellow Chinese New Yorker boyfriend, Nicholas Young, and discovering his family and friends are part of the super rich Singapore elite.  The small, tropical city state dazzles in sweeping shots of the Marina Bay area and skyline although most of the movie was filmed in neighbouring Malaysia (sometimes masquerading as Singapore or New York).

You won’t find Tyersall Park, Nick’s grandmother’s estate, in Singapore for example. The location is two heritage houses, Carcosa Seri Negara,  in the botanical gardens in Kuala Lumpur . The mahjong showdown between Rachel and Nick’s mother was filmed in Penang and the beach scenes on Langkawi. Here’s where to find them all:

Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Raffles lobby and Drawing Room

Of course Nick Young “the Prince Harry of Asia” takes his girlfriend Rachel to stay at the grandest hotel in town: Raffles. Their scenes were shot in the Drawing Room above the lobby and the Sarkies Suite, one of the hotel’s two presidential suites named after the original owners and where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed. And when Nick’s mother visits him there they stand on the private verandah overlooking the Palm Court. The suite costs upwards of £5,000 per night plus 17 per cent taxes but you can’t check in just yet – Raffles is currently closed until early 2019 [UPDATE Raffles has now re opened ].

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Nick (Henry Golding) and Rachel (Constance Wu) at the Sarkies Suite Raffles

It should be worth the wait though, a major refurb is underway which promises to keep the old world glamour while adding modern amenities and tech. One big change is that the spectacular lobby which was previously only accessible to hotel residents will become a new lounge area where afternoon tea will be served to non guests. Restaurants overseen by the much Michelin starred Anne Sophie Pic and Alain Ducasse are also opening. [UPDATE: click on First Look at the New Look Raffles Singapore at end of post.]

The Fullerton Hotel

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The Fullerton Hotel

If you can’t wait until next year to make your trip you could book the Fullerton Hotel instead. This handsome columned building (formerly the post office HQ) on the river and near the bay crops up as a back drop throughout Crazy Rich Asians. Most notably in two key scenes between Nick and Rachel and Nick’s elegant cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) and her husband.

Newton Food Centre

Any film set in Singapore has to feature hawker centres, outdoor food courts with stalls selling a medley of Asian street cuisines that the city is famous for. Kwan’s novel has Nick scorning Newton Food Centre as “only for expats and tourists” and championing Lau Pa Sat instead. Ironically though it’s the latter with its easy location next to the Central Business District (CBD) and charming Victorian wrought iron structure that is usually dismissed this way by Singaporeans. And Newton is the actual location for the street food fest in the film that’s had critics salivating.

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Newton Food Centre

Foodies’ favourites are Maxwell and East Coast centres but hawker food guru KF Seetoh, author of the Makansutra guide, rates many a stall at Newton as well. Seetoh recommends Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, Kwee Heng Duck Noodle, Kwang Kee Teochew Fish Porridge, Bee Heng Popiah, Soon Wah Fishball Kway Teow Mee (for fishball noodles) and Chong Pang Huat for barbecued chicken wings.

The travel tissue packs in the Crazy Rich Asians scene are authentic. Locals always take them to the hawker centres not only to use as napkins but also to reserve a table. And if you’re thinking how unlikely it seems for UHNWIs to eat here, literally everyone in Singapore does – or they send their maid and driver to pick up.

Four Seasons Langkawi

Four Seasons Langkawi

Royal Beach Villa at the Four Seasons Langkawi

It girl Araminta Lee’s lavish hen do on “Samsara Island” was in reality filmed on Malaysia’s Langkawi. More specifically at the stunning, Bill Bensley designed, Four Seasons which is set between a white sandy beach and soaring limestone cliffs synonymous with the Malaysian archipelago. You’ll need to book the Royal Beach Villa if you want one of the enviable pads Araminta stayed in.

The spa here is even more gorgeous than shown in the film: the spacious treatment pavilions are set over water and have a dramatic close up view of the limestone cliffs.

Chijmes

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Araminta Lee walks down the aisle in Chijmes Hall

Across the road from Raffles this colonial era compound (strangely spelt due to Singaporeans’ love of acronyms but pronounced Chimes) was variously a convent and a school and in its most recent incarnation is populated with F&B outlets. At its heart, the 19th century gothic chapel renamed Chijmes Hall and now turned into a function space is the location for glamorous couple Colin Khoo and Araminta Lee’s society nuptials, “the event of the century”.

The white wedding cake architecture, shown as backdrop to the red carpet arrival of the guests in the film,  is worth a look but while you’re here don’t miss Whitegrass, one of Singapore’s truly outstanding restaurants. Chef Sam Aisbett fuses ingredients from his home country of Australia as well as Japan with some Asian flavours to create a fantastic contemporary menu.

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Australian jade tiger abalone with three treasures at Whitegrass

Bukit Pasoh Road

This picturesque stretch in Tanjong Pagar, part of Chinatown, is lined with preserved Peranakan shophouses making a photogenic al fresco meeting point for Rachel and her college friend Peik Lin. The actual spot is the terrace outside Humpback seafood restaurant, across the road from The Reading Room (a coffee house by day and bar by night).

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A few doors down is The Straits Clan one of Singapore’s new breed of private members clubs housed in the attractive building that was until recently the New Majestic Hotel. Although members only, its street facing Straits Cafe is open to the public. Bukit Pasoh used to be known as “the street of clans” and this slice of heritage Singapore makes a welcome change for anyone suffering shopping mall fatigue.

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The Straits Clan, Bukit Pasoh Road

The Blue Mansion, George Town

While the exterior implies it’s on Ang Siang Hill in Singapore, that exquisite courtyard setting where Nick’s ice maiden mother played by Michelle Yeoh meets Rachel over the traditional Chinese game mahjong is actually in Malaysia. George Town, the capital of Penang province, is a picturesque little place filled with brightly painted “shop houses” with shuttered windows.

The Blue Mansion

Among them you’ll find the grander Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion, named after the 19thcentury tycoon who lived there (14, Leith Street, George Town +604 262 0006). Also known as The Blue Mansion, this scene of the mahjong showdown is a boutique hotel (rooms from £100 per night) so you can check in and enjoy the mansion when all the day trippers have gone.

Supertree Grove at Gardens By the Bay

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Colin and Araminta’s Gatsbyesque evening wedding reception was held at Singapore’s man made, multi million dollar Gardens By the Bay amid the Supertrees. And night time is really the only time to visit these man made, multi-million dollar gardens (the outdoor sites are open until 2am). During the day the Supertree Grove is punishingly hot so arrive in the evening when the extraordinary “tree” structures – between 25 and 50 metres tall and covered with plants – are illuminated and the delightfully OTT music and light show takes place at 7.45pm and 8.45pm nightly.

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Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh) at the Supertree Grove

Make a booking for dinner at Pollen in the nearby Flower Dome with its Mediterranean climate and associated flora. The pretty setting and excellent mod Med cooking aside, the beauty of dining here is that you can walk around the Dome after all the visitors have gone at 9pm.

Marina Bay Sands SkyPark

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Infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands hotel

Sweeping vistas of Singapore’s Marina Bay area and Marina Bay Sands hotel, the building that looks like a ship marooned on top of three skyscrapers, abound in the film and the finale was shot around the hotel’s SkyPark infinity pool on the 57th floor.

Whatever you do don’t buy a ticket to the SkyPark observation deck – you won’t get anywhere near the swimming pool. Access to the pool area requires a room key card so to swim in the pool (and take that obligatory selfie with the skyscrapers as a backdrop) you’ll need to check into the hotel but is it worth it? The vast scale of MBS attracts large tour groups and the infinity pool, like many Insta famous locations, is always jam packed. Even or especially at night.

Better to have a cocktail at adjacent Ce La Vi which serves one of the best Singapore Slings in the city and has a panoramic view of Singapore’s skyline. To overlook the infinity pool you’ll need to be in The Sky Deck area of the Club Lounge (not to be confused with the Sky Bar). If you want fireworks thrown in, coincide your visit with the Formula One Night Race (September 16th this year) or National Day (August 9th).

Malaysia Airlines

In Celebration of World Gin Day

Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith

[UPDATE: Raffles is closed for refurbishment until the end of 2018 but a pop up Long Bar is open at 3 Seah Street, next to the Raffles Gift Shop, and serving Singapore Slings.]

Take equal measures of quality and tradition, add a dash of modernity and a splash of serendipity, and you have the perfect recipe to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Raffles Hotel’s Singapore Sling.

The gin-based cocktail is said to have been invented at Raffles, Singapore by barman Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915. By chance Sam Galsworthy, the co-founder of Sipsmith artisan gin, visited the iconic hotel and requested a meeting with the F&B director the year before the landmark anniversary. And Galsworthy happens to be a descendant of Sir Stamford Raffles – the British statesman who founded Singapore and after whom the hotel was named.

Read more

Feeling Like Royalty at Raffles

[UDPATE: Raffles Singapore, currently closed for restoration, is now accepting bookings for August 2019 onwards with updates including three new suite categories and a restaurant under the direction of Alain Ducasse.]

Checking into Raffles is an uplifting experience. When you pull up the gravel driveway outside the white wedding cake of a hotel in the heart of Singapore, you’re greeted by a toweringly tall sikh doorman, bearded and turbaned and wearing an imposing sashed uniform. He ushers you into the lobby, all cool marble flooring and fluted columns that reach up three lofty storeys. There is none of the hubbub of other hotels – only guests or “residents” are allowed inside – so the atmosphere is reassuringly calm and rarified. To borrow from Holly Golightly, you feel as though nothing bad could ever happen at Raffles.

Raffles’ lofty and serene lobbyWe’re shown, not to the Presidential Suite, where William and Kate recently stayed, but to the Somerset Maugham suite, number 102, overlooking the Palm Court. There have been many additions and alterations since Raffles first opened 125 years ago in December but this wing is the most serene. The view invites you to sink into a rattan chair on the balustraded veranda and sip a welcome Singapore Sling brought to you by your butler. So we do.

All the suites (there’s nothing so hum drum as a room at Raffles) are vast compared to modern hotels. They come with a veranda and a sitting room to the front and a huge bathroom to the back. Don’t expect a zen wetroom but instead Victorian tiles, a liberal amount of marble and brass fittings. Number 102 was Somerset Maugham’s favourite and is now the hotel’s most frequently requested suite. As well as the usual dark wooden floors, half tester bed, oriental rugs and antiques, our suite has framed pictures of and letters from W Somerset Maugham lining the walls, a writing desk and a smattering of the author’s novels. I suddenly feel under pressure.

The hotel’s Palm CourtTime for a cocktail. We cross the courtyard into the main building to the Writers Bar. Some people will encourage you to visit the famous Long Bar and throw peanut shells on the floor but the Writers Bar is lovelier; an exclusive little nook off the lobby. Billecart Salmon Ultra Brut champagne is on offer here – an exclusive in Singapore, cleverly chosen for its lightness in the searing Singapore heat.

After the resident pianist plays Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again at 8pm on the dot, we move into the adjoining Raffles Grill for dinner. An engaging waitress talks us competently through the menu and to start I choose the steamed foie gras which has a delicious salty topping and served with a pear that’s been poached for two hours in red wine.

The halibut main course comes with a nice crust of butter on the skin with punchy tomatoes on the side and is paired with a wonderful minerally Pouilly Fume. To finish, there’s a chocolate souffle which is all that it should be. Eric appears with a gigantic bottle of ’88 Armagnac and it would be churlish to refuse but after that it really is time for bed.

The next morning we climb the Gone with the Wind staircase that leads up from the lobby and head to the swimming pool, tucked away on the third floor. Set in a walled roof terrace with trellises covered in climbing plants, terracotta urns, flowering trees and striped towels on sun loungers, it’s part Italian garden, part beach club. Wonderfully I have the pool to myself save for a dragonfly.

The outdoor swimming pool oasis at Raffles Singapore

The outdoor swimming pool oasis at Raffles Singapore. I’m just about hungry now so we go for breakfast in the Tiffin Room – an airy, colonial style restaurant with white pillars and ceiling fans on the opposite side of the lobby to Raffles Grill. There’s the usual five star buffet arrangement which is very well done but also an interesting a la carte menu. I order the Raffles Omelette – a spicy empire days inspired dish of eggs, peppers and chilli powder. Just the trick after a late night.

We return tot he Tiffin Room for lunch to try Raffles’ famous Indian buffet (while you’re staying here you really should eat inside the glorious main building as often as you can). the buffet is a spread of northern Indian hot and cold starters, chutneys, curries and vegetables with standouts such as cucumber masala salad and vohrnignt cooked black lentils. The highlight though is the chef’s specially prepared curry (on this occasion a rum soaked lamb dish) served as a generously proportioned amuse bounce and mopped up with freshly made naan breads.

The grandfather clock in the lobby is chiming signalling that it’s time to leave. I do so reluctantly. So long Raffles, I’ll see you again.

http://www.raffles.com/singapore

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