In 2017, Raffles Singapore began its most ambitious project to date, embarking on a renovation that would both honour the hotel’s history and ensure its relevance to modern travellers. With the relaunch set for mid-2019, Raffles has given the world a teaser of the changes to come, particularly with the reveal of its new culinary concepts and celebrity consultant chefs.
On Tuesday 25 September, however, Sydney media were invited to learn more about the changes during an exclusive press luncheon briefing at Manta Restaurant, Woolloomooloo. While guests enjoyed a three-course lunch, Christian Westbeld, General Manager of Raffles Singapore, and Edmond Bakos, Partner and Managing Director of Champalimaud Design, the New York firm entrusted with this sensitive restoration, shared the latest renders of the new spaces. Unfortunately, these images are not available, attendees being the only people in Australia to see them.
Also visiting were Jesmine Hall, Director of Marketing Communications, and Narajan Singh, distinctly attired in the Gieves & Hawkes uniform of Raffles Singapore’s doormen.
The last major renovation of Raffles Singapore took place 1989–1991. While that project saw the hotel restored to its circa 1915 heyday elegance, the current restoration looks to preserve the “special feeling” that guests have when they walk through the colonnades while remaining relevant for the changing needs of travellers and the Singapore community.
Raffles Singapore was named a National Monument in 1992, the hotel occupying a full city block with gardens winding among the buildings. Edmond Bakos spoke of the importance of stewardship, both of the architecture – “This is one of the few living, breathing hotels that is a national monument” – and from an emotional standpoint. “Raffles Singapore is probably one of the most romantic hotels in the world … we’re looking to deliver design with a magical element,” said Bakos.
New rooms and suites
The hotel rooms and suites have been redesigned around a new residential sensibility when it comes to spaces designed for work and socialising, upgraded technology (although the signature light switches remain) and the changing role of the Raffles Butlers. Christian Westbeld spoke of the 24-hour butler service being more than unpacking and packing; in the revitalised Raffles, they will be given more responsibility and engage further with guests, adapting their role to the purpose of the guest’s visit, be it building an itinerary for a first-time visitor or coordinating hotel transfers.
There are also a greater number of suites, with different categories and larger rooms with more living spaces. For the first time, some will also have kitchenettes.
A destination spa
The hotel spa has been moved away from the rooftop pool and fitness area to its own destination and will be six times larger, although the number of treatment rooms is unchanged. The aim is to create a more social destination for hotel guests and the Singapore community, complete with locker facilities, a changing area and relaxation lounge.
A trio of culinary consultants
The culinary identity of the hotel will be led by three consultant chefs: Anne-Sophie Pic, Alain Ducasse and Jereme Leung. La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore will represent the grace of the three-Michelin-starred chef, with a restaurant design seating 60 that embraces femininity. Alain Ducasse will showcase a new concept at BBR by alain ducasse in the former Bar & Billiard Room with a 140–160-seat Mediterranean tapas and grill restaurant. yì by Jereme Leung can be seen as a sort of homecoming for the judge of MasterChef China, who began his early career as a teenager in Hong Kong and Singapore, and will present contemporary Chinese cuisine and an “endless number” of Chinese teas with health benefits.
Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East.
Other culinary favourites, such as Tiffin Room, Writers Bar and Long Bar will be returning, refreshed for the 21st century. Writers Bar is embracing its heritage as a novelist’s delight with a writer’s residency program, while Long Bar will serve a revamped version of its signature drink, the Singapore Sling, invented for the hotel in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Complementing this plantation-inspired space will be a steakhouse, Butcher’s Block.
A focus of the restoration has been to make the Grand Dame more approachable for the Singapore community and non-resident visitors, from reorganising the lobby and Raffles Arcade to creating even more spaces for private events.
Thanks to this sensitive restoration, the relaunch of Raffles Singapore is sure to be one of the most anticipated hotel events of 2019.