It is always eye-opening to be reminded of an iconic hotel, a name that is instantly recognised worldwide, that keeps itself up to today, and ready for tomorrow (no, I am not going to mention a list of those that still think 20th century, sadly). Think of Raffles Singapore.
Yes, there are other Raffles already open, in gorgeous destinations such as Paris and Angkor Wat, and coming up are London, Moscow and many more. Raffles Singapore will always, however, lead the way.
The Qatar giant Katara Hospitality bought this 1887-vintage building and has spent more than a small fortune, with the help of designer Alexandra Champalimaud, in combining its original feel with subtlety for today. It still has the original block, with seemingly-endless building-surrounded courtyards attached. Overall there must be more acres of polished-wood floors and staircases than in most governments’ parliament buildings, and enough framed memorabilia to fill a national museum.
Some things will never change. Arrive as a hotel guest to the finely-gravelled turning circle off Beach Road, and be greeted by a basketball-high moustachioed doorman, complete with white turban and full red and white Indian gear.
As a hotel guest, you are taken into the three-floor open lobby that gives a feeling of quiet exclusivity (GM Christian Westbeld and his team are brilliant in separating those staying in bedrooms from the hundreds of tourists who call in daily, by other entrances, for the Singapore Sling that is one of the must-dos in Singapore – it was invented here, in 1915, by barman Ngiam Tong Boon).
Of the 115 rooms, which are all suites, my personal favourite is the 260 square-metre Sarkies Suite, #244, in the original block – this is light and airy, and I get more fresh air by heading up to the guest-only rooftop pool, perhaps followed by breakfast pool-side. Later on, I suggest a curry lunch in the Tiffin Room, which dates back to 1892, and for dinner, there is a choice of new designer restaurants by Alain Ducasse, Jereme Leung and Anne-Sophie Pic.
Thank you, Raffles Singapore, for keeping up to date – and also thinking about tomorrow. As of 1 April 2021, the hotel, with Double Confirm Productions and Sight Lines Entertainment, releases ‘The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure’, an interactive with your choice of pure gameplay, from home or wherever, thanks to 360-degree virtual reality cameras, or live, for guests staying in the hotel April through June. The play’s music, by the way, is partly a tribute to Noel Coward, a regular hotel guest in the past.