Is there a ‘best hotel in the world’? It all depends on what a traveller wants at a particular time, coupled with circumstances that include weather, other people and untoward happenings. There are individuals and anonymous groups that announce best properties, all too often, one fears, with vested interest.
Global Hotel Alliance, GHA, is completely transparent. Headed by CEO Chris Hartley, based in Dubai, the 40 brands that form GHA share Discovery loyalty, personalised per brand. This gives a total of 21 million Discovery loyalists. All right, let us be cynical. Not all 21 million are ever going to vote but even if only one percent did there is still a satisfactory voting core.
Now we come to GHA’s symbiotic partner, Ultratravel, chaired by industry stalwart Nick Perry. He oversees a regular online and print magazine, biased towards but not exclusively covering GHA properties (it’s edited by extrovert bon viveur Farhard Heydari).
Nick Perry also oversees and organises The Ultras, Discovery members’ awards. At the 2022 Ultras, at Pan Pacific London on 31st October 2022, Capella Singapore was announced as ‘best hotel in the world’.
Cynicism again. Capella Singapore ticks all the right boxes, but what gives it depth, and character?
A bit of history helps. The 110-room hotel is a conversion of WWII officers’ quarters on a low hilltop on 30 acres of gorgeous sculpture-dotted tropical parkland on Sentosa Island, only ten minutes by car from Singapore’s financial district. The conversion was enhanced by Sir Norman Foster’s addition of dull tomato-coloured railings bordering new construction that wraps from one end of the original two-floor building to the other end, the whole forming one large kidney shape.
Spectacular exteriors pair with soothing interiors by Hong Kong’s designer-for-the-intelligentsia, André Fu. His colour palette for bedrooms’ furnishings seems to mirror the lush greenery outside. Rooms have daybeds on their outside terraces, cut into the main building, for even more commune with nature.
And there is constant opportunity for exercise and enlightenment. Walks and tennis, and lots of swimming, can be complemented by memorable dining, outside or in, at Fiamma, another Fu masterpiece. Food’s overseen by Europe’s darling, Mauro Colagreco, with a Neopolitan character, Antonio Corsaro, here on the ground. Perhaps red prawn crudo with kumquat, followed by veal Milanaise with arugula, Castel Giocondo Brunello de Montalcino 2017 Frescobaldi.
It’s the people that ‘make’ any hotel, however. A Fiamma server asks, since dessert was refused, if you’d like a limoncello. Early next morning, when someone feels momentarily confused trying to navigate the entire kidney shape, a night cleaner personally shows the way, with a smile. With authenticity and generosity as his oft-stated rallying cry, GM Yngvar Stray’s on hand to act as breakfast host, helping seat local staycationers’ pre-school offspring and chatting to a European CEO-type. Oh the breakfast buffet, copious and colourful. Leave room for the signature 63-degrees onsen egg with dark soya sauce, toasted white bread and coconut-egg jam.
A myriad of little things add up.
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com, a weekly newswire Mary Gostelow’s Inner Circle, and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, all part of Almont Global.