Every city has a hotel as iconic as they come. Think The Plaza in New York, the Ritz in Paris and the Claridge‘s in London. In Singapore, the uncontested grande dame of the city is the Raffles Singapore. Celebrity, royalty, dignitaries, she has seen the who’s who of the world’s elite walk through its Neo-Renaissance doors.
In his 1889 novel, From Sea To Sea, Rudyard Kipling talks about the hotel, and in the now famous Long Bar, bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the Million Dollar Cocktail and the Singapore Sling.
Yes, there are many stories to be told about the Raffles Singapore, and after her serious makeover that has left her as crisp as fresh banknotes, we are sure she is not done with her story yet.
In a nutshell…everything. Yes, its 130-year-old colonial physical form is the same, but after two years of major restoration, courtesy of Alexandra Champalimaud, who previously worked her magic with The Plaza in New York and The Dorchester in London, a pleasant surprise awaits guests in its rooms and common spaces.
For a start, the lobby is now a grand setting where afternoon tea is served to late-19th-century colonial splendour that feels at once contemporary and classic.
The number of rooms has also gone up with new classes of suites, including the Residence Suites, the Promenade Suites and the Studio Suites.
Fans of architecture and Raffles regulars are in for a treat with the redesigned interiors- think polished wood floors, potted plants, drapes on the doorways that separate the living and sleeping areas and four-poster beds. What did not change about the rooms are the brass bell buttons for light switches, the ceiling fans and the wicker chairs that we all loved.
Where the hotel’s latest costume change really shines through though are the restaurants and bars. There’s a new restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic, and also in the cards is a new Alain Ducasse eatery that opens in September.
What hasn’t changed?
We covered the heart-warmingly eclectic ceiling fans and ceramic lamps. At the door, immaculately liveried doorman Narajan Singh is still very much there to greet you with a hard-to-define mixture of old-school charm and sparkly-eyed warmth.
Then, of course, the Long Bar continues to dispense Singapore Slings, and thank goodness for that, while the old Writers Bar, which was barely a bar at all, has been given extra real estate and moved to the front of the main building, making it one of the most charming watering holes in a city that is full of charming watering holes.
What’s the final word?
This is a hotel that has always been a universe unto itself. It’s in the center of everything with the National Gallery, the St. Andrews Cathedral, and the National Museum of Singapore within walking distance, but most people who come here don’t venture much to explore the outside world. There is an old saying about the Raffles Singapore that goes something like this:
You don’t come to Singapore and stay at the Raffles; you come to the Raffles and see what you can of Singapore.
And this stands true now, more than ever before, because the grandest dame of Singapore hotels just got a whole lot better.