One of Singapore’s iconic hotels has put its fashion foot forward with a transformation of its rooms and public spaces. To see what’s been unveiled, Shamus Sillar stops by for a short staycation.
As I walk through the InterContinental Singapore lobby towards the check-in counter, it dawns on me that every guest I’ve seen in my few minutes in the hotel could pass for an international model: incredibly tall, impossibly slim and cheekbones up to the ceiling.
For a second, I wonder if perhaps this place only accepts bookings from the world’s most beautiful people. Then I remind myself that I’m about to stay here for two nights – so there goes that theory.
In fact, the abundance of leggy young things is because my visit has coincided with Singapore Fashion Week, and the chic InterContinental is acting as the official hotel for the event. So, those women are models.
Some guests might find this inconvenient – after all, it’ll mean a busier lobby, bigger crowds for breakfast and longer taxi queues. No complaints from me though. Not a single complaint.
Quite the revamp
It’s no surprise the InterContinental is official hotel for a fashion event. This place is looking seriously sharp, after a two-phase, multi-million-dollar renovation that consisted first of upgrades to the Heritage Wing in 2011. The rooms on that side of the hotel have a charming colonial vibe: polished floorboards, high ceilings and plenty of historic flavour through the Peranakan elements in the design.
But I’m here to check out the new rooms in the Main Tower, which have emerged from their 2016 refurb with a fresh and elegant feel. A bespoke carpet leads to my Club Deluxe room and takes its design inspiration, I’m told, from a phoenix. (I can’t really see it, though I also struggle to find Wally in all those children’s books.) It’s undoubtedly a beautiful carpet – and it leads to a beautiful room, highlighted by an inviting colour palette of white, duck-egg blue and muted gold. The plush bed ends in a fancy padded silk headboard. There’s also ambient lighting, a comfortable writing desk, a lacquered mahogany cabinet containing a minibar that I set about draining, and views through slivers of surrounding buildings to the Padang, the Esplanade, Marina Bay and Sentosa in the distance.
Seriously good location
I love this part of town. It’s right on the doorstep of some of my favourite pockets of Singapore: Kampong Glam, Little India, and Raffles and its surrounds; the National Library is across the road, the Kallang River nearby for picturesque morning jogs, and Chinatown an easy MRT ride away.
It’s also close to the Singapore Indoor Stadium: I know, because the WTA women’s tennis finals were on during my stay, and I took a three-minute cab to the stadium to watch world number one Angelique Kerber in action one night.
Another location bonus: the InterContinental is directly attached to Bugis Junction. A swipe of your room key on the lobby level leads you straight onto Singapore’s first-ever glass-roofed retail street. That means you can be shopping, dining, getting a massage or buying cinema tickets within thirty seconds of leaving your room – and without having to face Singapore’s meteorological nasties like stifling heat and pelting rain.
Proof’s in the pudding
You’ll dine like a king at this hotel. The first thing that went in my mouth was a spoonful of French-style braised beef cheek, offered during complimentary evening cocktails in the club lounge. Speaking of which: think seriously about upgrading to one of the Club InterContinental levels – the list of extras you get is about a page long.
All-day dining restaurant Ash & Elm is a dark and cosy space by night, just begging for an order of medium-rare steak and a hearty red. A cheese fridge has a hand-written menu on its glassdoor that lists, among others, a 24-month-old Comté, an Italian Taleggio and a Scottish cheddar.
I only have time to try it for breakfast, though, when the vibe is bright and buzzy, and all kinds of Western and Asian fare are on offer. I keep it simple with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and an omelette, but around me people are digging into Indian curries, noodle soups and charcuterie plates. (Can’t see any of the models, though – maybe not hungry?) If you’re not staying at the InterContinental, it’s worth coming here for the lavish Royal Heritage Afternoon Tea ($78 for two) – served in the huge and impeccably renovated Lobby Lounge – or for Sunday Bubbles & Brunch at Ash & Elm (12 noon to 3pm), or renowned Chinese cuisine at Man Fu Yuan.
- All rooms come with a free smartphone – including unlimited 4G data – for guests to carry around the city during their stay, a fantastic plus for tourists.
- The pool isn’t huge for a hotel of this scale, but it’s a pleasant outdoor space, and I like that there’s a semi-hidden staircase that leads down to a herb garden.
- If you’re here on a Saturday afternoon (I wasn’t), sign up for the hotel’s Guided Heritage Trail walking tour, launched last year as a partnership with the Singapore Tourist Guides Society. It departs at 4pm, and takes in nearby churches, temples, mosques and heritage buildings, and you’ll learn plenty about not just them but about the lives of the locals too.
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