Raffles Singapore: Comfort & Historic Splendour in the Lion City
All images courtesy of Adam Thompson | CSP Times.
Raffles Singapore may be perched smack bang in the centre of it all but it offers much more than a convenient location – the historical manor is home to world-class service, delectable dining options and a ubiquitous charm that's captivated over a century's worth of top-notch clientele.
Here's what you need to know:
IN A NUTSHELL:
A beautiful historic hotel that seamlessly blends old with new
Location: Beach Road
Founders: The Sarkies Brothers
Vibe: Regal, Colonial
Best time to visit: Anytime
How to get there: Bus, taxi, MRT
Raffles Singapore is a spoiling urban getaway that takes its hospitality seriously. The Lion City's grand dame was first opened in 1887, and even today – after numerous facelifts – echoes the same level of comfort and splendour that Singapore's founder Sir Stamford Raffles (after whom the hotel was named), could have hoped for.
Its latest restoration took two years to complete and saw the revered property with a fresher, brighter look by the time it reopened in 2019. Although it's clear that the hotel, which is graded as a national monument, retains its beloved colonial architecture and heritage, a swift revamp of the suites, bathrooms, and F&B establishments give it a subtle modern makeover that will welcome back guests with open arms after the Covid-driven travel hiatus.
From the moment you arrive at Raffles Singapore, via a welcoming circular driveway fronted by the majestic grand dame, it's clear that you're in for a sophisticated stay. We were greeted by the hotel's Sikh doormen and led through the symmetrically aesthetic lobby before completing a seamless, personalised check-in process in the comfort of our new suite.
Raffles Singapore is an all-suite hotel with nine accommodation types to choose from, ranging from the charming Studio Suites to the grandest Presidential Suites. There are 115 individually designed rooms in total, each echoing a personality of its own, resplendent in colonial-style architecture and interiors.
We stayed in one of the Residence Suites, a collection of five beautifully appointed one- or two-bedroom beauties, located in the buzzing Raffles Arcade. Each room spans 1,614 square feet, offering ample space to roam, with its living and dining area, pantry, office space, powder room, bedroom and gorgeous bathroom complete with his and her basins.
Each suite – which includes Alhambra, Diamond, Marlborough, Theatre Royal and Odeon – was named after famous local cinemas from the 1900s, a time when Singapore was dubbed as "The Place of Cinemas". Butlers are here to assist to every your need.
We were in the one-bedroom Malborough Suite, which takes its name from the Malborough Theatre on Beach Road opened in the 1930s by the Shaw Brothers. The cinema was a popular destination in the 1950s and 1960s and played host to the original hawker hit, the Satay Club.
Dining & Drinking:
Raffles Singapore is a splendid dining destination in itself. It's home to nine exclusive F&B concepts, from Michelin-starred eateries to the most famous bar in town:
Butcher's Block – an elevated American smokehouse
La Dame de Pic – renowned chef Anne Sophie-Pic's French fine dining venture into the Lion City
Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse – previously known as the Bar & Billiard Room, this spanking new concept serves exquisite Italian delicacies in a regal setting
The Grand Lobby – an afternoon tea lover's dream
Tiffin Room – a longtime favourite from 1892, serving North Indian cuisine
yì by Jerome Leung – regional Chinese classics with a contemporary twist
Long Bar – the home of the Singapore Sling
Raffles Courtyard – an alfresco social scene for bevvies
Writers Bar – craft cocktails in a space once frequented by some of the world's most famous authors
Here's how we spent our meals during our stay:
Breakfast is served at the Tiffin Room and guests can choose to dine outdoors, which we recommend if it's still the early hours of the morning before the sun comes out blazing. There's a generous buffet spread inside the restaurant, with fresh juices, cold cuts and cheese, appetisers and fruits to choose from. For the hot dishes, guests can pick directly from made-to-order menu which includes a mix of Western and Asian courses from eggs benedict to fried chicken and fish with rice.
World-renowned chef Alain Ducasse took the reigns for the reincarnation of Raffles' iconic Bar & Billiard Room (BBR) and the result, Osteria BBR, is a heavenly Italian Riviera theme. The refreshing revamp of the centuries-old space saw an open kitchen feature with counter seats surrounding it, an airy, pastel colour palette and an Italian menu under the helm of its chef de cuisine Francesco Soletti.
A meal like this is best begun with champagne, of course, and we strongly recommend asking the wine connoisseur for a pairing. Dishes range from the red prawn tartare topped with Kristal caviar, the grilled turbot prepared and served by the table, the creamy taglioni with zucchini, and sweet treats like the signature baba soaked in limoncello.
Upon entering Butcher's Block in Raffles, we're reassured by staff that this smashing hideout isn't just any American smokehouse – it's so much more.
Dubbed as an "avant-garde wood-fire dining experience", Butcher's Block takes its meats seriously, as proudly showcased in The Vault which features dry-aged produce on display as guests walk into the welcoming space, adorned in dark wood furnishings contrasting against cobalt blue panels. No stone is left unturned at this specialty BBQ joint and you'll quickly pick up on this with a quick peek into the open kitchen, watching chefs parade its step-by-step techniques from curing and ageing to fermenting. Meats and seafood are cooked by smoking with wood or dried herbs, slow roasting, high-heat grilling or grilling in baskets, and via burying ingredients with embers. Helmed by Hawaiian-born-and-raised chef Jordan Keao, each dish embraces the very (deliciously smokey) essence of this epicurean journey that elevates traditional barbecues.
For dinner, we strongly recommend trying the Tour de Force menu, a feast-worthy selection of the kitchen's best eats, from the bite-sized wagyu tartare and caviar on fried beef tendon Columbian-style chicharrones and uni tartlets to the mouth-watering Norwegian scallop sitting on a bed of miso beurre blanc, and the decadent dry-aged (for 30 to 40 days) duck with plum sauce. When it comes to dessert, the menu's inclusive spiced apple tart hits the sweet spot without feeling too empowering after what's already a hefty yet highly satisfying meal.
But for the full experience, one must try the additional wine pairing arranged by sommelier Sam – an entertaining and engaging host who is happy to cater to any taste preferences, while explaining the intriguing stories behind each carefully chosen wine.
It's simply not a trip to Singapore – let alone the Raffles – if you've not made a trip to Long Bar, the home of the iconic Singapore Sling cocktail. You'll have to queue though, but as many of the hotel staff told us throughout the day, lining up is considered part of the experience!
And of course while you're there, remember to nibble on some complimentary peanuts and don't be shy to throw the shells on the floor – it's tradition.
Besides drinking and dining, the hotel also offers ways to keep fit on holiday. There's an outdoor swimming pool on the third floor and a well-equipped gym. Both guests and non-guests alike often wander the grounds which are rich in heritage and there's a historic hotel tour option for those looking to delve into the hotel's origins even further.
The Raffles Spa is a holistic haven for anyone in dire need of a refreshing treatment. Guests begin their experience by drinking gemstone-infused water and can also make the most of the spa's steam bath, sauna, ice fountain and heated pool during their visit. Treatments range from classic facials by ISun and Biologique Recherche to hot stone massages and for an immersive treat, the Gem Suite Staycation.
Wellness lovers may also join yoga, sound healing and meditation classes upon request.
Amid a sea of fancy new modern hotels opening in the city, it's easy to see why Raffles Singapore seems unfazed by its growing list of competitors entering the arena. Raffles remains timeless, yet present, thanks to its recent restorations which have kept the perfect balance of old meets new. Being 135 years old and counting, it's no wonder this heritage hotel remains a top destination for affluent travellers looking to recharge in the Lion City.
Phone: +65 6337 1886 | Facebook: @raffleshotelsingapore | Instagram: @raffleshotelsingapore | Twitter: @raffleshotelsin | Location: 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673