BACKGROUND Raffles Hotel is part of FRHI Hotels and Resorts, which was acquired by AccorHotels in 2016. The luxury brand launched in Singapore in 1887, and on its 100th birthday, the Singapore Government declared it a National Monument. The hotel is also known for inventing the now world-famous cocktail, Singapore Sling in 1915, and sells about 600 of them daily.
From February 13, Raffles will “embark on a careful and sensitive restoration programme in three phases”. While parts of the hotel will still be accessible to guests, from mid-December until mid-2018 it will be closed to prepare for a grand reopening.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ? Colonial architecture dominates the property’s buildings with dark wood finish, high ceilings (up to 14 metres), period furnishings, and living room style interiors. On my arrival, a staff member offers to bring me any beverage (free) of choice from water to Singapore Sling, and whisky even.
Once my metal room key has been electronically coded, I’m taken outside the lobby. All suites are cordoned off from public access. I use my key to unlock a metal gate that leads to the suites.
WHERE IS IT? It is a 20-minute drive from Changi Airport and a two-minute train ride from Orchard Road.
ROOM FACILITIES I’m staying at the Palm Court Suite (60 sqm). The door opens into a foyer with a dining table for two, and a sofa seating for three around a coffee table. Beside this, on a ledge is a tray with alcohol bottles and an ice bucket. This is the minibar. On the dining table are a fruit basket and a discount coupon book for use at Raffles Hotel Arcade.
I push back curtains to enter a spacious bedroom with an antique-looking vanity table beside the two-poster bed. In fact, all furniture in the suite have a vintage feel to them.
The bathroom is divided into a powder area with two sinks, and the bathing area with a separate tub and shower cubicle. It is tastefully decorated with a ceramic elephant holding a potted plant and a low table with folded towels. This is common across all suite categories.
The only drawback in the otherwise comfortable suite is the number and location of plug points. There aren’t enough to charge multiple gadgets and table lamps use the ones beside the bed.
All suites include the vanity desk, dining table, potted plants, tea/coffee maker, free wifi, LCD television, DVD player, free water bottles, fruit basket and the minibar.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Raffles Grill is a recommendation by Michelin Guide Singapore for contemporary French cuisine. High tea at Tiffin Room has people queuing up before it even opens at 4pm. Italian cuisine is served at Raffles Courtyard. Ah Teng’s Bakery has delicious pastries, cakes and bread. The bars on the property are Bar & Billiard Room, Writers Bar, and Long Bar where Singapore Sling was invented. Raffles Grill and Tiffin Room will be available until mid-August 2017, and Bar & Billiard Room until full closure. The others will be shut until the reopening in 2018.
MEETING FACILITIES The business centre is more like a living room where you can watch television, read on one of its cane sofas, and browse the internet at the only computer there. Printing, scanning, and fax facilities are available too. Ironically, wifi is not the strongest in this part of the hotel. There are also two boardrooms for 12 people each, Casuarina Suites A and B for 120 and 200 people respectively, East India Rooms for 150 people, 30 in Jubilee Lounge, and 388 at Jubilee Hall. The Ballroom can hold 350 people, and The Lawn can hold 300. All, except East India Rooms, are closed as part of the restoration programme until the 2018 reopening.
LEISURE FACILITIES It has an outdoor swimming pool, spa and a gym with basic equipment. Leslie Danker, the resident historian, and author of Memoirs of a Raffles Original hosts guided tours of the property. Raffles Hotel Arcade has shops, restaurants and bars. These facilities will be available until mid-August 2017 as part of the restoration programme. Thereon until December 2017, residents may use facilities at Fairmont Singapore located across the street.
VERDICT Everything about the property is luxury wrapped in old-world charm and warmth.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in March started at S$850/₹40,483
CONTACT 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673; tel: +65 64121180; raffles.com/Singapore