Built in 1995, the hotel has recently completed a major yearlong renovation of all rooms in the main tower and most of the public spaces. The new, modern look aims to distance the property from its reputation as “the Peranakan hotel” while incorporating more diverse elements of local culture and raising standards across the board.
WHERE IS IT?
Situated in the Bugis district, the hotel is surrounded by elements of heritage, culture and art, as well as being attached to the Bugis Junction shopping mall. Three distinctive precincts nearby (Bugis, Bras Basah and Arab Street) offer unique flavours of Singapore’s colourful, multicultural past. The iconic Raffles and Peninsula hotels are within walking distance, on the way to popular nightspot Clarke Quay – a 20-minute stroll down Victoria/Hill Street. It’s less than a ten-minute drive to the Marina Bay Sands complex and a 20-minute drive to the airport, while the Bugis MRT station is within walking distance.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
From the moment the wifi-enabled limousine whisks you from the airport the feeling of relaxed luxury begins. Smartly uniformed doormen staff the serene entrance courtyard, while the beautiful white building façade has shuttered windows reminiscent of the traditional shophouses for which the local area is famous. Inside, a spacious sitting room-inspired lobby is populated with cosy armchairs and ornamental cultural memorabilia – for once, the “home-away-from-home” cliché has been realised rather well. Staff are friendly and attentive and a cosmopolitan crowd mills about.
My Deluxe room on the 15th floor of the renovated main tower was a fairly standard (for the luxury sector) 38 sqm, however the revamped décor was a standout. With just two narrow floor-to-ceiling windows, the room doesn’t have much natural light, but the bright, elegant interior made up for this. Like the façade, the walls are pure white and bare of artwork, however clever panelling details and baby blue accents give a fresh, distinctive feel. Likewise, the “phoenix-inspired” patterned carpets with flashes of turquoise give the room style and personality.
Other details have been subtly incorporated to add a local flavour – from an oriental black lacquer cabinet (housing the minibar) to colonial pillars between the corridor and the main bedroom. Meanwhile, little touches of Peranakan-inspired design come in the form of colourful soap dishes and an intricately carved air-conditioning cover. (A much heavier influence of Peranakan culture remains in the 65 rooms and suites in the Heritage wing for those who prefer a more immersive experience.)
Facilities are comprehensive, from a sturdy, wooden work desk complete with international power sockets, to a user-friendly smart TV that allows for everything from entertainment (international TV channels and Youtube) to ordering room service and reading messages from the concierge. The popular Handy mobile phone is also now available in guestrooms (though it was temporarily unavailable during my stay). All the usual perks were present, including a coffee machine, iron, hairdryer and welcome fruit. A full-length mirror was a thoughtful and welcome addition.
International sockets and USB ports by the bedside were convenient for phone charging, while a master switch in easy reach made it simple to power off all the lights at bedtime. The complimentary wifi was fast and easy to connect.
One annoying detail was the smoke alarm – located above the bed, it constantly emitted flashes from two tiny LEDs, which could potentially be very aggravating for light sleepers.
The bathroom was spacious, with a separate bathtub and shower and premium American-branded Agraria amenities.
Man Fu Yuan is the Chinese restaurant on Level 2. The dining room is simple yet elegant, and the food was fantastic. The signature double-boiled lobster soup served in a pumpkin was particularly delicious, and even the traditional sweet and sour pork was given a fresh twist with the addition of lychee. The service was also excellent; I’d barely taken a sip of tea before an invisible waitress had topped it up again. The meal ended with a shot of a blackberry and Chinese herb concoction to aid digestion, and a hot towel.
The European-focused Ash & Elm restaurant on Level 1 has a much bolder design, with a dark, warm interior and an open-kitchen concept featuring three live cooking stations. Breakfast is a buffet affair, while dinner switches to à la carte. The lasagne I sampled from the wood-fired oven was OK – though other dishes I spied looked more tempting.
Other F&B offerings include fine-dining Japanese restaurant Chikuyotei, the English pub-style Victoria offering, and the glamorous lobby lounge – the centrepiece of the hotel, with dramatic double-storey ceilings, grand pillars, and live piano music all day.
BUSINESS & MEETING FACILITIES
There are 11 function rooms including the moderately sized Bugis Grand Ballroom, which can cater for up to 500. The Club Lounge offers lots of charming Peranakan detail, including colourful glassware, motif-carved screens and again the iconic shuttered windows. Breakfast is served (buffet and à la carte) with complimentary afternoon tea and evening cocktails also being offered. A meeting room is available, with two complimentary hours per guest, plus computer and printer facilities.
Leisure options are limited, though the mid-sized gym was also recently renovated and includes a yoga mezzanine. Other highlights include a two-hour guided heritage trail every Saturday.
The new renovation has given this property a fabulous facelift. It was an absolute pleasure to stay, with a homey feel, excellent service and great dining options in a convenient part of town.
Internet rates for a Deluxe room in mid-May start from S$448 (US$319) including tax and surcharges.
80 Middle Road, Singapore 188966; tel +65 6338 7600; ihg.com/intercontinental