By: Verne Maree
If only its walls could speak, the Goodwood Park Hotel would have fascinating tales to tell. Built in 1900 as the Teutonia Club for German residents, it was converted into a hotel in 1929. Since then, it has housed everyone from Prince Heinrich of Prussia, the Prince of Wales and Noel Coward to senior Japanese officers during the Occupation of Singapore in the Second World War and rich Malayan bankers … and now Roy and me.
Singapore’s erstwhile penchant for demolishing any building older than ten years and replacing it with something shinier and higher has meant that only a handful of historic hotels remain. So, though we live in the Orchard area, just a couple of kilometres from Scotts Road, we check into the Goodwood Park at 7pm on a Friday night with a sense of anticipation.
When my sister Dale visited Singapore a couple of years ago, she booked a pool suite at the Goodwood Park – scorning, no doubt, the comforts of our home. I didn’t take it personally: she does love a good hotel – and I don’t provide room service.
Hers was a gorgeous suite boasting an extravagant number of toilet facilities, and led onto an atmospheric, stone-paved courtyard and the Mayfair pool. I admit to being a tiny bit disappointed that our pool suite is next to the main pool, the one just beyond the hotel foyer. It is attractively furnished in neutral tones, however, with a clever system of sliding screens that separate hallway from bedroom and bedroom from lounge area. (And it is, no doubt, considerably less expensive.)
We don’t have far to go for dinner – past reception, out the front door and turn left for top Japanese restaurant Tatsuya. A great meal, a series of shochus and a comfortable bed ensure a good night’s rest.
Doing a few gentle laps of the pool before breakfast, I’m reminded that this hotel is a popular wedding venue: the strains of “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love for You” float across the water as the event organisers set up shop, and later in the day, they’re going full swing.
Having two doors – one from the corridor and another onto the pool – can be a bit tricky. Don’t leave the security chain on the main door and merrily go off shopping unless you’re sure your key-card works on the poolside door!
We enjoy a buffet breakfast at the Coffee Lounge, which, I think, deserves a more imaginative name; understatedly elegant and graciously proportioned, the room grows on you. What’s more, it offers everything you could possibly think of eating for breakfast, and probably more than you should: good breads, a big Western spread and the full gamut of Asian from dim sum and congee soup to sushi and miso soup.
Out and About
Perhaps you don’t have a weekend rut, but we certainly do, and the best thing about booking into a local hotel is that it gets you out of it. Instead of devoting Saturday morning to grocery shopping, we stroll down Scotts Road for a spot of retail therapy at Shaw Centre, a browse through Borders, and a wander around ION. After good poolside burgers at the hotel, we’re back down to Shaw Centre to catch a movie, something we seldom do on a Saturday afternoon.
Normal social engagements don’t have to stop just because you’re on a staycation. Tonight, having picked up a couple of bottles of wine at M&S in Wheelock, we’re out to dinner at the house of good friends of ours. Luckily, we somehow remember to come “home” to the right place, which perhaps indicates that we haven’t had too much wine to drink.
Roy has a business colleague to entertain, and what better venue than the Gordon Grill for Sunday lunch? After all, we’re already in the building! Sensibly, we skip breakfast.
It doesn’t take much persuasion for us to try the restaurant’s ingenious new offering, the Big-on-Small lunch menu – a wide variety of dishes served in little portions so you get to try lots of them. This means a lot more work for the chef, but also much more fun for the diner. Everything we try is delectable.
From seven appetisers, you choose three: mine are marinated king crab, roasted duck foie gras, and Hokkaido scallop with Iberico ham. Of four soups, I choose three: mushroom cappuccino, lobster bisque and cream of artichoke – a triple taste-delight. For the main course, I have baked garoupa with shellfish risotto; other choices feature lamb chops, US beef fillet and braised cheek, farm chicken with foie gras, and a pork loin.
There are four desserts (you can choose two), plus coffee or tea, and you pay $48 for three courses or $58 for four courses. If you prefer to have just one or two starters or desserts, rather than eagerly gobbling up as many as possible (my modus operandi, I freely admit), the kitchen will accordingly upsize them. Service is impeccable, and all in all, this is good value for an outstanding meal.
Construction begins on a new clubhouse for the Teutonia Club, designed by architect R. A. J. Bidwell of Swan & Maclaren, who is also responsible for the Raffles Hotel. To reflect its Germanic roots, the club’s distinctive tower echoes that of a castle on the Rhine.
The new Teutonia Club opens with an extravagant ball for about 500 guests.
World War I begins. The British government in Singapore classifies Germans as enemies and ships many of them to Australia. It confiscates the Teutonia Club and converts it into an electrical powerhouse.
The building is auctioned to three Jewish brothers, Morris, Ezekiel and Ellis Menasseh, who name it Goodwood Hall and entertain illustrious guests there.
The hotel is renamed the Goodwood Park Hotel and becomes popular with travelling businessmen from Malaya.
During the three-year Japanese Occupation of Singapore, senior Japanese officials take up residence in the hotel. After the war, the premises are used as a British war crimes court.
The hotel is returned to Vivian Bath, the stepson of Ezekiel Menasseh, who develops it into a residential hotel – the first in Singapore to boast a swimming pool.
The tower is demolished, a new tower wing added and a new turret erected by 1959.
The Malayan Banking Group buys the property.
Khoo Teck Puat (a former MD of the bank) acquires the hotel and adds the five-storey Parklane wing in 1968 and the Mayfair wing in 1970.
Public protest puts a stop to Khoo Teck Puat’s plan to flatten the hotel and erect a 16-storey skyscraper.
$10 million is spent on massive restoration and expansion.
The tower is gazetted as a national monument.