We check out one of Singapore’s best hotels in case you feel like a night (or three!) away from home in a bit of luxury, or you have overseas family, friends or colleagues who are after a recommendation. This one will particularly suit those looking for quality wine and dine options, including some great cocktails.
Staycation spot: Conrad Centennial Singapore
Staycationer: Shamus Sillar
You know the Conrad is serious about its F&B when the in-room dining “menu” is in fact a 58-page coffee-table magazine! It’s called Connoisseur and if you weren’t hungry when you picked it up, you’ll be ordering something asap once you see the photos (my guess is the Madras fish curry or the sous-vide wagyu beef cheek …).
Food is a big focus here – not just within the hotel walls, but in the surrounding ’hood too. There’s Oscar’s, on the bottom level, a regular EL brunch favourite. You’re in for a treat right from the entrance, where giant jars of gummy bears and other sweets invite you to scoop them up at will.
On the hotel’s front door is Nihon Food Street, with some of Singapore’s best Japanese restaurants side by side. Beyond that is Millenia Walk and other malls; according to the Conrad concierge, there are 300 restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Second breakfast, anyone?
I stayed in one of the Executive rooms, so I mostly ate in the associated lounge on the 31st floor. Everything was excellent, from the omelettes and fresh squeezed juices in the morning, to finger sandwiches and sweet potato tikkas in the afternoon, and evening nibbles of mini quiches and a very bitey comté cheese.
Perks of Exec rooms include daily champagne buffet breakfast (or you can eat downstairs at Oscar’s), afternoon tea, evening cocktails with hors d’oeuvres, and all-day tea, coffee and soft drinks. You also get spa discounts, late checkout and a meeting room for two hours, if desired. In short, it’s highly worth paying the supplement to enjoy the extras.
The Conrad team does a lot of things right, and pouring a drink is one of them – from consistently strong and superb morning coffees to a cool range of Singaporean craft beers available in the Executive Lounge. (My favourite was Tok Gong, an American IPA by Archipelago).
Then there’s the gin. In keeping with the spirit’s recent popularity, the Conrad houses dozens of exotic gins – Scottish, Californian, French and more. You can pair them with artisanal tonic waters and over 30 garnishes. For a cracking G&T, visit the Lobby Lounge during Happy Hour (5-7pm) when the beautifully presented and generous serves are a steal at $12.
The excellent drinks may explain why I found myself deep in conversation with random fellow guests each night. These included a couple from the Isle of Man, returning to Singapore for their umpteenth time (and always to the Conrad). Chat topics included the embarrassingly huge list of Australian destinations that they’ve seen and I (an Aussie) haven’t, and the Tour de France fortunes of their countryman, Manx cyclist Mark Cavendish.
My daughters couldn’t be with me for this stay, but when I skyped them and let them watch the automatic blinds roll aside to reveal the view from my 27th-floor room, their eyes were out on stalks. The Conrad is one of a tiny cluster of Singapore hotels perfectly positioned around Marina Bay for panoramas. (The Executive Lounge takes full advantage of this, by looking west to the Bay and east to Kallang and beyond.)
They also liked the signature Conrad rubber duck in the bath, and were pleased to hear that the cute bears placed on my bed each day were in fact a gift and would soon be theirs.
After its 20th birthday in 2016, the hotel undertook major renovations of all 500-plus rooms and suites – quite a job! (While work was going on, the aforementioned bears came with tiny yellow hard hats.) The result is a superb fresh look, featuring neutral tones and minimalist touches. My Executive King had a comfy bay window sofa running the length of the giant window. (The rooms are big, by the way; even entry-level accommodation starts at a generous 40 square metres.) The custom made carpets have a Peranakan feel and there are plenty of arty touches – no surprise in a hotel with over 3,000 artworks! The Refinery for Men toiletries next to the new double vanities were top-notch; you can also opt for Mandarin Tea by Shanghai Tang and other high end products.
There are 15 styles of pillow on the menu, but I just went with the one that was already on the bed and it had me out for the count in seconds.
There’s a 24-hour gym and 20-metre outdoor pool on the fourth floor, the latter with new cabanas installed as part of the refurb. You’ll also find a new junior ballroom, The Pavilion, built right beside the water – it looks like a great space for an event.
Poolside lounging was tempting, though I took advantage of the Conrad’s central location to explore instead. One highlight was an early morning jog through Gardens by the Bay (countless birds and frogs; not a lot of otters), Marina Barrage, Marina East and the Kallang River. You can also reach the Esplanade, Singapore Flyer and National Museum easily on foot. Want to go further afield? Promenade MRT is a three-minute walk away.
If you’re still deciding, the concierge can offer curated itineraries of one, three and five hours, around different themes including culture, art, food and adventure. (It’s actually a global initiative of Conrad; see stayinspired.com for more.) Even a Singapore “old hand” will find something new here – whether it’s breakfast at 80-year old kopitiam Chin Mee Chin Confectionery or a visit to a Joo Chiat store that makes the paper products burnt as offerings to the deceased.
Alternatively, just unwind on your bay window sofa with a Nespresso and take in the views. (Or flick through Connoisseur again and order a third breakfast …)
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