Thursday, Oct. 09, 2008

Four Seasons Hotel

Fresh from a multimillion-dollar spruce-up by Hirsch Bedner this past July, the Four Seasons has rightly reclaimed its crown as the best hotel in the buzzy Orchard Road shopping district. Not that you even need to step outside to get your retail fix: the hotel is connected to Club 21, a multilabel store (owned by hotelier and Donna Karan's chum, Christina Ong) that stocks more than 30 designer labels from Europe and America. The 255 made-over rooms are a subtle mix of chinoiserie, tufted leather headboards, carpets with plum-blossom motifs, and techie gadgetry including high-speed wireless connections for two laptops. Downstairs, Jiang-Nan Chun serves exquisite parcels of dim sum while the house restaurant, One-Ninety, has easily the best chicken scrambled eggs in town (this tasty dish — in which pieces of chicken are garlic-sautéed before being scrambled with fresh eggs — isn't on the menu, so you'll need to ask).

Insider Tip: For a great haircut, head to society hairstylist Gerald Kong (65-6734-4510), down the corridor toward the adjoining Hilton hotel.

Room to Book: The sprawling Governor Suite currently overlooks a construction site, so opt for a corner Premier room for its wonderful tree-topped view of leafy Orchard Boulevard.


Of the numerous five-star hotels lining the marina frontage, the Ritz-Carlton is the most thoroughly impressive. The dramatic tone is set as soon as you enter the light-filled atrium foyer, capped by a massive, swirling-yet-geometric Frank Stella mobile, and continues with smiling, attentive service through to the tight but unobtrusive security staffers scattered through the public spaces — necessary for safeguarding the hotel's extraordinary 4,200-piece museum-quality art collection (which includes works by Dale Chihuly, Henry Moore, and David Hockney). The 608 high-ceilinged rooms feel like spacious aeries, with cloudlike feather beds and feather pillows, 37-inch flat screens, and spacious marbled bathrooms that peek out over Singapore's Manhattan-like skyline.

Insider Tip: Have Sunday brunch at the on-site Greenhouse restaurant, where the spectacular seafood bar is matched by free-flowing Moët et Chandon.

Room to Book: The 2,347-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite has dizzy wraparound views and a 12-seat dining room, while the huge bathroom, framed by a massive octagonal window, is stocked with Bulgari White Tea toiletries.

The Fairmont

Set in a silvery I. M. Pei–built tower in the heart of the Marina, the Fairmont is one of the best-located hotels in Singapore. All major tourist attractions — including the Orchard Road shopping district, the Esplanade theaters, Raffles City Shopping Centre, and the Chijmes complex of restaurants and bars — are either within walking distance or a quick cab ride away. Of the 769 rooms, those on the higher floors (15 and up) have the best views over the city, but all are comfortably furnished with velvety earth-toned fabrics, Bose sound systems, plush chaises, flat-screen TVs, and baths with rainforest showers and Miller Harris toiletries. The Willow Stream Spa is, at a vast 50,000 square feet, one of Asia's largest, with tennis courts, two swimming pools, and 35 treatment rooms where staffers dole out mud wraps and ayurvedic warm-oil massages.

Insider Tip: The hotel's basement is a vast labyrinth of lifestyle boutiques and excellent regional restaurants that connects all the way to the Esplanade theaters.

Room to Book: If privacy and views are priorities, book one of two Signature Rooms on each floor between 7 and 19. These are corner units, with spacious walk-in closets and two private balconies apiece — a rarity in Singapore.

The Fullerton

Set right in the heart of the Raffles Place central business district, this sprawling Palladian pile was once home to Singapore's and general post offices. Today, though, the vast marble atrium where locals once lined up patiently to buy stamps is filled with well-heeled businessmen in pinstripes and Japanese wives leisurely sipping tea. The 400 rooms are, given the mainly business clientele, equipped with large writing desks and both wired and wireless Internet connections; the on-site 24-hour business center offers translation and video-conferencing services (although guests wanting to make a really strong impression at their next meeting should pony up to hire the hotel's vintage Rolls-Royce and driver). The ground floor Post Bar attracts a lively Friday-night crowd with its White Cosmopolitans and chilly mojitos. The hotel's pièce de résistance, though, is the 25-meter outdoor pool that overlooks the mirror-flat curve of Marina Bay and the skyscrapers of Raffles Place.

Insider Tip: In the evening, take the subterranean underpass to the Fullerton Heritage complex across the road; it's filled with cafes and bars.

Room to Book: The light-filled Governor Suite has soaring ceilings, original 1920's detailing, and a veranda flanked by 20-foot-high Doric columns.

Raffles Hotel

Squint a little and it's easy to imagine how the all-suite Raffles must once have felt when the sea lapped up along its promenade, and Noël Coward and Somerset Maugham sat in the lobby bar tossing back Singapore Slings beneath the lazily twirling fans. The beach has long since been paved over, but thanks to sensitive renovations, the hotel still retains an old-world gravitas (only with added comforts like Wi-Fi, DVD players, and a butler who can be summoned at the touch of a button). The 103 colonial-themed suites, set in cloister-like buildings with breezy verandas, surround sweeping private lawns; all have 14-foot ceilings and are outfitted with carved Peranakan furniture, Oriental rugs spread over polished teak floors, rich brocade fabrics, and baths stocked with Amrita Spa products. Though it just celebrated its 121st birthday, the hotel is still a magnet for A-listers (Elizabeth Taylor, Diane von Furstenberg, and Barry Diller have all stayed here). And the bar still mixes a mean Singapore Sling.

Insider Tip: Textile connoisseurs will thrill to the hotel's collection of more than 700 Oriental rugs. The huge handwoven Persian carpet in the lobby is the work of legendary master carpet-maker Saber.

Room to Book: The Sarkies Suite is furnished with Chinese blackwood cupboards, Tiffany flatware, and Bose sound systems.