Luxury Hotels

Staying in Singapore’s tallest hotel, with imaginative luxury

Bar Rouge, on a typical night

Accor’s tallest hotel, anywhere, is the 73-floor Swissôtel Stamford, a circular tower designed by I.M. Pei. This has, marsupial style, the integral Stamford Crest, and adjoins Fairmont Singapore.  Atop the round tower is a three-floor eatertainment complex which includes Bar Rouge, on the 71st floor.  Normally this is a hang-out for chic Singaporean fashionistas, and runs through to six a.m. Two nights ago it was, more sedately, the venue for Accor’s ILTM Asia Pacific party, hosted by Accor’s VP Luxury Sales (seen above, centre, with The Savoy’s Philip Barnes, left, and Singapore-based RVP Tom Meyer). The views, obviously, were amazing.

Night view from room 2854

The entire complex offers in all just over 2,000 rooms. To break this down, Singapore Stamford has 769 rooms, but amazingly manages to feel really intimate, to a large extent because of the people.  30-year veteran Eddy Tan, for instance, is the ultimate guest relations officer – she seems to know exactly what idiosyncracies go with which guest. She showed me up to 2854, a new room that brilliantly, and to me, uniquely, can be converted in a few minutes from sleeping to meeting room. It has a bright red Smeg-type refrigerator all ready and waiting.

Caprese, by Prego

But some things do not substantially change.  Prego, the banana-shaped ground floor restaurant, runs from 6.30 a.m. right through the day and evening.  I used to love the plain roast chicken with mashed potato, today I have changed to somewhat lighter fare, like perfect caprese followed by a Bistecca di Manzo.  The menu is a simple full-colour A4-sized sheet of card, hams and other Italian products hang overhead and you feel Andrea Bocelli will start singing at any moment. Amazingly, the space also adapts to be a perfect breakfast venue – see one of the videos below.

GM Marcus Hanna

Marcus Hanna, GM of the whole complex, also wanted me to see the month-old Stamford Brasserie, another brilliant eating venue that is even more casual – it spreads out on to the pavement, and has a to-go grab-n-go counter. Added to the eating and drinking there is serious working out (is it true to say the seventh-eighth floor gym is the biggest of any hotel in Singapore?).  Yes, another superlative for this complex, which is also part of Raffles City mega-shopping.  There is not much missing at Swissotel Stamford, indeed, except that one increasingly-desirable word, TIME. AND NOW SEE VIDEOS OF A NEW ROOM, LOOKING OUT OF ITS OPEN WINDOW, AND PREGO AT BREAKFAST



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Luxury Hotels

Back to super Singapore, and its luxury hotels

Antoine Chahwan, left, and Rainer Stampfer

Elegance and thoughtfulness are two keys words among the many that can be applied to what is now one of Singapore’s more venerable luxury properties, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore.  Wow, says the gal, it opened in 1994 (with an Executive Chef called Bernhard who, pre-opening, invited media to a show-off breakfast, which meant having to climb up to the 20th floor rooftop as the elevators were not yet working). But that was an age ago.  Today, everything is superlative. Four Seasons’ President Asia Pacific Rainer Stampfer dropped in to join the hotel’s GM Antoine Chahwan, who had just flown in from Ho Chi Minh City, for a truly modern-chic dinner.

View from 1619

Modern-chic eating is what you want, superlatively presented and full of taste.  Antoine Chahwan has introduced, in One 90 all-day dining, a semi-buffet, which means a fabulous antipasti buffet – oh the tomatoes, oh the burrata (see a video below) and then your choice of main course, brought to table.  And after that I went back up to room 1619, and marvelled at the beauty of the new design, by Paula O’Callaghan of HBA.  The colours, as another video shows, are soft eggshell blue with bronze and I do like the way the drapes are light-bronze at the top, dark bronze at the base.  Overall, too, the idea is to give maximum space, though cleverly, and thoughtfully, they have mobile bureaux if you want more storage space.

View into Club 21 boutique (note the chairs)

What I wanted was IT help, and of course being Four Seasons it was on hand.  Interestingly the head of IT came with Front Office Manager Michael Casey who, dare I say it, has missed his calling.  He would be the world’s best technology teacher in a primary school. He knows what he is doing and he patiently talked me through everything in monosyllabic non-tech language that even I and any five-year old could understand.  Honestly, Michael Casey saved my sanity, and when he had finished doing whatever was needed I took a walk through the internal arcade that leads from this lovely hotel through to Singapore Hilton, also owned by the Ong dynasty, and thus to Orchard Road.  Most of the retail along the arcade are fashion-lifestyle brands belonging to Club 21, another Ong initiative, and much more fun today than I remember from past visits (love the chairs covered in pink flamingoes, or grey racoons).

Looking into the residents’ lounge

Of course the gym here is 24/7 and I watched BBC World News, from both London and Singapore, where today local anchor Rico Hizon had as his guest Australian fitness phenomenon Kayla Itsines, here to do one of her Bikini Body Guide workouts to some 5,000 Singaporean enthusiasts.  And then I breakfasted, then walked around this luxury hotel’s main floor area. Modern-chic, in general hotel terms rather than merely culinary, should always have at least a hint of locale, a sense of place.  Here, a residents’ lounge leading off the lobby gives people an alternative to sitting in the bar.  As well as the elegance of its overall colouring and profusion of orchids, there are shutters, reminders of Old Singapore.  Yes, it is all very soothing. AND NOW SEE FIRST, MY ROOM, AND THEN PART OF THE SEMI-BUFFET

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Luxury Hotels

A perennially-young luxury hotel transitions to resort

Transition conductor Joseph Sampermans

Can city hotels call themselves resorts?  Some try, but they need greenery and/or space and/or water. In Italy, Four Seasons Firenze satisfies the first two criteria.  In Bangkok, any of the luxury properties right on the Chao Phraya river have an advantage. The Peninsula Bangkok, however, is taking the lead – it is already well through the transitioning progress, as GM Joseph Sampermans explained to the gal.  Already, the spa and wellness division offer complimentary activities, say boot camp, every day. Soon, the 370-room hotel’s 765 employees will give up ties and be put into more casual gear.

Seafood night

All this puts extra pressure on the GM, who hosts cocktails every Thursday night for the growing number of long-stay guests who prefer to winter here rather than in private villas in Phuket (or certainly back home in Frankfurt or wherever).  Sometimes the cocktails are in the 37th floor helicopter lounge, or downstairs in the upper level of Thiptara restaurant. These long-stay guests are cossetted with extra wellness, extra hospitality, and extra food offerings.  Each night the main River Café restaurant has a speciality buffet, say seafood on Wednesdays.

Pleasure boats provide evening entertainment

River Café always fascinates me.  It has a gorgeous outdoor terrace, ideal for watching evening processions of gaudy tourist boats, each more luridly lit than the last, serving set dinners as they ply up and down the river.  Europeans and other non-Asians like sitting here, on the terrace. Asians, by contrast, invariably prefer the near-refrigerator ambience of the indoor area of River Café, even though they have to venture out, through automatic doors, to the two live cooking stations outside.  Asians also like their bedrooms set as near to freezing as any system will allow. As part of the resort-ification of this luxury hotel there will very soon be room packages that come with spa included.

Looking back from The Peninsula’s boat lounge

Other inducements to stay here, and stay longer, are such temptations as muscle soothing or energizing herbal bath rituals and, I must stress, continual acts of thoughtfulness.  In my suite I found a pair of scissors, wrapped and on a tray, and an extension cord with lots of international sockets.  My fruit selection included bowls of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, and whole bananas. There is a memorable arrival, and/or departure option here.  To save time, for which read ‘traffic’, The Peninsula Lounge, on the river’s East bank between Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and Shangri-la, allows you to arrive there, and take a boat across to the hotel (and, on your departure, follow the reverse procedure).  During my short and truly memorable stay, by the way, I was privileged to be given a 20-year pin, as proudly worn by every staff member.  Yes, Peninsula Bangkok is two decades young. NOW SEE VIDEOS OF SUITE 3204, AND THE WEDNESDAY NIGHT SEAFOOD BUFFET

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