Sometimes great concepts burst on the scene, and run for ever. Others adapt or evolve almost immediately, as is the case of what is now J.W. Marriott Singapore South Beach. This is a 654-room hotel that had been operational, as an independent, for only nine months before it was announced it would become Marriotised, which would require a five and a half months’ closure. It re-emerged, transformed as J.W. Marriott, on December 15th, 2016 – the first guest at this newly-branded luxury hotel was one of the VPs of Facebook, which has its Singapore headquarters in this South Beach complex. Now it seems, says the gal as if this luxury hotel has always been here – after all, the lobby’s psychedelic art, above, and elevators that change colours as you move, are unchanged.
Actually little has changed, says GM Derek Flint, whom I last encountered every year at ILTM Asia as he was GM of Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai. Now he is here, in charge of The Hotel That Philippe Starck conceived. I did notice certain bits of unnecessary furniture have been removed from the over-cluttered lobby, and there is Marriott collateral in the rooms – see my colourful corner suite in the video below. The biggest obvious change is in the hotel’s dining possibilities. The addition of the second-floor club is highly welcome. The previous all-purpose restaurant, with 150 seats, simply was not big enough for this hotel so a 250-seat Beach Road Kitchen has been added, 20 metres from the front door in the quasi-exterior shopping mall.
That old restaurant is now a lunch and dinner venue, Akira Back, named for the Korean-born celebrity chef who already has a couple of restaurants in J.W. Marriott hotels. How does his cuisine differ from, say, that at Megu or Nobu? It is even more imaginative. See the ‘spinach salad’ here. Each of the small finger-sized towers is packed-tight spinach, which you blend, with your fork, into the puddle (sesame sauce) at the base, before eating – do not tell anyone but the effect reminded me of the pre-meal wipe-your-hands cloths, marble-shaped balls of white in one of two holes in a big pebble, put white ball into other hole, filled with water, and hey ho the white expands into a washcloth.
The meal went on and on, beautifully. Derek and Jodie Flint started with Akira Back’s signature tuna and mushroom pizza, in fact paper-thin rounds of dough, cut into quarters, alternate sections covered with equally paper-thin rounds of either tuna, or mushroom. I preferred his salmon carpaccio – a blue ceramic plate held the fish, marinated in hoisin garlic with soy hot oil and micro Thai basil. This is the exact opposite of eating-at-home simple-to-prepare food. It is labour-intensive and artistic and obviously the youthful chefs here love it, and judging by a restaurant that was nearly full, despite the fact the main launch is not until March 24th, 2017, word of mouth is already working. In the morning, by the way, I was greeted in the second floor club lounge – new since my last visit – by one of the most thoughtful guest relations guys ever, Melvin Ventura. No wonder Facebook personnel, and those with Google and others who have Singapore headquarters in the South Beach complex, already call this their second home. NOW SEE THE VIDEO OF SUITE 1920