Tai Chi, or a blue army marching in Tiananmen Square, is by Yu Nanchenge, known as Mr Fish, and it was for sale for S$12,800 – but surely, by now, it has been sold. It was another of the treasures displayed at Art Apart, the pop-up art fair that transformed one floor of PARKROYAL on Pickering in Singapore (the next Art Apart happening will be at the Imperial Palace in Seoul, November 22-24, 2013). But the gal is transfixed. This PARKROYAL luxury hotel is just such fun, and so relevant. Oh these hanging gardens (I see the architect, WOHA, also did Alila Villas Uluwatu, where Gwyneth Paltrow stayed on her recent Bali trip). PARKROYAL on Pickering is named for the street to the south side of Hong Lim Park, bordering Singapore’s Chinatown and the central business district CBD.
And why Pickering? William Pickering, 1840-1907, was in 1877 appointed by the British Governor, Sir Harry Ord, as Singapore’s first Protector, to protect the interests of the masses of Chinese who had flooded here to find work. Pickering had spent ten years at Chinese Maritime Customs in Hong Kong and he spoke fluent Mandarin and several other Chinese dialects. One wonders what he would think of this stunning, 2013-vintage hotel, definitely a precursor of many design elements to come. Look along the ground floor – you can barely call it a lobby – and your eye is drawn to the far end. No doors interrupt.
At the far end is Lime, the restaurant and main bar that seems to flow from one seating area to another, past C-shaped high-up tables that are cold buffets at the bodies of the Cs, communal dining down the arms. There are several other areas, for hot-dish displays, with the chefs preparing and finishing dishes behind. Everything except dishwashing is done in view of the diners. The food is sensational, though stupidly I got a tiny bone of the red snapper caught in my throat (shall I do a Heimlich, asked Dean?) No, not that bad, said I, and decided to do the bread reaction. After a tasting of at least five different types of delicious bread I finally cleared it, having ingested several hundred calories in the process.
No problem. Of course this well-thought out place has fitness facilities. There is that sensational pool, and the unique round-the-outside fourth floor garden walk. There is also a 24-hour gym in a glass box, poolside. Gosh they have used so much glass here. Of course Chinese need their PDRs, private dining rooms, but here they have to suffice with one, in the centre of Lime. Its outside and its inside are all mirrored, which reminds me of the all-mirror sculpture room – Lucas Samaras, 1966, a ten feet cube – in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York (one always has to say Buffalo-New York as if there are lots of other buffaloes).
I did, however, do a massive amount of eating in my short induction to the PARKROYAL concept. I breakfasted in the top (16th) floor Orchid Club lounge, definitely to be recommended. It is double-height, and elegant modern bookcases have selections of really intelligent books. The coffee is the best, and the chef wanted to make an omelette, perhaps the Lime signature, which comes with spinach, oyster mushroom, onion, dried shrimp, kaffir lime leaf and a grilled tomato. Not today, thanks. I sufficed with healthy brown bread (proper knife, which really cuts) and butter from big wood tubs of Beurre Echiré, so much more stylish than mean little portions.
This might be the ultimate eco hotel – the concrete exterior is padded with plastic to lower heat, there is energy conservation and rainwater automatically waters all the acres of living walls and so on. But, and I say ‘but’ rather than ‘and’ on purpose, it has oodles of fun. This is not for the bushy beard and Birkenstock sandal brigade. No, this is a luxury hotel for the stylish, fashionistas in black and white pop-art tunics over leggings and Manolos and so on. Look at my welcome gift, fresh berries with ‘trees’ made of strawberries on sticks. Original style, here.