To be welcomed with a perfectly chilled glass of champagne is as sensational as a luxury hotel’s farewell with champagne. A glass of Roederer poured in front of the gal by key people from the fabulous club lounge at Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore was the ideal welcome home to Singapore. This is the champagne, apparently, that is served at the weekly Sunday brunch in the hotel’s Greenhouse restaurant. What is new, since last sighting, in this always-evolving art-filled hotel? The signature innovation is, in fact, that club lounge, risen Phoenix-like from its previous incarnation, which was already ace, even before the new look.
It is still on the 23rd floor of the 32-floor hotel, but it seems to have doubled in size. Designer Richard Farnell has paired the soft caramel lacquered wood, a feature of the entire interior of the 608-room hotel, with soft azure and taupe. At either end of the main lounge, which has lots of tables, some topped with slabs of champagne-coloured marble, are drawing room-type sitting areas. In there is a standing easel, with big A-3-sized pads of paper, and Faber-Castell pens. Why? One glance out of the windows, which stretch the whole length of this side of the lounge, makes it clear. I am looking out at Singapore’s icon, the standing-E that is Marina Bay Sands.
The lounge has, however, been extended, across the corridor, to the other side of the hotel, with views to the enormous armadillo-shaped National Stadium, with a roll-back roof. The lounge on this side of the hotel has a proper kitchen. Go in there and talk to the chef, to have what you want, precisely, and fresh-cooked. Gee, this is even better than being at home, say I, and so do lots of guests. I hear stories of some who spend all day up here, eating and drinking and just looking out at the views.
Next to the kitchen is the help-yourself buffet area, with an eight-bottle Enomatic machine. I am impressed by its choice of wines, which apparently change regularly – at the moment I am tempted by such old favourites as Cloudy Bay, Joseph Faiveley and Rodney Strong, but then I might try some I do not know, say Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2011 or Pirvamimma Stock’s Hill 2012. The quality of the wines poured, without charge, in club lounges, tells a lot about the perceived value of spending more to stay in a room that gives club access.
Interestingly, the powers-the-be, who obviously include the hotel’s owners and management as well as the designer, have maximized the overall available space. One element of this is the compact buffet area. How to get all the food, as well as the wines, and the big coffee machine and juices and things, adequately displayed? No problem, build a vertical display. That in itself is not new. Many hotels have glass-fronted fridges that allow you to see what is inside and help yourself. Here they have specially designed a ‘vertical kitchen’, with four glass walls, two of which are doors.
Yes, it is all very thoughtful, which can equally be said of the big boss of the hotel, Peter Mainguy. He tells me about supporting the rest of the team. He has rented a beach house, which the 560 team members can use – obviously not all at once – for overnights, away from home. Since 98 percent of these lovely people are likely to be living in homes that may well be small and compact, and since at work, they are in an ultra-spacious environments, with the smallest bedroom measuring 549 sq ft, the freedom of relaxing in a beach house for a night must be a joy. They have lots of celebrations, at work, and days off for birthdays.
I comment on the chic, catwalk-type jackets and black skirts worn by the ladies in the lounge. They designed them themselves, says The Boss. On my way out from this luxury hotel, I am told that Amy choreographed the last staff show – would love to have been there to see that!