Sat, Oct 19, 2019 - Page 13 News List

The new Raffles: A look inside one of the world’s most iconic hotels

An extensive renovation brings Singapore’s iconic 132-year-old Raffles Hotel into the 21st century


For a post-dinner tipple, the Writers Bar is a small but sophisticated place off the lobby, featuring a series of cocktails inspired by famous authors who have visited the hotel over the years. There’s even a drink based on the traditional Southeast Asian dish rojak, a spicy fruit and vegetable salad. The bartenders fall easily into conversation, but will also offer privacy when a patron wishes.

Here in August, Iyer waxed poetic about his writer-in-residence gig — a stint that produced his book This Could Be Home: Raffles Hotel and the City of Tomorrow.

The “ultimate moment” at the hotel, Iyer said, “is the early evening, maybe 6 o’clock, you sit out on the veranda drinking a cup of tea or something stronger, you have a book there or a diary or a postcard, the wind is coming in off the sea taking the heat off the day.”

For yet another slice of history, be sure to visit the Bar & Billiard Room, which opened in 1896 as a club under British colonial rule. It’s the oldest standing bar in its original location in Singapore and is said to be the place where the last tiger was killed in Singapore, in 1902.

The space has just reopened as BBR by French-born chef Alain Ducasse, offering shared dishes that highlight Mediterranean cooking. Small plates like salted cod fritters and octopus with paprika and olive oil are served along with heftier dishes like roasted sea bass and barbecue striploin steak.

The Tiffin Room, which has been part of the hotel’s history since 1892, serves North Indian cuisine in tiffin boxes — containers with multiple compartments stacked on top of each other that are used for meals in India and beyond. Wooden floorboards have been brought back to revive features from the early 1900s.

Another dining option is Yi (藝, or “art”) by Singaporean chef Jereme Leung, which brings adaptations of provincial cuisine from across China. The wide-ranging menu features suckling pig and dim sum selections along with braised sea cucumber and abalone. There’s even a section for “Chef Leung’s favorite drinking snacks,” including Sichuan-spiced crispy fish skin and century eggs with roasted peppers and pickled ginger.

Outside, the Raffles Courtyard contains an open-air bar that sits in a beautifully landscaped area of the Raffles Arcade. A gazebo-like structure covers the main bar area and there are umbrellas over other tables. Guests are provided with paper fans to help cool off from the tropical heat.

And hidden away on the top floor is the pool, enticingly blue on hot days in the city. You’re in the heart of Singapore, overlooked by a handful of towers, but you might as well be a world away.

“My very first night of my 15 recent nights in the new Raffles, I was introduced to a little lounge in the spa in which one can recline in a quiet, dark room, sip tea and nibble at the nuts on offer and, quite wonderfully, do nothing at all,” the writer Iyer said by e-mail.

“One does not have to get a spa treatment or even use the Jacuzzi to enjoy this lounge if one is staying at Raffles, and every time I visited, it was completely empty and beautifully, liberatingly silent.”

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