In October 2018, I checked into the Grand Deluxe room at The St. Regis Singapore, which is situated within the prime Orchard shopping district and minutes away from Orchard MRT station as well as major shopping destinations like ION Orchard, Isetan and Takashimaya. The 299-room property is one of the country’s most opulent addresses, and has in recent times hosted esteemed guests ranging from Prince Harry to Kim Jong Un. The brand’s reputation precedes itself, and I naturally came with expectations, and then some.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Memorable, opulent luxury with gaps in guest experience.
The must-dos (if any): Use the Butler Service, relax at the Wet Lounge, take a spa treatment at Remède Spa, have a drink at Astor Bar, enjoy the champagne Sunday dim sum brunch at Yan Ting.
THE ST. REGIS SINGAPORE
From the moment you pass the luxury cars parked in the driveway and the grand chandelier in the foyer, you are greeted by a strong sense of old-world opulence. The hotel premises are dotted with various exquisite artworks, from Picasso paintings in Astor Bar (!?) to multiple sculptures by renowned Columbian artist Fernando Botero, the man who has a penchant for creating rotund, whimsical, curvy sculptures such as the fat “Bird” outside UOB Plaza, near Raffles Place MRT Station. There are even 30-minute art tours conducted for guests daily, so you know the hotel is serious and fiercely proud of its collection of over 100 original artworks.
The hotel comprises various dining concepts – Italian concept LaBrezza, French restaurant Brasserie Les Saveurs, sophisticated live music lounge Astor Bar, Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Yan Ting, lobby lounge The Drawing Room, and the highly revered Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Shinji by Kanesaka (a hotel partner as opposed to being one of the hotel’s concepts, and thus only referenced briefly in this review).
In terms of wellness, the hotel’s Remède Spa is the first of its kind outside the United States, whilst elsewhere a fitness centre and tropical spa pool next to LaBrezza round up the list of hotel facilities.
The hotel also provides a bespoke butler service. Each guest room is assigned one of the hotel’s butlers, who can assist with luggage packing, garment pressing, beverage service (always request for a pot of hot chocolate, which is a guest favourite), and more.
GRAND DELUXE ROOM
The 54sqm Grand Deluxe Room plays it all classic regal, with shades of affluent gold and dramatic red (the deep red couch is ripe with Dynasty-esque drama) leading the colour narrative. The king bed with bird backdrop has featured prominently in many a simulated newspaper-reading social media visual. The work desk is situated next to the television, with illumination aided by a lamp which appears to resemble giant Japanese ana…(that’s quite enough from you – Censorship Committee). Coffee and TWG tea-making facilities as well as a mini-bar and refrigerator are available. Nope, no Nespresso machine here.
The marble bathroom comes with double vanities, a rainfall shower – with multiple vertical jets which can give obscure, hard-to-reach spots a good lashing – as well as an island bathtub, which provides invaluable opportunities for languid in-tub champagne guzzling visuals for Instagram. The cool, minty bathroom amenities are from the hotel’s own Remède Spa.
Prior to my arrival, as we had indicated in our reservation that the stay was intended to be an advance birthday celebration, one of the St. Regis Butlers had set up both welcome and birthday amenities in my room, including a chocolate cake and a bottle of champagne.
On my way to the hotel, I had checked the Marriott app and noted that the St. Regis Suite was available for booking. This was the hotel’s entry level suite, and I had expected to get an upgrade to this room category pursuant to the suite upgrade benefit under my friend’s SPG Platinum Elite membership under which we had made the reservation. However, upon arrival, we were duly informed that the St. Regis Suite was in fact fully booked that day. Any appearance on the Marriott app, we were told, was a result of room “overbooking”, akin to how airlines handle flight seating. “If you book the St. Regis Suite on the Marriott app now, we would be happy to accommodate that booking,” the presumably senior staff who intercepted my conversation with the duty staff said, in a manner that uncomfortably straddled polite and supercilious.
In view of the St. Regis Suite situation, we were offered two options – either (1) accept the Lady Astor Room, which was a non-suite room category one level below the St. Regis Suite and, interestingly, a twin bed-only room category (my booking was for a king bed); or (2) pay for an upgrade to the Caroline Astor Suite, which was the next available suite category.
Even if we ignore the non-suite and lower category aspect of the Lady Astor Room, I do not understand how a twin bed room can ever be reasonably deemed as a suitable substitution for a king bed room. My understanding, based on anecdotal case studies as well as online research, is that previous guests in the same predicament were offered the Caroline Astor Suite without any additional costs incurred.
As a matter of principle, I decided to retain my original booking and forgo the suite upgrade benefit, as I did not wish to have a twin-bed room. Whilst many aspects of the stay eventually made up for this initial blip, I cannot deny that the unfortunate situation made for a very crummy start to the birthday festivities.
REMÈDE SPA AND WET LOUNGE
At some point, I tried the Signature Black Soap and Rassoul Hammam Ritual (soft steam and scrub with black soap, purifying rassoul and a regenerating face and scalp massage with argan oil) at Remède Spa.
It is one of the best spa treatments I have had the good fortune to experience. Under the Midas gloved touch of spa therapist William (a friendly gentleman who regaled me with entertaining anecdotes throughout the session in a way that was familiar yet non-intrusive), I was in a state of helplessly soft and pampered stasis by the end of the ritual. Instead of requiring me to wake up and leave the massage bed for a shower of some form after each phase of the treatment, the wet treatment room came with a swivelling overhead shower bar which sprayed and cleaned my massaged, exfoliated and phoenix-reborn body without requiring me to get up. During those fleeting moments of my absolute surrender to relaxation, I had become a helpless, innocent baby who was being gently cleaned by Mama, and it felt magical.
William was such a consummate professional who respected my dignity at every turn that at some point, when we were in the thick of a miracle clay application, he offered me some clay to apply to my secret garden, and even politely turned away during that very private moment. Bless.
Guests (even those without spa treatment appointments) get to access the spa facilities within Remède Spa. This includes the various facilities within the Wet Lounge such as the Finnish Sauna, Steam Chambers – comforting essential oils are regularly spritzed such that you feel your almost-naked body is luxuriating within a life-sized diffuser – and heated marble lounge seats, as well as the outdoor Spa Garden with a piping hot jacuzzi for moments when you want to experience being (mightily relaxed) human stew.
I pause to note that access to such facilities at many other hotels (such as The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore and JW Marriott Singapore South Beach) are chargeable, even if you are a hotel guest.
Breakfast is served at Brasserie Les Saveurs, the hotel’s all-day dining French concept. The restaurant is blessed with a high ceiling, floor-to-ceiling windows and a gorgeous stream of natural lighting, the latter being an asset firmly embraced by the restaurant’s various elegant fixtures and features, such as the prominent chandelier which greets guests at the entrance. The breakfast comprises both a la carte as well as buffet elements, with options ranging from pastries (including vegan choices) and cold cuts to fresh fruits and Singaporean fare.
From the a la carte menu, the Epicurean Omelette (poached Boston lobster, tiger prawn, cognac-scented lobster bisque, Avruga pearls) is a scrumptiously, decadent and Crazy Rich Asians-level treat, while the Healthy Truffle Egg White Flan (truffle egg white flan with sautéed green asparagus and shaved black truffle) comes across as way, way richer than a Kensington Palace Gardens, pearls-on-neck matriarch. Other more traditional choices on the menu include Mushroom Crepe and Salmon Teriyaki.
The local dishes were unremarkable. The noodle soup needs more F45 Training Gym strength sessions to work on its flavour, while the Nasi Lemak was more chill(ed) and lepak than lemak (although the tasty accompanying chicken wings displayed much potential).
Poolside Italian concept LaBrezza offers various seafood and pasta specialties. I went for the restaurant’s dinner degustation experience, which showcases highlights from their menu. Whilst the presentation of some of the dishes is decidedly provincial and rustic for a restaurant within such an opulent address, you can detect a certain sincerity and modesty of heart in the cooking involved. I hear there are plans for a revamp of the menu, and it would be interesting to see where LaBrezza goes from here.
The Michelin-starred Cantonese fine dining restaurant Yan Ting offers a range of dim sum, meat signatures and innovative seafood specialities. During my stay, I went for their Sunday Champagne Dim Sum Brunch, which turned out to be quite the memorable experience and is highly recommended.
On the tipples side of things, the elegant Astor Bar, with its rich timbers and plush red and brown leather, plays it all American swanky sophistication, with twinkling live music providing the soundtrack for both blazered summit discussions and romantic skirmishes alike. While the bar has a substantial whisky selection, the hotel’s signature cocktail is the Bloody Mary cocktail, and The St. Regis Singapore’s exclusive offering is the Chilli Padi Mary (vodka, chilli padi, Chinese old ginger and lemongrass with fresh organic cherry tomato juice).
Throughout my various visits to Astor Bar over the years (encouraged by my Supper Club membership), I would always unwittingly observe tables away, without fail, certain naughtiness and frolic between esteemed older gentlemen and their nubile, long-tressed companions. People-watching has never been so simultaneously high-society and raunchy.
As the hotel does not have a club lounge, the evening cocktail benefit for elite SPG Platinum members as well as esteemed suite guests comes in the form of a daily complimentary cocktail as well as daily canapes at Astor Bar.
At the end of it all, my St. Regis Singapore stay was memorable, but frustrated me to some degree. Whilst my room was comfortable, my meals were generally above average – the Yan Ting Sunday Champagne Dim Sum Brunch being quite the revelation – and my Remède Spa experience was unforgettably brilliant, the situation surrounding the suite upgrade left a rather sour taste in the mouth.
The hotel may wish to relook how it approaches its application of the Marriott Rewards membership benefits, in the interest of preserving guest loyalty and delivering the promise of “live exquisite” as opposed to “leave shortchanged”.
The St. Regis Singapore
29 Tanglin Road