In December 2018, on Christmas Eve, I checked into the So VIP Suite at SO Sofitel Singapore, a luxury boutique hotel housed in a neo-classical heritage building in the heart of the central business district. The hotel is located next to the iconic Lau Pa Sat food centre and is minutes away from Downtown, Telok Ayer and Raffles Place MRT Station on foot. This was my second ever SO Sofitel hotel stay, the first being the marvellous SO Sofitel Bangkok.
There are two other Sofitel properties in Singapore – Sofitel Singapore City Centre as well as Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa. Another notable property in the vicinity is The Westin Singapore.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Beautiful and memorable rooms, patchy systems and service.
The must-dos (if any): Have a drink at 1927, enjoy the chic comfort of your room.
SO SOFITEL SINGAPORE
The boutique hotel is divided into two distinct wings – the original heritage building (So Heritage wing) and a newly-built extension (So Hip wing) which are separated by a dramatic, crystal-studded hexagonal light installation. The property plays it all fabulously flamboyant and plush Parisian chic, with Karl Lagerfeld’s fashionable touch felt throughout the premises, from the uniforms of the front desk ambassadors to the Lion’s Seal emblem on the red door-knockers lining the corridor of the So Heritage Wing. The light-filled lobby itself is positively stuffed with unique artworks and mismatched chairs, couches and cushions. Despite being a decidedly French visual experience, there are occasional references and nods to Singaporean culture, from the framed photos of Singapore street scenes at the lift lobbies to the multi-racial Russian dolls in my suite.
The hotel features two dining experiences – the modern French-inspired restaurant Xperience Restaurant and rooftop bar 1927. Fitness enthusiasts can enjoy the use of SoFIT Gym on the second floor as well as the tropical-lush rooftop infinity pool.
SO VIP SUITE
The 92sqm So VIP Suite, the hotel’s highest category room which is situated in the So Heritage wing, plays it all Parisian-style, sumptuously ornate and castle-regal luxury. The significantly high ceiling and tall windows give the spacious suite a marvellous airiness, while bold splashes of colour from the cushions and sofas (as well from the rather random Napoleon statement painting) sass up the quiet white and creamy proceedings. A ceiling light-box depicting a French cupola (that’s a rounded dome forming or adorning a roof or ceiling – Merriam-Webster correspondent) lends a fairy-tale dreaminess to the bed-time environment once night falls. The impossibly soft mattress is a Sofitel MyBed™, so couples can really enjoy and maximise use of the bed for whatever purposes they fancy. (For non-couples, there’s a ring box by the nightstand.)
The room is equipped with both an iPhone as the default house communication device as well as an iPad mini used as a master remote control panel. This is probably the first hotel I’ve come across which has a television system conveniently hooked up to Netflix for your ease of Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Terrace House or Tidying Up with Marie Kondo binge sessions.
The pantry and mini-bar is equipped with an Illy coffee machine as well as a mix of free and chargeable drinks (including alcohol) and snacks. The room features a work desk as well as a Lazy Susan-installed dining table by the window.
The sizeable bathroom takes up almost half the space of the room, and features a rainfall shower as well as an Italian Bisazza Spa bathtub which, despite its luxurious name, was not particularly comfortable given its dimensions and relatively shallow nature. However, there are slots at one end of the bathtub which can be used as both champagne glass tray and icebox for your bottle, which provides opportunities for (relatively squeezy) bubbly sexy-times or glamorous in-tub Instagram photos (although the less toned who wish to hide everything below their shoulders should not attempt such photos given how shallow the tub is; the exhibitionistic and proud-chested, please proceed). Bathroom products are from SO Sofitel Singapore’s own Urban Forest range, and come in dispenser bottles.
I read about the patchy service standards at this property on TripAdvisor prior to my stay, and can unfortunately confirm the same. The response times for various amenities requested – from the welcome gourmet amenity meant to be in the room prior to arrival (fruits, chocolate and macarons) to ice for the bathtub icebox – were substantial. More disappointingly, we had called in the morning to enquire what time the So VIP suite would be ready for check-in, and despite being expressly told to arrive at 12pm, the room was only ready at 1.30pm. Then there was the situation at breakfast (see below).
Breakfast is served at Xperience Restaurant, the hotel’s modern open-kitchen restaurant which also doubles up as the hotel’s afternoon tea destination. The breakfast comprises an a la carte egg menu as well as buffet elements, with options ranging from pastries, cold cuts and Western breakfast to Asian dishes such as stir-fry noodles, mee soto (spicy chicken noodle broth), prata (South Indian flat bread) and dim-sum. As So VIP Suite guests, we were entitled to one glass of champagne each (up to two people), and I had to resist the temptation to make my own morning Mimosa.
The restaurant has an unusually low ceiling and, at parts, a scarcity of ceiling lighting, which results in guests at certain tables enjoying their breakfast in mystique-laden, shadowy darkness. The seating process was significantly haphazard, with no visible queue system in place as you might expect at most luxury hotels. Some guests were told that they could actually dine at the small high tables in the lobby normally meant for beverage consumption or waiting (?!), and most (naturally) refused. This led to scattered couples and groups left standing aimlessly in confusion outside the restaurant and across various parts of the lobby, uncertain as to whether their attendance was noted and where they stood in line for the next table. Of course, the fact that it was Christmas morning probably made things a lot more stressful than they normally are.
I would probably skip breakfast and just enjoy the regal castle luxury of the So VIP or So Lofty suites if I ever stay here again.
On the tipples side of things, 1927 is the the hotel’s rooftop poolside bar, serving both cocktails as well as a small selection of tapas and bar bites. The uber-chillout destination plays it all tropical chic meets sexy summer nights, with the additional ambient tease of the lively buzz and wafting satay smoke from Lau Pa Sat food centre below if you are at the infinity pool oasis at night. One could, over cocktails and flirtatious hair-tossing, observe the deep blue waters of the pool sparkle with brilliance as they catch light from the surrounding office buildings, the various offices still occupied by worker bees who are likely to wish they were (with) you as they stare across from their cubicles and computer monitors.
Whilst the service standards at this property could be better, the So VIP Suite experience was memorably comfortable and an undeniably luxurious designer sanctuary. I am already considering a return to check out the So Lofty suites (which have their own colonnaded balconies).
SO Sofitel Singapore
35 Robinson Road