In March 2019, I checked into the Horizon Club Junior Suite in the Tower Wing of Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, which is set within 15 acres of lushly landscaped gardens off the famous Orchard Road shopping district where shopping centres such as ION Orchard, Ngee Ann City and Paragon are located. The sprawling 792-room property is a stroll away from both Orchard and Stevens MRT stations, and simultaneously feels private resort-esque yet centrally accessible.
Aside from being the frequent destination for luminaries, heads of state and celebrities alike, the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is best known for being Donald Trump’s residence in Singapore during the historic Trump-Kim summit in 2018.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Old-world, multi-dimensional classic luxury off Orchard Road.
The must-dos (if any): Unwind in the Horizon Club lounge, dine at Origin Grill and have a drink at Origin Bar.
The hotel consists of three distinct towers, each with its own personality and offering a vastly different guest experience. The recently-refurbished Tower Wing where the hotel’s main entrance is located feels the most contemporary, with its lobby playing it all towering ceiling (ahem) with eye-catching artworks, from the six sculptures of flat and compressed gambolling children (someone’s been reading J.K. Rowling – Literary Editor) and the stunning mossy and ferned rock wall by horticulture artist Charlie Albone behind the bar counter of the Lobby Lounge to “Tree Canopy”, the reception area’s breathtaking ceiling art installation of seemingly swaying glossy metallic leaves by Hirotoshi Sawada (the artist behind the similarly magnificent “Naga” and “Pagoda Mirage” at Park Hyatt Bangkok). The Tower Wing houses most of the property’s dining concepts as well as the hotel’s Horizon Club.
Elsewhere, the Garden Wing plays it all tropical resort vibes with its verdant lushness, wood-decked rooms and cascading waterfall with lively, swishing orange and gold koi fish in the pond waters, while the somewhat intimidating Valley Wing is the most private, classically dignified and luxurious of the three wings, having its own Summit Room, Champagne Bar and Valley Wing Lobby Lounge with limited, exclusive access granted only to Valley Wing guests. The Valley Wing is the preferred address for the hotel’s most esteemed guests ranging from celebrities and heads of state to the impossibly posh, silver-haired couples I observed having afternoon tea who look like they just waltzed in from the set of Titanic or Downton Abbey.
In terms of facilities, the hotel has a Health Club comprising a 24-hour gymnasium and jacuzzi facilities with an aesthetic ripped straight from the ‘90s, four floodlit tennis courts, a dedicated tanning terrace with numerous sun-beds, a nail lounge and beauty salon, a free-form swimming pool as well as the CHI Spa which offers a range of body massage treatments. Elsewhere, Buds by Shangri-La is an interactive indoor and outdoor play space for children available to both guests and non-guests, while Shophouse by Shangri-La serves cakes, pastries, coffee and beverages as well as retail goods.
HORIZON CLUB JUNIOR SUITE
Overlooking the city beyond the Orchard shopping district, the spacious and newly-refurbished 67sqm Horizon Club Junior Suite eschews the old-world sumptuous grandeur of its home grounds, instead playing it all contemporary service apartment functional in its understated stylings (i.e. more Oakwood Premier OUE Singapore than The St. Regis Singapore).
The living room area comprises both a sofa as well as a window-side daybed perfect for mid-day tea-accompanied reading or night-time wine-led musings, while a spacious executive desk sits facing the suite’s other window closer to the sleeping area. The dresser next to the bed has an attached hairdryer and flip-open backlit mirror for your ease of use, although the angle of the mirror appears to better accommodate Napoleon rather than Yao Ming.
The full-on kitchenette features both an induction stove as well as a microwave oven, with Nespresso coffee and Zesta tea facilities, snacks as well as an extensive selection of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), while elsewhere the dining table possesses a width ideal for those who enjoy Eskimo nose rubbing while eating. Elsewhere, the marble-clad bathroom features a double vanity, wall-adjacent bathtub as well as a separate, glass-enclosed rain-shower, with Jasmine-scented bathroom amenities from L’Occitane.
Earlier when I was checking in, I observed many children at the Horizon Club carrying around the same adorable squirrel mascot plush, and shyly called the operator to request one for myself. The squirrel plush came delivered to my room along with a children’s towel and a pair of children’s slippers. The universe may be trying to tell me something.
Breakfast is served at The Line, the hotel’s international buffet concept. The Line has been known for their quintessential Sunday Champagne Brunch for years – I remember having an enjoyable time years ago – but you would not be able to guess that from the breakfast presentation. Despite the selection being suitably varied and decent and likely to satisfy most non-fussy diners (and I was pleasantly surprised to see mimosas being served), the whole experience curiously evokes Holiday Inn feels both in quality and visual atmosphere, from the surprisingly mediocre offerings to the rather dated and tacky orange paper placemats and lethargic blue hue of the space. The nadir of the breakfast experience was watching a pack of ravenous Javan mynahs peck at the dirty uncleared plates in the al fresco area beyond the glass walls from where I was sitting. Things were not good.
Located at the Tower Wing, Origin Grill features both land and sea dishes, with their signature offerings being their beef selection showcasing pure-bred, cross-bred and full blood Angus and Wagyu cattle (both grass and grain-fed), sourced from Australia, Japan and Ireland. Their Snow-aged Full Blood Wagyu A4 from Niigata, Japan is show-stoppingly good – I had commented elsewhere that “(t)he gloriously buttery, uniformly fattiness of the Snow-aged Full Blood Wagyu A4 melt in your mouth in carelessly sweet surrender, being deliciously smoky across every inch of its being and being triumphant in its unpixellated, au naturel glory without any sauce whatsoever.” Its sister concept, Origin Bar, pays homage to Singapore’s key districts through its handcrafted cocktails in an American-style, intimate space that plays like a laid-back version of Regent Singapore’s Manhattan Bar.
Helmed by a Michelin-starred chef, Shang Palace serves up exquisite Cantonese fare, with the space playing it all sumptuously red and Chinese garden dining with its various floral motifs. Elsewhere, located on the 24th level of the Tower Wing and blessed with glorious panoramic city views (rumour has it one could peer from the alfresco area right into the penthouse of a certain Chinese business magnate’s Singaporean pad), Japanese concept Nami Restaurant & Bar serves authentic and traditional Japanese fare.
The ground floor Lobby Lounge offers a buffet comprising local heritage dishes such as minced meat noodles, Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak, roti prata and Peranakan fare, with the menus occasionally prepared in partnership with various local eateries such as Seng Kee, The Coconut Club and HarriAnn’s. Elsewhere on the mezzanine floor above the lobby, The Rose Veranda serves up a traditional afternoon tea experience, enhanced with both European favourites and Asian delights.
Situated in the Garden Wing, the poolside and colonial-style designed Waterfall Ristorante Italiano serves an extensive range of Southern Italian classics such as pastas and pizzas.
Located on the 24th floor next to Nami Restaurant & Bar, the blond-wood decked and homely Horizon Club serves as an exclusive and private high-floor sanctuary amidst the property’s family fun and high tourist volume, offering all-day refreshments as well as breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapes and cocktails. The club caters to couples, families and groups of friends alike with its assortment of various seating arrangements, with a dedicated Family Designated Lounge equipped with a selection of toys for the young ‘uns.
In terms of the Horizon Club’s food offerings, my favourite presentation was the evening cocktails and canapes, which offered diverse options such as eggplant parmigiana, seafood ceviche with scallop, rajma masala (red kidney beans curry), puy lentils with chargrilled artichoke as well as chilli crab sauce with steamed mantou buns. Having said that, the alcohol selection – in particular the spirit selection – leaves little to be desired, with the presence of Gordon’s London Dry Gin on the line-up being the most egregiously offensive, but bonus points goes to the team for being able to create classic cocktails on the fly, with my Negroni being prepared by a bartender I recognised from my visit to Origin Bar.
Elsewhere, the breakfast spread – a hot food buffet with local fare ranging from Malay nasi lemak (aromatic rice infused with coconut milk and pandan leaves) to Chinese lo mai gai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) as well as an egg station – is a worthy choice over the admittedly wider selection at The Line, if only for the more calm, dignified and comfortable setting.
The hotel’s dining options – save for the breakfast experience at The Line, which urgently requires rejuvenation – are commendably strong, and the multi-dimensional aspects of the different towers offer reasons to return for different stay experiences.
While I enjoyed the surprisingly contemporary residential experience at the Tower Wing, perhaps the Valley Wing may offer a guest journey that is truer to the core of Shangri-La’s brand of old-world, opulent luxury.
Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
22 Orange Grove Road