In February 2020, I checked into the Prestige Suite at Sofitel Singapore City Centre, a luxurious French business hotel situated in the heart of the vibrant Tanjong Pagar district. Conveniently located above Tanjong Pagar MRT Station with direct elevator access from the station to the hotel lobby level, the 223-room property is a short walk away from the Chinatown heritage district, one train stop away from the Central Business District via Raffles Place MRT Station and about twenty minutes away Changi Airport. The hotel is also steps away from the bustling Tanjong Pagar Road with its array of Korean BBQ joints and numerous cafes, bars and eateries (including notable options The Tippling Club, Cake Spade, Ginza Tendon Itsuki and The Blue Ginger).
There are two other Sofitel properties in Singapore – SO Sofitel Singapore as well as Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa. Other notable luxury hotels in the vicinity include Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell, the first two city hotels from top-tier luxury brand Six Senses.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Sophisticated, luxurious French sanctuary in Tanjong Pagar.
The must-dos (if any): Relax in your beautifully furnished guest room, enjoy wine and the evening food spread at the Club Millésime during cocktail hour, take a dip in the pool, take advantage of the complimentary access to Virgin Active gym.
SOFITEL SINGAPORE CITY CENTRE
The 20-storey hotel forms part of the mixed-use development Guoco Tower, which was designed by world-renowned architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and also boasts the country’s tallest building which stands 290m tall. Past the hotel’s driveway and main entrance, you will be greeted by two things: a distinctive, posh floral fragrance which would accompany you throughout your time spent in the premises, and the twirling nine-metre-long Singapour Je T’aime art installation of hand blown crystalline leaves suspended from the ceiling of the elevator lobby which transports you to the hotel’s main lobby on the 5th floor. An alternative way to access the 5th floor is via elevators near the Guoco Tower drop-off point along Peck Seah Street, which connects directly to the basement levels of Guoco Tower. The basement houses Tanjong Pagar MRT Station as well as various food and retail options. Personal favourites include duck rice concept Ya Lor, eat-clean giant The Daily Cut as well as fish soup restaurant Yu Tang Clan. Yes, that’s its name.
The 5th level is indisputably the property’s key social destination, housing the hotel’s reception, lounge areas as well as dining concepts Racines and 1864. The space plays it all vibrant botanical and floral motifs with lavish floral centrepieces and soaring floral paintings by Italian artist-in-residence Arianna Caroli. One of the lobby level’s greatest assets is its floor-to-ceiling windows across one end of the lobby which welcome generous streams of natural light which gives the space a significant uplift of energy. Sophie and Xavier, the hotel’s droid butlers which assist with the delivery of room amenities, stand patiently in a corner ready to serve. A guitar player serenades guests with soothing strummed melodies in the lobby during the afternoon and in the evenings, the hotel performs the French traditional candle ritual (a Sofitel signature practice all over the world) after which the entire hotel comes alive with the warm glow of candlelight.
In terms of wellness, guests can take a dip in the jacuzzi pool for some good vibrations or luxuriate in the 30-metre infinity pool, which is surrounded by verdant tropical vegetation, relaxation zones with both singular and couple beds for suntanning or lounging and even an open lawn with private pool cabanas. As the hotel shares pool facilities with the Virgin Active gym within the connected Guoco Tower (see below), the pool is usually fairly crowded with families and couples, but the lush landscape somehow assists in maintaining suitable resort-relaxed vibes in spite of the number of guests around.
Those seeking to soak up a sweat have the option of either using the 24-hour SoFit in-house gym or, in the case of guests in Luxury Premium Rooms and higher categories, taking advantage of the hotel’s partnership with the neighbouring Virgin Active gym, which provides guests complimentary access to the gym’s extensive spread of fitness programmes and equipment. This access was what gave me my virgin glimpse into the wonderment that is Virgin Active – you get aerial twirling on cloths, sleeping pods, Krankcycles and Skillmills, European hairy sweatiness and exotic blue-tinged ice rooms all at once in a sleek, futuristic package. All fitness activities are accessed via the hotel’s 6th floor.
Guests looking for spa treatments can take a complimentary ride to sister property Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa’s luxurious SoSpa for a pampering fix as well as access to further wellness facilities such as SoSpa’s private pool.
With floor-to-ceiling windows giving access to sweeping views of the historic Tanjong Pagar enclave with its sea of terracotta roof tiles, the 76sqm Prestige Suite offers quite the zen sanctuary amidst all the downtown hustle and bustle. The suite is immaculately designed, with a quietly confident flamboyance in its purple and floral flourishes. The bedroom’s signature Sofitel MyBed – trademarked, mind you – isn’t so much a bed as it is a soft wing which receives your body into its angelic embrace, and there is also a pillow menu which meets the requirements of both soft pillow seekers as well as heavy-cranium Tyrannosauruses. Thoughtfully-positioned bedside USB ports address your night-time device charging needs, while a window-side chaise longue comes with its own table and adult colouring book along with a box of Faber Castell colour pencils for relaxed and artistic/senseless doodling.
The spacious living room is equipped with a 4-seat dining table for your Deliveroo and Foodpanda needs, plush sofa seating, a separate powder room, a 55-inch Smart TV and a Bose entertainment system. The pantry is equipped with a minibar with complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages such as golden pear with aloe vera and coconut water, TWG tea-making facilities as well as a Nespresso Creatista Plus (the first I’ve ever seen in a hotel room thus far) which is capable of preparing latte drinks as well as creating latte art.
The sleek marble bathroom comes with double vanities, an enclosed rainfall shower and a sizeable bathtub with its own mirror TV and a most clever bathtub caddy with a metal rack for holding a book or iPad (each room comes with an actual self-improvement book for your naked spiritual development) as well as a slot which securely holds your wine glass. Suite guests do not get the usual Lanvin amenities but instead get posh Hermès bathroom products.
While the suite comes with its own Virgin Active fitness kit containing a variety of fitness essentials such as a yoga mat, guests have complimentary access to the Virgin Active gym in the same complex which is accessible via the 6th floor. Prestige Suite guests also have access to the Club Millésime, also located on the 6th floor.
Breakfast is served at Racines, the all-day restaurant on the 5th floor which marries authentic French and refined local Chinese cuisine. The sunshine-drenched location plays it all sculptured lighting, plush velvet booths and open kitchens. In terms of variety, the usual cold cuts and cheese, salad, cereal, pastry and fruit stations are available alongside egg and noodle stations and a fairly modest hot food area offering Western breakfast staples like Hash Brown, Pork Sausage and hearty fare like Beef and Mushroom Ragout alongside Asian options such as Aloo Prata, Chicken Curry, Fried Noodles, Waxed Meat Rice and Seafood Dumpling. Gluten-free and self-juicing stations are also available.
If I had to be honest, the Racines buffet breakfast was probably the most disappointing aspect of my stay. The options were limited, uninspired and did not visually appeal (the splotches of spilt gravy around each pot did not help, although this is not the restaurant’s fault), while the dishes from the buffet that we did try were fairly dry and cold.
After breakfast hours, the restaurant offers an intriguing menu showcasing various ingredients such as duck, eggplant, pork and Wagyu Beef prepared in distinct French and Chinese ways. For instance, Eggplant is delivered as Smoked Eggplant Caviar on Butter Flaxseed Blinis, Diced Avocado and Olive Oil Spheres in the French kitchen and as the deliriously addictive Deep-fried Eggplant Coated with Flaxseed Batter, Curried Aioli and Szechuan Chili Pepper in the Chinese kitchen. Similarly, Duck is served as a Chargrilled Mongolian-style Marinated French Duck Breast with Fried Homemade Yam Paste and Pickled Daikon under the Chinese menu but instead as the Pan-seared Confit Duck Leg with Green Peas, Glazed Artichoke Ragout, Beurre Noisette and Natural Jus under the French section.
My favourite dish was the pork-showcasing Singapore-style Stewed Hokkien Noodles with Seasonal Seafood, Roasted Pork, Homemade Sambal and Fresh Calamansi, which somehow managed to shine a suitably bright spotlight on its roasty porcine inspiration while simultaneously celebrating its seafood elements and stock.
1864 is the hotel’s stylish lobby bar and lounge, being the destination for tipples, afternoon tea and Franco-Asian tapas. On the cocktail menu, guests can choose from 1864’s exclusive craft beer labels such as Crocodile Sunset Summer Ale and Banana Sunday Session IPA created in conjunction with local brewmasters to Sofitel’s signature barrel-aged cocktails which include classics such as Negroni, Sazerac and Vieux Carré.
I appreciated that the welcome drink benefit for Accor loyalty programme members of suitable status can be used on actual proper cocktails in 1864’s regular menu as opposed to the bar offering a separate limited menu with lesser tipples for such purposes (which is the modus operandi at Swissotel The Stamford and Fairmont Singapore).
Rounding up the F&B concepts is Coffea, a coffee bar serving Nespresso blend coffees paired with French viennoiseries, sandwiches and other confections.
Situated on the 6th level, the Club Millésime provides private check-in/check-out services and serves breakfast, afternoon tea as well as evening cocktails and canapes. The lounge itself is fairly large, with different zones for different needs. Apart from the main seating area with communal dining tables suitable for bigger groups and families, there is a library-esque area for more intimate moments, a repurposed board room for formal meetings and dinners as well as outdoor terrace seating near the pool.
While the buffet selection is fairly limited compared to that offered at Racines, Club Millésime thoughtfully offers an a la carte breakfast set menu past 11am for club guests who need those extra hours of sleep in the morning. The a la carte breakfast selection comprises your choice of eggs, vegetable, toast and add-on such as bacon, smoked salmon or veal sausage.
The evening food presentation is easily the most elaborate and luxurious, featuring a spread of very substantial fare – I have seen Fishcakes, Szechuan Spicy Fried Chicken, Chicken Satay, Vegetarian Fried Rice, Pork Belly with Mustard Cream Sauce and Vegetarian Truffle Pasta across my various visits – as well as a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and sweets such as Banana Chocolate Tart, Earl Grey Crème Brûlée and Yuzu Lychee Jelly with Coconut Juice. The frequent rotation of dishes means you seldom see a repeat dish across your stays, and on occasion new dishes are served instead of the depleted course being replaced (something I enjoyed at Regent Singapore and Conrad Centennial Singapore) so there’s always an element of anticipation and excitement.
In terms of booze, the spirit selection is fairly limited, featuring the likes of Ketel One Vodka and Bombay Sapphire Gin, while Duval Leroy champagne is the bubbly of choice. However, the lounge boasts an impressive Enomatic wine dispensing system giving guests self-service and unlimited access to eight different bottles of wine, which should provide guests with ample time to get sufficiently grape-nutritioned for the night by the time 7.30pm comes round.
Despite the disappointing breakfast presentation, the hotel remains one of my favourite properties in Singapore. Apart from being one of the newer hotels around, the guest rooms are very comfortable, the executive lounge has an exciting food selection with a much-appreciated wine dispensing system, the Virgin Active gym access is (rarely used but nonetheless) helpful, and the swimming pool is one you actually want to use.
Quite possibly the best Accor property in Singapore.
Sofitel Singapore City Centre
9 Wallich Street