[Editor’s Note: This property has since been rebranded as voco Orchard Singapore. Elsewhere, the former Mandarin Orchard down the road has been rebranded as Hilton Singapore Orchard.]
In January 2020, I checked into the Executive Suite at Hilton Singapore. Located in the heart of Orchard Road, Singapore’s famous retail and entertainment strip, the 423-room hotel is a 3-minute walk from Orchard MRT Station and a stroll away from major shopping destinations such as ION Orchard, Isetan and Ngee Ann City. Changi Airport is about 40 minutes away and the Central Business District 4 MRT stations away, while it takes less than 20 minutes to reach Marina Bay Sands.
The hotel is one of the notable luxury properties situated along the Orchard Road stretch, joining others such as Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, Regent Singapore, Grand Hyatt Singapore, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, The St. Regis Singapore and Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Business hotel comfort with reliable hospitality along Orchard Road.
Must Dos: Enjoy a quiet evening over wine at the Executive Lounge, take a long steamy bath in the Executive Suite, get a good workout in the expansive gym.
Opened in 1970 and the first major hotel to be built along the Orchard stretch, the property certainly looks its age from the outside. (A sign of its vintage is the fact that the hotel has two floors of luxury boutiques within its premises, a concept that has fallen out of vogue in recent decades.) Its iconic exterior is somewhat of an institution along the Orchard stretch and recognisable by most generations – two sculptures of Tang dynasty generals, Wei Chi Jing De & Qin Shu Bao by Aw Eng Kwang, seemingly stand guard in front of the premises, while the facade features the artwork Eulogy to Singapore by Gerard D’Alton Henderson comprising 15 unique panels occupying 5,000 square feet of space above the entrance. Fortunately, many of its guest rooms have undergone various refurbishments in different tranches, with their Premium Rooms being refurbished years ago and the renovation works for the Executive Suite having concluded end 2019.
The hotel boasts six F&B concepts: steak and seafood restaurant Opus Bar & Grill; patisserie concept D9 Cakery; healthy dining concept Verde Kitchen; Italian restaurant il Cielo; rooftop poolside space Sky Bar; and Michelin-starred European restaurant Iggy’s.
In terms of wellness, the hotel’s Yemaya Spa on the 23rd level offers rejuvenating massages and beauty treatments, while elsewhere the rooftop swimming pool plays it all Jumeirah-esque in its desert stylings and the fitness centre is possibly the most spacious and well-equipped gym along Orchard Road.
A little-known fact: the hotel is connected to Four Seasons Hotel Singapore via a sheltered link, as both properties are owned by the same owner.
The newly-renovated 69sqm Executive Suite comprises a foyer with attached powder room which leads to the spacious living room on the left as well as the bedroom and bathroom on the right. The bedroom features a king-sized bed and a work desk with a Herman Miller ergonomic chair. Despite the living room being furnished with various sofa couches, a coffee table as well as a dining table near the pantry, the extent of non-utilised space gives the suite somewhat of an incompletely furnished, pre-housewarming feel. Nespresso coffee and TWG tea-making facilities are available, while the minibar is stocked with canned soft drinks and beers.
While the suite largely retains the design DNA of the property (the old-fashioned glass tabletop work desk with the charmingly retro office telephone as well as the heritage-style toilet have been passed down to the next generation), the fresh carpeting and residential stylings of the living room lend a much more contemporary feel to the space,and and the suite is now somewhat competitive with other vintage hotels whose rooms have also undergone significant refurbishments (e.g. Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel). This is a stark contrast with the Premium Rooms which were the last round of rooms to be refreshed and yet only managed to visibly update the shower experience.
The marble bathroom boasts double vanities with a lighted vanity mirror, a built-in bathtub as well as an enclosed rainfall shower stall. The suite’s strongest and most distinctive asset setting it apart from its contemporaries is its steam room facilities, which can be enjoyed to maximum effect if guests bring along the right essential oils for a rejuvenating, steamy good time.
Breakfast is served at Opus Bar & Grill, the steak and seafood restaurant located on the ground level. The modest buffet spread comprises the usual breakfast staples such as cold cuts and cheeses; fresh fruits and juices; Western breakfast sides such as pork bacon, presented enticingly on a rotating tray platform; breads, pastries as well as breakfast waffles and French toast; and omelette and noodle stations. After breakfast, the restaurant serves an a la carte menu showcasing a selection of premium steaks such as their 1.2kg Whiskey-Aged Rangers Valley Wagyu Tomahawk as well as sustainable seafood such as MSC Whole Live Lobster, with both faces of the menu eloquently expressed via dishes such as the Australian Wagyu Sirloin and Boston Lobster. The bar area near the entrance serves a variety of beers and classic cocktails.
Perched on the highest floor of the hotel, rooftop Italian restaurant il Cielo serves refined Italian cuisine using both Italian and Japanese seasonal produce with a dash of atmospheric romance. Steps away, the poolside Sky Bar offers an ideal setting for sunset views and night-time wind-accompanied moments over tipples.
Situated on the 3rd level, the Michelin-starred restaurant Iggy’s pairs modern European fine dining cuisine with a formidable wine programme in a cosy, intimate setting. One of their signature dishes is their show-stopping Singapore prawn noodle-inspired Carabinero Risotto. One floor below, Verde Kitchen celebrates healthy eating with gluten-free, vegetarian, and raw food options created using locally-grown, organic and sustainably certified and sourced ingredients.
Rounding up the F&B concepts is patisserie D9 Cakery, which offers cakes, pastries, pralines, macarons and other sweet delights.
Located on the 22nd level, the spacious Executive Lounge offers breakfast, afternoon tea as well as evening cocktails and canapes. As far as the actual lounge space is concerned, the natural light-blessed, window-side seating area was a bright and happy section, feeling like it came straight from the pages of a Scandinavian interior design catalogue, with the central table with computer playing it all Apple Store minimalist clean. The experience of sitting on the leather couch, thumbing through the latest copy of Prestige/Singapore Tatler or similar as I sipped on hot TWG chamomile tea, made for a surprising calm and relaxing afternoon affair.
On the food front, the food options appear not to have been refreshed since my last visit, featuring dishes such as Chicken Drumlets, Vegetarian Bee Hoon with Mock Char Siew, Deep-fried Vegetarian Dumplings and Chilli Crab Bun. The wine and spirits selection is fairly basic and modest compared to the likes offered at Conrad Centennial Singapore. However, the desserts – featured during tea time as well as in the evening – generally fared very well, with the Coffee Cheesecake being a maddeningly fragrant and delightful treat.
The hospitality on display at the Executive Lounge has always been stellar, and this is probably one of the warmer club lounge teams along the Orchard stretch (along with Grand Hyatt Singapore). Across my visits, I am usually greeted by name and with a warm smile each time. When I was preparing for my visit to the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok prior to their opening, I mentioned that I may require some assistance contacting the hotel in relation to my upcoming reservation, and the service staff at the Executive Lounge were very helpful in offering to contact the overseas property directly on my behalf.
While the property may not be an obvious staycation destination given its very old-fashioned approach to business hotel hospitality, what it does have over the newer and snazzier properties in Singapore (and Conrad Centennial Singapore) is warm, heart-felt service. Which, sometimes, makes all the difference.
Just make sure you get club access.
581 Orchard Road