In December 2020, I checked into the Luxe Sarang Room at Villa Samadhi Singapore. Situated at Singapore’s southern coast and nestled within the lush tropical greenery of Labrador Nature Reserve (the only resort in Singapore with such a unique setting), the 20-key villa is housed within a two-storey, restored 1920s black and white colonial building. The villa is 10 minutes away from Labrador Park MRT station by foot, while a taxi can bring you to Singapore’s biggest shopping mall VivoCity and entertainment destination Sentosa in 10 minutes and Changi Airport in 30 minutes respectively.
Other notable boutique hotels housed within colonial or heritage buildings include Raffles Hotel Singapore, InterContinental Singapore, The Vagabond Club as well as the upcoming Duxton Reserve and Maxwell Reserve hotels (formerly the Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell respectively).
The hotel does not allow children below the age of 12.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Bucolic colonial escapism in nature reserve setting.
Must Dos: Have breakfast (and lunch) at Tamarind Hill, take a dip or three in the private plunge pool, lounge at the Library.
VILLA SAMADHI SINGAPORE
An uphill drive up a winding road off West Coast Highway, the restored 1920s colonial building – previously a British army garrison and a boys’ school – exudes a certain genteel, old-world Malayan charm with its row of white-shuttered windows, monochrome palette, wooden floorboards as well as its continued use of a lock-and-key system for the guest rooms. (In comparison, fellow colonial-era hotel Raffles Hotel Singapore has long since moved towards a keycard system). Past the building’s front doors, you enter the reception area which showcases a quaint antique Myanmar wooden bank teller (the check-in counter) as well as a giant and imposing Buddha statue which immediately sets the stage for a getaway of zen and restfulness. Across the various spaces in the premises, you find antique pieces from the owner’s private collection, from rescued opium beds and bamboo screens to antique armoires from Laos and Burma in some of the guest rooms. The conjuring of former-day rustic feels seems to be intentional, with wood sourced from old houses in Malaysia used in the making of various furniture pieces as well as in the overall building restoration process.
The villa offers 20 rooms across four categories – Crib, Luxe Crib, Sarang and Luxe Sarang. All the rooms have different layouts but share a common colonial aesthetic featuring four poster beds, dark wood furnishings, whitewashed walls and restored original windows.
The property offers two social and dining spaces: the Library, a lounge space in the main building which plays it all old-world opulence with its dramatic claret curtains and carpet, charming colonial-era bar, leather armchairs as well as wrought-iron chandeliers; and Tamarind Hill, a fine-dining restaurant specialising in Thai and Burmese cuisine which is set within a red-roofed colonial bungalow separate from the main building and accessible via a combination of stone steps and a twisty timber pathway through the jungle.
Located in the Outhouse separate from the main building with high fortress walls providing much escape and privacy from the outside world, the top-tier 56sqm Luxe Sarang (there is only one in the property) is the only room to offer a tranquil outdoor private plunge pool in the front yard. The villa plays it all tall and slanted ceiling, whitewashed walls, concrete and wooden flooring as well as dark wood furnishings for a throwback fantasy colonial romance experience.
The air-conditioned villa boasts a spacious combined living and sleeping area with a four poster king-sized bed, a white sofa, a window-facing writing desk and a flatscreen TV. The pantry is stocked with instant coffee sachets along with chamomile, English breakfast and Ceylon leaf loose tea leaves, with an empty refrigerator for your beverage chilling requirements. Instead of bottled drinking water, the room meets your hydration needs with a kettle and quaint copper pot/cups.
“Ant migration in progress. Should you spot one that has unfortunately lost its way into your room, please contact us to guide it along the right path,” a parchment-esque bedside note reads somewhat ominously.
The cavernous bathroom boasts white ceramic tiling, double vanities, two antique armoires (wardrobes), a toilet bowl and an open-concept walk-in double rainfall shower with bathroom amenities dispensable from blue-and-white china bottles. (Older reviews of the property I came across make reference to Villa Samadhi bathroom amenities which inspired expectations of Thann, Aesop or similar spa-luxe experiences, but the blue liquid dispensed from the bottles was disappointingly more dishwashing than relaxing). Doors at the end of the bathroom can be used to directly access the outdoor plunge pool which is a nifty touch, although one might prefer the much geriatric-friendly ladder access from the front yard instead.
There are blinds near the shower area which can be lowered to protect one’s private modesties from the eyes of those in the plunge pool, front yard and beyond, and I can confirm that people taking the stairs to and from breakfast venue Tamarind Hill are not able to indulge their voyeuristic tendencies and look into the bathroom or at the plunge pool area from their higher elevation vantage points since the Outhouse’s perimeter walls go high enough. However, there are no blinds for the window in front of the toilet throne and the double doors which lead to the bathroom, meaning the Luxe Sarang may be best suited for the most intimate of lovers as well as army buddies who have seen each other’s junk outfield both bodily and expelled.
I must take a moment to compliment the highly enjoyable private plunge pool experience. While its outdoor location means you may have to personally remove dead leaves (and bug corpses) prior to each use, the pool water feels clean and somehow always at a comfortable temperature, even on a not-too-sunny afternoon. At night, the underwater lights remain on until sometime past midnight, meaning you are very welcome to take late night dips in the water whilst enjoying chill-out ambient music and glasses of champagne under the starry skies in your own private universe. It is so surreal to realise any property in Singapore can offer a plunge pool experience that is quite so private. (In contrast, upper-floor balconies are situated above the ground floor plunge pools at W Singapore, while at Capella Singapore adjacent villas to my One-Bedroom Garden Villas could, from the right vantage point, peer through the fence into my outdoor plunge pool area).
Breakfast is served at Tamarind Hill, a Thai/Burmese fine-dining restaurant located a short walk from the main building via a twisty pathway that cuts through a jungle area (!). The restaurant’s interiors play it all monochromatic inclinations, Asian luxe flourishes and Raffles Hotel Singapore-esque timeless elegance, making it quite a popular venue for weddings and other romantic endeavours. However, breakfast is served at the outdoor deck, so you would require a lunch or dinner reservation to fully appreciate the indoor space.
As a consequence of the pandemic, guests are currently required to fill up an issued form and pre-select their breakfast choices the day before. Aside from beverages, juices and cold selections such as fresh fruits, bread basket, yogurt and granola, guests can choose two hot dishes per room booking. Western options include the Villa Samadhi Special (two poached eggs topped with hollandaise sauce, served with asparagus, bacon, roasted tomato, sauteed mushrooms and spinach), Pan-Roasted Vegetable Frittata (sliced mushrooms, capsicum, asparagus, spinach, cheese, tomato salsa, sour cream), Egg White Omelette (egg white omelette with grilled tomato and sauteed mushrooms), Artisanal Waffle (topped with mushrooms and an onsen egg) and French Toast (with fresh orange and honey mascarpone).
For those seeking a more Asian persuasion, regional dishes include Roti Canai (crispy Indian pancakes with dhal curry), Sambal Bee Hoon (rice noodles stir-fried with sambal), Fish Porridge (with ginger), Hainanese Eggs Set (two half-boiled eggs with toasted bread, white pepper, soy sauce), Nasi Lemak (rice infused with coconut milk and pandan, served with fried anchovies, hard boiled egg, cucumber slices, peanuts and sambal) and Kway Teow Beef Soup (braised beef with noodles in aromatic herb beef broth). From the two Asian dishes I tried, the Nasi Lemak moaned for some fleshly companionship in the form of fish or chicken, while the Roti Canai was a fresh, fluffy diversion.
I must say that the outdoor deck’s expansive backdrop of lush forestry and soundtrack of birds and insects wonderfully complements the hotel’s overall bucolic escapist getaway experience. (Not since my phenomenal Shinta Mani Wild stay did I experience such an immersive al fresco breakfast setting.)
During my stay, I went for the happily-priced Executive Set Lunch at Tamarind Hill. The meal kicked off on a good note with a platter of tasty appetisers including Thai Fish Cake, Apple & Vegetable Fresh Roll, Papaya Salad and the particularly scrumptious Minced Chicken & Aromatic Thai Herb Salad which dispensed with its usual bedfellows fried egg and jasmine rice altogether and isolated the remarkably aromatic goods (it’s in the dish name!) for a truly concentrated shot of juicy pleasure. For the main course, guests can choose from four options: Green Curry Chicken with Steamed Jasmine Rice; Vegetarian Green Curry with Steamed Jasmine Rice; Red Tom Yam Fried Rice with Prawn; or Seafood Phad Thai. While my dining companion had the rather pedestrian red tom yum fried rice, I had better luck with the green curry chicken which whipped things up into a thick, intensely savoury frenzy. The Pink Diamond with Coconut Ice Cream (essentially an elevated red ruby dessert) brought things to a delectably crunchy and enjoyably refreshing conclusion.
Prior to the pandemic, dramatic lounge space The Library served as the venue for breakfast and afternoon tea. In the evenings, cocktails such as dirty Martinis, Singapore Slings and Negronis were available on free-flow to pair with snacks such as corn-cake wontons or crispy morning glory. While the Library is still accessible by guests as a space for reading or to do work, dining and libation activities have been paused until further notice.
With its unique setting, rustic feels and wonderful private plunge pool experience (for the Luxe Sarang room anyway), the villa offered many genuine surprises, and I am already planning a return to check out their Sarang rooms with their own indoor plunge pool and wooden bathtub.
Villa Samadhi Singapore
20 Labrador Villa Road