|Singaporeís St. Regis is a pleasure palace|
|By Marc Atchison|
SINGAPORE – The shiny new Bentley that Vera Ming-Andersson – public relations manager extraordinaire – sent to fetch me at Changi International Airport rolls to a stop just short of the St. Regis Hotel’s opulent entrance.
A German-made car with a flag attached to its left fender is preventing us from proceeding.
“Sorry sir,” says my courteous St. Regis chauffeur. “That car is waiting for the Spanish ambassador who is at the hotel tonight attending a gala event. It won’t be a minute.”
I push my nose against the glass in wide-excitement, hoping to get a glimpse of the foreign dignitary. The chauffeur just sits patiently thumping his fingers against the car’s polished wooden steering wheel waiting for the ambassador to leave.
The St. Regis staff isn’t fazed by such high ranking visitors anymore. That’s because the regal hotel, set amid the botanical splendor of Singapore’s fashionable Orchard Road District, has become a favorite with the diplomatic set. Most major embassies – the U.S., Great Britain and China, among them – are located very near the hotel and heads of state are often seen walking the art-filled halls of the distinguished property with the youthful good looks.
Next day, while relating my arrival story to Meng-Andersson over a Michelin-star-worthy meal of French lamb prepared to perfection by Chef Julien Royer in the hotel’s chic Brasserie Les Saveurs lobby restaurant, the enchanting PR rep with Hollywood good looks listens intently but does not appear to be sharing my excitement.
In fact, the native Singaporean who married a Swedish businessman now stationed in this tropical island nation, even one-ups me.
“If you’re in the lobby later today, you’ll see Thailand’s royal family checking in,” says Meng-Andersson matter-of-factly.
The one thing you quickly realize about the Singapore St. Regis is, whether you’re a member of royalty, the diplomatic core, a business tycoon, or just a commoner like me, you’re treated like a king by the hotel’s staff.
That’s why, in just four short years since its opening, the St. Regis has established itself as one of the city’s most desired hotels. And that’s a pretty impressive feat considering the long-established competition – landmark properties like the legendary Raffles and Fullerton hotels – and upstart newcomers like the mega gambling facilities at Marina Bay (the 2,500-room Marina Bay Sands Resort) and on nearby Sentosa Island (Resort World).
But why be afraid of competition when you provide your guests with butler service at no extra charge; you can arrange to pick them up at busy Changi airport in a Bentley and whisk them through a VIP customs and immigration line within minutes for a small fee; and let them sample some of the world’s rarest wines each night at no charge?
Of course, Singapore’s St. Regis has a great tradition which they must live up to. The brand is revered in the hotel world thanks to its great lineage, which began when John Jacob Astor IV opened the first St. Regis off New York’s 5th Avenue over a century ago.
The fabled New York St. Regis set the high standard for every St. Regis that has followed – there are now 17 globally. In the Singapore’s St. Regis case, however, it far exceeds what corporate headquarters expects and has achieved a new standard of excellence that will be hard for others to match.
That’s because Managing Director of the Singapore property, Ananda Arawwawela – his son is attending Montreal’s McGill University - has surrounded himself with the best staff in the city – tops among them being Weng-Andersson, who talks passionately about her property and what the St. Regis provides its guests.
“We are the only hotel in Singapore which offers butler service to all our guests,” boasts the charming new mother through sparkling eyes.
“I love working here because this hotel is so welcoming – it feels just like home.”
One can be excused for mistaking this “home” for a museum, though.
The walls at the St. Regis hang heavy with original paintings from the brush of such masters as Picasso – 10 of his Toros Series lithographs are displayed in the property’s Astor Bar off the main entrance – and Marc Chagall. In all, the hotel’s art collection features over 100 original works and represents one of the finest private art collections in all of Southeast Asia. The collection includes paintings, sculptures – one created by legendary Canadian architect Frank Gehry – and prints by internationally renowned artists.
Dining at the St. Regis is an experience of a lifetime. Chef Royer lets his imagination run wild and takes guests on a culinary joy ride that culminates in orgasmic taste delights.
Trained by Michelin-star chefs in his native France, Chef charms guests with appetizers ranging from oysters bathed in a green apple and wasabi sorbet to slowly poached leek crayon smothered in Perigord truffle butter. That’s followed by entrees like Poulet Sakura (chicken in Poulette sauce), Poitrine de Porc (slow-roasted – 36 hours – pork belly that’s delivered swimming in one of Chef’s delicate sauces), and Vivanneau (pan-roasted wild snapper accompanied by calamari-stuffed potatoes and anchovy puree. Oh, and leave room for dessert – the Thai basil sorbet is to die for.
Other culinary options at the St. Regis include Yan Ting, the hotel’s signature Chinese restaurant specializing in Cantonese cuisine crafted in the kitchen of Executive Chef Law Yip Lam, and LaBrezza, an Italian dining adventure featuring dishes from various regions in Italy.
To really be recognized as a Great Hotel in Singapore, though, it appears a property must first introduce its own signature cocktail – a tradition started at the legendary Raffles, where the first Singapore Sling cocktail was poured. The St. Regis didn’t have to invent a drink of its own; it just fashioned its Chili Padi Mary on the chain’s signature Bloody Mary cocktail, first introduced at the flagship New York property – the drink was known back then as the “Red Snapper.” Every St. Regis in the world offers its own version of the original Bloody Mary – and they’re all bloody good!
The hotel’s Remede Spa is just the remedy for aching bodies after a long day of touring Asia’s most exciting city, or after the grueling plane ride it usually takes from most parts of the world to get here.
St. Regis’ spa is now recognized by leading spa and travel magazines as one of the top 100 in the world. Very impressive! I’d rate it among my Top 50.
The spa is a true pleasure palace, offering seven state-of-the-art treatment rooms and therapists whose technique is painfully good. The spa’s wet room – one for each gender – is an experience like none other and personal touches like chilled champagne, herbal teas from the south of France and fragrant handmade chocolates, makes this a sweet spa experience.
The hotel spa even has its own celebrity pedicurist – famed French podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez has taken up residence in the Remede Spa and his treatments will have you walking on a cloud of delight.
You may have wondered why I’ve not mentioned the rooms at the St. Regis Singapore. That’s because I always leave the best for last.
All 299 guest rooms and suites are luxuriously appointed and come dripping in custom furnishings and fixtures that evoke a sense of timeless elegance. There’s no better proof of that than the bathrooms, where soaking tubs dominate large rooms featuring separate toilet and shower stalls. Bedding and toiletries are all designer labels, which is why some of the world’s most recognized fashion designers - the Missoni clan are regular guests – stay here during Singapore’s annual Fashion Week.
The plush suites at the St. Regis are among the most elegant in the hotel world and are included in the hotel’s Suite Society packages, which feature use of the St. Regis’ customized Bentley – when I’m not using it – and Maybach cars; daily spa treatments, a sumptuous breakfast in Brasserie Les Saveurs, afternoon tea and free cocktails and canapés.
Of course, all that luxury comes at a price – about $2,500 U.S. for the entry level one-bedroom Suite Society package which runs to about $8,000 for the two-bedroom King Cole Suite.
You don’t need a king’s treasury to get a well-appointed “standard” room at the St. Regis – they run about $400 in the low season and peak at about $600 – and they far exceed the “standard” label.
No matter what room you stay in at the St. Regis Singapore, though, you’ll always be treated like a king!
• The best way to get to Singapore from Toronto or Vancouver is with world-renowned Singapore Airlines via Newark, N.J. or Los Angeles. Air Canada offers code-share flights with Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines. I flew Porter Airlines out of Toronto’s Island Airport and the Porter plane lands in the same terminal in Newark that Singapore Airlines flies out of.
• For information on the St. Regis Singapore, go to www.stregissingapore.com
• The St. Regis Singapore is part of the Starwood Hotel family.
• The airport pickup service in the Bentley or Maybach includes a golf cart ride from the jet way where you disembark to customs and immigration, and costs about $200 each way. It’s highly recommended for executives in a hurry or people with disabilities.
• The St. Regis also arranges visits to the city’s new gambling resorts.
|Daily Travel update|
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