03 Friday October, 2014
Though not technically Singaporean, I am a true Singapore girl. I grew up there in the 80s and 90s and, though I now live in London, my family all still live in Singapore and I travel ‘home’ at least twice a year. I lived off Tanglin Road in a colonial Black & White house and used to love weekends strolling around Dempsey Hill. Back then these old army barracks were just starting to be occupied by antique shops – the wine bars hadn’t arrived yet – and my Sunday brunch staple was curry at Samy’s, which thankfully has remained as unpretentious and delicious as ever.
I have fond memories of how jungly and tropical Singapore felt in those days and despite developing at a speed of knots, it has done so very intelligently and the city is now full of inspiring and ground-breaking architecture, successfully off-set with towering trees and plenty of open spaces. To me, Singapore is a masterpiece of old and new, city and jungle, order and innovation. A relatively young nation (founded in 1819 and independent since 1963), the last decade has seen it blossom into one of the most exciting cities in the world, with world class cultural, culinary and natural attractions. She’s also got some phenomenal hotels, from cutting-edge glamour pusses to Colonial golden oldies.
Here are my top three recommended restaurants, hotels and activities based on my old favourites and new finds which have secured a place in my holiday hit list.
- Capella: A wonderful mix of old and new, Capella personifies Singapore in one fell swoop – and I love it. Once home to British Royal Artillery officers, her gleaming white columned lobby welcomes you, whilst Norman Foster’s modern designs and 3-tiered swimming pool awaits you inside. Set on 30-acres of lush gardens on Sentosa Island, the resort’s private pool villas offer complete tranquillity, yet you are barely a 10 minute taxi ride from the action on Singapore.
- Fullerton Bay Hotel: Location, location, location… Unashamedly glitzy and modern, Fullerton Bay Hotel looks out over one of Singapore’s architectural marvels, the ship-like Marina Bay Sands, which straddles the bay and is a delight to gaze out over. You’ve got a variety of great restaurants and shops on your doorstep and a fantastic in-house watering hole, the Fullerton Bay’s rooftop Lantern Bar.
- Raffles: An enduring classic, Raffles has been known as “the best hotel in Singapore” for a very long time, and – for those wishing to be enveloped in Singapore’s Colonial history, style and service – it is still the best. It’s hard to beat the white marbled lobby with its sweeping staircases, the impeccable manners of the Raffles staff and the history which whispers from the old photographs lining these breezy corridors.
- Samy’s, Dempey Hill: A low key Indian curry house set in a historical old club, Samy's is the perfect spot for Sunday brunch. Grab a seat on the terrace and wait for staff to come round and dish out curry straight onto your banana leaf; wash down with Tiger Beer or lime juice.
- Long Beach at East Coast: A speciality crab restaurant next to the beach overlooking passing cargo ships – not stereotypically beautiful, but it has its own uniquely Singaporean charm! The specialist dish is chilli crab – the national dish of Singapore – or try the white pepper crab, which has a more subtle, buttery pepper flavour.
- Min Jiang at One-North, Rochester Park: A sophisticated Chinese restaurant set in what used to be a colonial Black & White home. Eat outdoors in the dimly lit courtyard for the most romantic ambience and dine on their speciality Beijing duck; celebrate with a cold bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
THINGS TO DO:
- Sentosa Island: On a sunny day, the Tanjong Beach Club is a fantastic spot to head to for lunch, swimming and sunbathing. There is a pool right on the beach and a laid-back restaurant and bar which has a more vibrant party vibe in the evenings but is excellent for families during the day.
- Night Safari: In my humble opinion, not just for kids! It is a hugely atmospheric experience as dusk falls. Set in 35 hectares of dense rainforest, you can roam on foot or by tram to get in amongst over 130 species, from Malayan tiger and leopards, to friendlier creatures like deer which roam free along the foot paths.
- Gardens by the Bay: A conservation concept featuring incredible tree-shaped vertical gardens up to 16 stories high and enormous biodomes with indoor waterfalls, exotic plants and lush vegetation.... Tricky to explain but a definite must see! There is also an acclaimed restaurant at one of the 'tree' structures called Pollen.