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“How was your pillow?” asked my taxi driver as he grabbed my luggage from the porte-cochère of InterContinental Singapore. Spotting my slightly befuddled expression, he explained that many of the people he’d picked up from that exact spot over the years had all commented on the same thing: the hotel’s blissful bedding.
I wasn’t surprised to hear this; I’d had my best night’s sleep for months kipping in my king-sized bed. But it wasn’t just the plush pillows that had contributed to my serenity. Every element of my experience at the InterContinental – from the attentive service to the peaceful pool – had infused me with a sense of utter contentment.
Why stay here?
InterContinental Singapore is the flagship hotel of IHG Hotels & Resorts – and when you arrive, it’s easy to understand why. With its sprawling marble reception area (which, to my relief, was heavily air-conditioned), the hotel immediately brings to mind feelings of grandeur.
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Located in the artistic districts of Bugis and Bras Basah, the 403-room hotel has a real indoor/outdoor feel thanks to internal atriums which bring to mind the ornate, colourful shophouses of the Peranakans. This theme is expanded on in the hotel’s Club Heritage Rooms, which feature an authentic shophouse decor with a soothing colour palette and timber flooring.
Comfort is key when it comes to the guest rooms, with all bedding of the highest quality (and my taxi driver was correct – my pillows really were extraordinary). Many of the rooms contain floor to ceiling windows and although the building isn’t afforded views of the iconic harbourside, there’s still more than enough to gawp at.
What to eat and drink
The hotel’s cool, vast lobby lounge is the place to be for an English-style afternoon tea with a local twist. Served every day between 1pm and 5.30pm, the bespoke “Heritage Royale Luxury High Tea” is a culinary experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
Shortly after sitting down, I was presented with a spherical tiered serving stand crammed with an array of mouthwatering treats. On the savoury side, I had an Ayam buah keluak crostini (a spin on a traditional Peranakan dish of chicken braised in tamarind and nut paste), a slice of pumpernickel weighted down by Kaluga caviar, smoked salmon and brie, and a seared Hokkaido scallop served with scrambled eggs and truffle paste.
My highlight though had to be the chilli lobster sandwich which came with crushed peanuts and coriander – an upmarket version of a traditional Singaporean dish.
Helice Hong, the hotel’s talented pastry sous chef, best demonstrates her range with the sweet nibbles, which include lemon scones served with jam, clotted cream and a Singaporean special: gulu melaka coconut spread, made with palm sugar and eggs. I delighted in the gold-dusted Ondeh Ondeh, a traditional Singaporean cake ball coated in grated coconut which oozed with caramel gula melaka (a type of palm sugar) as I bit into it.
Another eyebrow-raisingly good dessert was the gold leaf banana cake topped with sweetened coconut cream, which was unrecognisable from the DIY versions I became so familiar with at the start of lockdown.
We washed down our nibbles with a pot of delicate loose leaf tea and a flute of Taittinger Brut Reserve. This was followed by a glass of a hand-brewed non-alcoholic champagne alternative from the Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company, which was as deliciously bubbly and sweet as the real deal.
I ate dinner in a private room of the hotel’s award-winning Man Fu Yuan restaurant, which serves authentic Chinese cuisine and places an emphasis on communal dining.
I was lucky to sample a bespoke menu created by executive Chinese chef Aaron Tan, which kicked off with Yusheng, a Cantonese-style raw fish salad featuring salmon, scallops, vegetables, golden crackers, pomegranate and various sauces, which is traditionally served during the Lunar New Year. The presentation of this dish – on a glass platter surrounded by dramatic dry ice – was thrilling.
As is customary, my dining companion and I used long chopsticks to toss the ingredients together before uttering some scripted “auspicious wishes” to each other, from “sweet and loving relationships” to “an excess of gold and wealth”.
After a show-stopper of a starter, we were presented with a stunning dish comprised of four components: a chilled oyster with wine and salmon roe, a sea urchin with egg white and crab meat, a slice of braised soya chicken with truffle and a seafood dim sum roll with Sriracha. Each mouthful was said to represent one of the four elements of a Chinese kitchen (cold, hot, wok and steamed) and the dish was paired with a refreshing glass of Taittinger Brut Reserve.
Other culinary creations included a deep-fried lobster with golden “egg floss” and asparagus and an Angus beef tenderloin with black pepper and crispy garlic, served with Cantonese fried rice. Each innovative dish was expertly paired by Louie Wu, the restaurant’s in-house sommelier, an unusual role within a Chinese restaurant.
Dessert was a double-boiled pumpkin filled with palate-cleansing almond cream, as well as a Sarawak bird’s nest egg, reminiscent of a Portuguese pastel de nata. This was paired with a warming ginseng and chrysanthemum-infused Chinese digestif specially created by Tan and Wu, which made the perfect nightcap.
What to do
The hotel doesn’t have a spa, but there is a 24-hour fitness centre packed with all the cardio and strength-training equipment a gym bunny could need.
But a Singaporean hotel wouldn’t be complete without an outdoor swimming pool complete with stunning views – and the InterContinental certainly doesn’t fail on this front. Rather than the rectangular infinity pool so often associated with luxury hotels in this country, the pool here is more of an oblong, bookended by smaller relaxation pools and surrounded by deck chairs.
The hotel’s prime location means there are tonnes of places to explore just minutes away. It is conveniently located next to the popular Bugis Junction shopping complex, Singapore’s first glass-covered, air-conditioned shopping street, and is also easily walkable to several historical enclaves, including Arab Street, Kampong Glam and Little India.
The impressive Sultan Mosque – one of the country’s most impressive religious buildings, which was built in 1824 for the first sultan of Singapore – is just up the road. Round the corner is Parkview Square, an office building reminiscent of Gotham City which features several Fernando Botero sculptures in its forecourt.
How to get here
Singapore has just reopened its vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with the UK, permitting quarantine-free air travel between the two countries. Only unvaccinated Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders can enter Singapore on a non-VLT flight.
There are strict rules associated with VTL flights; passengers must provide evidence of their vaccination history, undergo a pre-travel PCR test and take a daily (self-administered) rapid test for almost a week after they arrive in the country. The guidance is changing all the time though; visit the Singapore Safe Travel website for the latest updates.
Prices and how to book
Rooms at the five-star InterContinental Singapore start from 270 SGD (around £150) per night, or 350 SGD (£192) including breakfast. All stays can be booked at singapore.intercontinental.com
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