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Travel to Singapore


A botanic twist

1 July 2019

Robot butlers and jungle cabanas at the Sofitel Singapore City Centre

Singapore is proud of its diversity, and none epitomises it more than Tanjong Pagar – an area nestled between the city’s central business district and the heritage of Chinatown.

In the heart of this cultural confluence, a lift delivers guests straight up from the street and MRT (metro system) levels into the Sofitel Singapore City Centre. Converted from an empty parking lot barely two years ago, the Wallich Street location provides the hotel with its glass and gold design inspiration, while a floral theme pays tribute to Nathaniel Wallich – who designed Singapore’s botanic garden in 1822. The latter plays out in the flourishes on staff jackets, six larger-than-life floral paintings by Italian artist Arianna Caroli in reception, and the lobby’s vast ceiling sculpture, made of 700 hand-blown glass leaves.

The botanical theme continues in the hotel’s 223 rooms and suites, each accented with purple in homage to Singapore’s lavender-toned Miss Joaquim orchid. Regular travellers will find the reassuringly luxurious rooms spacious, a rarity in Singapore’s dense urban jungle. More unusually, the hotel commissioned local artist William Sim to design a colouring book – the whimsical illustrations of the lion city’s landmarks will appeal to kids – and two robot butlers (currently on trial), which deliver minibar refreshments to your door. Cabanas situated on The Lawn (a five-floor high patch of grass) and the mid-air pool and jacuzzi shaded by frangipani trees and skyscrapers, both offer respite from the bustle below.

Not to be outdone, the bar offers herbal flourishes too. Cocktails feature herbs such as mint and thyme grown on the hotel’s own balcony, and the restaurant Racines (“roots” in French), where dishes of locally-farmed frog legs come in parsley butter or Szechuan-style, for example, reflecting the hotel’s twin origins and diverse inspirations.

In The Neighbourhood

First a sleepy fishing village, the arrival of the docks in 1864 transformed Tanjong Pagar into a heaving mass of rickshaw haulers and rich traders. After decades of decline, it became the first area to be designated for conservation in the 1980s. Today the historic shophouses are home to the highest number of Michelin-recommended restaurants in the city making Tanjong Pagar a premier foodie destination.

Words: Adrienne Smith