Almost France in sultry Singapore
My third-floor So Lofty heritage-wing chamber comes with 3m-high ceilings, voluminous proportions, wall mouldings, parquet floors, mirrored and gilded furniture, and an illuminated faux-skylight reminiscent of a clerestory dome.
I could be in a Haussmann-era apartment in Paris were it not for the view from the balcony recess. Step forward and behold Robinson Road in sultry Singapore, and not, say, Avenue de l’Opera in the 1st arrondissement.
Sofitel is the French accommodation group Accor’s top-tier member; Sofitel So is its lifestyle-driven offshoot, with an emphasis on art and design. It all makes for a convivial brand that has been steadily spreading its pretty wings from Mauritius to Bangkok, with more openings in store. The 134–room Sofitel So Singapore launched last year in a centrally located 1920s building, all columns and arcades, which previously housed the TAS telecommunications centre. Its revival has included sumptuous interiors by Singapore-based French designer Isabelle Miaja. Fashion world superstar Karl Lagerfeld contributed signature touches such as a (Singapore) lion emblem and chic black Chanel uniforms for front-of-house “ambassadors” (the young women carry cross-strap shoulder bags and look ever so slightly like pert tram conductresses hoping to sell you a ticket to St Germain des Pres).
The sense of French transplant seems a bit odd at first (in the accommodation industry, how often does fusion simply mean confusion?) but soon becomes enjoyably different. There’s a stash of encyclopaedia-sized magazines in guestrooms with titles such as Vie and a guide to French experiences in Singapore; details are thoughtful and well-considered, including a mini-bar compartment concealed in a wardrobe that contains complimentary snacks and soft drinks, espresso machine and pods, and a pay-as-you-go stash of other goods.
Then there is the group’s Sofitel MyBed, which gets my vote as the world’s most squishy, complete with marshmallow-soft mattress topper. There are Applebased “guest technology solutions” on tap, covering an iPad to work everything from auto curtains to displaying the in-room dining menu on the telly screen; this lowtech guest is enthralled by a nifty row of all manner of chargers for iOS devices. Oh, and the marbled bathroom is a stunner, complete with a soaker of a tub, all contained (in So Lofty rooms) within a partially glassed and curtained cube. Pump packs hold creamy unguents scented with a woody, rosy fragrance.
Then there’s a miniature Eiffel Tower popped on the escritoire and treats laid out for arriving guests include dark chocs, boxes of tiny pappadums and sweet Chinese dumplings. Lagerfeld’s Chanel retrospective book, The Little Black Jacket, is popped alongside a coffee-table tome on Singapore history. (Note that bigger and more character-filled guestrooms are in the Heritage Wing, connected by a glassed atrium to the So Comfy and So Cosy studios of the So Hip Wing.) A hotel of this petite size doesn’t have the swish-bang facilities of a big property. There is just one restaurant, Xperience, on the ground floor, with French-trained chef Anne-Cecile Degenne at the helm; the expanse includes a small mirror-backed bar area, and a bright-blue boudoir corner where you can (sort of) dine in bed at the chef’s table.
The buffet breakfast selection is limited but of above average quality (especially the French cheese and charcuterie) and dishes at other meals can be chosen according to desired size (rather like fashion fittings, from XS to XL) and are aimed to share, with a long list of wines by the glass. During my visit earlier this month, a signature three-course dinner menu is priced at $S75 ($70), plus 10
Sofitel So Singapore, 35 Robinson Road, Singapore; +65 6701 6800; sofitel.com.
Double rooms from about $S279 a night; check website for packages and Hot Deals (from $S238).
About 20 minutes by taxi from Changi airport.
A cool crowd; young corporates and Asian urbanites.
Grab your guestroom copy of So Chic: Essential Guide to French Shopping & Dining in Singapore; who knew the city is home to Parisian ballet shoe ateliers, Provencal homewares shops, bistros and bijouteries.
Yes, and one adapted elevator.
It’s a few steps to Boo Tat Street where food hawker stands spring up after 7pm; walking distance to Raffles Place, Chinatown and Ann Siang Hill.
The front entrance (with revolving doors) is not easy to distinguish; it looks like the restaurant entry and the front desk is set right back and up several steps. The selfconsciously groovy language used in stylish hotels does get a bit wearying. Why a “city guru” and not just a plain concierge?
Anne-Cecile Degenne’s food is terrific; speedy Wi-Fi; excellent service by well-informed staff. per cent service and 7 per cent GST, and includes choices such as foie gras and truffle duck-meat siew mai dumplings; lobster and scallop risotto with a laksa base and coconut and lime foam; and a zesty lemon and marshmallow combo. Other sets of two or three courses cost from $S40-$S50 and Degenne’s culinary touch is sure and spicy, with liberal inclusions of chilli, kaffir lime oil, dashi broth and peppery herbs.
Tip: Use your check-in beverage voucher to kick off proceedings with a #35 cocktail, involving Tanqueray gin, cognac, triple sec, various botanicals and fruit liqueurs and a hit of pandan syrup. On the level six rooftop is a long pool with green-gold tiles, HI-SO bar, potted palms, curtained cabanas, and clusters of casual tables and chairs. It’s a convivial spot for a traditional Singapore Sling while looking up at segments of a city skyline that seems permanently topped with building cranes. Apparently it is HI-SO Ladies Night every Wednesday with DJ music, a complimentary glass of Ruinart champagne for the gals and fizzy pours all night at $S15 a pop. So, so civilised. Bonne sante.
Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Accor.
So Lofty room, top; Sofitel So Singapore, middle; golden-tiled rooftop pool, above left; and the bed concept at Xperience restaurant, above right