In the Singapore groove
If Willy Wonka were to have owned a hotel, this could be the one. The new JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach first appears as an eye-catching mix of heritage and contemporary design, standing tall amid a neighbourhood of well-known white colonial buildings in Singapore’s arts and culture precinct.
The entrance features a striking 7m-high LED screen of motion art by South Korean artist Lee Lee Nam. The video installation has psychedelic patterns that twist and contort and, despite forming a riotous wall of colour, it’s completely mesmerising.
Check-in is painless and swift at the floating-style reception desk. Just like the impatient kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I’m itching to uncover the next rooms. For this Singapore venture, with 634 guestrooms and suites, JW Marriott called on the expertise of renowned French interiors wizard Philippe Starck and equally well-known British architecture and integrated design firm Foster + Partners. With a multi-milliondollar collection of more than 30 artworks, the look is slick but with a quirky sense of fun and whimsy layered around the glamorous edges.
The lift doors open and I gasp. The walls, floor and ceiling are completely awash with images of a giant squid, courtesy of the custom-made wallpaper and graffiti artwork by Milan-based designers Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla of Carnovsky. I marvel as we ascend and the pattern changes colour. Before long, I am looking for any excuse to use the elevator.
Our bright guestroom has funky furnishings. An aluminium Emeco by Starck rocking chair is tucked under a slimline desk atop black-and-white circularpatterned carpet. There is an array of in-room smart technology, with an Internet Protocol Television system from which you can turn on bathroom lights, order room service or close curtains. A double-sided sliding mirror above the (also mirrored) minibar serves as a retractable shutter between bedroom and bathroom. The latter offers the unexpected, with a toilet that features washing, drying, oscillating and pulsating functions.
His-and-hers slippers feature symbols of a pussy cat and a rooster. Someone has had some fun naming the amenities. Make-up removal pads sit in the “vain pot”; a razor is labelled “close shave”; while the shower cap slides out of a sachet marked “protect the do”.
Another colourful lift ride takes me to the outdoor infinity pool; a sky garden with table tennis; and the wellequipped Flow18 fitness centre, open 24 hours. It feels like arriving at Wonka’s personal party pad.
The outlook is spectacular, providing views over Singapore’s skyline and harbour. Giant pendant lamps overhang the dark-lined pool. Mosaic-tiled, sunken lounge chairs froth with spa jets. Guests sit on armchairs with feet submersed in just centimetres of water. Orange and taupe sofas overlook the Marina Bay Sands complex.
Back in our guestroom, a cake with “Happy Birthday’’ inscribed in chocolate awaits. The observant attendant at check-in has noticed on my partner’s passport that today is his birthday. What better reason to head to one of the hotel’s three bars? The Court Martial Bar is located streetside in a heritage-listed part of the building. Originally an army automotive workshop during the war, the room is lined in red velvet drapes.
From our window seat, Raffles Hotel appears just metres away. A friendly bartender tells us interesting trivia about the building, pointing out original workshop roller doors and stained-glass windows. He insists on making us the signature cocktail — Marriott’s version of the 1915 Singapore Sling, called the Heritage Sling and dedicated to the first batch of soldiers from the Singapore Army who enlisted on this site.
At the time of our stay, the hotel had five eateries, including its flagship Japanese restaurant by renowned Korean chef Akira Back. The hotel aims to become one of Singapore’s most sought-after culinary destinations. Breakfast in the Beach Road Kitchen should not be rushed; everything from dumplings to a charcuterie bar are artfully presented at miniature shops or market zones. There’s no chocolate river in sight, like Willy Wonka’s, but this seems like the “golden ticket” from which to enjoy the Lion City.
Sky Garden pool at JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, top; hotel by night, above right; deluxe king guestroom, above; whimsical art, below