In the Singapore groove

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA - KA­T­RINA HOLDEN

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

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