We had a staycation at the Intercontinental Singapore not long ago, and it was an enjoyable experience being a tourist in your own country. Without leaving our shores, it was possible to be on holiday once you get your mindset turned to vacation mode, soaking in new experiences and enjoying all the food without angsting about your diet for the moment.
We checked into the Intercontinental Singapore on a Saturday afternoon once the daughter’s tuition was over. As premier room guests, we could do the deed at the Club Lounge and skip the queues in the lobby. That set a nice, pampering tone to start off the weekend. Our room was a comfortable size overlooking Bugis Junction towards the direction of Sultan Gate, affording an interesting view at night. The room was beautifully renovated, with cosy, contemporary colours including a nice touch of eggshell blue and subtle touches of heritage motifs. I particularly liked the black and white colonial style bathroom too. Spacious and very elegant.
The mood at the Intercontinental was all about nostalgia, heritage and elegant indulgence. So it made perfect sense to start off with a spot of afternoon tea in the beautiful lobby lounge, with its luxuriously high ceiling. I had come here for New Year’s Eve tea last year, and was happy to see it as buzzing as I had last experienced it.
There were two menus for the tea spread – one to appeal to tea purists and the other for coffee lovers. Both started off with a welcome cocktail customised to match each menu, followed by a three-tiered platter of savouries, pretty little cakes, and delightfully warm, buttery, fluffy scones served in a napkin, which can be replenished. I particularly liked the bright red cheese cake, the scones and old fashioned crepe suzette which ended off the tea menu. Meanwhile, patrons were entertained by a singer doing jazzy covers of rather old songs.
Then it was time to head for our little tour of the neighbourhood by a local tour guide. The Intercontinental Singapore had commissioned a customised heritage walking tour for its own guests, and it promised to be quite an eye opener for both international and local tourists. I was eager to see what he had to show us that we didn’t already know.
Our small group of about eight enthusiastic walkers were brought to the front of the hotel where the tour started. From there, we meandered down Middle Road where we were told about the Raffles Town Plan, onto Queens Street past the market to see durians, a hawker centre and stalls selling phone accessories, then on to Waterloo Street past the numerous temples and street stalls, before emerging back at Middle Road.
While the tour itself wouldn’t show a local resident anything particularly unique, it was a hoot to be walking about like a tourist and being entertained by the humorous banter of the tour guide. Having said that, it was an eye opener for me to see how busy the temples were, the fortune tellers outside doing brisk business, and how the Indian temple had a steady stream of Chinese worshippers too. The walk then continued towards Waterloo Street and ended at St Joseph’s Church. The route was short, but it took almost two hours. By the time we were done, I was ready for sundowners at the Club Lounge.
The Intercontinental Singapore’s Club Lounge is one of the biggest I have come across. It’s very tastefully done up in part-Nonya, part-colonial style, with wood flooring and wooden accents, plush furniture and a sizeable buffet spread in the middle.
It was full when we got there for evening cocktails (5.30-7.30pm), but sitting by the sofas, it didn’t feel as crowded as if you sat at the dining tables. The pre-dinner nibbles was a rather generous spread for a club lounge, with cheeses and cold cuts, and an assortment of canapes and mousse cakes – they could have replenished the food a little faster to avoid having almost empty platters sitting on the buffet; but perhaps it was a particularly busy evening. For drinks, there were six agreeable wines — three red and three white of the standard grape varietals and a small menu of classic cocktails like the Screwdriver, Cosmopolitan, Dry Martini and of course, the Singapore Sling. (You can forget about the prosecco though.)
Improvements could be made to the drinks offering, but that said, don’t get me wrong, the lounge was a nice stopover to relax for a while, and have a drink before heading out for dinner.
We overdosed on cheese at the lounge unfortunately, so we were already half-full when we trundled downstairs to Ash & Elm at the lobby level for dinner.
I have reviewed this restaurant a couple of times, and came with my family on my own on several other occasions. I think it is really good. If only more people knew about it. The beef tasting platter comprising three steaks of different cuts is very good value at $138++, as is the pumpkin and bacon flatbread and the slow grilled Iberico pork chop which was all juicy and tender and flavourful.
For desserts the must-have is the chocolate hazelnut pizza for sharing, which carries three kinds of chocolates, pralines, marshmallows on a chocolate brioche, then topped with ice cream. The apple tatin and yuzu citrus combination are also good choices.
By the end of the evening, we realise we had been eating and drinking at almost every part of the day except for the period of physical exertion during the two hour stroll. By the time we rolled into bed, we knew the our calorie quota for the day had been well and truly (and deliciously) busted.