The rebirth of Raffles, a Singaporean institution
Singapore’s iconic Raffles hotel has reopened after an extensive renovation.
Singapore’s world-famous Raffles hotel reopened last Thursday. The iconic institution had undergone a two-and-a-half-year spruce up. “We were a little tired before the restoration,” Christian Westbeld, the general manager, admits to Alyson Krueger in The New York Times. At 132 years old, who wouldn’t be? But now Raffles has taken on a whole new lease on life. “I don’t want to say we are now hip, but we are relevant,” says Westbeld. Around the vintage books and leather furnishings, millennials congregate after work, says Krueger. “But this isn’t a trendy new bar or the lobby of a fashionable boutique hotel. Rather this is the Writers Bar” – a revered Singaporean institution, according to Raffles.
It’s all a far cry from the hotel’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Raffles was “a high-society nexus of the British and the well-heeled”, says Chantal Sajan in The Straits Times. Today, “everyone is invited to schmooze, linger and savour a slice of Singapore’s living heritage”.
For many years, Raffles was “one of the most cutting-edge hotels around; it was the first in Singapore to have electric lights, for example, and the first to have French chefs, and to offer butler service”, says Sandra Ramani in the Robb Report. Following the restoration, that still rings true. Standout in-room amenities include “a custom-crafted trunk-style mini bar with complimentary snacks, bespoke bath products from London-based perfume house Ormonde Jayne, and truly efficient iPad-based in-room tech”. Three-Michelin-star chefs Alain Ducasse and Anne-Sophie Pic both have restaurants.
Yet it’s the Long Bar for which Raffles is arguably best known. The floor is covered in peanut shells. “You’d be forgiven for thinking the cleaners are on strike, until you notice the visitors, throwing shells onto the floor with wild abandon,” says Tamara Hinson in The Independent. It’s a tradition that harks back to when Raffles was surrounded by nut plantations rather than the skyscrapers that loom over it today. Yet it’s one that goes against the grain for the law-abiding locals. “As a Singaporean I struggle sometimes, but it’s liberating!” LeRoy Chan, the hotel’s marketing manager, tells Hinson. It was also in this bar, in 1915, that barman Ngiam Tong Boon invented one of the world’s most iconic cocktails – the Singapore Sling.
From S$869 (£520) per night, raffles.com
Sparrow: retro chic
The tides are turning for the humble hotel bar, says Kaitlyn McInnis for Maxim. Hotel cocktail bars are now taking centre stage. Sparrow at The Dalmar hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a case in point. It takes its inspiration from the clean lines, natural materials and open spaces of the American modernism of the 1950s. What’s more, it became the city’s highest rooftop bar, when it opened in May on The Dalmar’s 25th floor. “Expect a funky indoor-outdoor lounge with breathtaking views of the city and expertly crafted cocktails, including the ‘Sticks and Stones’, which is comprised of brandy, vermouth and champagne.”
Zetter Townhouse: urban cool
The “eclectically-designed” Zetter Townhouse in Farringdon, London, “has recently undergone renovations, making the interiors all the more eye-catching”, says Ella Alexander for Harper’s Bazaar. “Its cocktail lounge feels like stepping inside an aristocratic home from a bygone era, with sumptuous velvet sofas, antique tables, taxidermy and open fireplaces.” A new cocktail menu from “leading mixologists” Matt Whiley and Rich Woods includes house cocktail Eternal Martini, a concoction of quartz stone-washed gin, strawberry vermouth and almond flower.
Bar Hemingway’s historic vibe
“Bar Hemingway, hidden towards the back of the Ritz Paris in the city’s 1st arrondissement, is crammed with leather upholstery and memorabilia,” says Zane Henry in National Geographic. The walls are decorated with tributes to Ernest Hemingway, who is said to have “liberated” the bar from the Nazis at the end of World War II by downing 51 dry Martinis in a row. “It’s small and comfy, and the friendly staff are very happy to make recommendations.” They specialise in classics, but visitors should also make sure to sample creations such as the Sorrento (limoncello, prosecco and orange bitters on ice) and the Clean Dirty Martini.
This article was originally published in MoneyWeek