Sofitel's Two Singapore Hotels Reflect the City's Contrasts

Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. It is Asia’s most organized, cleanest and safest city, a compact user-friendly metropolis with just enough of its colonial past to balance its glossy modern surface.

Accor’s two hotels, So Sofitel Singapore and Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa, reflecting the city’s contrasts, are as different as chalk from cheese. But they both scream French chic and class.

So Sofitel Singapore is a handsome 1927 conserved building tucked under the skyscrapers in the Central Business District, not far from Orchard Road and its world-class shopping, colorful Chinatown and the Marina Bay area with its iconic architecture, museums and famous Gardens by the Bay…but then again nothing is far away in Singapore.

We knew House of Dior’s Karl Lagerfeld was the signature designer so we expected lush luxury. Well, we got that aplenty, but also one delightful surprise after another - from the welcome cocktail that Andrew, one of the friendly ambassadors cum concierges, handed us in a laboratory test tube to the armchair in the lobby with stag’s antlers, and from the baggage trolley tagged Hot Wheels to the play of light from the soaring lobby skylight on the wall of hexagonal mirrors that marks the division between the original So Heritage and the new So Hip wings.

Through General Manager Piotr Kupiec (011-656-701-6850; [email protected]), who is also general manager of the So’s sister resort property on Sentosa island, we met Talent and Culture (read Human Resources) Manager Ozbay Memet (011-656-701-6827; [email protected]). Ozbay told us the staff provide “service from the heart,” and during our stay they certainly made us feel like we were the one and the only. Head Ambassador Rizza Munar (011-656-701-6855; [email protected]) knows the city inside out and is the one to reach out to for advice on special arrangements for money-no-expense VIPs.  

Space is at a premium in Singapore, but So Sofitel is the proof that a savvy use of color and unabashed luxury can work miracles. Corridors are narrow, but the insistence on snowy white makes them airy and bright, and guestrooms and suites glow in pearly shades of white and gray. They come with panelled walls, stylized orchids on the bedheads, flamboyant curtains and flashy Napoleon portraits that cheekily declare that all roads lead not to Paris but to Singapore. Another quirky touch is the glowing light boxes on the ceilings replicating historic European domes. Nice Touch: Rooms have iPhones for hotel and complimentary local and international calls, and iPads that control everything — curtains, air con, ambiance lighting and TV — and with a quick swipe also order room service.

The HI-SO Rooftop Pool Bar is a place to enjoy crafted cocktails while taking in 360-degree views of Singapore’s urban skyline

Good to know: Travelers who like to soak should choose one of the So Urban rooms with bathtubs, which are standard in all the suites. The Lofty Suites have tubs that are big enough for two, and from their neoclassical balconies they have the best views of the skyline and the sunset. Tip: These are our top choice for honeymooners. The palatial So VIP, on 990 square feet, has a living room with a round marble dining table with four French-upholstery chairs and includes gourmet in-room champagne breakfasts.

We were intrigued by details like Lagerfeld’s “Lion’s Seal” on the door knocker, the tiered box with His and Her amenities in the bathrooms, the So Precious velvet-lined jewel box beside the bed, the complimentary minibar, and the Survival Kit and Love Kit. These are not complimentary, but contain essentials that could come in handy. Nice Touch: The cocktail recipe written in chalk on the blackboard, and the complimentary So Salty, So Sweet, So Spicy and So Healthy snacks.   

Executive Chef Bertrand Valegeas ([email protected]; 011-658-468-349) helms Xperience, which also serves breakfast and lunch and, with an open kitchen, has the casual chic of a French brasserie. F&B Manager Louis Lodewijk ([email protected]; 011-659-062-1876) guided us through the dinner menu of modern European classics with an Asian twist, explaining that portions came in XS, XM and XL sizes. He suggested Chilli Crab Arancini with Coriander Aioli, followed by the signature Laksa Spaghetti with Tiger Prawn and Squid.

Any doubts we had about the unusual laksa and spaghetti pairing were quickly dashed, as the coconut foam and Singapore’s famous spicy curry soup ingredients were the perfect foil for the spaghetti. To finish, Chef Pyae Phyo Hlaing insisted we try the Yuzu Popsicle, which was lusciously tangy with a delicate meringue crunch.

Louis advised booking the tables at least a couple of weeks in advance to avoid disappointment. He also recommended Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Restaurant on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Tower 2, and The Black Swan, a swanky bistro just 10 minutes away. For more casual food, the hawker stalls in the Lau Pa Sat market across the road are the place to go for local specialties, and in the evenings, Boon Tat Street next to the hotel is closed to traffic and tables are set up serving grilled satay skewers and beer.

The property has no spa — read on and you will discover that the world’s largest So Spa is just 15 minutes away — but guests can work out in the SO-FIT gym or clock up laps in the gold-tiled infinity pool. Tip: The HI-SO Rooftop Pool Bar is a popular haunt with the “in” set for its unique setting and designer cocktails.

Sentosa island is only a mile from the city center, and a fun way to get there is to take the cable car. This action-packed island is covered by tropical rainforest and fringed by golden beaches. It is dubbed the State of Fun, and it really does have amusement for all ages and tastes, from Universal Studios to Madame Tussauds and an aquarium, and from trendy beach bars to adventure parks and the championship Sentosa Golf Club.

At Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and Spa, the 3,200-square-foot Villa du Jardin comes with a private pool

The Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa is a colonial mansion on 27 acres. A couple of years ago it got a $40 million refurbishment, and it oozes glamour and sophistication. The lobby makes a big impression with its open-air ambiance, sheer billowing curtains and a massive tentacular hand-blown glass chandelier that hangs from the soaring, hot-pink leather ceiling. Our welcome was just impressive, with a smiling ambassador who whisked us through check-in and brought us along covered walkways to our room, where our luggage was already waiting.  

Although the property overlooks the South China Sea and the Singapore Strait, the rooms and suites in the two wings and the four villas on the grounds have no sea views. But there are views aplenty from the deck of the all-day restaurant Kwee Zeen and the elegant ilLido at the Cliff Italian restaurant.

Color-coding differentiates the levels of accommodation, with rooms in cool shades of blue and green and suites and villas using a palette of reds and purples. We really liked the plush Art Deco style, and the glitzy shimmering mosaics in the shower add a real dash of whimsical decadence. All rooms and suites have the signature white and gold striped leather minibar unit — depending on which part of the globe you hail from it will remind you of a French hat box, or a stack of Chinese dumpling steamers — with an Illy coffee maker, designer teas and snacks.  

Director of Rooms Katrin Segbert ([email protected]; 011-656-708-8319) can assist with reservations. For VIP assistance, including in-room check-in and limousine transfers for Singapore’s Changi Airport, turn to Guest Relations Manager Sheeva Richard ([email protected]; 011-656-708-8310).

The nine Junior Suites on 592 square feet have a semi partition that elegantly divides the living area and the bedroom, giving a real sense of space. We noticed there were as many couples as families staying, so for anyone traveling with children we suggest one of the seven Prestige Family Suites. The separate day and night areas make for greater privacy, and the two TVs make for really happy families.

The two-bedroom Imperial Suite, at 2,045 square feet, is the top of the range and comes with all the trappings. As do the four Villa du Jardin on 3,200 square feet, with private pools, sun decks and two bedrooms. They also have two bathrooms and, like the suites, come with Hermès amenities.

The grounds are nothing short of stunning, with ponds and quiet courtyards, fountains — the main fountain spouts red, white and blue at night — comfortable corners for relaxing and a magnifique 180-meter midnight-blue pool. Wild peacocks strut around and are regulars on the Kwee Zeen Restaurant deck at breakfast time. Other inhabitants of the resort include monkeys, squirrels, lizards, hornbills and cockatoos. Yes, this is a tropical paradise. And for guests who tire of jogging through the lush greenery or along the beach a good alternative are the two tennis courts and the So FIT Gym.  

Just 132 steps separate the property from Tanjong Beach, which is also easy to reach with the shuttle that makes various stops around the island, including at Vivocity, Singapore’s largest shopping mall. A short buggy ride takes you to the largest So Spa in the world — housed in a former British army barracks — a tropical sanctuary with 14 treatment rooms and six Outdoor Spa Pavilions. There are waterfalls and four pools — one with mud from the Moroccan Atlas mountains, a floating pool, one for ladies only and the main pool.

The living room of the 2,045-square-foot two-bedroom Imperial Suite at Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and Spa

Spa Director Yen Nguyen ([email protected]; 011-656-708-8357) recommended the signature Sentosa Massage and told us that Angeli, who has been at the spa for over five years, is one of the most popular therapists. After our massage we stopped in at the spa’s calorie-conscious restaurant, The Garden, for a put-it-together-yourself salad and a fresh passion-fruit juice. The Kid’s Club is next door and the main pool is the venue for the Friday and Saturday Movie by the Pool nights with gourmet popcorn and tapas.

To give honeymooners an experience to cherish, contact maître d’ Micael Musoni ([email protected]; 011-656-708-8360) at ilLido at the Cliff and reserve a window table with a sunset aperitivo and dinner. Needless to say Chef de Cuisine Simone Fraternali (011-658-725-8307) creates heavenly Italian dishes like luscious Umami Truffle Cappellini with Pan-seared Scallops, and Micael is on hand to help pair each course with the perfect wine. Book several weeks ahead for tables at ilLido’s Saturday Four-course Italian Brunch with free-flow Prosecco. And also for the Magnifique Sunday Champagne Brunch with…yes, you guessed it…free-flow Taittinger champagne. This is Kwee Zeen’s most popular rendezvous and is a triumph of elegant food with a fois gras station, French Canadian and Irish oysters, lobsters and crabs, roast beef, Asian specialties, 32 cheeses and the outrageously luscious chocolate fountain.

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