We enjoyed two visits to Singapore – one early in December; the second just before Christmas.
Despite my fast-tracked commercially-important person entry both times (see here), I was genuinely convinced I would be denied entry to Singapore upon arrival as I have been – in my time – a vehement opponent of the commercial dictatorship that runs the wee island state. I have written letters to the President and Minister of Justice more times than I care to remember and really half expected to be deported upon my arrival at the CIP Terminal.
That, thankfully, didn’t happen. What’s worse – to my utter chagrin – I loved Singapore and would be keen to get myself repositioned there in an instant. Take that my poor humanitarian, Aquarian soul!
We stayed both times at Singapore’s self-styled ‘most prestigious address’, the St. Regis Singapore. Management put us in the same room both times, a lovely – if overly ornate – affair that overlooked the Botanical Gardens and came complete with a Butler who we utilized to bring us tea, and prepare our suits for an entertaining dinner Christmas Eve at the hotel’s very french restaurant, Brasserie Les Saveurs.
2) our room at the St Regis
18) the piano-playing chef at breakfast
I enjoyed the hotel but with a staff to guest ratio that must be near 4 staff for each guest, it can be a tad … oppressive. You can’t reach for a napkin, or elevator button, or door, or spoon without hotel staff beating you to it.
On an impressive note, I must relate a story that speaks to this level of service. We checked in under G’s name. On Christmas morning the hotel set up an amazing breakfast buffet (complete with piano-playing chef!) in the grand ballroom. We came down for breakfast and seeing that they had moved breakfast from the restaurant to the the ballroom, I returned to the room to fetch the camera. As I left the ballroom, one of the 3 staff guarding the podium said “Have a good day Mr. XXXXXXXXX”. I was dumb-struck. How they knew me, amid several dozen guests, and noting we checked in under G’s name, was a testament to the both the research required and level of service delivered by the St. Regis team. Well done!
So why such a love affair for Singapore, you ask? Several reasons:
- Alvyn and I finally got to meet in the flesh. Alvyn is one of my very first Xanga friends and it was wonderful after nearly 5 years chatting online to meet and seal a friendship. Yay us Alvyn!;
- Singapore is brutally hot and humid which I so adore;
- Singapore works (the airport is gorgeous; public transportation is a breeze; shopping is to die for). It’s a perfect mix of Britain meets Asia without the culture shock which can overtake you in places like Hong Kong. It is in a word or three, a classy, sophisticated and artsy destination. And this despite a thoroughly miserable government system supported by a population meek as sheep that have bequeathed their democratic rights carte blanche in exchange for economic bravado and safe streets. Not my cup of tea but hey, I don’t live there …. yet; and,
- Orchids. Singapore has lots of lovely orchids and a stroll through the National Orchid Garden is worth giving up one’s democratic rights any day of the week imho.
Alvyn joined us at the St. Regis upon our arrival and we started our adventures together with a series of wine tastings in the Astor Bar (always a great way to start an evening me thinks).
From there, with Alvyn navigating, we toured the city keen to eat at Lau Pa Sat – the massive hawker market downtown. Alvyn, Singapore born and raised – and even with an iPhone map of Singapore – got us lost! (I’m laughing still Alvyn) but we were rescued by a taxi driver who got us there. Thereupon feasting began!
23 & 24) Lau Pa Sat
25) our table-full of food; 26) Lau Pa Sat
27) the dim sum guy right by our table at Lau Pa Sat (I love this picture)
28) chicken and rice; 29) skewers of course
30) shrimp on a stick; 31) doing durian for dessert
32) a quick tour around Lau Pa Sat while the boys are off buying more food
38) Christmas Eve at ION Orchard
Upon our return to Singapore, we enjoyed a Christmas Eve dinner that afforded some interesting culinary perspectives. First off, the St Regis staff had placed traditional Christmas ‘crackers’ at each table. However, several diners – who obviously had never attended a Christmas dinner – didn’t know how to open the crackers and proceeded to take them apart by hand. Amazing! Our waiter had actually grabbed ours when we sat and offered to open each with him, which I thought very strange, as – at home – of course you always do that with your seat mate. In addition, some diners had clearly never had classic french food before and when the appetizer of foie gras was served proceeded to eat it as though a steak rather than use the bread and accouterments served with the course.
45) foie gras terrine with mango chutney; 46) scallop carpaccio with avocado, spicy yuzu dressing
47) crab ravioli, grapefruit beurre blanc, lemon confit adn red shiso; 48) slow-cooked turbot with leek compote, spinach emulsion, caviar
49) slow-cooked lamb saddle with braised coco bean, ginger, tomato confit, rosemary jus; 50) blood orange sobert with spiced chocolate cake and lemon cremeux
51) the good bits were hidden inside the chocolate xmas ornament
All the while, a devoted if vocally-challenged choir of local school children brutalized their way through classic Christmas carols. To say the evening was surreal doesn’t quite capture it but it was both memorable and charming.
We headed out to Orchard Road afterward – which had become a parking lot – to survey the festivities of Singaporeans wandering the malls and streets taking in the holiday cheer. Christmas Day I journey to the Botanical Gardens to explore the National Orchid Garden which was a real delight and which I’ll post more on later.