Singapore with style

Destination Elite
09 April 2014
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Living in a popular stopover like Singapore means you’re never short of a visitor or two. In the past most of my visitors have been contented with chili crab at a good hawker stall and a spot of foot reflexology after a day trawling the shops, but times and travellers tastes have changed. My most recent visitor was more challenging than most. As a well know writer for a fashion magazine on route to Milan, she had a 36 hour stopover in Singapore and was pretty specific about what she wanted to do. Don’t be fazed by the hype you may have read, I knew I could meet my stylish friends expectations. When I first arrived in Singapore; the island state was slowly emerging from a Colonial hangover. Five star hotels were now standing on reclaimed land that once was the ocean, most of the fine dining was within the confines of these brand spanking new hotels, but my how things have changed, the Island has evolved into a dynamic, eclectic, classy city with green spaces galore and bucolic retreats hidden behind tropical lushness. The hotel I chose for her stay was The Capella Resort located on Sentosa Island. The resort ticked all the boxes, a tranquil setting close enough to the city, sweeping green lawns, fabulous pool and facilities, exceptional food and even better bar. My friend fell in love with her suite overlooking the South China Sea, an elegant space muted in soft earthy tones with clever Asian touches. We caught up with each other over Mojitos at Bob’s bar, rather an unpretentious name for a very trendy bar, and I must say with mixology all the rage in Singapore, we were spoilt for choice, these were the best cocktails we had tasted and we both agreed over the years we’ve tried many! The following day we met and walked along the waterfront to Keppel Bay where we had a lovely breakfast overlooking the marina and luxurious yachts. Shopping would come later, in the meantime the iconic Marina Bay Sands was playing host to Art Stage Singapore. Singapore has made a deliberate shift toward becoming a significant art centre for the region; the flagship art event showcases the best of contemporary Asian art. It was a feast for our jaded eyes as we walked the vast amphitheatre taking in one breath-taking display after another, a reflection of the vibrant and diverse art across Asia Pacific. After having a late breakfast we decided to give lunch a miss, and for a change of pace elected to have High tea, where else to go, but the legendary old lady… Raffles. Tarted up over the years, she didn’t disappoint, with the renowned white gloved service and sedate tradition of tea in the afternoon we were transported to another place in time, one of elegance and tall stories. As sparrow’s flitted about the rafters and swooped in on dropped crumbs, we girls reminisced about the days of old… if only these walls could speak! Back at the Capella there was time for a quick massage before heading out for a night on the town, where else but Club Street. Club Street, once the secret enclave of Chinese Clan members, is now the unofficial hangout for off duty F&B industry, as well as admen and expats in general. The colourful shuttered shophouses are beautifully restored, a photographers dream. The streets are narrow and steep with patrons spilling out onto the pavements and laneways. A vibrant stretch of sexy roof top bars and restaurants, many with a distinct New York vibe, hardly the staid image Singapore once had! It’s no secret that the foremost pastime of any Singaporean is eating, breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night supper, or anytime in between, you will find them young and old out in their multitudes chowing down… and the favourite place to eat….hawker stalls. Ask any local on the street, the taxi uncles, the aunties in the shops, they’ll all have an opinion of their favourite place to eat and their favourite dishes. So, on my friends last day in Singapore, I was somewhat taken aback when instead of shopping and a mani pedi, she elected to go for lunch at a hawker stall. We headed to Tiong Bahru an old favourite of mine, not only is it the oldest residential area in Singapore, but also one of the hippest. The vibe is retro, 50s and 60s and the quaint streets have attracted many new hip bars, bakeries and restaurants. So there we were, just like any other passionate foodie, arriving early to chope a table and queuing up at the most popular stalls. I sat and watched my size 8, tiny framed, and uber-stylish friend, her long red polished nails tapping on the Formica as she greedily tucked into chicken rice, lor mee, and wanton noodles, it was a lovely sight! Sometimes it takes a visit from a friend to revitalise your world-weary soul and rekindle the charms of your own city. Singapore is a diverse mix of cultures, an island of infinite variety that left my very stylish friend wanting to come back for more. “For those that are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.” Simon Van Booy