The air seems to hold the scent of cigar smoke rising from bridge tables and the perfume of ladies in crinoline. It’s easy to imagine them, limply fanning themselves while trying to escape from the languor of the long Singapore hours. The varnished floor crackles under our slippers; the faint music of the parquet is a reminder of bygone glory days. We round a corner and espy old black-and-white photos of celebrities; Liz Taylor watches and laughs. The establishment’s pride is well-earned; there is no need for pretence. For what is offered here is precisely that: a refined moment, an elegant pause in the heat of the city. Welcome to Raffles Hotel, an oasis in the heart of Singapore.
The city’s history is mirrored in that of the establishment. Its name honours Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the gentleman who founded Singapore. Colonel of the British army, lieutenant governor of Java, Raffles abolished slavery and forced labour in his territories and was knighted in 1817. In January 1819, he established the British trading post at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula that was to become Singapore. The hotel that bears Sir Stamford’s name evokes this past. An Indian major-domo adorned with a golden sash opens taxi doors for the ladies who arrive and protects them under an umbrella until they have reached the vast lobby. Once inside, only wood, murmurs, memories and the scent of wax prevail as the blades of ceiling fans stir the heavy air. Gentlemen are seen escorting their partners to the Long Bar, where they are likely to order a Singapore Sling and toss peanut shells on the floor – a defiant tradition imported from England that is almost revolutionary here in the Capital of Absolute Cleanliness and Efficiency that is Singapore.
A maid appears, bows and disappears. It is 35 °C. A balmy breeze ruffles the surface of the pool located behind the main building, past the Amrita Spa.
bridges between different culinary cultures
Pierre Burgade, a native of Mirande in South-West France, is executive chef of the Raffles restaurants. Every year he welcomes some of the world’s best chefs to the Raffles Hotel Wine Food & Arts Experience in view of building bridges between different culinary cultures. Several brigades of toque-topped chefs, replete with knives, pots and pans, have set up their kitchens in the lobby.
1 Beach Road
Tel: +65 6337 1886
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