Chic, updated rooms and new dining experiences await guests at the rebranded Mandarin Orchard.
A local landmark since 1971, when it ranked as the city’s tallest building, the former Mandarin Orchard Singapore recently began a new chapter of its history. While the facade — save the illuminated Hilton lettering — might appear exactly the same, its interiors were extensively renovated before being recast as the Hilton Singapore Orchard in late February. The hospitality giant’s largest hotel in the Asia-Pacific region is a 1,080-room behemoth that features a sleek contemporary design with subtle botanical references peppered throughout the interiors, paying homage to the area’s agricultural heritage during the early colonial period, when it was home to fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations, and pepper farms. Another source of inspiration was the location amid Singapore’s foremost shopping belt. (Guests at the Hilton can access the Mandarin Gallery mall without setting foot outdoors.)
An elevator whisks travelers from the drop-off area to the fifth-floor lobby, which has been entirely revamped. This is where you will also find the compact outdoor pool, and three (soon to be four) of the hotel’s restaurants and bars. Guest quarters are split between two 36-story towers; my quiet King Premium City View room on level 22 overlooked the hubbub of Orchard Road. By the window there’s an inviting seating area ideal for a catnap or lounging while reading a book. The monochromatic color scheme extends to the elegant bathroom, whose glossy black tiles are meant to recall the look of luxury boutiques. Notably, the hotel owners have taken the trouble to install energy-efficient features: advanced motion, air-conditioning, and light sensor technology means you won’t have to worry about forgetting to turn off the lights whenever you leave the room. The digital key and smartphone-connected services impressed me too: it was a pleasant surprise to receive an automated but personalized text from the receptionist who checked me in, enquiring if there was anything else I needed during my stay and wishing me a lovely weekend.
As comfortable as the rooms may be, the biggest draw is arguably the hotel’s lineup of F&B concepts. Visitors can head up to level 35 for a meal at Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro, a two-Michelin-starred Sichuanese restaurant helmed by a Japanese chef who proudly carries on a family tradition that started when the first Shisen Hanten opened in Yokohama in 1958. Chatterbox on the lobby level has long been a crowd favorite for its Hainanese chicken rice; the place reopened last month following a nearly US$3 million overhaul. Still to come is an outpost of Osteria Mozza, the Los Angeles Italian eatery by famed American chef Nancy Silverton.
Not to be overlooked, the two new in-house venues are strong enough to stand on their own. Next to the reception area, lobby lounge and pastry shop Ginger.Lily has been styled as a modern conservatory, with towering cathedral-inspired pivoting glass doors that surround a cozier space, just the spot for afternoon tea sessions. The exquisite cakes and botanical-infused confections here come courtesy of pastry chef Cindy Khoo: a must-try is the signature American-style Hilton Cheesecake made with 100 percent Philadelphia cream cheese, but my personal favorite turned out to be the triple-fermented chocolate cake with Greek yogurt cocoa sponge, as it had just the right amount of sweetness. Judging by the number of fellow patrons I saw carrying little blue shopping bags, which contained takeaway treats, the cake shop is already getting noticed for its desserts.
At Ginger.Lily’s buzzy bar, be sure to say hello to head mixologist Michael Mendoza, who might just offer you a special concoction derived from his latest fermentation experiments. The botanically inspired offerings on the menu include Mango, a blend of gin, vermouth, mango sorbet, and sparkling wine that’s a fantastic pick-me-up after coming in from the sweltering tropical heat. Not being a fan of strong flavors, I was surprised by Longan – the gin- and absinthe-based drink balanced notes of fresh anise and fennel, the assertive punch of wormwood, and a slight bitterness with the sweetness of its namesake fruit.
Dinner awaited me at all-day dining restaurant Estate, whose open kitchens showcase flavors from around the world. I cannot recommend the raw and seafood section enough: expect an enticing array of salads, premium charcuterie, and fresh seafood ranging from shucked oysters and clams to prawns. I also enjoyed the duck consommé; the signature squid-ink tagliatelle with octopus confit; as well as the black truffle roasted duck with fried tofu and pickled turnip. Dumpling aficionados will surely appreciate the variety of dim sum served at one of the counters. For breakfast, don’t miss the indulgent French toast. Made according to the chef’s own secret recipe, it’s hearty and dense, making it a deeply satisfying way to begin any weekend (or weekday) morning. There may not be an on-site spa, but I was content with working off my guilt at the 24-hour gym before checkout.
Doubles from S$404 (US$298); hilton.com