MARINA BAY SANDS and SENTOSA ISLAND
Click here to read about my thoughts on Singapore.
Of course, Singapore is full of gastronomic delights, but there is one place I found that will fulfil any food wish. Sky on 57, the signature restaurant at Singapore’ Marina Bay Sands, is no hidden art of Singaporean cuisine, yet it does not fail when it comes to the challenge of presenting the ultimate gastronomic journey. The eatery is the culinary home to celebrity chef Justin Quek's modern interpretation of Franco Asian cuisine and has a skillfully designed interior oozing an elegant ambiance. I was on a hectic and tight press trip, and with only around an hour to cover what this hyped restaurant has to offer, I had definitely presented their team a challenge to create the dishes as quickly as possible and with the full-on high quality that they are renowned for.
Justin Quek breezed into the restaurant from his kitchen and after the handshakes and broad grins all round, he took the time to sit and was utterly focused on the task ahead of showcasing the best food in Singapore.
"People like us because they know of our commitment here at Sky on 57 to the quality, in the food that we serve as well as the service," says the chef who is Singapore's most internationally known chef and the first Asian chef invited to participate in Lufthansa's Star Chefs program. "There has to be the energy, and there has to be passion and whenever I am working I will always try my best to serve an excellent meal."
A reviewer interviewed Quek around 10 years ago in Hong Kong, he fondly recalls, and said she could not, and would not eat, Cantonese Raw Fish (魚生 yu saang). Quek responded by not serving the delicacy raw, but fried in a very light and crispy tempura butter, and turned it into a version of Crispy Pan Fried Salmon, Chinese Style (香煎三文魚). The reviewer ate five helpings, and wanted more!
"I love talking to my customers," says Quek. "If they don't like something, then I'll try something different."
The 12,000 sq ft eatery has a main dining area, private dining rooms, a bar, lounge and an outdoor terrace. The restaurant delivers one of Singapore’s most sought-after dining experiences. The views are equally stunning, facing out to the sea, though not sure if you would want to gaze upon the endless number of freight ships that lie dormant in the calm and clear waters in the distance. Light-filled and family-friendly, the restaurant and its cuisine are sea-inspired, created with a blend of French, Cantonese and other Asian tastes in mind. Make sure you try the ‘Crispy Scale Coral Cod'.
It is chef Quek’s belief that ecologically friendly farming results in better-tasting food and drinks. On the whole, I would say that this is a place that provides great food, great staff and amazing natural beauty. The restaurant is so popular that hotel guests make a booking before they check-in.
With adventurous days, glamorous nights, and a rich and diverse culture which brings the best of Indian, Malay, Chinese and British colonial history, Singapore offers everything from scuba diving at Sentosa Island to historical parks and some of the world’s best high-end eateries. Located within all this hype on Scotts Road, and a stone throw’s away from the world renowned Orchard Road, is the multi- award-winning Grand Hyatt Singapore.
With tasteful luxury, premier service and all that this tiny city-state has to offer, the Grand Hyatt Singapore, complete with its 677 luxury rooms and suites, is one of its kind. The first thing that hits you as you enter the lobby of the hotel is how remarkably generously spaced it is. The lobby itself feels like a spacious art gallery, except that there are no paintings on the walls but plenty of shops selling all kinds of designer fanfare. The hotel’s lobby and immediate exterior gives the visitor a chance to engage themselves with the hustle & bustle of the local area.
The hotel’s guestrooms and suites are some of the most spacious accommodations in Singapore, giving guests plenty of peace and privacy in which to unwind. All the rooms are beautifully designed with every detail crafted by expert hands and are conveniently fitted with every modern creature-comforts required for a stay that gives you a complete peace of mind, such as generous work desks, luxurious beds and elegant baths. Amenities are provided by June Jacobs. The hotel’s Grand Club® Rooms & Lounge are creatively put together with the business traveller in mind. If you are a busy professional who wants to get some work done efficiently and without any interruptions and want to have a good rest to recharge the body before another busy day at work, then the Club rooms are perfect for you.
If you are looking for an authentic Singaporean experience but still want high-end luxury, this is your place. After walking around Singapore the whole day, or even after a long day at a business meeting, it’s nice to come back to the tranquil settings, have a swim at the free form swimming pool...or enjoy a soothing treatment to put your senses at ease at the secluded Damai Spa, Singapore, which comes with a fully equipped 24-hour gym. Of course, one of the aims of travel is to make you happy and feel rejuvenated from the pressures of daily life in your own backyard. But there is a fleeting oh-this-is-fun and then there is a deeper, Zen-happy. In Singapore, and especially at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, you can appreciate both.
Guests are spoiled when it comes to wine and dine. There are seven dining venues, offering buffet or a la carte choices. The menu focuses on garden-fresh produce, local seafood (especially at the Starits kitchen), and the finest imported meats, used to create a fusion of international and Singaporean dishes. I was most impressed with the cosy surroundings of the glass enclosed ‘martini bar’ located behind the well-popular mezza9 restaurant on the 2nd floor. It can be consider a place to unwind with a distinctly vivacious vibe. In other words, it’s the kind of place where you can just while away the evening with a classy homemade martini in the company of good friends. There are over 30 specially martinis to choose from. Don’t leave without trying their signature Asian-inspired drink, the Lychee martini.
For a definitive haven of relaxation and indulgence, head to the CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Hotel and melt away your tensions with their spanking new K-Lift Facial.
If you are in Asia and want to experience what it must have been like to live during the colonial years, then there are some architectural marvels where you can stay and do just that. In Hong Kong, it is the Peninsula Hotel and in Singapore it is without a doubt, the Raffles Hotel.
Contrary to popular belief, the Raffles was not established by the British, but by two Armenian brothers from Persia—Martin and Tigran Sarkies—in 1887. The hotel was later named after the British Statesman who founded the city-state, Sir Stamford Raffles (he also founded London Zoo). Designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. The name Raffles is associated with all things connected with Singapore.
Amidst the high-rise concrete jungle that modern Singapore is, the Raffles Hotel thankfully sticks out like a sore thumb and it is perhaps one of the key places where people can marvel at how great and powerful the British Empire really was back in the days. While the hand-operated punkhas (fans) may have been replaced with modern air-conditioning, the mahogany furniture, glandular ceilings and the grounds are still in tact.
No doubt, this is still the place to see and be seen at, especially for the elite and the A-listers. As I left the Raffles, I noticed that a new high-rise hotel was being built right in front of the main building. While the feeling of sadness conjured up, there was also hope in thinking that thankfully there is only one Raffles Hotel and no one can take away that brand identity from it.
If you’re flying into Singapore it’s great to break the trip with a couple of nights at a stylish boutique hotel. The Quincy Hotel may not be quite as petit as some of the other boutique hotels in the city-state, but with just 108 ultra-comfortable rooms spread on 14 floors, the multi-award winning Quincy is ideal for the savvy business traveller or discerning leisure travellers looking to add a trendy touch to their vacation.
This hotel is in a great location with the Orchard Road MRT station only a few minutes walking distance and close to multiple shopping malls. The Quincy is the perfect place to cool down after a long muggy Singapore afternoon because even though it is located close to the busy Orchard Road, it’s neatly hidden away from the crowds and the noise.
The thing that I found really attractive about the Quincy was the complimentary extras that are provided as part of the hotel room rate. The list of freebies included as part of the room rate seem to be endless: the one-way airport chauffeur pick-up at Changi Airport, daily free 2-piece laundry service, mini-bar re-filled daily, all day dining by Dean & DeLuca and Modesto's, parking for hotel guests, free local calls, unlimited free Wi-fi and evening cocktails for two every day. These complimentary extras are all enough for me to say that I’ll pay to stay here even when I’m not on an official media trip. You end of wishing that every hotel around the world would stick to this business model. Why? Because it works, and the customers appreciate it for the value of money. At the Quincy, you certainly get more than what you pay for.
All of the generously spaced and warmly decorated rooms face the city, as does the open-air swimming pool, sauna and gym on the 12th floor, which is open 24 hours a day (very useful if you are jet-lagged!). The spacious bathroom, complete with a rainforest power shower, is equipped with amenities are provided exclusively by Molton Brown.
Most important of all, I found the hospitality staff is nothing short of extraordinaire in providing customer service that exceeded my expectations. They seem to be around just like they are friends staying at the same house as you, but are forever ready to grab you a glass of wine or present you with whatever you need, with a genuine smile included.
If you are after an air of relaxation, then the Quincy is perfect for those seeking nothing short of intimate surroundings. This is the place to sit back and appreciate the art of doing nothing.
..CLEAN...in fact, this tiny city-state employs specialist cleaners (more than other countries I am told) to keep the streets, parks and all other public areas in an immaculate condition. All aspects of public life here come across as being well organised, efficient, clean and colorful. More importantly people of all different cultures and faiths live in harmony and tolerence with each other.
The stunning Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, captured from 35,000 feet en-route to Singapore from Hong Kong.
The Aircraft Dispatch Engineer (left hand side), stands level with the flight deck side window, but clear of the spinning engines' intakes (don’t want to get sucked in!), and holds up the nose gear steering pin for the benefit of the pilots to see before waving goodbye. He is not saying “Chocks away, chaps!”, but the meaning is something on similar lines. Attached to the pin is a long red tape with the words 'Remove Before Flight' written in large white letters. The pin is necessary to prevent un-commanded movement of the nose wheels during the pushback phase from the aircraft stand. If the pin is not removed then the gear will not retract, which, in the past, has resulted in embarrassment for pilots in a number of airlines (you can Google it!). It means dumping enough fuel to prevent an overweight landing, then returning to land. This can cost an airline millions of dollars (US), cause unnecessary delays, cause extra stress/pressure to the pilots and make a lot of passengers unhappy and worried- none of which any airline or pilot wants. Aircraft can usually take-off with a much greater weight than they can comfortably land. So, for example the Airbus A380 (and I believe the Boeing 787, too) can always land at its maximum take-off weight in an emergency, but it’s very stressful on the brakes and hence can cause tyre bursts.
Half dragon, half horse...the Chinese mythical birds have so much power that they mange to fly through buildings...magic!
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