No need to catch a plane or a train, just stay in and let the people at Mandarin Orchard spoil you.
Mention Mandarin Orchard hotel and baby boomers will recall the famous New Year’s Eve countdown parties at Top of the M, the first revolving and tallest restaurant in Singapore. This was in the 1970s, when the hotel first opened its doors to guests. Now, some 45 years later and after major renovations, this grande dame is still drawing in the crowds.
Top of the M is long gone and in its place is the Meritus Club Lounge, which does not revolve but still offers a fabulous 360° view of Singapore from the 39th floor. It is the perfect place to unwind in the evening, while watching the sun set behind the skyscrapers. It was a privilege for me to be able to do this one Saturday evening as I treated myself to some “me” time at the hotel, or what others like to call a staycation.
I checked into the Mandarin Orchard at noon and was shown to my superior deluxe room, which was cosy and had all the creature comforts — from complimentary tea and coffee to WiFi and even a phone that is programmed with all the necessary “must see and do” information any tourist will need.
With some time available before cocktails, I decided to check out Mandarin Gallery, where I browsed boutiques that sold everything from timepieces to lingerie and luggage — it is truly a shopper’s paradise. With shopping bags in tow, I went upstairs to freshen up and headed to the Meritus Club Lounge.
Here, I had a choice of drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and decided on a whisky, which I had with a small platter of cheese and dried fruits. In a relaxed state, I admired the gorgeous sunset and when darkness fell, made my way to the 35th floor to Shisen Hanten, a two- Michelin-starred Szechuan restaurant helmed by chef Chen Kentaro.
Having lost my voice that weekend, the kind staff suggested that I start my meal with a bowl of double-boiled Chinese herbal soup. It went down well and I felt so much better. The next few courses were amazing. The one dish that is a hit with diners is the Stir-fried Tofu in Hot Szechuan Pepper-flavoured Meat Sauce. Yes, it is not the thing to eat when you have a bad throat, but I am glad I tried it. It was creamy and fiery at the same time, but the spiciness was muted with a bowl of fragrant Hokkaido rice. Other dishes to taste include the delicious Steamed Sea Perch on a Bed of Soya Sauce.
The other must-try restaurant at Mandarin Orchard is, of course, Chatterbox, which has been serving its speciality — Hainanese Chicken Rice — for more than 30 years. I savoured the dish many years ago. It did not disappoint as it was as flavourful as I remembered: The tender chicken is cooked in a special sauce and comes with dips of ginger, black sauce and garlic chilli — perfect with a bowl of steaming hot Jasmine rice.
I had a peaceful and quiet night even though Mandarin Orchard sits right in the middle of Singapore’s busy shopping belt. Built in the 1970s, the hotel underwent a major renovation in 2003 when a new tower was built, adding more than 1,000 rooms. In 2009, a further revamp saw the hotel lobby and swimming pool moved to the fifth level to make way for Mandarin Gallery.
This article appeared in the Options of Issue 759 (Dec 19) of The Edge Singapore.