Monday, April 30, 2012

The high ceiling gives a fabulous sensation of space

More Singaporeans are choosing staycations over holidays abroad, because there are less hassles and travel downtime. But Singapore hotels are not the cheapest in the region, so it makes sense to do a bit of research and choose wisely.

We had a chance to experience the Hotel Fort Canning, and were absolutely stunned by the rooms and facilities. It is truly a plush oasis in the middle of the city cocooned by verdant greenery and the stillness of nature. They took three years to convert this colonial building into an 86-room heritage boutique hotel.

I particularly loved the sense of space you get from the high ceiling (you don't get this often in newer buildings). This is the Deluxe room (above) which opens out to a bathroom set against a picture window offering you panoramic views of the park or city. There are 43 of these rooms measuring 30-35sqm. Six of these at Level 1 open up to a private garden and patio.

The Premium rooms average 40sqm and come with separate living area for relaxation
The Premier rooms are bigger at 40sqm, and the "verandah" is a separate living area specially designed for relaxation with a gorgeous view of the park.

I thought this might be Poltrona Frau
Oh yes, sink back into a Poltrona Frau designer chair and feel the city stress melt away from your soul.

So comfy to kick back here and read
The Deluxe rooms also get a very comfy reading chair with ottoman. Kick back and relax with a book or magazine.

Rooms at Hotel Fort Canning
Elements of nature are built into the fabrics and furnishings (like the headboard). The Premier rooms have a bigger work area behind the bed, and a separate bathroom.

Gorgeous bathroom
I still prefer the bathroom that's out there overlooking the greenery. I think it's a smashing idea to extend the room out this way onto the verandah. Every room has a large bathtub to remember the 14th century, when the royal family bathed in a spring on top of the hill.

Monsoon rain shower with Thann toiletries
But if a quick shower is all you want, you can still indulge in the monsoon rain shower set into the marbled walls. Premium bath amenities from Thann (nice 60ml bottles) add to the spa-like experience. The Thann Sanctuary spa also used to be at the hotel, but just shifted earlier this year.

Bathrobes and slippers with a tropical difference
Even the comfort robes and slippers bear a decidedly tropical feel.

In-room amenities include Nespresso and Bowers & Wilkins iPhone dock
Other in-room amenities include a Nespresso machine, TWG teas, a Zeppelin mini iPod docking station by Bowers & Wilkins, touch panel controls for mood lighting, curtains and aircon. Complimentary broadband and wi-fi are standard along with international plug extensions. A customised pillow menu is available too.

Even the walkways are spacious!
The spacious feel extends to the walkway too. Some hotels have such narrow walkways, it's almost a traffic hazard if someone has bulky luggage coming at you in the opposite direction. You won't get that here.

Private lounge for guests serves light snacks, Nespresso, TWG teas, plus complimentary wines, champagnes, juices and canapes during evening cocktail hour
Now, all in-house guests get a private lounge where they can enjoy unlimited light snacks, Nespresso, TWG teas, plus complimentary wines, champagnes, juices and canapes during evening cocktail hour! They really do spoil you.

There is a complex of pools, all fed with filtered water!
Outside, there is not just one swimming pool but a whole complex of several pools! Shallow ones, a long lap pool, and a irregular shaped pool - all fed with water that's filtered using NASA technology. The effect is amazing, because there is none of that awful chlorine smell so common at pools (and so damaging to hair and skin).

Already when I saw this, I wanted to come back again, even before I started my staycation here!

Gym at Hotel Fort Canning
Fitness buffs will be glad there is a well-appointed 240sqm gym featuring the latest TechnoGym equipment. There was also an arcade room tucked away in the basement, but no one was using it.

Weddings are popular here at the ballrooms
Weddings are very popular here (it is just a stone's throw away from the Registry of Marriages, after all). The huge Legends (460-seater) and Lavender (230-seater) ballrooms can be partitioned into smaller rooms. Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) groups can also take advantage of the 1,000sqm conference and banquet space.

In terms of dining, there's Gattopardo for Italian fine-dining, Tisettanta Lounge for wines and Italian-inspired designer cocktails, and The Glass House which features contemporary Asian cuisine.

The Glass House
The Glass House, as its name intimates, is set in floor-to-ceiling glass walls for majestic views of the park with heritage trees as old as 90 years.

The beauty of The Glass House is the view
Breakfast with this view is so refreshing. Drink in the view, as much as you like.

Breakfast buffet at The Glass House
Oh yes, the buffet breakfast has a bit of everything. From local favourites like dim sum and prata with curry, to bacon, sausages and eggs, smoked salmon, hams and breads. I liked the porridge too. Sunday brunch here is S$35++ per person (11.45am to 2.30pm). They also offer afternoon tea sets at S$12++ per set from 2pm to 6pm daily.

Chinese Set Meal - Scallops with XO Sauce and Asparagus
They also have selections for lunch, like this Chinese set menu (S$20) so beautifully presented in a bamboo tiffin carrier. Scallops in XO sauce with asparagus, with a healthy serve of vegetables (I normally hate nai bai cabbage, but this was really nice). The soup, however, is too much of an MSG salt bath.

Fried Mee Siam with Boston Lobster
Fried Mee Siam with Boston Lobster (S$24), which is a signature dish here. Oh I liked that this was not afraid to be spicy, but don't worry, it's not as hot as chili padi.

Check-in lobby and the private lounge next to it
The check-in lobby is discreetly to the right side of the hotel entrance foyer, which also faces the private lounge.

The lobby has archaelogical pits containing actual 14th and 19th century artifacts unearthed at Fort Canning Park
What's interesting are the archaelogical pits containing actual 14th and 19th century artifacts unearthed at Fort Canning Park. Qing dynasty porcelain, Majapahit royalty household items, ancient cooking pots, storage jars, ceramics, red baked bricks, and even glass marbles - all these point to Singapore's prosperity in history and Fort Canning Hill's importance as a royal palace. There are many of these historical artifacts still enbedded - hubby did a school excavation during university and found some too.

Foyer water feature
Fort Canning was formerly the British Far East Command Headquarters during World War II. They have kept many of the colonial structures, like the grand staircase and the multi-columned facade. The property which dates back to 1926 has been sensitively restored by local award-winning architectural company DP Architects.

Al fresco area outside the private lounge
Parts of it has been given a modern touch, and the hotel is continuing to be enhanced with more facilities to keep up with demand.

Hotel Fort Canning Facade
Hotel Fort Canning overlooks the Civic and Cultural district, and is walking distance from the Orchard Road shopping belt. As an icon of colonial grandeur, it makes a very stately boutique hotel.

They are currently offering Weekend Treat staycation packages from S$320++ for a Deluxe Room, available from 1 April 2012 to 30 June 2012.

The package includes:

  1. One night (Saturday) weekend stay in our Deluxe Room (room only)
  2. Sunday Brunch for two at The Glass House
  3. Late check out till 4pm (subject to availability)
  4. Unlimited in-room selection of Nespresso coffee and fine tea
  5. Premium bath amenities
  6. Unlimited serving of Nespresso Coffee and fine tea served at the Lobby Lounge throughout the day
  7. Complimentary wireless internet access
  8. Complimentary evening drinks from 6pm to 8pm daily at Private Lounge

It is really worth it, for a hotel of this quality. There are other promotion packages like Bubbalicious (from S$368++, with sparkling wine and bubble bath with petals) and Privilege Room with all the perks (from S$520++).

I seriously would love to go back, and maybe bring the kids. Jolie saw the photos I was pulling together, and she just gaped. As she stared, she said pointing to the bedroom shots, "I want to go here, I want to go home here!" Me too, babe.

11 Canning Walk
Singapore 178881
Tel: +65 6559-6770

Heartfelt thanks to GHC Asia and Hotel Fort Canning for making this stay possible. 

Hahaha! Look at their faces! Watch KF Seetoh as he makes surprise visits to hawkers, restaurants and street food centres in Ipoh, KL, Penang, Johor Bahru and Singapore in "The Food Surprise" new series premiering in Singapore and Malaysia on TLC (Starhub channel 427) Monday, 7 May 2012, at 10.30pm.

More details here at Makansutra!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oasia Hotel recently celebrated its 1st anniversary
Oasia Hotel recently celebrated its first anniversary and introduced a whole slew of perks for its Executive Lounge - artisanal chocolates, gourmet coffee, organic tea and snacks. These will be available at The Living Room (above) on the 22nd floor for Club Room and suites' guests.

Silver Ang trying out a new cocktail
Special blogger guest Silver Ang trying out a new cocktail - they rolled out quite a few that evening, including Summer Bouquet (a welcome drink) and L22 (Oasia signature drink). Me, I liked the coffee - it really is good. They paired with local artisan coffee roaster Coffee Culture and installed a professional 'Club La Spaziale Espresso’ coffee machine.

There was some chocolate masterclass
In addition, there is a range of hot chocolate drinks and chocolate treats from renowned French chocolatier house Monbana for Executive Lounge guests.

The Living Room provides buffet breakfast, complimentary cocktails and canapés daily from 6pm to 8pm, as well as all-day and all-night snacks. Guests can also stay connected via complimentary WIFI service.

There was this massive macaroons on coral confection
There was this massive macaroons on coral confection by Chef Rayner from De la Creme at Siglap. Most unusual "birthday cake" I have ever seen.

Here's a video of the blogger party they held much earlier on 3 March. No, I wasn't there! But I see lots of familiar faces!

The 22nd floor swimming pool
The 22nd floor is also where the private access 20m lap pool, jacuzzi and sun deck are. It gives you panoramic views of the city.

Sunset on the 22nd floor
Sunset can be beautiful here.

We had an opportunity to test out a Club Room - one on the 25th floor, the highest.

It's not a large room but it's cosy and comfy
Yes, I think that's an instant stamp of approval. The room's small but very comfortable and cosy.

They have 100 Club Rooms. Designed and styled by award winning Japanese designer Takashi Sugimoto, these rooms come with pleasing scents, high quality cotton bedding, rain showers and natural design elements.

Work table across from the bed
A simple work table is across from the bed.

Sink and shower
Simple but elegant sink and shower area. It's a see-through shower cubicle but the curtains offer privacy if needed.

There is a long bath next to the toilet (hidden behind the frosted glass door).

Thann toiletries, small ones though
Toiletries from Thann - very nice, albeit in small sizes.

I took the kids to the 8th floor swimming pool, where they'd be easier to manage.

The 8th floor swimming pool
There is a main pool with cabanas, tanning deck chairs and two smaller pools on the side.

There is a nice heated jacuzzi
The square one is a heated pool with jacuzzi!

As an "Oasis in Asia", Oasia Hotel does feel like a little hideaway while being just two MRT stops away from bustling Orchard. The hotel is popular with medical tourists since it's right next to a cluster of medical centres at Novena.

Oasia is now offering a weekend promotion for its Club Rooms. It's valid when you make reservations using the form below.

Lobby decor

8 Sinaran Drive
Singapore 307470
Tel: +65 6664 0333

Thanks to the folks at Far East Hospitality for the event invitation, hotel stay and promotion offer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chef Julien Royer of JAAN

Chef Julien Royer seems almost too young to be behind the sophisticated menus he creates at JAAN.

He's just been crowned ‘Meat and Livestock Australia Rising Chef of the Year’ at the World Gourmet Series Awards of Excellence 2012 last month. This award singles out an individual aged 32 years or below with exceptional culinary talent and skill, one who is driven to raise standards of culinary excellence within his working environment.

This was the Friday that I got to try two eateries on my most wanted list - JAAN and Andre. Yes, both in the same day - it just fell into place that way - one for lunch, the other for supper. Even though it's been a while since he left, Andre Chiang's mark on JAAN is so strong that it's evident that comparisons will continue to be drawn with his successors.

But Julien is a different chef with his own style and execution methods, and perhaps should be viewed as such.

This native of Cantal, Auvergne in Central France comes from a family of farmers from four generations. So he grew up understanding carefully grown vegetables and animals, including how each of these had their own time of the year when they would embody the best. He is devoted to drawing inspiration from seasonal produce, so his menu changes quarterly to reflect what's best from the season's finest.

Starter bites - potato croquet, grilled chicken skin, and smoked eel with pickled apples
Starter bites - sesame crusted potato croquet, grilled chicken skin, and smoked eel parfait with pickled apples gelee.

The potato croquet has a cheese centre, but a pretty hard crust. They are nicely seasoned though. The chicken skin I had wondered if they would taste like "kawa", the Japanese grilled chicken skin, but they are entirely different. This is less fatty and more chewy. The smoked eel is beautifully rich but the apple cuts through the oily fish nicely.

Rye crisps with lentil hummus and chestnut
Rye crisps with lentil hummus and chestnut. For me, the strong nutty flavour of chestnut didn't work with the hummus, but I know of people who do like the combination. Love the crisps though.

Cepes Sabayon and Mushroom Tea


This is such an incredibly intense mushroom concoction, it will almost leave you parched at the end.

They get this intensity from using both dried porcini from Chaspuzac (Auvergne) and fresh porcini mushrooms for the mushroom tea. The soup is topped with fresh walnuts sourced in their own shell from Perigord.

So what do you do with such a full-flavoured soup?

Breads! The French are so good at breads!
Indulge in breads with it! The French are so good at breads - you must try each and every one of these!

Organic Beetroot Composition

This colourful garden-like array really kicked off the meal with fascinating flavours.

The beetroot is presented in varied ways (pureed, roasted, red and golden beetroot and sorbet) so you get to play with flavours and textures.

The creaminess of the artisanal burrata cheese, intensity of the olive sugar and crunch of the almonds paired with the basil help to balance the earthy and sweet flavours of the beetroot. A singular delicate slice of pickled chioggia beetroot adds another layer of crunch and texture to the dish.

Organic eggs from New Zealand
And then came some organic New Zealand eggs on dry ice.

The egg has been slow cooked to maintain a creamy translucence
These have been slow cooked for 55 minutes at 64 degrees Celsius to achieve that creamy translucence. It is carefully poured at the table, along with some creamy artichoke veloute.

55' Smoked Organic Egg with Jerusalem Artichoke, Chanterelles, Iberico de Bellota and Porcini Crumbs


The runny golden egg yolk intermingles with the iberico de bellota from Salamanca and the sweet nougat-like porcini crumbs.

Bet you've never had ham and eggs as silky and suave as this!

Grilled Escalope of Landes Foie Gras


The foie gras is from Landes, a region in South West France. Its richness is pared down with a spiced mango and pedro jimenez sherry jelly. The mango is gently caramelized and seasoned with a beautiful long pepper from Java as well as coriander stems, fresh ginger and lime zest. Finally, the jelly of xeres adds a nice comforting and woody flavour to the dish.

Confit Arctic Char - Cauliflower couscous, Crayfish and Burned bread


The Arctic Char (a fish from the cold waters of Leman Lake, Switzerland ) is delicately confited in seaweed butter and paired with kombawa zest scented crayfish, mussels, whelks, cauliflower couscous, sea grapes (oh, memories of Okinawa!) and baby leeks.

The wait staff (well, we had Chef Royer himself, as seen in first photo) will micro plane burned poilane bread (specially sourced from the poilane bakery in Paris) over the fish to add a smoky dimension. Cute play on word "char" too.

Juniper Roasted Venison Loin


Tender venison from New Zealand is slow roasted and paired with the pear that's been poached in spiced mulled wine. The sauce is finished with a hint of bitter chocolate.

Note that these are all tasting portions.

Pre-dessert treat of truffled Brie and toast
(supplement $25)

Truffle-filled Brie with toast a.k.a "Can I just come here and eat this?"
The cheese fiend in me strikes again. This slab of heaven is my perfect dessert.

But wait, we aren't even at pre-dessert.

Pre-dessert palate cleanser - mango and lychee
And it's this palate cleanser of Mango Mousse with Lychee Sorbet, infused with Thai Basil. Sometimes it's the little things that wow you.

Choconuts 2012 - Tanariva Mousse, Peanuts, Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

The Choconuts consists of layers of sable biscuit, peanut butter (consisting of roasted peanuts from Piedmont), films of chocolate and Tanariva (a milk chocolate) mousse. The plate is sprinkled with peanut praline and the dish is served with a housemade macadamia ice cream.

Pleasant but pretty safe in terms of flavours.

Petit fours from JAAN
Sweet endings for your meal - before farewell, they serve you a platter of petit fours to spoil you silly. Sorbets, chocolate, Carambar caramel snack bar (from chef's childhood), madeleines, chocolates, and a chocolate-coated rosemary ice cream lollipop. The Carambar is best eaten after it's been warmed a little.

The seasonal dishes will be at JAAN until end April, after which new ones will arrive.

Lunch with coffee goes for S$52 (three-course menu) or S$82 (five-course menu), while dinner is S$198 for five courses (S$318 with wine pairing) or S$238 for seven courses (S$418 with wine pairing). A la carte options and a special ten-course surprise dinner (S$288) are also available.

2 Stamford Road
Level 70, Equinox complex
Swissotel the Stamford
Singapore 178882
Tel: +65 6837 3322

Monday - Saturday: 12.00pm - 2.30pm
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays

Monday - Saturday: 7.00pm - 10.00pm
Closed on Sunday

P.S. Did I mention the view from the 70th floor?

The view from the 70th floor at JAAN

Many thanks to Swissotel the Stamford and Ate Consulting for hosting the lunch.
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