Business trip: Singapore
The flashy, art-and-design focussed, 240-room W Singapore Sentosa Cove opened in September 2012 on a Mediterranean-style marina at the southern end of Sentosa Island. While the hotel has a distinct resort feel with a palm-fringed pool enclave, a DJ-hosted lobby bar, casual open-kitchen restaurants and a yacht-filled harbour, it is only about 13km from the CBD by cab – or via one of the hotel’s Audi, Porsche or BMW sedans. In mid-April, the W will be the best place to see some of the world’s largest yachts during the annual Singapore Yacht Show.
Like Las Vegas, the buzzy atmosphere and crowds at the Marina Bay Sands complex have attracted a globetrotting cadre of celebrity chefs eager for outposts in the fast-growing Asia market. Some of the complex’s hottest tables are at Cut (steaks/chops by Wolfgang Puck), db Bistro Moderne (French/American fare by Daniel Boulud), Guy Savoy (French nouvelle cuisine), Osteria Mozza (Italian by Mario Batali) and Waku Ghin (Japanese fusion by Tetsuya Wakuda).
Away from the buzz of the casinos, enjoy the sunny flavours of the French Mediterranean at the intimate 30-seat Restaurant Andre near Chinatown, named for chef/owner Andre Chiang, who trained under such masters as Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire. Chiang changes the menu frequently and sources ingredients from around the world, shaping them into small, intensely flavoured, meticulously presented dishes such scallop carpaccio or foie gras jelly.
London’s super-trendy Pollen Street Social restaurant has opened its first Asian outpost, Pollen, in a bright, modern space inside one of two conservatories at the new Gardens by the Bay park. Inside the giant glass dome, diners escape Singapore’s heat and humidity, eating among olive trees, and enjoying dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton that are seasoned with temperate climate herbs grown inside the dome.
Enjoy upscale Vietnamese food in a setting reminiscent of the French colonial era (think arched windows, wood floor inlaid with hand painted tiles, wooden chairs) at Annam in the Orchard Road area. Exotic fare includes dishes like thit kho (pork and eggs poached in coconut water and caramel) or bun bo Hue (a piquant bowl of noodles flavoured with beef and pork).
Off the clock
Take a break from the air-conditioned hotel or office and check out the new Gardens by the Bay. The 101-hectare park to the east of the Marina Bay Sands complex is home to some 250,000-plant species – most are native to the region, but two glass-enclosed, cooled conservatories (the “flower dome” and the “cloud forest”) host plants from more temperate regions of the world. There is also a grove of 25m to 50m-high metal structures called Skytrees, from which vertical gardens of ferns, orchids, bromeliads and other tropical plants hang. The cooled conservatories are open until 9 pm; the free outdoor gardens stay open until 2 am, every day.
If you decide to invite your Singaporean colleagues out for a night of gambling at the local casinos, keep in mind that citizens and permanent residents must pay a levy of 100 Singapore dollars to enter. Visitors with passports can enter for free.
Singaporean food is a combination of flavours and ingredients from China, Malaysia and India. Signature dishes include chilli or pepper crab, satay, chicken rice, laksa (soup) and fish head curry. When local clients or colleagues ask where you would like to eat in this food-obsessed city, forget the fancy restaurants and go with them to their favourite hawker (street food) stall. There are hundreds of these hawker stalls in hawker centres (or food courts) all over Singapore – some are great, some are good, some should be avoided. If you cannot get a good recommendation from a local, check out Gluttons Bay near the esplanade on the northern edge of Marina Bay. Local food critic KF Seetoh has handpicked the best purveyors at this hawker centre in his popular Makansutra Guides.