WHILE many stand at the entrance of The Raffles Singapore and wonder what’s changed, it must be noted that the renovations and upgrading run deeper than what our eyes can see.
The upgrading of facilities at the grand old dame required some careful aesthetics and deep tissue work while hanging on to its old world charm.
One area where the changes are significantly noticeable is in the food and beverage (F&B) domain. While the Tiffin Room, Bar & Billiards Room and The Long Bar are still there, they’ve been updated in quite imaginative fashion.
BBR by Alain Ducasse, with its new branding is visually stunning as it is thematically and palatably satisfying.
Yi By Jereme Leung is immediately captivating for its elaborate entrance with what seems like a thousand petrified butterflies and blooms welcoming you to a grotto. Only, it’s quite chic and sleek on the inside.
Imbibing A Philosophy
But the big change must surely be in the beverage department.
“It is easy to list all the top wines from famous chateaux, but how many people will open a Lafite for every meal?”
Such is the philosophy that Stéphane Soret, Director of Wine and F&B Special Projects, has instilled into the revamped Raffles Singapore.
“We want our guests to enjoy their wines,” insists Stephane.
A good wine list should be focused and changed as often as the menu changes.
The wine list must work with the food. It should not be an afterthought.
Wines should be at the right price such that every meal may be complemented with something appropriate from the wine list.
It goes without saying that the quality of the drinks and how they are served must go hand in hand with the brand promise of Raffles Singapore.
Several examples highlight how Raffles Singapore supports this philosophy.
First off, they have amassed the largest team of sommeliers, 10 of them, for a hotel in Southeast Asia. The hotel cellars about 10,000 bottles representing 400 labels.
Second, the matching of wine and food extends to all restaurants. The Tiffin Room, well known for its North Indian cuisine, serves wines from India.
Yi by Jereme Leung is a Chinese fine dining restaurant that has appetizers created to make beers even more refreshing.
Needless to say, French restaurant La Dame de Pic by Michelin-starred Sophie Pic and Mediterranean restaurant by Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse have extensive drinks lists that include sake, whisky, cognac, Armagnac, and more. Prices start from rather affordable double-digit levels.
Third, in terms of quality control, Stéphane and his colleagues work directly with vineyards and suppliers of ingredients, visiting them at source to understand their production, transportation and storage methods.
This is well illustrated by the revamp of the famous Singapore Sling, a cocktail that put Singapore on the culinary world map by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender at the Long Bar. The recipe remains the same, but a lot of effort went into sourcing for high-quality ingredients to give this century-old cocktail a nicely polished shine.
A sip of the Singapore Sling takes me into a black-and-white vision of siestas on a veranda, with jazz music in the background, fans swaying on the ceiling and peanut shells strewn on the ground.
Despite my hazy memory, the enhanced Singapore Sling tastes fuller-bodied, like a richer and thicker version of its past. Although a tad sweet to the tongue and smelling “bubble-gummy”, it has more depth, and tastes better than I remembered. A satisfying long drink that captures the spirit of the grand old dame’s new philosophy on hospitality.