You are guaranteed to meet someone cool at this new five-star hotel that’s rewriting the rules of hospitality
Welcome to Checking In, a review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue-in-cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.
Describe the hotel in 3 words:
Eclectic. Eccentric. Energetic.
What’s the deal?
What can you give a town that, at least in terms of luxury, has sort of seen it all? Champagne, steaks, and suites alone will not impress (although it has all of those). That’s why hotel spin doctor and general manager Robert Hauck says he threw away the rule book ahead of the 302-room Mondrian’s June opening in trendy Duxton Hill. Rather than focus on the hotel’s “hardware” (the nuts and bolts of what it takes to operate a five-star hotel, which were more or less already in place), he instead obsessed over the “software”—a.k.a. the staff. No one working at the hotel (save Hauck) has a background in the hotel biz.
Instead, Hauck has hired a motley crew of characters, or as he puts it, an “all-star cast of iconoclasts and change-makers.” What that means is that you might find a onetime Miami DJ running the F&B or a former Olympic synchronised swimmer serving your table. Ah Seng, an inspiring reformed ex-con (whose face is covered in really awesome tattoos) is the manager of Bistro 126, Mondrian’s staff restaurant. Every worker you meet is on act two or three and making a big name for themselves in the process. No wonder Hauck says this is a hotel “for dreamers, rebels, and the wild at heart.”
The best room?
That’s the aptly named Mondrian Suite. Not only is it the hotel’s largest but it’s also situated in the tower portion of the hotel (as opposed to the low-rise shophouse portion) meaning you get those big, urban Singapore views. It has a dining room, a living room, and architectural flourishes such as arches and shutters inspire by the area’s shophouses. People love the ultra-modern furniture so much that they buy it, we’re told.
Did they greet you by name at check-in?
Yes, but they had the tip off. I was whisked directly to my room where a private check-in took place.
Welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice.
And how! This was probably my favourite non-Champagne welcome drink of all time: A full pint of house-batched craft cocktail was waiting on ice in my room bar during my check-in. It wasn’t some fruity teeth-rotter either. It was as stiff and balanced as martini at Bemelmans.
Private butler for every room?
Not here. But there is extra staff for the top suites.
Is the sheet thread count higher than 300?
Yep. Canasin makes the linens, and the bed is extremely soft (for Asia). The TV is directly across from the bed, creating the world’s most comfortable private movie theatre.
Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?
Heated floors in sultry Singapore. No way (and thank god). Bidets? This is Asia. You know it. The bathroom in the shophouse suite was practical, if on the small side. The glass-box shower (which is fairly generous) has one of those magic buttons that clouds the glass. But otherwise, it’s a pretty standard setup.
Are the toiletries full sized?
Yep. Refillable eco-conscious bottles are on the wall, and in a hotel this trendy, wouldn’t you know it’s got to be Malin & Goetz.
Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use?
Sorry, this isn’t a Chan Soo Khian special. And you aren’t in Bali. While there aren’t private plunges, the hotel’s rooftop infinity pool is especially successful in that not only does it look good, but it also somehow manages to make you look good, too. Order Champagne. Lounge. Meet a sexy scion. That’s the sort of thing that goes on here.
Is the restaurant worth its salt?
Food in Singapore has to be perfect. Otherwise, you aren’t even really in business. The hotel’s main dining room is Bottega di Carna, a modern Italian eatery by Dario Cecchini, and it is perfect. Cecchini is oft touted as “The Greatest Butcher in The World.” Order the cuts and find out why. Afterwards, a visit to the Jungle Ballroom is where the “wild at heart” idaea is most visible. The cocktails are served up fast despite being high-effort affairs. Tinctures, for example, are made in house and used extensively and inventively.
Is there caviar on the room service menu? If so, what kind?
Nope. In-room dining is all about unpretentious comfort food here. Cheeseburgers, Korean fried chicken and steak and eggs are all go-tos.
Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar?
As a matter of fact, we did—and met a New Yorker with the skinny on Singapore’s hippest hideaways. That’s what this place is good for. It’s a talk-to-people kind of place.
Would you buy the hotel if you could?
The answer to this question is so seldom “no” and so often “why not (shrug)?” But in this case, it’s an enthusiastic “aye, aye.” We’ve hardly mentioned design, art, and layout. But all those things are original, exciting, and not at all bad to look at. More importantly, Singapore just doesn’t have anything else like this. Maybe it would blend in in Brooklyn or Berlin—but not here.
We like this hotel very much. Here’s why: Let’s imagine you are a very rich person. (You’re reading this, so you probably are. Good for you!) You’ve been to the best hotels in Asia. Your wine cellar is stacked. You are used to prompt, formal service. What can a hotel give you that would really impress or better still surprise you? Honestly, not a lot. Except the Mondrian thinks it can give you something new by introducing you to truly extraordinary people you are otherwise unlikely to meet. Sure, you can still order a vintage Champagne, but here it comes paired with a server that is genuinely worth talking to. They might have been in the circus or just driven a cab. They might moonlight as a drag queen or a designer. They might have done time for a crime of passion. That might sound crazy, but what a way to get people to put away their cellphones and start talking to strangers again. That’s hospitality.
The Duxton View King room goes for around S$315 a night, while the Mondrian Shophouse Suite will cost S$2,176.
What Our Score Means:
1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?
This story was first published on Robb Report USA