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The Fullerton Hotel, one of Singapore’s institutions

It is impossible not to be enervated by the dynamism of Singapore, a place that has literally built itself up since the Sixties and now into a new century. Just one example of that success story is The Fullerton Hotel, an extravagantly lavish exercise in colonial architecture implying strength, endurance and permanence in this outpost of Empire.

Hugging the waterfront alongside Raffle’s Landing Site, the hotel is instantly recognizable to those familiar with Singapore’s skyline. With its towering columns, it represents the finest Palladian architecture in the Orient, seeming to act as the keyboard and console of some mighty Wurlitzer.

Built in the optimistic twenties as The Fullerton Building, at the then unheard of cost of four million dollars, it has witnessed much of the twentieth century serving as the Singapore Post Office (Lee Kwan Yu worked in the building as a postal worker), The Singapore Club and various civil service offices. It was the last bastion of Empire serving as the headquarters of the British garrison prior to the capitulation to Japanese forces at the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Fast forward to the new Millennium and another chapter in the building’s history commenced with its opening as one of Asia’s finest hotels. We arrive amidst the afternoon downpour and have to jostle around the European Marques to hurry inside. Upon entering the hotel, one cannot help but pause, mid-lobby, and stare upwards at the Atrium that forms the core of the building. Four hundred, elegantly understated rooms (ask for the Quay rooms, by far the most chic) overlooking the Singapore River or views seaward have been cleverly accommodated in the building. Original architectural features, such as towering ceilings that lend an air of imperial opulence and grown up glamour, have been enhanced by sympathetic additions to the modern hotel.

It has taken some vision and talent to convert this stately pile into a hotel for the 21st century and photographs around the building provide glimpses of its past. Including the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the Singapore club, now the Hotel ballroom, naturally. Encapsulating “Britain” for its colonial masters in those days as much as the Singapore Cricket Club over the river at Raffle’s Landing place probably still does today.

The fourth floor is given over to Club guests to enjoy the quiet, undertake business or dine casually. From atop the verandah, the outlook stretches down to the coolest pool in Singapore. The perfect hide away after a torrid morning shopping to savour languid gin slings before sundown, the jackfruit roofline of the Singapore Concert Hall beckoning across Marina Bay.

But the must-do experience at The Fullerton would be to dine at Jade. If you think you’ve seen and done everything as far as Chinese cuisine is concerned, be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Created my local master chefs, the philosophy is unusual ingredients presented in contemporary style, set inside one of the most elegant rooms in Asia. A wine list representing many of the world’s finest regions is extensive, but concise enough not to overwhelm. A suggestion is to allow the dining staff to select from the menu for you, which may provide a few serendipitous surprises.

Unlike some of the grand hotels of Asia that have seen better days, The Fullerton is yet a yearling in the hotel stakes. As such, it isn’t handicapped by maintaining some out-of-date ethos, but has come of age this century, appealing to the business or pleasure traveller equally with its range of exquisite and practical offerings, making accommodation choices in Singapore a risk free proposition.

Kersi Vajifdar

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