Hotel Review: The Fullerton Hotel is bursting with history and modern innovation for the Singapore Bicentennial

With Singapore’s Bicentennial commemorative events in full swing, one hotel which promises to keep you in the heart of the action is the The Fullerton Bay Hotel. The hotel, which opened in 2001, sits in Singapore’s GPO building, built some 100 years ago – a tradition which will continue in Sydney later this year when the Fullerton takes over the historic GPO at 1 Martin Place. So what can you expect from a night at the Fullerton? I headed to Singapore to find out.

The now iconic colonial building that houses The Fullerton Hotel sits at the mouth of the Singapore River, and when you sailed into Singapore some 100 years ago – when the building first opened as a Post Office – it was the first building you saw. Even in 2001, when the hotel first opened, there was open sea – but now the Marina Bay Sands and more sit across from it on one side, while the river and the colonial buildings are on the other side. The building literally transcends the old and the new.

The other colonial Government buildings that it sits alongside have since been re-purposed as well – into museums, bars and more. They refer to this area as “The Fullerton Heritage Precinct”. And there’s a lot happening around here at the moment.

As part of the Singapore Bicentennial (marking the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore), you can enjoy a number of events around The Fullerton Heritage Precinct. At the Art Science Museum and National Gallery you’ll find the exhibition Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. At the Asian Civilisations Museum, on the doorstep of the hotel, Raffles in Southeast Asia examines “the complex life and times of modern Singapore’s founding father, Sir Stamford Raffles”. These exhibitions run until the 14th and 28th of April, respectively.

There’s also BALIKSG: Reflections of Singapore, “a year-long augmented reality experiential journey along the Singapore River, revisiting significant events in the nation’s history”. That experience will be live until 28 January 2021. Guests to Singapore also have the Singapore International Festival of Arts to look forward to, which celebrates creativity from 16 May to 2 June 2019.

But guests don’t usually arrive on the open sea, and can arrange airport pick ups and drop offs as part of their room package. A testament to the quality of the Singapore Airport, as well as the hotel, a staff member picks you up at the gate when you land, buzzing you through the airport on a buggy, before escorting you through immigration and baggage collection. They’ll be there to meet you for your departure as well. You can even request a vintage Rolls Royce to be your transfer vehicle of choice with this special package, which has also been produced specifically for the bicentennial.

Once you get to the hotel, you’ll find yourself in the centre of all the action. Indeed the Fullerton Heritage Precinct has a lot to offer, but you’re also a short walk from Raffles Place on the MRT (the city’s train network), and the famous Amoy Street is also less than 15 minutes walk away. About a 20 minute walk away is the Bicentennial Experience at the Fort Canning Centre. Running until 15 September 2019, it’s being heralded as the centrepiece of the Singapore Bicentennial; “a multimedia, sensory experience that takes visitors back in time to experience key moments in the city’s transformation dating back to 1299”.

The hotel also run six Heritage Tours every week, free for guests and general public. Recommended is the Fullerton monument tour, which focuses on the colonial history and the progress and transformation; plus you’ll learn about the nooks and crannys of the hotel, including The Lighthouse restaurant, which is named so as it was an actual lighthouse when they were the highest building in the area.

Elsewhere in the hotel, make sure to check out the pop-up art exhibition space next to where you check in in the lobby. It changes every month, mainly focusing on local artists. But there are sometimes international guests. The Fullerton is the only hotel in Singapore to offer its own heritage gallery.

Dining in the Hotel

There are also some NINE dining outlets, shared between the Fullerton Hotel, the Fullerton Bay Hotel, and the adjacent One Fullerton – and that doesn’t even include the club room, which we’ll get to in a moment. The place to eat though without question is The Lighthouse on the roof of The Fullerton, which offers an incredible view of the Marina Bay Sands.

I enjoyed a lunch at the restaurant, which started with arugula bread with Tuscany Olive Oil brought out ahead of a set four course lunch. The first was one of their signature dishes, the beef tartare with truffle and parmesan. This was followed by a stunning lamb ragu ravioli with tomato and ricotta, and the sea bass with mussels. The dishes are served quickly, with barely a break between them, while the set lunches also (thankfully) reduce the portion size. You don’t have to have room for dessert, but if you do, I recommend the “Lemon Delight”, with lemon custard, lemon sorbet, limoncello and meringue, over a olive oil crumble with lime. Never overpowering, the dish provides the perfect balance of flavours to finish out an exquisite meal.

The head chef of The Lighthouse, Carlos, comes from outside Milan where his resume includes a Michelin restaurant, but has been in Singapore for 24 years. He often invites fellow Michelin chefs from Italy to come and do collaborations. The GM is Italian, too – so while Singapore cuisine is certainly in mind in the Precinct, it’s of little surprise that the hotel’s signature restaurant is of the Italian persuasion.

Elsewhere through the hotel you’ll find an award winning Chinese Restaurant called Jade, the Town restaurant by the Singapore River (most people eat there for breakfast), with bars on roof and level one. Wellness runs through the dining options – with vegetarian and gluten free menus – and through the hotel as well, with complimentary yoga for guests nightly. On the vegetarian menus you’ll also find “beyond meat” options like “omnipork”, which is the fake meat that places like Lord of the Fries are known for in Australia. TWG tea is served through all the dining options as well as in your room, and they’re working to eliminate single use plastics through all their residences.

An award winning Spa…

Also award winning in the hotel is The Fullerton Spa, which opened four years ago. In particular is the 90 minute “Asian Heritage Massage”, which is as intense as it is relaxing (I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at some point thanks in part to the soothing oils and music that overwhelm the senses). You’re literally pampered from head to toe, with a variety of Asian massage techniques along the way – including a powerful deep tissue massage. I swear two arms AND a knee were being used at one point. It was a remarkable experience that left me feeling invigorated (if a little sore). And once it’s all over, you can enjoy a nice cup of tea and take in the serenity of the spa before heading out.

And there’s no better place to relax after your massage than the infinity pool, which sits on the second floor against the columns of the building, overlooking the Singapore river. An attendant will bring you drinks and food on request, or complimentary iced water, while you relax on the comfortable lounge chairs. Orange towels are provided for your convenience, with outdoor showers at either end of the pool too. Happy hour from 3-7pm provides discounted beers, spirits and food (with burgers, satay, seafood and more).

And to add even more bang for your buck, select guests will also have access to the hotel’s club room, “The Straits Club”, which is on the fourth floor, with breakfast served daily from the very flexible hours of 630am to 11am. An impressive buffet sits above a sizeable seating area – while teas and coffees are made on request, and a few items are available on demand via a menu on the table. Eggs as you like it, Benedict and omelettes are permanent fixtures, while an “egg of the day” and a “local delicacy of be day” are ever changing. On my first day, the former was poached eggs with foie Gras and truffle hollandaise (talk about a rich mix of flavours!), and the latter roti prata. The next day it was truffle with scrambled eggs or Kaya toast.

Local delicacies were definitely the focus of the buffet, with vegetable curry served alongside briyani, noodles, dumplings, porridge and even Bak Kut Teh (pork bone soup). Plus the usual bacon, hash browns, sausages, fruits, pastries, cuts of meat, breads and individual serves of muesli were among the offerings. An afternoon tea is provided from 230pm to 430pm and evening canapés and cocktails are served 530pm to 730pm. Behind the reception is a comfortable sitting area, from which you can watch the sun set over the river. During the evening service there’s Malaysian sweets and seafood salads, fruits, takoyaki, vegetable dumplings, mushroom soup and more.

The Room

And then there was our Courtyard Room, which also overlooked the Singapore River. It sat next to the entry of the Straits Club on level four and was cosy, comfortable and refined. Slippers were laid out next to the bed and thick and very fluffy robes were available in the cupboard; you’d be encouraged to bring them down to the pool, though they’re definitely meant to be enjoyed in air conditioning. Air conditioning of which is excellent in the room – as is the Wi-Fi, which is fast, free, reliable, and doesn’t require a password.

The width of the room just squeezed in the king bed and its side tables; making up for the room in its length, which saw the flat screen TV sitting next to a Harman / Kardon speaker system which is easy to connect to, but quite a distance away from the bed. Between them sat an armchair and a working desk. A “handy” phone was available on the desk (which already had my name in the system) as was a tablet where you could order room service, and even a variety of pillow options if the ones that sat in the room already weren’t to your liking.

The TV delivers messages from the concierge and has complimentary movies alongside the local channels, including plenty of news options. And you can listen to the TV from the bathroom too. The room had an initial clean early in the day and a turndown service later in the day, preparing the room for bed, and leaving a fresh orchid on the bed.

The bathroom was almost as big as the room, with massive mirrors on either side of the room, a shower, huge bath and a separated toilet. The mirror in front of the sink had two more mirrors in front of it, with a smaller one that you could move to get a magnified close up as needed. Toiletries were supplied by Bottega Veneta, and a box could be found with everything from a sewing kit to a razor, toothbrush and more. There’s even an exercise unit (I believe a step machine?) and scales in the room (going back to the “wellness” approach), and you’ll find a yoga mat in the cupboard.

Sitting at the heart of the design is a consistency of classic architecture, which they accentuate by the features of the room. Whites, light browns and a custard cream are the colours, as are the marble tiles that line the bathroom. The lights are perfectly placed to give the room an extra ounce of sophistication in the evening. Artwork also accentuates the room, with careful attention to its colours too. All in all, they have designed everything around your comfort, and the detail shows.

Final Verdict

The Fullerton Hotel offers an unbeatable location in a stunningly beautiful – and incredible well reclaimed – building, with rooms beaming with comfort. Having The Straits Club access is certainly a plus, as are the airport transfers; though the score would be the same irrespective. I loved the pool, the dining and spa experiences, too. There’s just so much to enjoy in the precinct the only downside is you mightn’t explore the rest of Singapore – and it goes without saying that you should. But for a short visit, you can do a lot worse than being stuck around these parts of Singapore; bursting with history and modern innovation.

I can’t wait to see how the Sydney location compares.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Fullerton Hotel is located at 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore. For bookings and more details about the hotel, head to fullertonhotels.com. You can also book through the booking window below. The Fullerton Hotel Sydney will open 18 October 2019.

This Fullerton Hotel is not to be confused with the newer The Fullerton Bay Hotel, with a beautiful rooftop pool you can see from the Lighthouse. It opened in 2009 as a brand new building, rather than a reclaimed colonial building.

The author stayed as a guest for two nights. All photos by the author, except the photo of The Straits Club and the wide shot of the hotel from the Marina Bay Sands side, which were provided by the hotel.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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