The best advice for anyone traveling to Singapore is to arrive hungry. While the national pastime may be shopping, the food and dining scene in the Garden City is more vibrant than ever.
Opened earlier this year following a $90m makeover, the Hilton Singapore Orchard houses some of the city’s oldest and latest dining institutions. As Kelvin Tay, General Manager of Shisen Hanten and Chatterbox restaurants says, Singapore’s Asian heritage is all about food, and the Hilton Orchard showcases this expertly.
There are more than 12,000 places to eat in Singapore, from Hawker Centres and cafés to Michelin-starred restaurants. With influences from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, the restaurants on site at Hilton Orchard cover every aspect of Singapore’s history. Director of Culinary, Vijayakant Shanmugam has ensured there is something for everyone in each of the five culinary experiences in the hotel.
Cake & Cocktails
From the lobby of the hotel, the importance of guests gathering and enjoying food together is apparent. The lobby bar, Ginger.Lily, hosts the most fabulous cake shop and café during the day, with innovative cocktails created at the open bar in the evening.
With afternoon tea served encased within oversized blush-pink leather books, the Ginger.Lily ‘Orchard Trail Experience’ could not be more Singaporean. Come 2pm, the lounge is host to well-dressed guests enjoying artisanal lobster rolls and patisseries. The extensive ‘Thirst’ menu features over 10 different teas. (Tea and coffee is a big deal in Singapore. Locals hurry through the various malls carrying shopping bags from luxury boutiques such as TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee.)
Estate, the restaurant’s main dining area, is also on the lobby level. Styled to feel like intimate dining rooms, the 350-seat, buffet-style restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner.
Local favourite Chatterbox was opened in 1971 and moved to the hotel’s ground floor in 1980. The Malay influence and hawker-style menu features barbecue and satay cooked over charcoal. The restaurant’s oldest and perhaps most famous dish is their Mandarin Chicken Rice.
The succulent, juicy boneless chicken is served with broth-cooked jasmine rice. The real star of the dish is the signature chili sauce and aromatic ginger purée which transforms the dish to a umami bomb of flavour. And don’t leave Chatterbox without trying the Chatterbox Punch – Tay’s twist on a Gin and Tonic definitely packs a punch. The homemade tonic is mixed with gin infused with chilli, pepper and cinnamon, “It’s about balance, about elegance,” says Tay.
The history of Orchard Road as home to pepper farms, nutmeg plantations and fruit orchards is translated throughout the hotel design and dining experiences. At Nancy Silverton’s Cal-Italian institution, Osteria Mozza, the outdoor dining area is surrounded by garden beds growing fresh herbs and produce for the kitchen. This same focus is apparent in the hotel rooms. The functional rooms are designed with flow and botanical influence in mind. The architects have used clever designs, such as wardrobe space behind the TV units, to maximise the size of each room. This means all of the 1,080 rooms have separate baths and showers in each of the main bathrooms.
Sustainability is at the heart of any decision for the team at Hilton Orchard. The personal mission of General Manager Cedric Nubul is to eliminate all plastics within the hotel. Lighting and air conditioning in each room are controlled via sensors, efficiently running when guests are not in their rooms. “Hilton’s commitment and 2030 Goal is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 per cent,” he says. “Our sustainable vision is replicated throughout the hotel. Our in-house water bottle solution features our own water bottled on site and brought to the rooms.” The Hilton Orchard is the first hotel in Singapore to offer this service, something Nubul is very proud of.
At the top of the hotel, sits Shisen Hanten. The two-Michelin-starred Asian restaurant was founded in 1958 by the late Chen Kenmin, Japan’s ‘Father of Szechwan Cuisine’. The menu features Szechwan food made using Japanese techniques, adapted for local palates. Like Osteria Mozza from America, Shisen Hanten at the Hilton Orchard is the chain’s debut outside of Japan, setting the stage for third-generation Chen Kentaro to continue his family legacy and introduce Japan’s best-loved Szechwan restaurant to audiences in Singapore.
Luxe Shopping Mecca
The Hilton Singapore Orchard is centrally located in the middle of the Orchard Road shopping district. Navigating the shopping centres above and below ground on Orchard Road is a feat in itself. Offering all the luxury stores expected in a global city, there are some real gems to find below ground. Local designers are tucked between the larger brand stores. Homewares and jewellers are found throughout the vast malls, particularly at Wheelock Place. Here you will find smaller local boutiques, such as The Palm Press, which was started by three friends inspired by the tropics and life in Singapore. The Singapore beauty scene is second to none, with beauty pop-ups on every street corner, while the variety of products and brands available in department stores and pharmacies is incredible. Singapore also has a thriving design sector. Design Orchard is a unique incubator of local designers, integrating the Singapore Fashion Council with a retail space for emerging designers. The store features various pop-ups and event spaces against the backdrop of Singapore’s iconic Orchard Road.
From the hotel, it is an easy ride to local tourist meccas, such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens or the uber-cool Haji Lane. Being out in the fresh air is a treat and the Botanic Gardens are simply beautiful. The humid temperate climate is the ideal environment for the lush green planting and enormous trees. The Senegal Mahogany near Swan Lake stands at 48m tall. Nubul says opening the Hilton Orchard has been a “once in a lifetime, unique experience. We are really enjoying the journey”. As visitors move about the hotel, it is apparent the experience Nubul and his team have created really is the perfect inner-city oasis.
To learn more about the Hilton Singapore Orchard, visit Hilton.com