The rejuvenation of Robertson Quay, which is often seen as the quieter, more sensible sister of the trio of quays along the Singapore River – the other two being nightlife spots Boat Quay and Clarke Quay – can be traced back to the opening of boutique hotel and lifestyle hub M Social Singapore in 2016.
Back then, the millennial-friendly (think rooms with handy data-equipped smartphones and a room-service robot) 293-room boutique hotel designed by irreverent French designer Philippe Starck was a game changer with its ultra-modern, statement-making spaces. Its reception, for instance, features flamingo-pink, acrylic-like walls, and juxtaposes traditional Peranakan (Straits Chinese)-motif tiles with Italian marble surfaces.
M Social Singapore emphasises creativity and interaction, and this comes through most evidently in its fantastically quirky Beast & Butterflies (above), a restaurant-bar with lots of visual drama in the form of chandeliers, lava lamps and video projections from tabletop TV screens. Buzzing with live-music performances and with a menu of locally inspired cocktails, it’s a hot nightspot in its own right.
Stay: The Warehouse Hotel
In January 2017, another stylish boutique hotel, The Warehouse Hotel (above), opened along the river. Built in 1895, the beautifully restored 37-room hotel was once a godown (warehouse), a discotheque and an inn.
Renowned local hospitality firm The Lo & Behold Group has managed to, in its first hotel project, seamlessly combine cool granite and marble, exposed iron trusses and gleaming glass with the warmth of intricately grained wood and raw, exposed terracotta bricks – all of which is accented by creative ceramics and art.
All its rooms come with Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speakers as well as eco-certified Ashley & Co bath amenities. Also on the premises: its flagship restaurant Po, which serves Mod-Sin (modern Singaporean) cuisine dreamed up by lauded chef-owner Willin Low.
Stay: Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay
Recent launches at the Quayside, a lifestyle quarter that hosts the new InterContinental property and fresh dining concepts, cement Robertson Quay’s time in the limelight. InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay (above), a reconstruction of the former Gallery Hotel, is acclaimed local architecture and design firm SCDA Architects’ first luxury hotel project in Singapore. Its design is sleek and contemporary, with a glass facade that’s complemented by outdoor terraces offering views of the Singapore River and CBD skyline.
With five meeting and event spaces, a 24-hour fitness studio and an exclusive 24-hour Club InterContinental Lounge, the 225-room hotel is particularly well equipped for business travellers.
Dining options at Intercontinental Robertson Quay Singapore come in the form of the multi-concept Publico, comprising Publico Ristorante, serving up classic and contemporary Italian cuisine, and Publico Deli (above), which transforms into modern Italian cocktail-and-dessert bar, Marcello, at night.
Expect regional Italian favourites such as tostada catalana – toasted sourdough with grated fresh tomato and pata negra (cured ham) – at the deli and what’s touted as the largest selection of amari (Italian herbal liqueur commonly drunk as a digestif) in the region at the bar.
Also part of the cluster of new eateries lining the Quayside is Summerlong (above), a breezy bar-restaurant that exudes beach-resort chic with its pale wooden bones, and rattan and canvas furnishings in neutral tones. Conceived by the same people behind popular restaurants Neon Pigeon and Fat Prince, the Mediterranean-influenced eatery specialises in sharing plates such as braised lamb in pastry, and homemade labneh (Greek yogurt) with dukkah and toasted country bread.
Wash it all down with tropical tipples such as Medius Terra Fizz (rosehip gin, lemongrass, ginger and soda) and 3 Continents (three types of rum, pineapple and passion fruit), which is served in a coconut shell.
For spice-laden Indian dishes, look to curry specialist Dabbawalla, which puts the spotlight on Mumbai’s street food and other regional cuisine (above). Awaken your palate with its vindaloo (a Goan curry), which comes in 10 levels of spiciness. Other highlights include the butter chicken and the interestingly named Bombay Frankie (described by some as an Indian tortilla).
Even as Robertson Quay continues to evolve with exciting new options for discerning foodies, old favourites such as SPRMRKT (above) continue to draw a steady stream of customers.
It’s perhaps apt that the cafe-cum-retail-store, founded in 2012, occupies the same building as creative workshop and gallery Singapore Tyler Print Institute. Led by art and design – from the revolving exhibitions it hosts to its imaginative plates – the light-filled restaurant with clean lines and French windows embodies understated elegance. A visceral main to try would be the Blackened Fish & Chips, featuring squid-ink batter.
From now till 20 March, SPRMRKT will be running a Vietnamese cultural showcase. The event will see small brands from Vietnam coming together to showcase their unique products. From coffee to sustainable crafts, expect to be wowed by the offerings available. Check Facebook site for more details.
Drink: La Maison du Whisky
And for post-dinner drinks, there’s La Maison du Whisky (above), a Robertson Quay mainstay styled after an old-fashioned cigar lounge. The bar, which seats just 11 indoors and 20 at the alfresco area, oozes exclusivity. As its name suggests, whisky is the main event here – there are over 400 types of it and 100 different premium spirits – with cold cuts and vintage cheese to complement them.
While Robertson Quay lacks the pulsating nightclubs that reverberate along its more nocturnal neighbours, its design-focused hotels, hip restaurants and low-key watering holes make it a good spot for the weekend.