Food-Happy and Design-Happy in Singapore
Anonymously reviewed by Ryan Clift (Young-gun gourmet) for Mr and Mrs Smith.
The name alone gets the imagination whirring. Nestled in the back streets of Little India, and quite hard to find even with the help of a local cabbie, is Wanderlust, a whimsical hotel with hip design credentials.
Decked out with cool trimmings and eclectic furnishings, Wanderlust is a designer’s happy place. It’s the latest offering from Loh Lik Peng, the lawyer-turned-hotelier behind Singaporean sister property New Majestic Hotel, and cutting-edge haunts in Shanghai and London. For this project, he teamed up with four local agencies to create fantastical rooms with an upbeat, funky vibe.
As soon as you step through the front door you know you’re not in for a run-of-the-mill hotel stay with a marble-clad lobby and standard-issue uniforms. On the contrary, here the walls are adorned with Indian food labels, a barber’s chair takes center stage in the lounge area, and the staff are kitted out in tailor-made threads.
Check-in is effortless, thanks to professional yet laid-back staff who make the whole process a breeze. We’re whisked up to our room by a young woman who seems just as excited about the concept as we are, and takes the time to explain what we can expect from our stay.
Even with this introduction, it still comes as a surprise when we enter our Mono Deluxe Room — I can’t help but wonder whose idea it was to craft a hotel room inspired by Pop Art, but whoever it is, I’d like to shake their hand. As the name indicates, the color palette is a simple black and white, which is a stark contrast to the vibrant Pantone rooms, and the spaceship and forest scenes found on the Creature Comforts floor. Here, the visual interest comes from furniture cut-outs that protrude from the wall as backlit reliefs.
The room isn’t as big as I expected, but it’s well laid out, with slick finishings, including a bed that’s so comfortable I debate the merits of trying to smuggle it home. The bath and shower hit the nail on the head, too, offering an unobstructed view of the TV, and a bevy of Kiehl’s products with which to lather up. A well-deserved lie-in followed by shot of coffee from the Nespresso machine make for the perfect start to the day.
Things only get better when we rock up for lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, Cocotte, which serves authentic French bistro fare in an unstuffy, stylish space. Even if you couldn’t bag a room at Wanderlust, I’d recommend jumping in a taxi and coming here for your Gallic fix.
I choose the pork rillettes and my wife opts for the mussels in cider cream. The rillettes are just as they should be: nice and pink, served at room temperature, and with enough residual fat to spread smoothly on the bread. To be honest, I prefer the classic cornichons that accompany the dish in France, but the marinated olives served here cut through the richness nonetheless. Mrs Smith’s mussels are perfectly cooked and super-fresh, albeit a little sweet from the cider, and are demolished within minutes. (Photo courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith Hotel Collection)
Next up are the mains — I can never resist beef bourguignon, and although the portion is a tad small (I wish they’d encouraged me to order a side or two), it’s very well executed and bloody tasty. Mrs Smith orders the sole à la meunière, a lemon sole that comes with fresh vegetables and just enough beurre noisette drizzled over the top. Now that’s my happy place.
Compared to other hotels in Singapore, Wanderlust is on par when it comes to the high standards of service and quality, though it does tend to take a more artistic approach. Where it really stands out from the pack is in its cool appearance, that quirk factor, and Cocotte, which make it a must for art-seeking, food-loving Smiths.
Ryan Clift (Young-gun gourmet)
Ryan's foray into the food world came early, landing his first gig at a Michelin-starred restaurant in near his hometown of Devizes, Wiltshire, at the tender age of 14. Since then, this young gun has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Marco-Pierre White, Peter Gordon, and Shannon Bennett. In 2008, he opened Tippling Club in Singapore, a cutting-edge concept that was named in the Miele Awards Top 20 Restaurants in Asia in 2010.
This post was originally published March 27, 2012