Our hotel in Singapore, the Fairmont, was located directly across the street from the Raffles Hotel, making it easy for us to explore the legendary property. Named after Singapore’s British founding father, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the colonial-era hotel represents the gold standard in luxury and the grounds are fittingly opulent. The central plaza, paved with cool teracotta tiles and shaded by palm trees, is fitted out with delicate metal chairs and glass-topped tables. Curved posts are hung with baskets cascading with flowers. A bar accented with intricately-wrought iron looks like it was transported from Victorian England to the tropics. Everything but the ground is painted white.
Multi-tier marble staircases hung with chandeliers connect the colonnaded arcades that loop around the perimeter of each floor. The famous Singapore Sling was invented at the Raffle’s Long Bar, found on the second floor, around 1915 and can still be enjoyed there for $25 a pop.
While we couldn’t afford to stay at the tony hotel, we could enjoy a meal at one of its many restaurants. We opted for a refined lunch at Empire Cafe, a restaurant serving traditional Singaporean dishes in the ground floor arcade. The space was a study in 1920s colonial architecture, with marble tables and floors and rich, dark woods. A coffee shop and bakery occupy the front half of the establishment and fill the air with a wonderful aroma.
I ordered a savory/sweet noodle dish with massive sauteed prawns while hubby went with the Hainanese chicken rice set, a classic Singaporean meal of cold poached chicken with a delectable sauce. Both dishes were excellent though we both preferred the expertly prepared chicken. We thought it only natural to end with British-style tea, served here in fine white china. Dining here was an elegant affair that I highly recommend. Just mind the “smart casual” dress code throughout the establishment!
Empire Cafe Address: Raffles Hotel, 2 Stamford Rd, Colonial District, Singapore Pricing: entrees 10-20 SGD