Hotels in Singapore are great for a quick getaway but they can be rather expensive if you do it often enough. Besides, many luxury chain properties in Singapore have been around for some time and are therefore showing signs of age. One of the best things about being in Singapore is that you are always a short flight or drive away from another country. I decided to check out one of the latest Hilton properties in the region which is just a short drive away from Singapore (not factoring in the traffic congestion which may happen of course) - the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru. The rooms rates at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru is amazingly affordable if you compare it to a hotel of similar standards in Singapore. I would highly recommend you to plan the route you are going to take instead of aimlessly driving (especially if you are new to Johor Bahru) - click HERE for directions provided by the hotel staff.
Since I decided to check out this property with my parents, I opted for the One-Bedroom Suite with Lounge Access. The One-Bedroom Suite at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru features a separate bedroom and living room. Measuring 64 sqm in size, the suite is comfortable for 3 adults (or a small family) to live in - you can always arrange for a roll-away bed for a nominal fee. If you have a bigger family, ask for a connecting room prior to arriving.
There is also a small work desk located in the living room so you can catch up on work if you need to (we all know that work-life balance is a big lie for most of us). Basic coffee and tea making amenities are provided for although you will not find a Nespresso machine here. That being said, they actually serve real coffee here at Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru. While Nespresso is a convenient substitute to coffee, nothing beats the real thing!
The bedroom comes with a comfortable king-sized Sweet Dreams bed as well as an impressive view of the straits. There is a separate air-conditioning control for the room so you can be sure to keep the whole suite nice and cosy (or frosty if you will).
Your bedroom will also come with a 40-inch LCD TV with a selection of international and local channels. During my stay at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru, I faced some issues receiving satellite channels due the heavy downpour outside. However, this was quickly rectified once I restarted the TV. In case this happens to you, try switching it off and back on to see if that resolves the problem. Otherwise, you may have to contact one of the friendly staff to help you out.
If you require more pillows, feel free to order some from the pillow menu and grab an extra one that is hiding in the wardrobe. Contrary to popular belief, ordering from the pillow menu is unlike the in-room dining menu. Everything from the pillow menu is complimentary although a little tip for the staff that brings it up wouldn't hurt. An ironing board and iron can also be found should you require all your clothing to be crease-free.
The beautifully designed bathroom consists of a standalone bathtub as well as a walk-in rain shower. I personally loved the design of the bathroom since it's easy to maintain and aesthetically pleasing with clean design lines.
Amenities here are provided by Crabtree & Evelyn - the Citron Honey & Coriander series is based on a refreshing blend of lemon, herbs and juniper.
Since I arrived at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru hungry, I went down to Makan Kitchen for a lunch buffet. Featuring Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan dishes amongst others, this is my personal favourite restaurant in the whole hotel.
There is also a live-cooking station, juice bar and dessert bar (where you can choose to make your own Ice-Kachang) for those who fancy a little hands-on experience.
Surprisingly too, I thought that the coffee served at Makan Kitchen was the best throughout the restaurant. Think of Makan Kitchen as a scaled-down version of Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore.
As a suite guest with Lounge Access, I had access to the Executive Lounge which serves complimentary breakfast and evening drinks and canapés. Although most Executive Lounges have a dress-code, the one here like many others I have been to, do not strongly enforce the dress-code unless you go overboard. The general rule of thumb for Executive Lounges is Smart Casual, meaning a collared shirt, long pants and covered shoes (at least in tropical countries). That being said, so long you do not come in the lounge with a singlet and slippers, you should be OK. While I was there, a guy got turned away in his ZoukOut attire.
Since I was saving my stomach for dinner, I did not actually try the canapés much. I did however have multiple glasses of the Argentinian Melbec that was offered. To be honest, I did not expect Melbec (albeit a blend) to be served in a Doubletree lounge so that's definitely a pleasant surprise. The food offerings did look good with a combination of carbohydrates and fried finger food which would have gone well with the beverages offered.
Private meeting spaces in the Executive Lounge can also be arranged should you be here on business. This is particularly useful for companies coming here on a short corporate retreat - it is a good place to brainstorm for new ideas while soaking in the great views of the surroundings.
I chose to have dinner at Tosca, located on level 13. Tosca at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru resembles a contemporary Italian trattoria which offers rustic Italian food. House bread was served while your main courses (and starters) were prepared.
I opted for the Antipasto (which translates into 'before the meal' and not 'against-pasta' contrary to popular belief) Buffet and went straight for the amazing salsa and mushroom lightly seasoned and drenched in delicious olive oil.
I had the Cioppino soup as a starter and I really loved it - it was flavourful and hearty. The execution was excellent and the soup stock is delicious. I only wish there was more in my bowl.
I had the risotto as a main and it was personally a little under-cooked for my liking. I shared my sentiments with the chef but was told that this was indeed al dente. To me, this wasn't al dente but undercooked but YMMV.
The fish on the other hand was seasoned beautifully. The light seasoning helped to bring out the delicate flavours and the serving size was just right to make for a filling dinner.
Once again, the pizza was a bit of a miss for me. The dough was slightly under-cooked for my liking and I felt that the base was not evenly kneaded. That being said, the simple sauce was indeed delicious and I truly hope that the done-ness was an anomaly.
As a huge panna cotta snob, the panna cotta here did not do it for me at all. The tiramisu on the other hand was decent enough for dessert.
THE FOOD STORE
Although breakfast was included as part of my Executive benefits where I could choose to have it the Executive Lounge or the Makan Kitchen which I love, I decided to check out The Food Store located on ground level instead. Featuring a café environment with both indoor and outdoor seatings as well as a gourmet takeaway service, The Food Store serves Curry Puffs to Baguettes for breakfast. If you like, you can also opt for some fried noodles or Nasi Lemak.
I really enjoyed my Spinach and Mushroom Quiche. It had a good blance of flakiness on the outside and a souffle-like texture inside. The coffee was decent was strangely not as good as the ones I have had in Makan Kitchen.
The Food Store also sells some quirky items and snacks that you can buy. These make perfect gifts for the office or family members if you have to giveaway obligatory presents when you get back.
The Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru comes with a sizeable gym with a range of fitness equipment. I thought that the selection of free weights and machines was really impressive. The only improvement I would have like is for more benches to be added.
Thread mills are also available for you to keep fit while you are here on business or pleasure.
Otherwise, indulge in the beautifully landscaped pool located on the same level of Tosca. Soak in the sun (if the weather is good) or simply lounge on one of the chairs and read a good book. The choice is yours!
The Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru is the perfect place to go to if you are looking for an alternative staycation destination. The BAR for basic rooms start from MYR 340++ (approx. S$150 after taxes) and the One-Bedroom Suite that I stayed in goes for MYR 640++ (approx. S$280 after taxes) on BAR. Advance Purchase rates are generally 10% off BAR. At the time of writing, there is a Hilton Premium Club rate which offers an impressive 30% off BAR. Basic Guest Room is only MYR 238++ (approx. S$105 after taxes) a night under the Hilton Premium Club rate. If you have some Hilton Honors points, a night in this beautiful property is only 5,000 Points.