Orchard Road is one of Singapore's most prominent streets and over the years, it has established itself as one of the world's most renowned shopping streets. Apart from shopping and dining, one of the things that locals and international visitors look out for is the annual Christmas light up along the famous shopping belt. This year, the light-up spans over 2.88km from Tanglin all the way to Dhoby Ghaut and visitors will be able to enjoy the lights until 02 January 2017. If you are looking for a weekend staycation spot this December, the Mandarin Orchard is located in the middle of it all - it is close enough to soak in all the Christmas festivities and yet quiet enough for some alone time with the people you love the most.
Everyone knows where the Mandarin Orchard is located in and while I have passed by the hotel on multiple occasions, I have not actually spent a weekend here before. What a lot of people do not realise however is that the Mandarin Orchard is one of Singapore's largest hotels - the hotel is home to 1,077 rooms and suites and there are actually two hotel wings that are connected via Level 5. Since I had access to the Meritus Club Lounge, I proceeded directly to check-in once I arrived at the property by car. It is worth noting that corporate guests and club guests can proceed to check-in on Level 1 but all other guests staying the main tower are invited to check-in on Level 5 instead. Since I arrived ahead of the official check-in time, I was shown to the Meritus Club Lounge where I could relax and enjoy a beverage while waiting for my room to be ready.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the Meritus Club Lounge (which is located on Level 38 and 39) was the impressive 360-degree view from the lounge. The second thing has got to be the uplifting Christmas music (of course you shouldn't expect this all year round) and lastly (and probably the most impressive of the lot), the lounge was actually two levels! Sure, I have been to double-storey club lounges in other parts of the world but I never knew they existed in Singapore until now.
The Meritus Club Lounge is huge and not only does it offer a 360-degree panoramic view of its surroundings, you can actually walk round the whole place make laps if you really wanted to. Since I had almost an hour to kill, I decided to check out the books that were on the shelves and I actually chanced upon a book on film photography which I thought was pretty interesting. If you do order coffee here at the Meritus Club Lounge, they are actually Nespresso-branded ones so they are actually quite decent! Once my room was ready, one of the kind lounge staff actually came to get me with a set of keycards for me.
While most of the club rooms and suites are located in the tower where the Meritus Club Lounge is at, my Premier Room was actually located in the Main Tower - this is the tower that you arrive in if you get to the hotel by car. While I have been to all of the luxury hotels along Orchard Road, I have never once gotten a direct view of the Orchard Road - some of the hotels overlook the famous shopping strip but never have I been able to look at Ngee Ann City or the sidewalk at such close proximity. The Premier Rooms here at the Mandarin Orchard have recently been refurbished and the offer sweeping views of the surrounding city skyline as they are generally located on higher floors too - my room was located on Level 30 and that provided a lot of noise isolation which is decent enough for a good night's sleep.
After returning from lunch, I noticed that my welcome amenities (which consisted of a bowl of fresh fruits, box of chocolate pralines and a personalised card) were delivered to my room in my absence.
The Premier Room is slightly larger than the lead-in room category (Deluxe Room) and it offers 33sqm of space. There is also a spacious work area with USB charging ports (a necessity in this day and age!) by the side. Complimentary WiFi is also provided for in-house guest but instead of logging in with your room number and last name (like 99 out of 100 hotels that I have been to), you will actually require your reservation number and room number to log-in instead. I guess in some ways, this is a lot more private and people who stay in the same hotel as you can not actually log-in using your name but just be mindful of that and don't throw away the card sleeve if you do not know your reservation number.
One of the things that I really do like about the Premier Room is the daybed by the window. Despite being only 33sqm in size, the room actually feels quite spacious and it had all the necessary amenities for a good stay. Of course, the winning bet for the hotel has got to be its location - there are only a handful of hotels along Orchard Road (many of the luxury hotels are located off-Orchard) and the Mandarin Orchard has got one of the best locations amongst them. I actually spent quite a bit of time here on the daybed just catching up on work on my iPhone and laptop while gazing out to the familiar sidewalk from the comfort of my own room.
The bathroom of the Premier Room was also quite big - in fact, I was genuinely surprised to find a double-sink here since these are generally reserved for much bigger rooms and suites. Only selected Premier Rooms have bathtubs so if you are looking for one - make your request early but do note that this is subjected to availability. The shower area itself is actually quite large - there is even a place for you to sit down within the shower cubicle and you will also be able to select from different settings on the shower head to customise your own shower experience. Since there is ample space in the shower area, the bath towels are also placed here so there is no need to brave yourself for the cold (assuming your air-conditioning is on) like most hotel rooms.
Bath amenities here in the Premier Room are in-house branded and the scent is rather up-lifting. Other amenities like disposable toothbrushes, shower caps and sewing kit are also provided in the bathroom - they are also replenished on a daily basis (in case you need anything else, just dial for more via any one of the phones in your room and bathroom).
You will also find a handy phone in the Premier Room of the Mandarin Orchard. If you are an international traveller who do not have local SIM Card, or even if you are a local on staycation, the handy phone allows you to make free international calls to certain destinations and you will also get to enjoy complimentary 4G access during your stay - just remember to bring it back to the room at the end of your stay!
Premier Rooms here at Mandarin Orchard are also equipped with basic coffee and tea-making (TWG-branded) facilities. While the minibar is stocked with a selection of snacks, drinks, juices and alcoholic beverages, I do like the fact that there is still ample space for you to store your own purchases. If you are here on a weekend staycation and you want to buy your own beverages and snacks back to the hotel, rest assured that there is more than enough space in the minibar to fit them in.
If you do have access to the Meritus Club Lounge during your stay at the Mandarin Orchard, be sure to head up between 6:00PM and 8:00PM for free-flowing cocktails, wines and canapes. In fact, my advice to you is to head up slightly earlier (especially when the weather is great) so you can enjoy the sunset from the amazing club lounge with a drink in hand. If you are thinking about a weekend staycation this festive season, you should not be looking any further!
I got there slightly before 6:00PM and therefore had the privilege of choosing my table - I ended up with one that faces the iconic Marina Bay Sands as I watched the sun set over the Port of Singapore.
The Meritus Club Lounge serves up a variety of red whites, white wines, sparkling, beer and a number of spirits alongside other non-alcoholic beverages. More importantly, there is also a pretty decent selection of hot and cold food that is definitely sufficient for a light dinner. Since I have already dinner plans at the two Michelin Star, Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro (which is conveniently located just a few floors down from where I was), I decided to just sample a few dishes that I was curious about - if you do see a prawn done to chilli crab style during your stay, I highly recommend it!
Most people also do not realise that the Mandarin Orchard is home to Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro - a restaurant that was recently award two Michelin-star for culinary excellence. The restaurant is located in the same wing as the Meritus Club so you can proceed directly from the club lounge. I really do like the overall ambience of the restaurant - I am no food critic (and I do not try to be) but some of the dishes really stood out to me. The Double-boiled Chinese Herbal Soup with Eight Treasures (S$22++) was extremely comforting and it was served over a tealight candle which keeps the soup warm. I also enjoyed the Crispy Sea Cucumber with Salt and Pepper (S$24++) - something I have not seen elsewhere. Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro is primarily a Szechuan restaurant - the chef is the grandson of the Japan's Father of Szechuan Cuisine, Chen Kenmin. While most of the dishes that I have sampled that night were all pretty good, the two standout dishes has got to be the ever-famous Chen's Mapo Doufu (S$24++) and the Coconut Pudding, Jelly, Bird's Nest and Young Coconut (S$32++).
Since the hotel is located right smack along Orchard Road, I had to go see the Christmas Light-up since I was there for the weekend. As I have already mentioned earlier on in the article, the festive lights are there until 02 January 2017 so there's only a few more weeks left to enjoy them. Some of the ones that I really like include the massive Christmas tree in front of Paragon Shopping Centre, The Centrepoint and Orchard Central (which has a really interesting underwater theme). You will definitely notice the crowd in the evenings as everyone tries to capture the best photos but one of the beauty of staying in Orchard Road during this period is that you can always head back up to your room if you want to freshen up. In fact, if you are really concerned about taking a good photo, come down late in the night (since it's literally just 'downstairs') and you will have the whole street to yourself!
As a hotel guest with Meritus Club Lounge access, you will have the option of having the full buffet breakfast at Triple Three or enjoy a quieter breakfast experience at the exclusive Meritus Club Lounge. If you have the habit of getting up early, the Triple Three may not be a terrible idea (especially if you are a huge breakfast person) but otherwise, I highly recommend the much more private and comfortable club lounge with sweeping views of the city instead. Eggs are done the way you like it here and there is actually quite a decent breakfast spread at the club lounge - think salmon, fresh pastries, fruits, sausages, bacons and the works.
Of course no stay at the Mandarin Orchard would be complete without a visit to Chatterbox - home to one of the world's most famous chicken rice. I opted for the mandatory Mandarin Chicken Rice (S$27++) which comes with a very generous portion of steamed chicken, chicken rice, soup and condiments. While the price is definitely on the high side, what you get though is comfort, cleanliness, a much bigger portion and a view of Orchard Road (assuming you do get a table by the window) to enjoy.
In all honesty, the Mandarin Orchard took me by surprise right from the moment I stepped into the Meritus Club Lounge at Top of the M. The two-storey club lounge has got to be one of the most impressive ones that I have seen in Singapore and the 360-degree view from this exclusive lounge is just amazing (especially when you have been blessed with great weather). The location of the hotel is unbeatable and if you intend to enjoy the beautiful Christmas light-up on a weekend, there is no better way to experience Christmas than a staycation right in the middle of it all.
This post has been created in partnership with Mandarin Orchard.