The Vagabond Club is Singapore's very first and only Tribute Portfolio hotel. Previously known as Hotel Vagabond, The Vagabond Club has only recently gone through a name change to reflect a more intimate and consistent setting. Tribute Portfolio properties (which fall under the greater umbrella of Starwood Hotels & Resorts) are essentially independent hotels with an inspired style. Having stayed in a number of Starwood Hotels & Resorts properties in Singapore and around the world, I was excited to check out my very first Tribute Portfolio property, The Vagabond Club.
As my Uber ride pulled up along 39 Syed Alwi Road, I noticed that The Vagabond Club was housed within a series of historic shophouses and upon entering the hotel, I saw the famous brass monkey on my left and the golden rhino on my right - the design of this hotel is striking and it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I was quickly approached by one of the staff behind the rhino (which I did not even notice on first glance) who then helped me with my check-in. While waiting for this process to be completed, I noticed that The Salon is also the Vagabond Executive Club Lounge where guests (with access) can utilise from 11:00AM to 6:30PM daily.
My reservation here at The Vagabond Club is for an Art Executive Club Suite and upon checking-in, I realised that there are different kinds of Art Executive Club Suites - the room size is fairly similar but the curated art pieces as well as the layout may differ. Anyhow, the 'Writer's Room' which I stayed in was located on Level 4 of the hotel and upon entering the lift, I was taken aback (in a good way) by Marco Brambilla’s Civilisation which is a video collage of looped videos that depict proverbial scenes from heaven to hell. After getting past that initial sense of wonder, I realised that the lift did not go to Level 4 (where my suite was located on!) and therefore, I had to walk up a flight of stairs from Level 3 to get to my suite.
Upon entering the Writer's Room (which is essentially an Art Executive Club Suite), I realised that the room (I'm going to use room and suite interchangeably in this article) comes with a skylight which you can open and close at the touch of a button. Like all the boutique hotels that I have been to in Singapore (which aren't many), the rooms here at The Vagabond Club are nowhere comparable to business hotels in terms of room size. The Art Executive Club Suite which is only one room category down from the biggest suite (Vagabond Executive Club Suite) measures only 34sqm in size. With that being said, because of how open the layout is and possibly because of the existence of skylights, the room actually felt bigger than what it was.
The room comes with a king-size bed with cult Rosewood mattress - the sheets are also 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton so you can definitely be rest assured that you will be getting a good night's sleep. Also, since this particular suite that I was in is located on Level 4 of the building, you will not be hearing any noise (something that I feel is quite apparent amongst boutique hotels) from the traffic outside the hotel at all. There is also a small bedside lamp which makes it easy for you to enjoy reading in bed. As I have mentioned earlier, there is a small remote which you will find in the shelves closest to the 42-inch TV where you can open and close the Skylight and blinds easily.
If you are used to seeing tiny bottles of liquor and snacks at the hotel, you will be surprised to see a supersized selection over here at The Vagabond Club. The Art Executive Club Suite that I was in actually had a full bottle of Hibiki Japanese Harmony Blended Whisky (S$190++) - you can typically get this outside from a good bottle shop for approximately S$150++ so the markup is actually quite reasonable (especially since getting a bottle of Hibiki is not an easy feat). The prices of the snacks (some of which are full-sized) are also fairly reasonable - most of them range from S$3++ to S$6++.
I must have made my addiction to coffee known by now but having a Nespresso Coffee Machine in the room is absolutely essential in this day and age. I have been to luxury hotels in Singapore that are still serving the nasty freeze-dried coffee so having this in a boutique hotel is definitely not expected but a nice surprise. The coffee pods are not original Nespresso ones but rather, they are from the Nespresso-compatible Tripod Coffee (which I do like as well) instead. Teabags from Basilur Tea are provided but I did not personally recognise them - I probably would have preferred to see the ones from TWG, Gryphon Tea Company or even Monogram Tea.
In the event you do require something that you can't quite find in your room or suite, you can simply pick up the antique-looking phone and dial '0' - I can assure you that the phones are working even though they look like something from the ancient past. The Art Executive Club Suite is home to various art pieces as well as expensive knickknacks like the Roberts Radio (S$600) which you can actually purchase.
What was perhaps more interesting to me in this room was the existence of an actual kitchenette and a full-size refrigerator (and freezer). Honestly, with the freezer and the huge fridge here in this room, you can really cook up a storm. Finding a kitchenette in a 34sqm room of a boutique hotel was probably the last thing on my mind (hey at least it didn't come with a putting green!) and even though I did not use it during my stay, I can see how this could potentially be a nice gesture during special occassions (like Valentine's Day and you wish to cook something special for your loved one).
The cupboard under the induction cookers held all the pots, pans, cutleries and crockeries which makes this suite much more well-stocked than an actual serviced apartment that I have been to in Singapore. The only thing you will probably need to bring is cooking oil (or butter!) and your actual ingredients - not unreasonable really.
The Art Executive Club Suite that I stayed in also came with a small seating area which is quite impressive since the floor space is limited. If required, the TV which sits on a wall bracket, can also be adjusted to suit different viewing angles. This is also perfect if you do intend to take advantage of the kitchenette since you will probably not want to eat your food in bed (or do you?!).
The bathroom and the toilet and located on the left and right side respectively - they are not connected and the sink is actually in the Art Executive Club Suite itself. The layout is definitely a little strange and if you intend to share this space with someone else, make sure you know him or her very well - otherwise, the lack of privacy could be an issue. Other than that, the 'bathroom' itself is quite sufficient and it has everything you require - high-quality bath towels are provided and you will even find a set of bathrobes in the cupboard closest to the television.
You will find the usual toiletries here - disposable toothbrush, shower cap and vanity kit amongst the usual suspects. The actual shower area comes with a rainshower as well as a separate handshower but the first thing you will notice as you walk into this area is the bright red bathroom tiles.
Bath amenities here in the Art Executive Club Suite of The Vagabond Club are provided by Italian fashion house, ETRO Milano. The colour of each tube is contrasting to represent a different product and I thought that the clash of colours played quite well with the overall image of the hotel - quirky, unexpected and playful.
Not all 41 rooms and suites here at The Vagabond Club comes with access to the Vagabond Executive Club Lounge which is located on street level - in the morning, the same space doubles the breakfast area. The Salon is set in Jacques Garcia’s signature Parisian-chic design and in the evening, rooms and suites with access to the Executive Club will get to enjoy free-flowing wines, beers and spirits alongside a small selection of food. If you are used to executive club lounges in luxurious 5-star properties, you will probably need to adjust your expectations a little - the selection is undoubtedly smaller but the setting is a lot more intimate which gives the hotel an opportunity to interact with every single guest.
Cocktail hour at the Vagabond Executive Club Lounge runs from 4:30PM to 6:30PM each day and if your room does not come with access, you can easily arrange for it at the property itself (for a fee). Guests with lounge access will also get to enjoy complimentary premium high-speed WiFi here at the property (instead of the limited one) so it is a good idea to factor this into consideration especially if you are here on business.
The Vagabond Executive Club Lounge was quite busy (for a boutique hotel) when I visited and therefore, there were a few hiccups pertaining to drink orders which took a while to come. That being said, there's no one stopping you from concocting a cocktail yourself - simply head to the alcohol table and pour yourself a glass of wine. I was however, unable to find a fridge or a jug where I can get water though - it could be possible that I have just missed it completely but trust me when I say that I have looked.
Despite being a luxury boutique hotel, The Vagabond Club here offers an evening turn-down service which I did not actually utilise - the room was in a complete mess and because of the lack of space (but more importantly how messy I am), I did not want to trouble the housekeeper but hey the service is there if you want it. If you are looking for food recommendations around The Vagabond Club, Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant (瑞春) is located just a short stroll away. There is also the famous Sungei Road Laksa located in a coffee shop just 5 minutes away if you are craving for something local.
The air-conditioning in the suite works without a hitch (which is great because I like my room to be at 18 degree Celsius) and I did have a very good night's sleep. If your room comes with breakfast inclusive, it is served at The Salon (which is also the club lounge if you have not figured out by now) from 7:00AM to 10:30AM daily. If like me, your room or suite comes with breakfast, then you will be able to select one juice, one coffee and one main course from a curated menu.
I went ahead for the Full English breakfast which basically came with two eggs done to my liking (I chose to have them poached), sausages, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus, baked beans, tomato confit and country loaf. I also ordered some mango juice and fresh coffee on the side. What surprised me during the breakfast however was how attentive the staff were (especially since evening cocktails was a little bit of a mess) - they even offered to replace my coffee after noticing that it has gone cold because I was doing some writing in The Salon after breakfast. Sure, it may not cost the hotel much but it certainly is a nice gesture (one that I do not always get even in the most luxurious hotels).
While I have definitely not stayed in enough boutique hotels in Singapore to make a fair judgement on whether or not I like The Vagabond Club enough to warrant a second visit (also because the price point is quite high), I do appreciate the art elements throughout the hotel and how it stands out from the usual cookie-cutter hotel rooms. At the end of the day, I think boutique hotels appeal to a different group of travellers who are constantly in search of brand new and unique experiences. I am personally a creature of habit and while I would not hesitate to spend S$200++ on a bottle of Champagne, spending them on the Rhinoceros Bookend (S$200++) in the suite seems a little bit like an overkill to me.
The Vagabond Club offers a truly unique experience and the hotel even has a curated walking guide for travellers who wish to know the city a little bit more - I learnt quite a bit myself even though I practically live in Singapore. There were a couple of touch points during the stay that I thought could have been better improved but on the whole, The Vagabond Club is exactly how it looks like - luxurious, personal and mysterious.