Let’s face it: when you are a local resident, a staycation in the heart of Little India is never top of mind. Why nest in the heart of a heritage site when one has plenty of choice in the Marina district, waking up to a view of the iconic Singapore skyline?
While Little India is home to many backpackers hostels and smaller, independently-run budget hotels, many newer, more upscale hotels have also found their roots in the area in the last decade or so, including One Farrer Hotel.
Truth be told, while the hotel opened to much fanfare back in 2014 as a premium medical facility in a bid to boost medical tourism, it didn’t appeal as a choice for a staycation. Room rates were sky-high then for the location: imagine a $200++ rate for a base-level room? Madness.
Six years on with Covid-19 in the air, the hotel was definitely deprived of guests and selling its premium offering of a room with club access for only S$240, all in. Of course, we are checking it out.
Opened in 2014, the hotel originally opened as One Farrer Hotel & Spa, as part of a multi-purpose complex called Connexion that includes the adjacent Farrer Park Hospital. The entire complex is owned by The Farrer Park Company, a privately held company to build and manage both the hotel and the hospital.
Since then, the hotel has dropped the word “Spa” from its name, ahtough the hotel still offers a very decent spa. One Farrer Hotel (and ex-Spa) is markedly different from many other hotels in Singapore. As an independent property unaffiliated to the major hotel chains, the hotel is not really a natural and popular choice for many.
The hotel boasts of a ‘hotel-within-a-hotel’ concept, running four different ‘hotels’ housed in the same building: the Urban Hotel, Loft Apartments, Skyline Hotel, and the grandest of them all, the Sky Villas.
These are essentially different room types within a conventional hotel, but at One Farrer, these mini-‘hotels’ are housed on different floors in the building.
The Urban Hotel is located on the 11 to 16th floors of the hotel, featuring ‘chic contemporary’ rooms. There are three room types in the Urban Hotel: The Urban Room, a slightly bigger Urban Den and the largest being the Urban Suite.
Loft Apartments are also located on the 11th to 16th floors, and are essentially self-contained duplex serviced apartments, complete with a living area and a kitchenette on the mezzanine level in each apartment.
On the higher floors, there are the Skyline Hotel and Sky Villas. Both are considered the ‘executive rooms’ of the hotel, located on 18th to 20th floor of the building.
The Skyline Hotel is situated on 18th & 19th floor, while the Sky Villas take up the top floor. Skyline Hotel also comprises three room types: the Skyline Room, the Skyline Studio and the Skyline Suite.
The Sky Villas are the largest rooms on property: six distinctive villas, each with its own name. One key feature of the villas is that each of them carry a good number of art pieces in the suite, sourced from all over the world by the hotel owners.
The smallest suites are the Peony Villa and Lotus Villa, both suites at 65sqm and features a single bedroom with a separate living area. Lotus Villa also features a complete library, a collection of a wide-ranging selection of visual art books, originally comprised the research library of Sculpture Square Limited, when it was located at 155 Middle Road from 1999 to 2014.
Next on the list is the Jasmine Villa, Blue Pea and Orchid Villa, all of which are two-bedroom suites. Ranging between 95 to 105sqm, each villa has its own distinct style around the flower that it’s named after, with a subtle hint of fragrance.
Top of the league is the Calla Lily the Presidential Villa, a two-bedroom villa spread over 200 sqm of space at the topmost level of the hotel. The villa brings out the best the hotel has to offer, featuring a composition of artwork sourced from all over the world.
The sterling silverware is the Audubon design from 1871. The flowing designs of branches and twigs with leaves, buds, flowers and exotic birds were entirely different from anything in Amercian silver at that time. Each piece of Audubon is decorated with intricate designs adapted from 19th century Japanese bird paintings, with eight species represented. The back of each piece has complementary designs derived from Japanese flowers.
The Persian Nain carpets were the first items selected for the Presidential Villa; together with the expansive view of the cityscape from the window, they dominate the living and dining rooms. Even the coffee table is transparent as so not to obstruct the view of the carpet. The few accents placed on the edges of the salon are specially selected to reflect the interests of one who collects for the pure enjoyment and sharing of knowledge, created by the introduction of different cultures and art influences into a harmonious whole. Two 12th and 13th century Khmer jars in unobtrusive brown glaze introduce the viewer to an era in Southeast Asia that tells the history of Indochina.One Farrer Hotel
Booking and Check-in
One Farrer Hotel is not my among my usual list of hotels I’ll check out, so the only reason why I’d make a stay this time round was because of the TTG travel offers available during the 10.10 sale. The hotel was selling its club rooms, styled as Skyline Room, for only S$240 nett, which was an incredible steal by local standards.
Once the voucher was purchased, all I needed to do was to write in to the hotel to make a booking, stating that I was using the TTG voucher. The hotel promptly made the booking and sent me a confirmation. I also requested for a slightly earlier check-in time at noon, which was also given without much of a hassle.
The standard check-in time for the hotel is at 3pm, but on the day of the visit I arrived at about noon. There was hardly a soul at the lobby, and I literally walked right up to the counter and had keys in my hands in less than five minutes.
For those who are driving, note that the hotel and the hospital shares the same car park, which can be accessed from either facility.
Each room is entitled to two parking tickets a day, however there are no multiple entry privileges, so you may need to plan a little if you intend to drive in and out of the hotel often.
The Skyline Room is by no means small. At the size of 35 square metres, the room was rather generous not only in floor space, but also in volume due to its high ceilings.
The first thing that went into my mind upon stepping into the room was how much natural light the room had. Featuring a high ceiling, the room boasted of three large full length windows with bay seats, overlooking the housing estate nearby and beyond.
The entrance to the room was a long and narrow walkway devoid of anything else but plain white walls. Once you have taken a few steps in, you will be greeted by a king sized bed flushed against a simple yet elegant headboard and side tables.
The work desk is a clear glass top that faces the window, with a white Geneva speaker sitting at one corner. The international power sockets, along with all the television input points were nicely built by the side of the table, making plugging in pretty convenient.
The minibar is located to the right of the bed, with a kettle and an illy coffee machine perched atop. Unfortunately, the hotel doesn’t stock Nespresso machines, so for those guests who like to request for capsules to bring home, you may be disappointed. However, the hotel does stock TWG teabags, so that will have to suffice as souvenirs for now.
As usual, the minibar is emptied out due to safe management measures as laid out by the authorities. If you really need a midnight perk-me-up, the menu is available on the TV controls.
The bathroom takes up the space right next to the main door of the room, but the entrance to the bathroom actually faces the bed. This may be a problem for some people who prefer not having to see the bathroom interiors from the sleeping area.
You will see that the first doorway actually doesn’t have a door, but that is where the vanity and the wardrobe area are. The wardrobe is also where you will find the in-room yukata and bathrobe, which I’ve seen many guests use when they visit the spa or the swimming pool.
The room comes with a single wash basin which is beautifully lit, so it’s pretty ideal when it comes to inspecting your face for blemishes and going through your skincare routine.
The second doorway is to the ‘wet area’ of the bathroom, including the toilet and the shower stall. Note that the room doesn’t come with a bathtub, so if you are looking for a good soak, this will not be your choice of hotel.
The hotel uses amenities from FreshSkinLab for its shower bath gel and shampoo. I’m not familiar with the brand, and neither is there a lot of information on its website, so I suspect this might be an in-house brand by the hotel.
The most unique proposition of the Skyline Lounge is probably its marketed “five meals in a day”. Located on the 18th floor, the lounge operates from 7am to 10pm daily, offering food and beverage for guests staying at the Skyline Hotel, Skyline Villa and guests staying in the Urban Suites.
The lounge is a rather cosy space (read: small), with enough seating for around 20 guests at a time. Most of the seating available are dining tables and chairs, with just one or two sets of lounge chairs and coffee teas which aren’t that comfortable to sit on anyway.
The lounge is also adjacent to the Skyline swimming pool, a smaller exclusive pool for guests at the Skyline hotel and villas. In the event that the lounge is full, guests may also be seated by the pool.
The lounge offers five distinct light meal services a day, namely:
- Breakfast from 7am to 11am
- Lunch from 12pm to 2pm
- Afternoon tea from 3pm to 5pm
- Evening cocktails from 5.30pm to 8pm
- Sweet & savouries from 8.30pm to 10pm
Outside of these hours, non-alcholic beverages, coffee and tea will always be available any time between 7am and 10pm. So as you can see, you will practically get food any time of the day and going hungry is quite impossible.
As it’s my first stay with this property, I tried to check out all the meal services, even though I’m hardly a big eater.
As I arrived early at about 1pm, I was able to check in early and head to the lounge for lunch. Upon arrival at the lounge, you will need to do your SafeEntry check-in, and the lounge has also installed a temperature taking machine right at the entrance.
There is a printed menu detailing the menu of the day. While it seemed like the items are cooked to order at first glance, the reality is that the food is already prepared and kept warm at the buffet area, which are now off-limits to guests as part of the Covid-19 measures.
To give guests a further peace of mind, all the cutlery used are wrapped in a plastic wrap and sealed with a tamper-proof sticker.
The food was acceptable in terms of taste, but definitely not mind-blowing. Far from it, actually. It looked like fare you could get out of a factory canteen, with its equally juvenile crockery.
The afternoon tea comprised mainly sandwiches and other finger food, but again, the quality of the food wasn’t something I would write home about.
Afternoon tea comprised three savoury snacks, including a quiche, a mini-pie and a ham and cheese sandwich. There is also a tart that comes with it, which was probably the star of the afternoon tea.
While you have to wait till evening cocktails for your alcohol fix, you will still get to enjoy a range of non-alcoholic drinks, including machine-made coffee, tea, as well as select soft drinks and juices during the afternoon tea session.
Evening cocktails run from 5.30pm to 8pm at the Skyline Lounge, which is one of the longest sessions in the Covid-19 era. While pre-booking is still highly encouraged, the hotel does not split the evening sessions into shorter one-hour sessions to accommodate more guests, like many other popular hotels such as Hilton and Sofitel City Centre have done.
The food offering at the lounge is somewhat out of the ordinary, but yet nothing exciting. Here’s how it looks like:
Yes you saw right: steamed jasmine rice, along with stir fried beef, vegetables and two fried wantons. While this is fairly substantial for an evening cocktail sessions, this selection of evening cocktail snacks has placed the lounge firmly in the ‘school canteen’ category in my opinion, at least.
There is something homely about the food, although the amount of rice dished on my plate made me feel like it’s a ploy to fill me up so I won’t go for seconds.
Skyline Lounge offers a select of alcoholic beverage, including spirits, bottled beer and wines. Of course, if alcohol is not your thing, there’s also non-alcoholic options for you to choose from. Unfortunately the lounge didn’t offer any sparkling wine (my personal favourite), so I had to go with red wine, which wasn’t really great either.
A quick tip: the wines are really not that great and fairly inconsistent. For instance, during my session, the staff had to offer me a different red wine halfway through the session because they ran out of the first one I had. You will be better off sticking to gin and tonic, as the lounge pours Hendricks which is probably the most premium spirit across what they offer.
Skyline Hotel guests can take their breakfast either at the Skyline Lounge, or at the main hotel restaurant down at the ground level.
Not really wanting to jostle with any potential crowd, I went for the breakfast session at the lounge.
For a somewhat small lounge, the kitchen was able to offer quite a wide range of food, as you can see from the menuL
I went for the classic American breakfast first, which sounded like a great way to start my day. I wasn’t really thinking much in the morning, so I went with my default choice of scrambled eggs to complete the plate.
So this arrived:
Again, the items were picked from a buffet line by the lounge staff. The plating leaves much to be desired, but one could forgive if they saw how busy the lounge was in the morning, with only three wait staff buzzing around.
My companion had the ‘daily special’ of pan-fried roti prata with two fried eggs on the side. We also shared a set of pancakes, which came with some syrup, jam and pretty decent butter. Unfortunately, both of which are pretty mediocre.
One Farrer Hotel is a full service luxury hotel, so that means it has all the right things: a full meeting conference facility, dining and bar options, and also a wide range of recreational facility.
Pre Covid-19, One Farrer Hotel has conference and meeting facilities for up to 700 people at any point in time, including a Grand Ballroom, a Garden Pavilion and three smaller meeting rooms. When first opened, the hotel had a vision to serve a specialised crowd hosting medical-related conference and meetings, mainly due to its relation to the hospital next door. Plans included live-streaming procedures from the hospital, but this proved to be difficult so the hotel has since dropped that vision.
Regardless, the hotel is one of the few newer hotels capable of hosting large format meetings, as most of its peers are smaller properties with correspondingly smaller meeting rooms.
Remember how the hotel first opened as “One Farrer Hotel and Spa“? As you may have guessed – spa was a selling proposition during its early days.
The hotel houses Adeva Spa Retreat, a local spa brand that also manages the HANN and the lesser known Civisan brands.
The spa is located on the 6th floor and is set amidst an oasis of lush tropical gardens, with private treatment rooms. A wide range of treatments are available, although they do come at a premium (see menu here).
The usual relaxation facilities including steam rooms and saunas are available in the hotel, and are available for use during my stay. Note that there are capacity limits in each of the facility, so cater more time and expect to wait to use them.
One distinct feature of the spa is the gender separated onsen pools, which are accessible through the respective changing rooms. These are also accessible free of charge for in-house guests. Note that this is not a clothes-optional facility, you will be required to wear your swimwear in these pools. I have had staff of both genders walking into the pool area for cleaning and other purposes.
If you are using any of the spa facility, note that the spa no longer offers locker use or towels, so you will have to bring your own from your room.
There are also several snooze chairs in the changing rooms you could use, although I found them to be too public to get any decent rest. These armchairs should have been facing the other direction, in my opinion.
The hotel also a full-sized swimming pool, spanning 50m in length for those who need to clock their laps. The poolside bar and cabanas also make for a wonderful evening pool party setup, although I hardly saw anyone at the pool throughout the day.
As mentioned earlier, there is also a much smaller, private pool on the 18th floor, exclusively for Skyline Hotel guests. This is really more of a splash pool, incredibly popular for parents who wish to lounge, while kids go out and play in the pool.
The hotel also houses a decently-sized fitness centre on 6th floor. Accessible round-the-clock, the fitness centre is adequately fitted out with both cardio and weight training equipment.
One Farrer Hotel started off positioning themselves as a luxury hotel and spa, but unfortunately didn’t quite manage to do so. Even with dropping off the spa label a few years later, the hotel didn’t quite cut it as a ‘luxury, five-star’ standard that it originally envisioned themselves doing so.
This also demonstrates the challenge of the hospitality landscape in Singapore, where independently owned and managed hotels often find it incredibly difficult to command the premium, no thanks to established properties in traditional locations such as the Marina area and Orchard that are immensely popular with tourists.
Having said that, the hotel also failed in delivering the five-star promise: While service is impeccable, the lounge offering was really in the league of a suburban hotel in the US. The food and beverage offering was at best mediocre; I have had better fare at some of the lower tier hotels.
The room, while comfortable, also lacked the deckings of a luxury hotel: the bathroom for one, felt more like a serviced apartment-style bathroom, built more for efficiency than a luxurious experience.
Having said that, for what I’ve paid, the overall experience is adequate and very good value for money. I can’t be sure if One Farrer Hotel will continue to maintain this price point, but I’ll be hard pressed to pay more than S$300 for a club room at this property with no additional inclusions.