This is the kind of entrance that deserves to be accompanied by the strains of the legendary James Bond theme. Driving up to the neo-colonial-meets-futuristic digs that are the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, Mrs Smith and I feel like we’ve left Singapore behind and stumbled onto the set of some dark, devious but deliciously decadent spy thriller. I half expect to be handed a dirty martini upon stepping out of the car. Of course, if we were in a Bond film, this fabulous place would undoubtedly be the lavishly decked-out hideaway of the movie’s villain, most likely some Eurasian drug lord or terrorist with a penchant for contemporary art. Which would mean that, instead of a weekend of pampering, Mrs Smith and I would be bound into some ridiculous Rube Goldberg–designed death trap while said baddie lectures us about his plans for world domination. Thank heavens for real life then. Because the missus and I are very much looking forward to relaxing in what is Singapore’s only true luxury resort.
Designed by Sir Norman Foster, Capella Singapore is nothing if not dramatic. The reception area – housing the lobby, library and Chinese restaurant and leading to the ballroom – is in a lovingly restored colonial mansion dating back to the 1880s. Behind this iconic building is an ultra-modern, steel-clad structure that resembles something out of Gattaca – you know, the ‘Jude Law when he still had hair and was a hottie’ movie, as Mrs Smith describes it. It hangs over a gorgeous array of swimming pools and, just past the beach, the South China Sea. This sleek sci-fi-style space contains the hotel’s guest rooms (the swanky villas are spread throughout the estate), all offering a sensational view of the ocean.
Mrs Smith and I check into our large, comfortable and very well equipped Premier Sea View room. Decked out by modern-tropical interiors whiz Jaya Ibrahim, it is tasteful and minimal, with a neutral colour palette and a nice use of natural materials, namely wood and marble. After plugging in our iPod, unpacking and playing with the remote-control panel that adjusts the room’s lighting to one of four different moods, we get down to some serious decisions: where to eat and what spa treatments to book.
Chinese food or a more diverse, casual menu? Capella has two restaurants: Cassia offers modern Chinese cuisine, while the Knolls is your typical hotel coffee shop, albeit more nicely decorated than others we’ve seen. The Knolls menu offers a range of Western, Asian and classic Singaporean dishes. Prices are a little high. I know you expect to pay a premium in any fancy resort, but it’s hard to justify shelling out more than 10 times what the same dish would cost in any one of a hundred hawker centres or coffee shops around town. With that in mind, Mrs Smith and I decide to breakfast at the Knolls the following day and dine instead at Cassia.
Cassia (pronounced ‘kay-sha’) is a beautiful space. Andre Fu, one of Asia’s hottest young designers, has created a truly glam, sexy restaurant. Mrs Smith and I love the half-moon banquettes and opt to sit side by side. The menu takes a bit of getting used to. This is Chinese food presented through a very Western filter, with dishes organised by starters, mains, starches and desserts. Every item is priced per person as well, which leads to a debate about whether sharing – the norm during a Chinese meal – is even allowed. Once we figure it out though, we are thrilled by the food, which is inventive and flavourful. I especially enjoy my final starch, a young coconut stuffed with seafood fried rice and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Yum! Dinner was followed by a well-made Hendrick’s Gin martini at Bob’s Bar, sipped outside to enjoy the evening breeze.
Who would have thought that tea could get someone so excited? While breakfast at the Knolls is simple, Mrs Smith spends quite a bit of time chatting with the staff about the fabulous range of teas available. Capella has worked with a Singaporean brand, Gryphon Tea Company, to offer a nicely curated list of more than 30 premium Chinese, English, Indian and Japanese blends. Mrs Smith particularly likes the smart, well-written guide to the teas – I have to stop her from pinching it – and, over the weekend, samples several of the beautiful and quite rare Chinese offerings.
It’s tempting to never, ever leave Auriga Spa. Both of us agree it is definitely the most well designed and beautiful part of the resort – Zen-like, mystical, embracing, calming. And that’s before we even start our treatments. Mrs Smith disappears into the women’s wing, only to emerge some four hours later raving about her massage, the vibrating beds in the lounging room and the scented showers. That’s right. The showers in the women’s wing each have a distinct aroma. She also loves the steam room which, when combined with the ice fountain and vitality pool, explains why I don’t see her for half the day.
In the meantime, I have retired to our room, popped in a DVD from the hotel library and wolfed down a club sandwich. So when Mrs Smith finally reappears, fully rested, energised and eager to frolic, this sad sack of a husband burps and holds her off until his lunch has fully digested. Because there are things other than swimming that one shouldn’t do on a full stomach.