Raffles Singapore opens after a multi million-dollar renovation

During Raffles' recent closure for its first full refurbishment since 1991, the Singaporeans had the temerity to open a vast shopping centre and call it "The Jewel" - featuring the world's biggest indoor waterfall - squeezed in between the terminals at Changi Airport.

In reality, there's only one true jewel of Singapore and that is the venerable Raffles itself, not only one of the most fabled of lodgings but also a Singaporean national monument, one of the few hostelries afforded such status.

After 18 months or so, and  enough coats of fresh white paint to out-white (or white-out) even the White House, the now 115-room Raffles Singapore officially reopened its gilded doors today. 

It's the result of a multi-milllion dollar makeover that's successfully retained the 1887 hotel's elegant colonial heritage while also introducing some considered contemporary touches.

These include an outstanding modern French restaurant, La Dame de Pic, the creation of innovative chef Anne Sophie Pic with a total of seven Michelin stars under her toque.

Pic will eventually be joined by compatriot Alain Ducasse who'll open his first "Mediterranean sharing" concept diner. It'll be located inside what was once Bar & Billiard Room under which in 1902 an escaped circus tiger once famously hid.

"Raffles Singapore is one of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world," says Christian Westbeld, general manager of Raffles Singapore. 

"[Its] restoration has been carefully designed to preserve its unique historic charm, while creating extraordinary experiences for our esteemed guests."

The changes have also notably extended to the Singapore Sling, the cocktail believed to have been invented by one of Raffles' barmen in 1915 and which today is one of the hotel's major revenue streams, thought to be valued in the millions of Singaporean dollars.

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In response to widespread concerns about excessive sugar consumption, Raffles' "new Sling", which before the closure was selling at an extraordinary rate of 1,000 drinks a day, is less sweet and it contains a modicum more alcohol.

It also comes with a fairly hefty price, too, with guests slung $S33 per drink ($A35 - up from $23 more than a decade ago). But it clearly hasn't deterred devotees of the celebrated cocktail.  

They were there last week, queuing outside the legendary Long Bar which reopened ahead of the hotel late last year, home of the Sling with a hessian "gunny sack" of peanuts on every table (the shells from the spent nuts are scattered across the floor, with the permission of management).

The first official hotel sleeping guests since the refurbishment checked in this morning in Singapore, joining the likes of Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad inside the real, freshly polished jewel's bulging guest book.

Doubles from $S853 a night including breakfast and a one-way limousine transfer.

Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of Raffles Singapore and Singapore Airlines. See raffles.com/Singapore singaporeair.com

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