Robertson Quay is a waterfront gem in frenetic Singapore, and a nice, sophisticated alternative slightly west of historic, heaving Clarke Quay. Once one of Singapore's three largest wharves, it was packed with warehouses and wharves built in European and Chinese style in the 1880s. A redevelopment in the '90s rendered Robertson Quay an agreeable area humming with alfresco dining spots, hip restaurants, cafes, expat apartments and recreational areas.
The award-winning hotel's chic interiors are the handiwork of French designer Philippe Starck. This new addition to the Millennium and Copthorne Hotels portfolio, the riverside M Social is aimed squarely at a tech-savvy, Millennial getaway crowd. Its "democratic design" is eccentric and stylish, encouraging social interaction. There's a vibrant, asymmetric entry area with gorgeous eclectic tiles, psychedelic multimedia projections, bold and fantastic murals, and even the mysterious cube and bronze-patinaed peanut sculptures, with shades of the enigmatic Lost television series. The striking restaurant and lounge area features a 13-metre-long bar, eight recessed chandeliers, peanut and lava lamps, illuminated marble-style tables, retro sofas, alabaster and tile floors and anthropological pillars by Spanish artist Luis Urculo, whose designs also line lift-shaft walls.
The 293 avant-garde guest rooms come in four styles – alcove cosy, alcove terrace, loft gallery and loft premium, with a concept M Social describes as "snuggish". This means cosy guest rooms made larger with mirrored walls, good use of wood and concrete walls, combined with welcoming natural toned-furniture. Our queen bed in our loft premium is blissfully comfortable and tranquil in its discrete mezzanine space, with its peanut-shaped bedside lights. Our floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows are a space-enhancing feature. The rain shower is excellent, though strangely the basin is outside the bathroom. Nice dressing gowns, basic tea and coffee offerings, mini-fridge. The room has a smartphone offering unlimited international and local calls, unlimited 3G data and city guide access. Aura, Asia's first room-service robot will bring you bottled water and towels on request.
Beast & Butterflies offers Asian and western food in Starck's engaging space with its open kitchen and long counter tops overlooking the central bar. Along one wall, 40 tablets are mounted, projecting contemporary art works. Choose from intimate or communal tables, which deploy the same illuminated alabaster as the reception's floor. There are beanbags, book piles, paperweights, leather armchairs and woven-leather sofas, plus butterflies aplenty. Generous portions of tasty Singapore chicken curry and laksa, nasi goreng and Penang char kwai teow, plus an excellent wagyu burger. The western breakfast is fair – best to stick to the Asian offerings, particularly the congee, which is good. Aura's brother arrives next year to cook the breakfast eggs.
If all you want is a peaceful stroll along the river, make sure to cross the river at Robertson Quay's pedestrian Alkaff Bridge, or Singapore Art Bridge. It's a colourful construction that mimics the shape of a "tongkang", a light boat once used to transport goods. The artist used 52 colours and 900 litres of paint. Fort Canning Park isn't too far. Neither is the Asian Civilisations Museum. For a good coffee, Toby's Estate is nearby at 8 Rodyk Street.
Thoroughly enjoyed this hotel, with its art, design and technology focus. It lacks the usual hotel cliches and has intricate and fascinating public area decor that encourages relaxed informality. Success is contagious – M Social Auckland, New Zealand, has opened recently.
Doubles from $SGD170. 90, Robertson Quay, Singapore. Phone: +65 6664 8888. See millenniumhotels.com/en/destinations/asia/singapore/m-social-singapore
The 31-metre blue-mosaic-tiled pool on an open-air deck above the lazy Singapore River is lined with living green walls. It's a good place to relax if you can nab one of the sun loungers.
The self-check-in kiosks aren't working when we arrive, which is actually a highlight for this non-Millennial. We're welcomed at midnight by an actual and charming human being, preferable after a long flight.
Alison Stewart was a guest of M Social.