The Warehouse Hotel, Singapore review: Boutique industrial chic arrives in former red light district

THE LOCATION

The hotel is located on the banks of the Singapore River in the neighbourhood of Robertson Quay.

THE SPACE

If the walls at the Warehouse Hotel could talk they would whisper tales of secret societies, prostitutes and gamblers, opium dens and alleyway liquor distilleries. Located in the former red-light district of Singapore, the historic building has played host to its share of the island-nation's colourful history. The hotel occupies the site of a former 1895 shipping warehouse, or godown, and takes its style cues from its industrial heritage. The lobby is striking in its dimensions: a cathedral ceiling of exposed beams, period pulleys and pendant lights overlooking a lounge and bar area set in hues of black, copper, grey and exposed brick. Opened in January 2017 by hospitality outfit the Lo & Behold Group, the  hotel has 37 rooms across two levels, and a small but charming rooftop infinity pool (over a car space).   

THE ROOM

There are six styles of rooms and no two are exactly the same. I am in the River View suite, a large, open-plan room on the second floor overlooking the Singapore River. The room is stylishly appointed with the requisite nods to industrial-chic: tasteful concrete walls, black-framed wire-mesh glass in the bathroom and a soaring loft ceiling with exposed beams. The modern comforts are decidedly present day, with a Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker, universal power and USB points, free Wi-Fi and a smart TV that connects to your device. There's also a fancy toilet with a seat warmer (unnecessary in Singapore's climate) and various buttons that I can't figure out how to use. The room is 57 square metres and features a king-size pillow-top bed, freestanding tub, rain shower and an island granite vanity (the other side doubles as a desk). The "Minibar of Vices" contains goodies such as salted egg yolk chips (gluttony), Tiger Balm (vanity) and a surprising assortment of cheeky sex toys (lust). The room can be quite dark (heritage restrictions prevent more windows) but clever backlighting helps keep things reasonably bright.

THE FOOD

Off the lobby is Po restaurant, named after its signature Singaporean dish, popiah (fresh spring rolls), and also a tribute to popo, meaning grandmother in Mandarin. The small dining space has street-fronting white-shuttered windows, olive-green bench seats and a small menu curated by "mod sin" (modern Singapore) chef and restaurateur Willin Low. The breakfast offering is quite limited and expensive. The bar has an exciting themed cocktail list spanning the property's three eras of incarnation (spice trade, seedy red-light district and '80s disco), and an interesting choice of snacks.    

STEPPING OUT

Roberston Quay is a vibrant commercial and residential neighbourhood, and across the river from the hotel there are numerous cafes, restaurants and bars. The lively Clarke Quay nightspot is a 15-minute stroll along the river, and it takes about 40 minutes to reach the famous Merlion and Marina Bay on foot. There's a bus stop out front, but the nearest train station is about 15 minutes' walk. The Orchard Road shopping strip is seven minutes by taxi. The hotel lends out bikes for city sightseeing, and tourist bumboats ply the river.

THE VERDICT

A refreshing change from Singapore's ubiquitous high rise, the Warehouse Hotel is a boutique alternative steeped in history. There aren't many rooms though, so best to book early.

HIGHLIGHT

Heritage charm right on the river and wonderfully quiet.

LOWLIGHT

In a busy, humid, traffic-snarled city like Singapore, proximity to the MRT (rail network) is key, and the location isn't particularly convenient for getting around.

ESSENTIALS

320 Havelock Road, Robertson Quay. Rooms from $SG315 a night. See thewarehousehotel.com

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Catherine Best was a guest of the Warehouse Hotel.

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