Popular with staycationers these few months, the new Hilton offers a chic business lounge, contemporary revamp, and one of the swankiest addresses in town. Photo: Hilton Singapore Orchard

The borders are open and the people are out. But not everyone wants to travel, as evidenced by the surge of staycationers at the new Hilton Singapore Orchard, which opened in late February and is netting 30 per cent more bookings than expected, says general manager Cedric Nubul. 

Maybe it’s because the 1,080-room Orchard Road stalwart is the hottest kid on the block, thanks to a round of musical chairs that see it occupying the spot once belonging to Mandarin Orchard. Its old location, in turn, is now voco Orchard Singapore. That’s only a kilometre or so down the road, but don’t underestimate the extra appeal of being next to Takashimaya and opposite the Apple store.

The hotel’s other draw factor is its top-to-toe refresh, courtesy Avalon Collective, which swaps out Mandarin’s dated orange, red and brown decor for a cool mix of grey, black and purple, plus botanical touches – a nod to the historic plantations of Orchard Road. 

The room

Though you’re in the heart of Orchard, the view – ours mainly of The Heeren and several condos – ends up forgettable. Instead, sink into a nice soak in the bathtub they’ve impressively managed to squeeze into all the rooms on the premium Mandarin wing. This being a prime locale, space is naturally scarce, so the 29-square-metre king executive room just about fits two and their luggage. Families may want connecting rooms or a suite, not a third bed.

The botanical elements in the rooms are so subtle they’re easily glossed over: a headboard with purple watercolours, and a rug with moss green patterns. On the bright side, the contemporary fittings are suitably gender-neutral, and make the space feel fresh and modern. The energy-efficient, motion sensor lighting and air-con are also nicely in line with the times. 

Hilton’s proud of its efforts to reduce plastic, which include digital key cards for its Honours members, large shampoo, soap and conditioner bottles (from Acca Kappa) instead of one-time disposables, and – coming soon – glass water bottles filled from the on-site filtration plant.

The food

Apart from the location and interior, new eateries are the last of Hilton’s trinity of pros, and all of them ultra Instagrammable. With Osteria Mozza still under construction, the top dinner spot here after a gander along the shopping belt is Estate, where the buffet lives. 

EDG Design has filled the space once occupied by Triple Three with a multitude of cosy, unbearably stylish half-rooms, all adorned with wood accents, orb lights, botanical drawings and mod-retro floor tiles and rattan cabinets. Though the spacious restaurant sits about 350, the actual lineup is smaller than some nearby hotels, and sans Indian options, but quite tasty. 

Go for the popular Estate black truffle roasted duck, whose tender, fragrant notes belie its burnt-but-not-really appearance. Also worth the calories are the signature peking duck consommé, cantonese-style wagyu beef noodles, and fresh-cooked skewers (beef kebab, black miso chicken, kurobuta pork). Desserts come deconstructed in little glass jars – citron tart, raspberry champagne gelée, tiramisu, cheesecake, rum and hazelnut pâte à choux.

Breakfast the next day also happens at Estate, but it’s a less impressive affair. Though the spread boasts good variety with Western, English, Chinese, Indian and juice bar options, the items on the egg station are somewhat stale, the miso soup cold, and the juices in need of ice. Take your meal in the executive lounge for a quieter experience (see below).

The facilities

The gym and pool are two popular amenities for any hotel. But at Hilton, the clear winner is the stunning 790 square metre executive lounge, one of the largest in Singapore, which sits over 200. Accessible to guests staying on the executive floors, it feels like a luxe coworking space, with tasteful booths, lounge spaces, and restaurant-style table and chair combos.

Pantry counters with snacks and drinks are dotted throughout. Even if you don’t plan to work during your stay, an hour or three will whiz by with a book or journal, plus there’s breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktail hour.

The gym, if you must go, is a windowless space with a sleek mirrored interior, while the pool next to the lobby has privacy screens and a couple squares of greenery. There is no cap on swimmers, now restrictions have been lifted.

More food

After an afternoon of swimming, reading, and working out, take dinner at 1970s stalwart Chatterbox, proud bearer of the title for Singapore’s most expensive chicken rice.

The facelift here is transformative: the Japandi-style communal dining space feels like a swish living room, with a garden outside and retro touches such as partitions made of ventilation blocks, and HDB-esque tiled tables.

The updated menu is more streamlined, though they’ve added good zi-char picks like lemon butter tiger prawns, and sea perch with green chilli paste. 

Save space for elevated hawker favourites of otah (fresh mackerel paste, snow crab) and laksa (Boston lobster claw). The $25 chicken rice continues to be the top pick, featuring extra-tender 2kg birds steam-cooked by executive chef Liew Tian Heong, alongside rice made with chicken fat, shallots and pandan, and chillies and ginger pureed in a $16,000 machine.

After dinner, meet friends at buzzy lounge and bar Ginger.Lily, which is next to the check ins (also a fantastic choice for business coffees, as the service here is attentive and polished). Head mixologist Michael Mendoza serves up fruit, herb and spice-centric cocktails, like a sambal-spiced gin with sherry, strawberry shrub, and lemon.

Come by at lunch again the next day for wholesome fare, ranging from a salad of quinoa, tomatoes and avocado, to a stellar mushroom tortellini in butternut pumpkin soup. Or try the fun, Singapore-inspired laksa risotto with rock lobster tempura. 

Before checking out, pick up artisanal desserts by former D9 Cakery pastry whiz Cindy Khoo, who now serves up such delights as Ginger.Lily cake (black tea roll, homemade jam, peach compote, Williams pear), Triple Fermented Chocolate Cake, and the Hilton Iconic Cheese Cake. In the brand’s gorgeous floral boxes, these make pretty and very presentable souvenirs.

Stay for the swanky address

So, is the revamped Hilton worth a stay? While it has a well-deserved business hotel reputation (there’s a whole set of other facilities for MICE visitors, plus that executive lounge), regular guests will enjoy the Orchard Road access and dining most. Given the hotel’s bothered to move just metres down the road, convenience is the key draw, and Hilton knows it. There are competitors with bigger rooms and better views on this island. But for chic interiors and restaurants at an unbeatable address, this spot is the place to live it up like the district 9 glitterati for the weekend.

Photos: Hilton Singapore Orchard and Chatterbox