Sep 25, 2019
The Capitol Kempinksi Hotel Singapore is a cozy complex spanning three historic buildings. Jeninne Lee-St.John makes herself at home.
Anyone who checks pale pink luggage is basically asking for trouble. But those nasty scuffs from riding in the bottom of the plane magically vanished from my suitcase by the time merry doorman Mahendran delivered it to my room. “We cleaned it right up for you,” he said with a wide, infectious grin. This homey and intuitive opening salvo, I quickly realized, cut right to the soul of The Capitol Kempinski, the long-awaited hotel within two heritage buildings in the historic center of Singapore.
Stamford House was built in 1904 in Venetian Renaissance style; the neoclassical Capitol Building went up next door 26 years later. You may recall that a hotel by Pritzker Prize-winner Richard Meier was supposed to open in this space back in 2015. An ownership reshuffle and brand change later, the delicately restored conjoined property soft-launched last year and, now finally fully open, is a sterling lesson in how to preserve a place’s original spirit while saturating it with the soft simplicity that defines modern luxury.
Coming home every night of my stay felt like returning to a genteel apartment building: low-rise, serene, discreet. Working within heritage architecture has its constraints—the 157 guest rooms running the length of the two buildings newly linked by a glassy skybridge come in nearly 50 configurations—but also rewards: the front door of my Grand Deluxe room opened into an airy vestibule with dual sinks and the WC on one side, shower and tub on the other, and a wide-open bedroom ahead. It was a layout I’d never seen in a city hotel and created a remarkable sense of space. The long sofa beneath my tall arched window was the perfect place to read on a rainy day (though the plush purple thrones down in the cloistered Lobby Lounge also did the trick nicely over tea). Many of the rooms in the Stamford House wing, including mine, encircle an interior skylit void, where you can peer over the bannister and into the civilized, mostly à la carte breakfast in the morning, or at the custom stained- glass ceiling cranked over it in the evenings, when the restaurant becomes 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung. Here, the dishes represent the Michelin three-starred chef’s travels through Asia. Next door, the rum-focused bar is helmed by Edriane Lim, who, like a good neighbor, let me tag along to some of his favorite late-night spots after his shift.
In the Capitol Building wing, which is topped by a saltwater pool, some rooms overlook a bustling greenhouse of a new atrium that houses a slew of already-popular and totally adorable F&B outlets as well as the renovated Art Deco–era Capitol Theatre. It all makes for a pretty sweet living complex, especially with the hotel’s hidden entrance tucked in leaves round the backside of its colonnaded façade. This only further emphasizes the exclusive-residence feel. When, gently popping my pristine pink bag in the trunk, Mahendran tossed me his huge grin and said, “We can’t wait for you to come back,” I totally agreed.