As part of a new series, Rebecca Anne Milford explores Singapore and finds the best places to eat, drink, see and stay. Here she stumbles upon a wonderfully quirky boutique hotel that may feel like a dream come true…
In Three Words: Stunning, Eccentric, Unforgettable
So why Wanderlust?
I was first drawn in by the description – it is ‘Designed for the adventurous traveller’, but retains all the chic features of a boutique hotel. Further investigation had me curious, then intrigued, then hooked. It promised to be like no hotel I’d stayed in before – the rooms, for instance, are divided into Pantone (vibrantly decorated in one colour tone), Mono (a breathtakingly stylish black and white approach to decor) and Whimsical. Yes, whimsical. You can, if you wish, sleep in a room designed like outer space. I was sold.
As soon as you approach Wanderlust then you know something special is about to happen. Located off the beaten track, in the tumult of riotous colour, sound and scents that is Little India, the pale facade has a hint of Colonial charm and is decorated with the intricate beauty of mosaic tiles.
A Warm Welcome
Enter and you’re immediately greeted by one of the smiling and lovely concierge – and that’s it. You feel completely welcome and at home because, somehow, Wanderlust makes guests immediately comfortable. It truly is a home from home, if that home was some astoundingly stylish and trendy open-plan apartment somewhere.
Wanderlust is a mecca for lovers of architecture and design, and anyone with a love of interiors should be made to visit. Combining award-winning design studios means that there are different quirks to each part. The communal nature gives it a breath of fresh air, with pops of colour bringing together rustic French farmhouse chic with artist-bohmeieme cool.
An industrial brushed metal bar, cute little kettle, plants livening up the window and ruby red lampshades all add to the eclectic atmosphere. Add to that the adorable restraurant serving French fare (more later), and the all-pervading reminders of Little India (coloured glass brightening intricate window cornices) and already get a feeling of the kind of people here – open-minded travellers with a love of thoughtful details, all with a sense of adventure and a joie de vivre. This is the kind of place you could sit and while away hours, and is the perfect way to start your day to the sound of twinkly folk and jazz, with fresh fruit, cereals and pastries, and an adorable breakfast choice.
So About Those Whimsical Rooms…
Choosing a room here is half of the fun, and you’re not going to be disappointed. I knew that the Fourth Floor was for me – nicknamed ‘Creature Comforts’ as it offers friendly monster companions for the lonely traveller. Sounds bonkers yes, and even more so when you discover you can stay in a Space Room, a Bling Room, a Typewriter room… I mused for a while on the latter, but decided the Tree Room had to be for me. It’s an unparalleled chance to indulge your inner child, and I was just so glad I did. A part of me had worried it might verge in kitsch, or perhaps be a bit too much, arriving after a long-haul flight. But entering the room simply blows you away.
It’s just so beautiful, with natural tones of green and brown, and stunning attention to detail. The walls are pale grey with restful prints of tree trunks; the floor is a cool mosaic of emerald greens; a Narnia style lantern glows like a golden beacon, urging you up the ladder to a little secluded den, that feels like your private treehouse hideaway. Fabric leaves gently stir above your head, the bed is one of cosiest I’ve ever slept on, and your inner woodland creature urges you to curl up and hibernate (helped by the fact the bed is extraordinarily comfortable). One more thing of note – in the room is a complimentary handheld smart device for use during the stay – perfect for making international calls, using as GPS outside, or simply looking up things nearby to do. I’ve never known hospitality like it. This is honestly one of my favourite hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in – and is certainly the coolest.
French Fare within Little India in Singapore – a visit to Cocotte
In their standard idiosyncratic way, Wanderlust have decided to delight diners and guests alike with some absolutely delicious French cuisine. The restaurant is part of the open-plan ground floor, and naturally has all the wonderful kooky additions that basically is part and parcel of this place. The atmosphere is rather more seductive thanks to those red lamps, and although the ambience is relaxed and comfortable, the food is pure quality.
We started with a pumpkin soup – smooth and silky, with the pleasant crunch of a pumpkin seed sprinkled on the top, but with enough taste of the squash that it wasn’t overly creamy, which was the ideal start. After that some succulent duck terrine was an indulgent treat and paired excellently with warm rolls and the vinegary tang of beetroot and cornichons – not too fatty, and with bags if flavour. Next we got a luxurious taste of the sea with a bowl of mussels, clams and cockles, all served in a creamy white wine sauce with swiss chard and fennel. This dish was particularly impressive – there was a thankful abundance of the joyously decadent cream, which nuzzled the shellfish with a velvety coating. But the real stand out dish was the steak. Served rare, it still retained all the chargrilled taste of a prime piece of beef, but was ridiculously soft inside. The peppercorn sauce was rich without being overpowering, and a sprinkling of greens added a necessary freshness. We finished with masterful caramel ice-cream, which we were pleased to learn was also made on site. In all, we were incredibly impressed – French food can be too rich and overpowering when approached incorrectly, but the chef at Cocotte had a cool hand and a knowledge of balance that ensured a great meal.
And to drink? Cocotte serve wonderful cocktails, and anyone in Little India should definitely give them a go. The Lychee Martini came with three plump globes of fruit, and was a real taste of the exotic. My partner loved her Aperol Spritz and Negroni, and finishing drinks of Espresso Martinis and an Old Fashioned proved the bar team here have it sorted. It’s also worth perusing the wine list – there are an abundance of interesting tipples to complement your meal, and the staff know their grapes, so ask if you’re unsure.
Wanderlust is like no place I have ever stayed. The ambience, the rooms, the restaurant, the entire hotel – everything all has an incredible ‘essence’ that you just can’t buy or bottle. It seems effortless, this whimsical eccentricity, and yet it’s also clear that everything is carefully orchestrated to provide the best possible standard for guests. It is boutique without being exclusive, chic without being pretentious, relaxed while still being professional, and manages to be both stylishly elegant and delightfully bonkers.
There is something about this hotel that makes you fall head over heels in love with it. Wanderlust means to have a strong desire to travel far away and explore – but I can almost guarantee that after a visit here, leaving will be the last thing you’ll want to do.