x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Capella Singapore, Sentosa Island

The Capella Singapore may have views of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, but it's so thoughtfully designed and staffed that only the most churlish guest would mind.

Enjoy the Jacuzzi in one of the constellation suites at Capella Singapore.
Enjoy the Jacuzzi in one of the constellation suites at Capella Singapore.

Taxi drivers never failed to gasp in wonder as we turned up the steep driveway and arrived at Capella Singapore, a spotless, white colonial house. It's an impressive building by anyone's standards and after a tour of modern, vacuum-packed Singapore, it comes as a relief to find evidence of the country's history. On arrival, I was greeted by smiling staff and checked in with minimal fuss. The walk down to my pool villa, through beautiful and densely planted tropical foliage, took five minutes, and the tour of all the features and gadgets in my new home, a little longer.

Sentosa Island, just off the southernmost tip of Singapore, is linked to the country proper by a toll bridge - you show your hotel room key to avoid paying the charge. White sandy beaches aside, Sentosa is not some leafy, undisturbed tropical paradise; first impressions include the brightly coloured, looping roller coaster rails of the island's theme park. There are also two large golf courses, a handful of five-star hotels and tourist attractions such as the "Images of Singapore" exhibition telling the nation's story. There is enough fun on Sentosa to keep the kids happy for a couple of days and Singapore's main attractions are only a cheap, 10-minute taxi ride away, traffic permitting.

Staff at Capella Singapore, which opened in April, come from all over the world, including Switzerland, Thailand and the US. I know this because they never failed to stop and introduce themselves - a practice that I would usually find slightly intrusive and then, eventually, unbelievably irritating. Hideaway resorts are meant to be about relaxation in splendid isolation not widening your social circle, surely? However, Capella's staff never failed to be helpful, interested and charming.

The immaculately restored, late 18th-century house quickly gives way to a modern hotel complex designed by super-architects Foster + Partners in curving grey stone. The mix of old and new, wood and stone is somewhat jarring but the amenities on offer makes up for that first impression. My pool villa has floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out to a private plunge pool and sunbathing terrace. The living room, bedroom and bathroom are all decorated as you would expect with silky floor rugs, rattan, cream and wenge furniture and a slate-tiled bathroom.

Not that it disappoints. The bed is enormous and ever-so comfortable; there's an espresso machine; a fridge restocked daily with complimentary soft drinks; and a bedside touchpad console so you don't have to budge from under the duvet to adjust the air conditioning, lighting levels or curtains and blinds. There's also the convenience and romance of a discreet outdoor shower and separate bath tub. Yet in spite of all this (there are cream leather poufs in the bathroom, for heaven's sake), you still find yourself lolling about as if you are at home.

Cassia, the resort's Chinese fine dining restaurant has a beautiful silver and black interior and a menu that reads like a book of proverbs. When I visited in mid-November, hairy crab season was in full swing and there was a special menu devoted to the Shanghai delicacy. There is also a tea-pairing menu, matching exotic dishes with extravagant sounding teas. The Knolls is a more relaxed place to eat with a reasonably priced menu of western and Asian fare including squid ink pasta with prawn tails for US$24 (Dh90).

More business than social. When I visited, the whirl on the terrace at Bob's Bar consisted of small groups of people, teeth gritted, huddling to avoid the monsoon rains, and staff scurrying to cover furniture in plastic. That evening, suits trooped down to the ballroom, pausing to admire the collection of rather good modern art. The next day, a luxury car brand was setting up shop in readiness for a product launch; the resort is fashionable and smart enough to appeal to big business - a mark of success in Singapore.

Opening the bedroom curtains with a swish using the touchpad console and finding a wild peacock strutting his stuff outside my windows. Unfortunately, my peahen impressions weren't up to scratch, and he refused to open his tail. The sound of the rain hitting the plate-sized leaves of the plants clustered around the resort's pathways, and the smell of damp soil. In fact, I was so in love with the natural world, that I even gazed fondly upon a fat brown rat resting on the wall outside my villa. The warmed bed and hot towels applied to my toes at the start of my excellent massage at the Auriga Spa.

No matter how long I ran the water in the shower, it never ran hot and a lukewarm wash in the cold is not inviting. Getting out of bed to switch off the one light that always failed to respond to the touchpad console.

A resort that for once deserves the tag "luxury". The Capella Singapore may have views of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, rather than a beachfront location, but it's so thoughtfully designed and staffed that only the most churlish guest would mind.

A standard deluxe twin room costs from $462 (Dh1,695) per night, including taxes. A one-bedroom, pool villa costs from $839 (Dh3,082), including taxes. Capella Singapore, 1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island, Singapore (www.capellasingapore.com; 0065 6377 8888).

cdight@thenational.ae