x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hotel Insider: Wanderlust, Singapore

Nick Leech checks into one of Singapore's most surprising new hotels.

The bed, bath and sofa in the Creature Comfort room. Rory Daniel
The bed, bath and sofa in the Creature Comfort room. Rory Daniel

The welcome

Wanderlust describes itself as "a left-field and totally experimental boutique hotel set to draw madcap voyagers" and on arrival I am forced to admire the hotel's candour. A different Singaporean creative team has designed each of Wanderlust's four floors and the guiding principle for each would seem to have been a total lack of aesthetic inhibition. The ground floor, which houses the lobby, kitchen and a breakfast-cum-dining room, is a relatively demur exercise in industrial chic and recycled furniture that provides guests with a welcome respite from the street outside and the delirium of the interior design above. I am greeted by similarly industrial-looking staff - with razor-sharp haircuts, dog tags and monochrome outfits - but their no-nonsense welcome is friendly and efficient and I am handed a beautifully designed notebook full of maps and local facts that proves an invaluable source of information.

The neighbourhood

Wanderlust may sit at the very edge of Singapore's "Little India" district, but taxis have to make a detour through the neighbourhood's teeming heart before they can drop you outside. It's a warren of traditional "shop houses" - colourful, century-old terraces that combine Tamil vegetarian restaurants, second-hand electronics shops and the occasional Hindu temple on the ground floor with chic offices, design studios and residential accommodation above.

The room

A "Creature Comfort"-themed room on the fourth floor is straight from the William S Burroughs school, with an interior design unsuited to the intrusion of daylight. At one end, a sofa with upholstery in the shape of typewriter keys sprouts a claw of oversized type bars that reach up and across the double height ceiling like some enormous metal spider. Mounted on a platform that sits above the built-in wardrobe, toilet and shower, my (very comfortable) bed is accessible only by stepladder, while an exposed bathtub sits in the middle of the room. Once I actually made it to bed, I slept soundly.

The service

Polite and courteous throughout my stay.

The food

Wanderlust's French bistro Cocotte aims, through shared dishes and communal seating, to make eating here a social event. A three-course prix fixe menu costs 65 Singaporean dollars (Dh193) per person. At breakfast, nothing is unexpected, but the combination of the very best fresh produce and a lightness of touch make even a humble fresh fruit salad a delight, yet ultimately it pales into insignificance when compared with the delights of Singapore's famous street food.

The scene

An international mixture of young couples, business people travelling alone and culture vultures of all ages. Cocotte's reach extends beyond paying guests to a wider audience of local residents, families and tourists alike.

Loved

At the start of every taxi journey to the hotel, I am greeted with a look of barely suppressed scandal when my Singaporean drivers register the word "lust" in its name.

Hated

The metal staircase to my bed was mercilessly steep with uncomfortable treads, shallow enough to challenge an ibex.

The verdict

Wanderlust is not for the faint-hearted or those in search of luxury. What it offers is an unforgettable experience for the jaded, the solo traveller, or couples who want something different from the accommodation on their city break.

The bottom Line

A double room costs from 257 Singaporean dollars (Dh762) per night, including taxes. Wanderlust, 2 Dickson Road, Singapore (www.wanderlusthotel.com; 00 65 6396 3322).