The recently-opened Hotel Fort Canning in Singapore is the latest in the trend of upmarket boutique hotels targeting the business travel market.
Occupying a heritage 1926 building filled with history -- quite literally: there's a glass archaeological display in the lobby floor -- I was intrigued to find out whether the hotel was a good fit for business travellers.
After flying in from London I headed for the hotel, on a hill in the lush tropical Fort Canning Park, one of Singapore's largest central green spaces, for a two night stay.
Location & Impressions
Hotel Fort Canning is centrally located in Singapore, on the northwest side of the Fort Canning park, right next to the Battle Box World War II museum, a short stroll from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.
Arriving by taxi, my driver needed to be quoted the Canning Walk street name to be able to find the hotel. (But that's not especially unusual for Singapore's inconsistent taxi drivers.)
Through the automatic doors you'll find the chic but not dripping-with-luxury lobby dominated by the impressive historical double staircase, with a bar tucked behind.
I turned left and was swiftly checked in by a friendly and efficient staff member in the lounge area, which also features an exhibition of archaeological finds from the 14th century onwards.
Once check-in was complete, the staffer showed me to my room and explained the advanced yet easy to use in-room technology, which is controlled by this clever -- and rather Apple-esque -- touch panel.
While I'm something of a tech fan, I'm often frustrated by a lot of high-tech controls that hotels use. Four-button lightswitches placed nowhere near the lights they control are a pain. But these panels were clever and futuristic, yet simple to use.
I stayed in a Deluxe room on the second floor, with a view over the treetops to the northwest.
(Smokers will want to pick a Deluxe Garden room, which has its own little terrace with outdoor day bed for lounging.)
With high ceilings, a massive king-size bed, Jim Thompson Thai silk headboards, a comfortable chaise longue with ottoman, superb in-room technology (touch panels for the automatic blinds, lights, air conditioning) and warm hardwood floors, it won a place on my list of favourite hotel rooms.
Through the double doors was the large bathroom -- a tall, long soaking bath on the left, and a full monsoon shower with separate shower wand on the right. Upmarket herby, woody Thann bath amenities, fluffy towels and a leafy green view while brushing my teeth rounded out the bathroom.
The one downside of the bathroom was that the full-width mirror sits above the bath rather than in front of the sink, making shaving a little tricky.
A massive flat panel TV and B&W Zeppelin mini iPhone/iPod docking system (one that's actually made to work with the iPhone and iPad -- a rarity in hotels) mean you can keep yourself entertained, while a Nespresso machine and delicious TWG teas are also on offer.
There's only non-dairy creamer in the fridge, but room service were happy to send up little jugs of cold milk even in the early morning when I awoke with jetlag.
Fast, free wifi Internet is spread around the hotel, which topped out at 7.8Mbps down and 4.5Mbps up -- fast enough for nearly anything you'll want to do.
With a simple click to accept terms and conditions before you're ready to browse (no flurry of login windows in your browser), an unlimited number of devices (it worked just fine on my laptop, phone and tablet), and coverage throughout the hotel and in the outside areas, this is the best hotel Internet offering I've seen in ages.
All power points in the room are universal international sockets, so they'll cope with any plug you care to throw at them.
The desk, while large, was fine for working, but the chair isn't ergonomic and won't suffice for a full day's work.
However, you have the option of using your laptop on the chaise longue or heading downstairs to the business centre or lobby lounge.
I had room service delivered on my first night, which arrived in charming round tiffin boxes -- a whimsical touch that was also much more practical than the usual trolley wheeled into your room. The satay were particularly delicious, and the wine list cleverly chosen and not unreasonably priced (for Singapore, where wine is generally more expensive than gold).
Breakfast is in the Glass House restaurant, which is a lovely morning stroll down a glass-roofed walkway (or there's an underground passage through the conference areas if Singapore is having one of its frequent morning thunderstorms).
The spread was notably good, with a wide range of continental options (try the birchermuesli), western hot choices (notable were the delicious mushroom tartlets) plus good dim sum and excellent roti with vegetable curry. An omelette, waffle and pancake chef cooked up some superb eggs to order.
The staff quickly twigged that I was a jetlagged zombie on my first morning and kept the Nespresso coffee coming.
In the evenings, cocktail hour (actually two hours) takes place in the lobby lounge and outside on the small, leafy terrace.
Drinks include a rather good Café de Paris blanc de blancs French sparkling wine from Bordeaux. It's not official Champagne from Champagne, but to my mind a decent sparkling is often better than a middling champers.
There's also a red and white wine on offer, plus various soft drinks, but the sparkling was better.
Interesting canapés are frequently replenished, and if you have a chance to try the spicy tuna, do -- delicious and very moreish. Hilariously, little foil triangles of La Vache Qui Rit (a spreadable French cheese that children take in their lunch boxes) are also included in the canapé offering.
There's a chic bar downstairs with a fabulous cocktail menu, plus the Gattopardo Italian restaurant.
With a comfortable bed, chaise longue with ottoman, and a deep soaking bath, you almost don't need to leave your room to chill out at the hotel.
But the Hotel Fort Canning has an impressive array of leisure activities: two pools, one for lounging and one for swimming laps (where I was the only person during the day and in the evening), a well-equipped gym and a Thann spa.
And since the hotel is inside Fort Canning Park itself, you're about two minutes from the fascinating Battle Box World War II museum, leafy walks, the ASEAN sculpture garden and the (rather dry and academic) National Museum of Singapore.
Speedy free wifi, superb in-room tech, excellent pools, chic bar, great food and drink, leafy green views, a central location and whimsical touches like tiffin boxes and jungle print cotton bathrobes -- it's hard to beat the Hotel Fort Canning for a business trip to Singapore.
The only downside I found was that, since it's an independent boutique hotel unaffiliated with a major chain, you won't get points or miles for your stay. But I reckon that's a small price to pay in exchange for a superb hotel.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.