On a short stay in Singapore recently I decided to return to the Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay, where I'd stayed several years previously. I was interested to see what had changed.
I generally found that I can count on the Novotel brand for a decent room, comfy bed, good shower and -- most importantly -- quiet. They don't tend to be luxurious by any means, but they're consistently a good business travel option.
Location & Impressions
The Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay sits on top of the Liang Court mall and food court, right next to the Singapore River and about a 500m walk from the Clarke Quay MRT station (North East line). It's also right next to the Boat Quay entertainment district, which is a useful location.
If you'll be taking the MRT, though, there are hotels with better access. Even though taxis in Singapore are relatively cheap, they tend to be pretty scarce when it's chucking it down and you'll get soaked if you try to walk to the Clarke Quay MRT in one of Singapore's daily thunderstorms.
First impressions on my arrival (by taxi; see above re: thunderstorm) were just "okay": the door staff were sluggish in getting my bag, didn't offer to take it upstairs for me (not that I'd have taken them up on it, but it's the principle of the thing) and the ground floor lobby is tiny and humid.
A (rather slow) lift takes you up to the main lobby, which is put together much better, although in an odd shape. The elevators bring you to the end of a corridor, but facing a blank wall.
You walk past the bank of iMac computers to check-in, which was efficient and pleasant enough, and I was allocated a room on the 25th floor.
I'd booked a standard room, which had a queen bed, a rather battered eighties-style armchair and an Ergon-style chair at a decent work desk.
The room was on the small side internationally, but average for Singapore. Notably, one side of the bed butted right up against the bathroom wall, and the bedside table on the other side was fixed to the wall. So probably a room type to avoid if you're travelling with a +1.
The bathroom was small and a little dated, with brown tile walls, but it had everything I needed.
A fairly weak and rattly shower-over-bath didn't live up to the other Novotels I've experienced.
A tiny wardrobe (too small to fit even a carry-on piece of wheeled luggage) contained two waffle-cloth bathrobes and -- praiseworthily -- actual clotheshangers rather than the irritating hotel type that have a pin you fit into the circular section attached to the pole.
But my favourite feature was the control panel next to the bed, which was helpfully labelled with everything you need to adjust in the room.
The desk and chair combo worked well together, with reasonable ergonomics for a day's work. The chair was particularly comfortable.
The desk is a decent size, and has good task lighting plus an excellent range of power points: two Singapore/UK style, one Australian/Chinese style, and one joint US/EU style points in an accessible place on the wall.
(Unfortunately, these are the only power points in the room, so you'll need to recharge your electronics on the desk overnight.)
I tried and failed to get the Internet to work, which was a downside. Since I wasn't planning to spend the whole day working at the hotel, this wasn't as much of a dealbreaker as it could have been, since I had a local SIM with iPhone tethering enabled that worked well. But the hotel needs free wifi, especially in electronics-mad Singapore.
Fed up of hotel food, and with a Japanese supermarket and numerous options in the Liang Court mall below the hotel, I skipped the hotel's restaurants, although the Cantonese Dragon Phoenix looked particularly good. Other hotel options are The Square (international buffet), Moghul Mahal (North Indian), and Le Bar Rouge (a French-style bar).
In Liang Court, which is on the small side of modern Singaporean malls, there's the Meidi-Ya Japanese supermarket, which also sells a wide variety of Western items, with a particular focus on British imports.
Among other restaurants and chains like McDonalds and Starbucks, there's also a Kopitiam-branded food court with decent dim sum if you fancy something a little bit Singaporean but still air-conditioned, and several sit-down restaurants on the second and third floors.
Five stars for the range of options within air-conditioned striking distance.
The armchair in the room wasn't particularly comfortable for relaxing, which is something of a drawback -- especially when matched against the excellent working setup at the desk.
And while the range of TV channels was international and wide-ranging, the TV itself was small.
The pool downstairs was fantastic, though -- large, with blissfully cool water, numerous deckchairs, and catching a decent amount of sunshine.
And the prime location near the buzzing Boat Quay and Clarke Quay entertainment areas means that it's easy enough to step out for some downtime in a bar or restaurant.
The answer to my question about what had changed at the hotel since my last stay was: not much apart from some new sofas in the lobby and better working chairs at the desk. While all the important stuff was just fine, the hotel was a bit tired, felt rather 1980s, and could really use a refurbishment.
On the plus side, the basics were all there, and at a reasonable price (for Singapore) of SG$215 (A$163), it was pretty good value.