This place has Instagram-worthy written all over it.
It’s not every day I get invited to test-drive a luxe new hotel, or when said invitation conveniently aligns with my hubby’s birthday celebrations; so when I do, and it does, I always say yes.
Consequently, it was with a mix of excited anticipation and nerves we stepped out of our cab at Singapore’s latest up-and-coming hotel, Hotel Jen Tanglin on my husband’s 30th birthday. While I’m not one to turn down a night in a hotel bed (hello room service and not having to clean up after myself), travel review trips can be a bit of a mixed bag; sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by what I find when I arrive, others, I’m thoroughly underwhelmed (let’s just say I’ve stayed in places that make jail cells look homely).
Thankfully, when we swung open the heavy glass doors of Hotel Jen, we were not disappointed. The hip new Asian hotspot has just undergone a $45 million no-expense-spared makeover that’s transformed the entire hotel into a hipster haven. If you’re wowed by style that has personality, this is definitely the place for you. There’s not a generic leather armchair or predictable piece of cookie-cutter artwork in sight.
Instead, you’re greeted by walls adorned in vibrant hand-painted murals, greenery-covered feature walls and retro metallic hexagon stools floating amongst the reception area’s brightly lit open floorplan.
After you’ve stayed in your fair share of hotels, it’s pretty difficult to get excited about anything you see on opening your room door – with uninspired plain timber desks and generic fabric furniture, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Or at least I thought, until we were greeted by a whirlwind of bright pops of retro orange decor, geometric copper hanging lights and the grand centrepiece – a plush windowseat overlooking the hotel’s stunning pool facilities.
The staff don’t miss a beat here either, leaving a decadent chocolate ganache cake on the coffee table with a birthday card personally signed by the entire service team to wish hubby a happy 30th.
Naturally, I claimed credit for it all.
If you’re as addicted to taking constant Instagram snaps of your food as I am, the dining facilities at Hotel Jen will make you a very happy little social media junkie. All of the meals and beverages have been painstakingly designed to be Instagram-worthy (it was literally paining me not to snap a shot of everything I consumed, but I promised hubby I’d switch off social media for the celebrations. Well, except for this one…).
From milkshakes topped dangerously high with whipped cream stuffed with mini macarons and brownie bites and served in retro mason jars to buffets piled high with fresh sushi, prawns and gourmet Asian delights like dumplings and bright, hefty helpings of salad, every sense is ignited once you’re dining at its modern all-you-can-eat style J65 restaurant.
Or, if you’re after a more intimate vibe, as we were on our second night, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, Ah Hoi’s Kitchen, with its romantic poolside setting and traditional chilli crab dish that was so good the hubby practically inhaled it, is the place to be as the sun sets over Singapore.
Just be warned, the meals are very generously portioned, so you may leave carrying your stomach like you’re a firefighter rescuing a small child.
The true measure of any hotel (at least in my book) is its bar, and with its surround panoramic views over the leafy city of Singapore, daily happy hour where Club room guests can get drinks on the house (I inhaled two glasses of wine at lightning speed on hearing this, unable to contain my excitement at the prospect of free booze) and stunning retro furniture fitout, it was hard not to want to spend the majority of our time at Hotel Jen’s exclusive Club Lounge (and fair to say we probably did).
But if you’re not staying in a Club room, you’re not forgotten. There’s also a fun sports bar downstairs where all guests can treat themselves to free popcorn, delish cocktails, great music and a pretty nifty supply of old-school board games you can play as you sip.
What to do
If you’re a newbie to Singapore (as were we), Hotel Jen is the perfect place to stay. Not only can you grab a vintage style bicycle here to explore the city on (so hipster), but the staff seem to take delight out of recommending less cliche hole-in-the-wall-type local hotspots to drink, dine, dance and explore your time away, rather than sending you to the traditional overcrowded tourist traps hotel concierges tend to focus on.
The hotel’s manager, Clifford Weiner has made a point out of using the staff’s own experiences of the city as a reference point for directing you where to go.
“We have no concierge here. We’re all about getting our staff to share their experiences with our guests. We have in our back of house a big map of Singapore where all the staff put up post-its of their fave local places to get noodles, go for a cocktail or have a nice meal,” the GM explains.
And get great recommendations we did. After a day trying on saris and chowing down on traditional Indian street food in Singapore’s Little India, we headed out to secret bar 28 Hong Kong Street, which from the outside looks like an old garage (we actually stood around for a while scratching our heads, wondering if we’d missed the bar until finally pushing on the un-signposted door) and is a luxuriously decked out old-school cocktail bar on the inside, serving up some of the best and most inventive cocktails you will drink in Singapore.
Next we dined at local dumpling hotspot Jing Hua Xiao Chi for Hubby’s fave: homestyle xiao long bao, before moving on to Manhattan Bar, named one of the world’s best cocktail bars for good reason, where we had one too many deconstructed cocktail delights. After that, dessert was in order – vegan waffles topped with decadent rice milk ice-cream and the most moorish chocolate syrup had me seriously considering taking up camp at Brownice, Singapore’s first vegan dessert bar and a definite culinary highlight for a non-animal-product-eating foodie like me.
I’d like to say we were sensible and headed for the sack after that, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to end the night enjoying a few more wines overlooking Singapore at the Club Lounge. And sneakishly taking one last Instagram snap while hubby wasn’t looking… Cheers, Hotel Jen. I’ll definitely be coming back again.
Comment: Have you stayed at Hotel Jen Tanglin? What did you think of it?
Nadia is a journalist, media commentator and editor with a penchant for hoarding makeup and an opinion on just about everything. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Cosmopolitan, and many more. She's a passionate advocate for destroying mental health stigma and sexually empowering women, and has absolutely no concept of TMI. Follow Nadia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.