Fusing history and modernity, this warm boutique hotel in Singapore is a refreshing find for this writer.
WHEN someone found out that I was going to stay in this hotel in Kg Glam, there were two comments. The first was, “Where is Kg Glam?” The second, “Wow, must be a very glam place.”
And this someone was a Singaporean!
Firstly, this Hotel Clover 769 North Bridge Road is situated in what is basically Singapore’s hipster central while being in a historical area especially noted for its ethnic heritage. Perhaps Haji Lane would ring a bell – well, it’s just a quick walk from here. This area sits within the Bugis locality.
And Glam does not reference glamorous, but is the Malay name for a tree that grows in that area. And not just any tree but one whose resin, bark and leaves are used for many different purposes.
This area used to be a Malay settlement; the palace of the first Sultan, Sultan Hussein, was turned into a Malay heritage museum. One of the most beautiful mosques in Singapore, the Sultan Mosque, is located just down the road from the hotel.
As this is an area protected by the Singapore Government for its cultural, historical and architectural heritage, many of the buildings and shophouses have been well-preserved.
The 27-room Hotel Clover 769 North Bridge Road is a historical gem. It’s basically a trio of two-storey, conserved shophouses constructed between 1840 and 1960. They were formerly a tailor’s shop and a jewellery parlour.
I was immediately drawn to its facade – in “Early Shophouse Style” as it were, its clean-cut exterior exhibiting a harmonious mix of Greco-Roman columns and Chinese-style walkways. Its neighbours next door and across the road are equally enchanting.
Once you enter, warm and gracious smiles immediately greet you at the reception. And then your eyes capture the views of the interior and you stop in your tracks.
On your right is this striking bullock cart (minus the bull, of course) filled with gunny sacks. It’s flanked by an old-style camera with tripod (you know the one where the guy holds the flash in his hand) and antique luggage chests.
It doesn’t stop there. The main feature is the large communal table for guests to mingle over breakfast and coffee in the midst of handpicked vintage, decorative pieces like a restored hair salon high-backed chair, a gramophone, a rotary dial telephone, a fan and a typewriter cheekily juxtaposed against a rather modern Mac desktop.
This calm, serene but arty lobby is complemented by a quiet corner occupied by a gorgeous leather sofa adorned with metal studs, a quartet of yesteryear’s steel-lined leather armchairs and a sewing machine, echoing the historical connection with the shophouses’ past.
All of this is complemented by a soothing palette of white, beige and brown and modern clean lines. I was told later that they actually had most of the furniture, fittings and furnishings customised.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time in the lobby of a hotel before. So much so, it hit me later that I still hadn’t registered at the reception.
Normally, I can’t wait to complete the registration and head off to my room. But even then I dawdled, as I had spotted another interesting feature at the hotel.
At the back of the lift (although there’s only one other floor) was an open courtyard filled with comfy and colourful chairs with a small vertical garden. It used to be the open airwell that is a common ventilation feature for shophouses here.
As the buildings are protected, no changes can be allowed in the interior that disturbs its original concept – hence it has not been covered. So if it rains, don’t expect to do your meditation there unless you are the sort who goes for rain showers.
There are four categories of rooms. The Clover Single and the Select (both with no windows), the Plush (basically the Select, but with windows) and the Lavish suite. And the good news: Free WiFi is available in all the rooms (the whole hotel, actually).
Anyway, I stayed in the Lavish suite. The colour palette of the lobby is found in the rooms, too, with the bed dominating and centralised controls for the lighting and air-conditioning found by the side of the bed.
What I liked was the beige wooden tiled floors. But hold on, won’t it get stained and warped? They let me in on the secret later – those were actually ceramic tiles that look like timber.
The flooring in the bath area is the same. Seriously, it is so large that you could put a volleyball team in there for a communal shower. In case you’re wondering; I did not invite said team to test out that theory!
But the piece de resistance must be the roomy outdoor jacuzzi (OK, maybe half the volleyball team this time). Suffice to say, this was well-utilised during my two-night stay there.
If you’re not a fan of jacuzzis, the other room categories are pretty plush and well-appointed in their own right.
Apparently, this hotel is especially popular with Malaysians, Indonesians and guests from China. However, when I was there, I noticed mainly Europeans staying there. Surprisingly, there is also a significant number of Singaporeans who stay there. The staycation trend is quite popular here and this is one way they like to pamper themselves.
Breakfast is complimentary, with the basic Western or Asian set. The small corner café is only open for breakfast and is run by a third-party operator. When I ordered a Western breakfast – sausages and hash brown – I requested for some tomato ketchup, but was met with a sniffy, “We don’t provide sauce”.
Well, pardon me for asking!
Outside the hotel, there’s so much to see, all within walking distance. There are scores of fabric stores, shisha parlours, briyani eateries (supposedly some of the best in Singapore), ethnic Arab and Middle Eastern restaurants. Also some trendy restaurants and cafés. Of course one has to check out Haji Lane with its bar scene and vintage stores – Bar Stories, Maison Ikkoku, Tokyo Bikes are just some names that pique the interest.
Beyond are the wonders of Bugis.
They have a couple of other hotels in different areas if that is more up your alley. Guess I have to thank my lucky clover for discovering this gem.
Hotel Clover 769 North Bridge Road
769 North Bridge Rd
Tel: +65 6340 1860