Lee Kin Seng is the Director of Marketing and Communications of the hotel design sensation PARKROYAL on Pickering. We chatted to him about Singapore as a destination and the hotel’s unique position in the city’s changing landscape.
NS: Following August’s SG50 celebrations, what do you think Singaporeans should be celebrating the most?
KS: The ubiquitous SG50 campaign provided an opportunity for us to take a breather from our hectic schedules to look back on the past 50 years and appreciate that nation-building is no easy feat. Singaporeans have much to be proud about and we should all look forward to another 50 years of peace, unity and progress as a nation.
NS: How has the city developed as a destination in the last ten years?
KS: Singapore is developing at an astonishing pace. The landscapes, skylines and local lifestyles are transforming all the time. We now host world class sporting events like the Singapore Grand Prix. We also welcomed two integrated resorts that introduced world-class dining and entertainment that elevated the lifestyle scene to the next level. I’m a little worried that I will soon forget how Marina South used to look 10 years ago, with its row of steamboat restaurants and winding roads for car racing and kites flying in the empty fields.
NS: What does the PARKROYAL on Pickering do differently and what makes it a unique hotel experience for guests?
KS: PARKROYAL on Pickering offers a refreshing hotel-in-a-garden experience. Guests are first drawn in by the intriguing architecture and then they discover an urban oasis when they walk into lush greenery in unexpected places, for example our outdoor guestroom corridors, our well-hidden 300-metre garden walk and our nature-inspired guestrooms. Also, true to our brand promise of being ‘A Trusted Local Companion’ to everyone who walks through our doors, our Concierge staff are trained to recommend everything from tourist attractions to off-the-beaten path experiences. Eco-warriors can also get their green fix by embarking on a green itinerary put together by environmentalist Olivia Choong for PARKROYAL on Pickering, titled ‘The Green Side Of Life’ (for more details, refer to parkroyalhotels/Pickering).
NS: What is your favourite aspect of the hotel? Are there any particular features that you think deserve special recognition?
KS: I enjoy being surrounded by lush greenery all the time and admire the intriguing architecture that never fails to amaze me every, single, day. I think the sustainable and eco-friendly nature of the hotel is exceptional. Many people are drawn in by the architecture, but once they find out how sustainable and eco-friendly this hotel really is, they are blown away.
NS: How do you relax on your day off?
KS: I like to check out the latest bars and restaurants around town. “Occupational hazard” is an excuse I create for myself, but I really enjoy exploring the local dining scene, while having a good time with my friends and loved ones.
NS: When eating out, do you prefer casual local food or fine dining?
KS: I can’t really choose one type of food over the other but like to mix it up once in a while. For example, I’ll have chee cheong cun (rice rolls) for breakfast, wanton noodles for lunch and then have dinner at one of the hottest/new restaurants in town, just to be up-to-date with the dining scene.
NS: What do you think of the Singapore dining scene?
KS: The dining scene here is very diverse and dynamic due to Singapore’s multi-racial society. This is great because new dining concepts and cuisines are being introduced to the city all the time. Ten years ago, I bet that no local would have imagined that one day we would see restaurants specialising in ‘exotic’ Caribbean or Mexican cuisine popping up all around town.
NS: Which are your favourite hawker stalls and why? Are there any hidden gems you can divulge?
KS: I go to the adjacent Hong Lim Market & Food Centre for fried char kway teow or visit the nearby Maxwell Food Centre for the popular Hainanese chicken rice that even got Gordon Ramsay raving. This place is also famous for its curry chicken noodles and crayfish hor fun. But do check out ’Cantonese Delights’ – a stall tucked away in one corner on level 2. This serves deliciously sinful noodle dishes like fried curry chicken cutlet noodles, laksa yong tau foo and chicken feet noodles. Healthier options such as shredded chicken hor fun and dumpling soup are also available. What’s interesting about this stall is that the owners used to fly for Singapore Airlines in their younger days. They chose to give up their glamourous jet set lifestyle to pursue their passion as hawker heroes in Hong Lim. One thing to note – the stall is not open every day, so wish upon your lucky stars before heading down.
For an alternate dining experience, visit Breakthrough Café, a five-minute walk from PARKROYAL on Pickering. Run by a Christian-based aftercare association, Breakthrough Café offers those with troubled pasts a much-needed employment opportunity for them to further their skills and integrate into society. They serve a good choice of local Singapore delicacies such as dim sum and a savoury pot of fish head curry.
NS: Which dish at the hotel’s Lime restaurant should visitors try and why?
KS: It’s tough to pick just one dish as Lime’s dining concept is more focused on its buffet line-up rather than the a la carte menu. For me, the highlight of Lime is its Peranakan kitchen. This serves up authentic Straits Chinese dishes like Babi Pong Teh, Udang Masak Nanas and Ayam Buah Keluak. I’d highly recommend that visitors to Singapore try this as it’s a very tasty representative of Singapore’s culture. The best way to sample this without sitting through an entire buffet is to opt for ‘The Nonya Set’, a three-course set menu specially designed for guests to sample the finest of timeless Peranakan favourites.
NS: If you had one day to show guests around the city, which five attractions would you visit?
KS: I’d start with Gardens by the Bay. This attraction best represents Singapore as a modern ‘Garden City.’ The supertrees here exude a futuristic and cutting-edge vibe, and the two conservatories, which host many species of plant life from across the globe, are well worth a visit. Then I’d do a River Cruise and take in the sights of key landmarks in Singapore comfortably without jostling with the crowd. From the impressive skyscrapers at Raffles Place, the enthralling Merlion Park and the spectacular lights of Marina Bay, to the restaurants and bars along the foreshore of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, this is definitely an eye-opening journey for guests visiting Singapore for the first time. For a bird’s eye view of the city, I’d then go the Singapore Flyer before heading to Tiong Bahru. Visiting this neighbourhood is a great way to showcase the interesting mash-up of old and new in Singapore. In recent years, the oldest housing estate in Singapore has morphed into a hip enclave that’s home to an eclectic mix of designer boutiques, quaint cafes and chic bars surrounded by pre-war and post-war flats. I’d then go to Club Street and Ann Siang Hill for evening drinks after a long day of exploring the city.
Indonesian-born Galuh Pandita has lived in Singapore since 2007. Originally