Wonderful base for wandering around

Wanderlust hotel (left) has well-designed studio lofts (above) and houses Kotuwa restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan dishes (right).
Wanderlust hotel has well-designed studio lofts (above) and houses Kotuwa restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan dishes.PHOTO: WANDERLUST
Wanderlust hotel has well-designed studio lofts and houses Kotuwa restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan dishes (above).
Wanderlust hotel has well-designed studio lofts and houses Kotuwa restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan dishes (above).ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN

So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special?

Wanderlust hotel in Dickson Road is a modern retreat for when you need a break from the stimuli of the heritage-lined streets of Little India.

Reopened on March 1 by new management company Oakwood under its latest brand, The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood, it is the embodiment of what you want in a smaller, boutique heritage hotel in a vibrant Singapore neighbourhood - a home base close to great food and myriad activities.

The hotel is also home to standout Sri Lankan restaurant Kotuwa on the first floor, which helps up the escapism factor.

First impressions?

I am usually in Little India only for a thosai fix at Komala Vilas restaurant or a trip to Tekka Market for an appam breakfast.

But with its charming Peranakan-tiled exterior; sleek, modern wood interiors; and warm service staff, the four-storey hotel housed in a former clan school building proves to be a convincing reason to spend more time in the area.

Regionally sourced teak is used in the panelling and carpentry, adding warmth to the inviting lobby and rooms.

There is also a very Instagram-friendly wading pool on the second floor. Though it is currently closed, it is a great spot for OOTD (outfit of the day) shots to commemorate your stay.

What are the rooms like?

I stay in the elegant and spacious studio loft, with its high ceilings and windows that allow light to flood in. The well-designed space has the bathroom behind a concealed door underneath the loft bed frame and there is even room for a fully equipped kitchenette.

Like a serviced apartment, these are rooms one could comfortably stay in for longer periods. And there is a self-service laundry facility on the second floor.

Things that made me go "yum"?

A highlight of my stay is a cornucopia of a meal at Kotuwa, which opened in December. The sumptuous Sri Lankan dishes draw on influences from various regions. Besides the tangy, spicy and sweet lychee acharu and the sea bass curry, the egg or plain hoppers that come perfectly crisped on the edges are a must-have.

Ask for the daily specials and be surprised by anything from slow-braised mutton tripe in red curry to malu miris (stuffed banana peppers).

Cocktails are by the affable bartender Ashaka - you cannot miss his glorious beard - and the inventive drinks feature spirits such as Ceylon arrack and ingredients like curry leaves and tamarind.

  • WANDERLUST, THE UNLIMITED COLLECTION BY OAKWOOD

  • WHERE 2 Dickson Road

    INFO theunlimitedcollectionbyoakwood.com/wanderlust

    ROOMS 29

    RATES From $135++ a night for the entry-level Deluxe Room and from $195++ a night for the Studio Loft room


Wanderlust hotel (above) has well-designed studio lofts and houses Kotuwa restaurant, which serves Sri Lankan dishes. PHOTO: WANDERLUST

The Sri Lankan Lion Beer on draught completes the transporting experience, reminding me of beach time in the coastal city of Galle.

Where else can I eat and drink in the area?

Wandering around the surrounding streets will lead you to hidden food and drink gems, beyond the usual suspects such as Bismillah Biryani and Mexican restaurant-bar Chimichanga.

Head to coffee spot Wired Monkey, a mere two-minute walk through a back alley, for a breakfast croissant. If not for the posters of Kollywood stars on the surrounding barber shops, you would think you were in Melbourne.

If you are up for the walk, early risers can also hit up Generation Coffee in Tekka Centre for your flat white fix. If you are doing a weekend staycation, just take note that it is closed on Sundays.

Hankering for post-dinner drinks? The Singapura Club in Dunlop Street, with its $12 happy hour beers and generous country club-style wine pours, has a facade-spanning mural that you can sit under and people-watch from.

For crafted cocktails, make a reservation at Meatsmith Little India. Get ringside seats to watch the bartenders at work on the second floor.

What else is there to do?

The hotel has add-on activities for guests with home-grown brands, like a leather crafting workshop at atelier Crafune in Haji Lane - a 10-minute walk from the hotel - where you can create leather souvenirs such as a name-card holder or coin pouch. Prices start at $70 for two persons.

Other activities include a culinary exploration of Little India with food tour company SingaBites ($80 a person); or a kombucha-making workshop with home-grown nanobrewery Le Vyr ($45 a person).

The hotel says the activities will be updated as more partners come on board.

Hot tip

As it is a hot destination, make a reservation for Kotuwa way in advance of your stay. If it is full, leave your number with the friendly team who will call you if there are last-minute cancellations.

• This staycation was hosted by the hotel and is part of a weekly series. For more staycation reviews, go to str.sg/SuiteLife

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2021, with the headline 'Wonderful base for wandering around'. Subscribe