An Italian summer in Mandarin Oriental Singapore

A swimming pool at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore.
A swimming pool at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. PHOTOS: MANDARIN ORIENTAL SINGAPORE, TAN HSUEH YUN
(Above) Dolce Vita's braided buffalo-milk mozzarella. (Left) MO Bar's Lantern cocktail in a lit-up cup. (Top) A swimming pool at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. (Above) The interior of Dolce Vita, the hotel's Italian restaurant.
The interior of Dolce Vita, the hotel's Italian restaurant.PHOTOS: MANDARIN ORIENTAL SINGAPORE, TAN HSUEH YUN
MO Bar's Lantern cocktail in a lit-up cup.
MO Bar's Lantern cocktail in a lit-up cup.PHOTOS: MANDARIN ORIENTAL SINGAPORE, TAN HSUEH YUN

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

Luxury and tranquillity in the heart of the city are what the Mandarin Oriental Singapore is about. Service is flawless and, more importantly, warm.

Hotel services executive Dayana Ismail checks me in with zero fuss and takes me to my room on the 20th floor. It has a magnificent, floor-to-ceiling view of the Singapore skyline, Marina Bay Sands and the Esplanade. I gasp with delight.

Despite being in a hotel smack in the middle of town, I feel the cares of the world slip away. My plan after lunch is to go to Marina Square to find a nail salon that will take me in last minute. But then I spot the poolside cabanas and abandon all plans. Ragged nails can wait.

After lunch, I take my coffee and the remains of my glass of wine and find the shadiest cabana, just off the kids' pool. There, I put my feet up, look up at the brilliant blue sky, contemplate life, the universe, everything and nothing; and promptly fall asleep.

The sound of shrieking children wakes me from my siesta. They jeopardise la dolce vita, so I move to the main pavilion and recline deeply on a couch. A breeze blows through; the sound of children disappears.

"I want this to be my everyday," I tell my friends in a group chat.

"Don't strain yourself," one of them replies, comically disgruntled.

I won't. Promise.

What's an Italian summer without Italian food?

I have all my meals at Dolce Vita, the hotel's Italian restaurant, and barely scratch the surface of the menu.


Mr Alexis Molatte, the assistant restaurant manager, and food and beverage executive Ronny Foo take good care of me, as do their colleagues.

For lunch, I have Barbabietola ($24), roasted beets with goat cheese and shaved hazelnuts. The candy-striped pink and yellow beets are beautifully sweet and sing of summer.

I love the Branzino ($46) too, with a caviar-studded sauce, quenelles of leek compote and parsnip puree, and an artful tangle of green beans.

At dinner, the Treccia Campana di Bufala shines. Mr Molatte wheels over the braided buffalo-milk mozzarella from Naples and slices it tableside. Each braid weighs 4kg.

I have all three condiments - sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and wisps of greens. And a drizzle of olive oil over the cheese. The cheese is sublime and has an almost meaty texture.

Ask for the restaurant's balsamic vinegar to dip your bread in. It's bottled for Dolce Vita and has personality, unlike some syrupy versions I have had.

Throwing caution to the winds, I order Spaghetti ($32) and regret nothing. The pasta is made in-house and has a wonderful chew. It is tossed with Datterino tomatoes, Amalfi lemon, chilli and parsley, and topped with sea urchin.

Alas, my capacity is limited and I regret not having room for chef Giorgio Maggioni's beef main course. I do, however, find space for two bites of Torta della Nonna ($14), the pears on the tart signalling the transition to autumn.

Please tell us there is a spa.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Singapore is full of tempting treatments.

It operates from Thursdays to Sundays, alas, not on the days I am at the hotel. I trust you will plan accordingly.

OK, then please tell us there is a bar.

Yes, and MO Bar is one of Asia's 50 Best Bars this year. This is another tranquil spot in the hotel, an inviting place to have pre-dinner drinks and snacks.

Let Mr Joshua Pang, food and beverage operations executive, guide you through the menu. The cocktails are inspired by journeys and ingredients in the Asia-Pacific, and are arranged by alcoholic content.

One thing I appreciate very much is that the bar serves very good mocktails. Try Smoked Water ($16) and you'll know what I mean.

To nibble on, order Gyu-Katsu Sando ($32), wagyu beef sandwich done Japanese style using housemade shokupan. The bread is stellar and holds up the juicy beef very well.

Final Journey ($24), made with gin, lavender and hops, is Mr Pang's creation. I have it on ice in a wine glass, topped with a splash of soda water, as a nightcap in my room, and it is sparkly, fresh and light.

I sleep like a baby.

What else is there to do?

Play tourist in your backyard. I usually start weekday mornings with a long walk and see no reason to deviate from the routine.


  • WHERE: 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square

    INFO: luxury-hotel

    ROOMS: 527 rooms and suites

    RATES: The Italian Summer staycation package costs $399++ a night for a Marina Bay View Room, and includes an Italian signature cocktail served in-room (once per stay), $75 dining credit at Dolce Vita (once per stay), daily dine-in breakfast for two, two dishes selected from the Italian selection of the poolside menu (once per stay) and 15 per cent dining discount at Dolce Vita and BAY@5

Except my walk around Marina Bay is anything but routine. Powered by pasta the night before, I marvel at the beautiful sculptures, the breathtaking views. They are as stunning at street level as they are from on high, especially when set against a bright blue sky streaked with clouds.

I contemplate a deeper foray into the CBD, but traffic noise and fumes put me off, and I end up walking three times around the bay, discovering new things each time.

Singapore, in case you have not realised, is beautiful. Get out there and see for yourself.

Verdict: yea or nay?

Yea for sure. To look at Singapore glowing and glamorous at night from my room, lights twinkling atop the spiky domes of the Esplanade, with a Negroni in my hand, is to believe that we will bounce back. That we will be stronger when all this is over.

Hot tip

After dinner, head back to MO Bar for a nightcap and order Lantern ($22), a cocktail made with gin, cucumber and a drop of chicken stock. It is served in a lit-up cup, which glows beautifully in the dim light of the bar.

Be warned, though: You might have an inexplicable longing for chicken rice.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 27, 2020, with the headline 'Italian summer in Singapore'. Subscribe