Hotel Review: A First Look At The Barracks Hotel Sentosa
We arrived at The Barracks Hotel Sentosa on a stormy afternoon, windswept and partially drenched by the sudden downpour. In the midst of this turbulent weather, our accommodation became a welcome respite; an intimate haven housed within buildings that date back to 1904.
Newly opened on Dec 2, The Barracks Hotel Sentosa was formerly used as a military outpost during the colonial period, the two-storey buildings were briefly abandoned in the 1970s before housing the Sentosa Tourism Academy. Today, it is one of three new properties by Far East Hospitality on the leisure island, sharing facilities with the adjacent The Outpost Hotel Sentosa and Village Hotel Sentosa.
A sense of history is poignantly felt not only in this boutique hotel’s beautifully restored architecture; its storied past is also celebrated with artefacts such as the original doorknobs and exploratory tools framed and showcased along the corridors. An hour-long historic tour of the property is held twice a day for guests to learn more about its heritage.
“What makes The Barracks Hotel Sentosa beautiful is both what you see, and what you don’t see—the transformation from a facility for war into a sanctuary of peace,” says Laurence Liew, director of Arc Studio Architecture + Urbanism, the lead architect in charge of the hotel's renovation. “Each of the unique architectural features like arches and keystone, column capital and base, balustrade, window and door were faithfully restored and conditioned to refresh its appearance.”
Retained architectural elements include columns decorated with mouldings, the timber louvred windows and the moulded timber doors. New features added were designed to enhance the historic look of the property; these include the timber beams on the ceiling, which are similar to the original structure built in the 1900s and the timber sliding doors that separate the bedroom from the bathroom area.
The Barracks Hotel Sentosa comprises three blocks: two of which that house 40 rooms and suites, as well as an amenity block that will soon contain more restaurants. With the vaulted ceilings and elegant mouldings, these two-storey buildings are subtly reminiscent in architectural style to other notable historic properties in the city such as The Raffles Hotel Singapore and Capitol Kempinski Singapore. The rooms on the second floor benefited from this feature with the lofty double-height ceiling and exposed timber beams that add to the spacious feel of each room. On the other hand, the rooms and suites on the ground floor benefit from direct access to the pool.
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Do Not Disturb
Although the rooms are windowless, they still retain a sense of spaciousness and warmth with clever use of ambient lighting; the frosted glass panel on the hefty wood door lets in natural light while retaining privacy for its occupants. “The overall mood remained cosy and warm with the control of warm lightings within public areas and guestrooms, to bring back the early days' atmosphere. Natural sunlight played a big role in the design while brightening up the existing conserved building,” explains Kunio Iwata, managing Director of KKS International, who took charge of the interior design of the hotel with an emphasis on a rustic look paired with modern cadences.
The goal was to create “a harmony of the past and present”—the firm thus created custom-made furniture in leather, dark wood and patinated metal as a tribute to the history of the buildings. Industrial elements have also been integrated into the design to add a modern twist on the rustic ambience. These include hanging lamps and loose furniture with patinated metal finishes, suitcase-like cabinets and bedside tables as well as the use of concrete and timber-like tiles in the public areas. “The furniture, fixtures and equipment selections are strongly influenced the old elements or objects that were being used daily in the past by the military,” explains Iwata.
The spacious bathroom features a standalone Apaiser bathtub as well as separate shower and toilet cubicles furnished with Axor by Hansgrohe fittings and a Toto Neorest washlet with automated functions, combining both style and function. The room itself is soundproof; the balcony, however, was less so, as we could audibly hear conversations of guests in adjacent units who were also using their balcony.
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What we personally enjoyed using the most were the two lap pools which range from 0.8m to 1.2m in depth. These were child-friendly while still being a quiet respite compared to the facilities at the adjacent properties The Outpost Hotel Sentosa and Village Hotel Sentosa, which guests at The Barracks Hotel Sentosa can also utilise. The abundant greenery and the breadth of wide open-air spaces is another luxury within the compound; during our stay, we saw young guests eagerly running across the hotel lawn (formerly the parade square) which is flanked by palm trees.
Another perk was the complimentary 24-hour Equerry concierge service: the concierge can help sate your random bubble tea or hawker food craving by arranging for a food and beverage delivery or attend to errands such as laundry pick-ups. Only the cost of the purchased item is chargeable if the errand can be achieved within walking distance, while any additional transport costs and purchased items are chargeable for further distances and urgent requests.
Service was generally earnest and warm, staffed with both experienced hands and friendly young employees; we learnt later that some of them had been working at the adjacent The Outpost Hotel Sentosa before starting their tenure at The Barracks Hotel Sentosa.
Food & Drink
If you’re one to enjoy champagne brunches, you’ll cheer to hear that a complimentary glass of Prosecco is served to each guest at breakfast at The Living Room, the primary dining area of the property. The breakfast selection is small yet well-curated and the menu changes daily: it comprises a mix of English scones, French pastries as well as comforting local staples such as nasi lemak, otah, fried mee hoon and Teochew-style porridge. The hotel also serves complimentary refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks to guests from 11am - 10.30pm, as well as evening cocktails and canapes from 6pm - 8pm.
The mini bar in each room is complimentary for guests and it includes still and sparkling water, Nespresso coffee capsules, a 1904 tea specially curated by Pryce tea for The Barracks Hotel Sentosa inspired by its year of inception as well as in-room cookies and other refreshments excluding alcohol options.
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Opt for the corner suites on the ground floor which measure around 59 sqm and feature a separate living area, if you’re staying with family or prefer to have a more private and spacious patio area; these rooms also enjoy direct access to the jacuzzi and pool. And to check into this intimate enclave soon, before the secret is out on this cosy haven.
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This story originally appeared in Singapore Tatler.