Heritage buildings often have many stories to tell and The Warehouse Hotel unveils the history of the space with an elegant and playfully irreverent air
If you're old enough to remember the Warehouse Disco, which sat on the corner of Saiboo Street and Havelock Road, you might have partied till dawn at the historic complex stretching across three warehouses. After all, it was Singapore's biggest disco back in the '80s.
But ask your grandparents about the old Havelock Road neighbourhood and they might raise very different memories of the space. Smoke wafting from opium dens, prostitutes lingering on corners, and moonshine abrewing formed the mise-en-scène of this lively red light district lorded over by Chinese and Fujianese secret societies.
Today, the historic space has grown considerably tame in its endeavours as it plays host to The Lo & Behold Group's first hotel venture — The Warehouse Hotel. How does one reinvent a landmark without compromising its essence? Let us count the ways.
In the hands of homegrown multidisciplinary design agency Asylum, the pulley systems commonly found in the godowns along the Singapore River find pride of place at the hotel's lobby, dropping from vaulted ceilings to nestle in a constellation of lights.
As the eye travels downwards, hints of Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece Metropolis comes through in the glowing wall feature above the bar and reception area.
Objects of vice
In a nod to the neighbourhood's deliciously sordid past, the reception area doubles up as a showcase for an intriguing collection of objects curated by Gabriel Tan and his partner in crime Edwin Low of Supermama.
The cocktail programme at the bar fans out into three distinct tracks, each paying homage to various phases of the building's history. The Singapore Sazerac, comprising homemade raisin bourbon and pandan bitters, throws back to the time where the warehouse played an instrumental role in the booming spice trade. With an abundance of spices in tow, it was only a matter of time illegal distilleries began to flourish, turning out all manner of liver-scorching spirits. Get a taste of this moonshine by calling for the Madame Butterfly, a tequila-based cocktail made effervescent with rosé, kaffir lime salt, and watermelon shrub. The late 20th century saw the building play host to the Warehouse Disco, and playful retro-style cocktails accented with Asian spices take centre stage here. Lining your stomach? Bar snacks here include belinjo crackers, har cheong soft-shell crab, ngoh hiang, and kueh pie tee stuffed with braised duck and truffle mash.
Going by the name of Pó, a moniker inspired by popiah parties commonly held in Singaporean homes, this 52-seater restaurant helmed by chef-partner Willin Low (of Wild Rocket fame) doubles up as the hotel's breakfast room. While tourists can begin to build their taste vocabulary on classic local flavours here, those hankering for a taste of Singaporean cuisine elevated with an inventive twist will find something to look forward to as well.
The suite life
Step into room 208, the only suite crowning the hotel's intimate stable of 37 rooms. A palette of forest marble, warming wood, and glints of copper set the tone for the River View Suite, where Bang & Olufsen bluetooth speakers sit amongst Flos lamps and Prostoria armchairs. Underfoot, hand-knotted wool carpets designed by Asylum blush pink, playing second fiddle only to black and white ikat throws custom-made by homegrown lifestyle brand Matter.
Styled as a minibar of vice, you'll find all the essentials (think salted egg yolk chips and gin made with sichuan pepper) and essentials you didn't know you needed (vibrators and BDSM paddles, anyone?) right in the privacy of your lair. Doing away with generic bar snacks, The Warehouse Hotel's minibar offerings read more like a roll call of proudly local brands. Even the mugs come from Singaporean ceramic studio Mud Rock.
The hotel's rooftop pool blushes pink thanks to the use of old-school salmon pink tiles commonly found in mature housing estates.