15 Merbau Road
Despite several visits to South East Asia over the last two decades – and even living there at one stage – we realised a few months ago that we had been to Singapore only once in all that time, and that was for only two nights about 15 years ago. Our impression then had been that it was expensive and rather sterile.
A trawl of various hotel review websites revealed that it was still every bit as expensive as it had been relative to other countries in the region. Nevertheless, we found a hotel which looked as if it would be comfortable and well enough equipped for our needs, and reasonably close to the centre of things (an undeniable advantage of Singapore is that you’re never too far away from anywhere you want to be). So it was that we arrived at the Robertson Quay Hotel early one Thursday evening in mid-November, having booked – as always – through Agoda.
Check-in was handled mostly pleasantly and efficiently, although there was a little bit of head-scratching when we pointed out we’d asked for a double bed and a smoking room. But we got there in the end.
The room itself was pretty tiny, with a simple double-sized bed (we estimated it to be 1.5m wide) rather than a king-size or even queen-size. The bedside table (there was only one!) was on one side of the bed, the room’s light controls were on the other. With a room that size, the air conditioning was more than adequate – we kept it turned off most of the time.
There was space for only one chair and desk-cum-dressing-table, but as there was only one cable connection for the Internet that was OK. The connection’s available for what the RQH describes as a “nominal” fee; S$ 5 is certainly a good deal less than many hotels charge for a 24-hour connection.
There was, however, space for a mini fridge (not a mini bar – it was empty!) which was pretty much what you’d expect of it and well up to the job. Dave nipped over to the nearest 7-Eleven and stocked up for our first evening; on the second day we discovered a branch of the Cold Storage supermarket chain and did a more comprehensive shop there.
Although there were tea-making facilities (a kettle and the necessary crockery, with a couple of teabags and sachets) There was no drinking water in the room, which surprised us – but apparently the tap water in Singapore is drinkable.
The bathroom (which was a wet room) was, er, compact – enough room for the bog, a reasonably sized sink, and a small shower. The sliding door (more space-saving) was a bit difficult to manage, and had to be pushed quite firmly to the right, to the full extent of its travel, to enable the catch to engage.
The safe door was also a bit tricky, although the instructions were clear enough. One of the hinges was loose, so the door needed a bit of more or less forceful persuasion to get it into position.
As with far too many hotels, the internet connection software was a bit difficult to manage. Initially Kay couldn’t get logged in. Dave tried using his own machine and got on straight away; then tried again with Kay’s and was told he was already logged in. After a while he hit on the idea of logging out – but he had to guess the URL of the logout page because the instruction sheet provided by reception didn’t mention it. Once he’d done that, it worked OK.
Breakfast was included in our room rate but would have cost S$8 otherwise. We struggled bravely out of bed to try it on our first morning, but didn’t bother on the second – and we wouldn’t have chosen to pay for it if it hadn’t been included. The selection was pretty mediocre. (About the best that could be said for it was that the bananas were nice. And how hard is it to find a nice banana in South East Asia?)
The road is quiet; even in our room on the first floor we weren’t disturbed. And the view of the Singapore Repertory Theatre opposite was pleasant enough, enhanced by the greenery in the window box below our window. On our first evening we found a couple of places to eat and drink in the streets just round the corner from us, including a lot of Japanese and Korean restaurants. And then on our second evening we discovered a whole lot more places along Robertson Quay itself, some of them really good, and making us wish we’d booked longer than the two nights we’d allowed ourselves. Ah well…
Overall rating: 3½ out of 5
Despite the shortcomings, the RQH is really not a bad place to stay. Yes, it’s a small room, and not everything is as well maintained as it might be, but it’s a good deal cheaper than the more luxurious places we’d otherwise have considered staying in (Singapore is expensive!) and the location’s pretty good. We’d go back there – unless we found something in the area that was better value, which seems unlikely to happen.