Despite being an unassuming small boutique hotel from the outside, The Vagabond Club, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel is the type of property that you cannot help but pay attention to. While Singapore has no shortage of lodging options in this category, this property located at Syed Alwi Road is just… different. Perhaps it’s due to the gold elephant gracing the hotel lobby. Or the bar flanked by a brass monkey and banyan tree. Whatever it is, the images here create the impression of being in a far more glamorous time. Like a cross between Great Gatsby and a museum. When I first heard about this property, I told myself that I just had to check it out one day.
The hotel also a bar called Whiskey Library which is fully owned by the hotel. It’s notable for having a statue of a brass monkey as well as an atmospheric art installation of a banyan tree. The bar has over 1,000 different kinds of whiskey within its vaults and the hotel offers membership to whiskey lovers with preferential pricing for whiskey bottles, usage of the vaults for keeping the bottles as well as free nights in the hotel.
Finally, the day came that I stayed at The Vagabond Club for a staycation. The first of three planned projects under Garcha hotels, the property itself is located in between Kampong Glam and Farrer Park. Notable attractions such as Arab Street or the 24 hour shopping mall, Mustafa, are within 10 minutes walk from the hotel.
Entering the all-red lobby for the first time, I was immediately reminded of a film noir genre movie. This color scheme was interspersed with golden objects here and there, notwithstanding the reception desk which took the form of a gold rhino.
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During my stay, I was billeted in a classic room. I initially expected my room to be tiny, as was my experience in other boutique hotels, but was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable size of their most basic room. At 20 square meters, it’s slightly bigger than its boutique peers in Singapore.
While the lobby carried a film noir theme, the room was more fitting to the vagabond name. Photographs from exotic locales (think: Cuba and Africa) graced the wall on top of the bed. A retro-ish telephone was situated at the bedside table, complimenting the overall classic look.
At the other end of the room was the desk. I particularly liked the rhino bookend which immediately conjured images of the golden one at the lobby. The property’s thoughtful enough to actually leave behind small guides of the three neighborhoods surrounding the hotel – Kampong Glam, Little India and Rochor. I have to mention that these guides were specially commissioned for the use of The Vagabond Club so the property definitely gets plus points in terms of originality.
The most notable item on the desk is undoubtedly the Roberts Bluetooth Radio. The first of its kind that I have seen in a hotel, it served as a preferable alternative to the iPod docks gracing hotels elsewhere. For someone like myself who does not own an iPod and carries a non-Apple mobile phone, the bluetooth device was a seamless way for me to stream my favorite tracks.
Despite being in the boutique category, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-stocked minibar in my room which included small bottles of various types of liquor as well as a relatively extensive lineup of snacks. There was a coffee maker with complimentary coffee capsules and teabags from TWG. Bathrobes were also provided as were extra fluffy slippers. The bathrobe was made of fine cotton, soft and comfortable to the touch. I later discovered via the price list that I could also buy it if I wanted – at $200 each.
Mineral water bottles were conspicuously absent in the room and I was almost worried that I’d have to get my fill of H2O from the tap until I heard a knock on my door. As if they could hear my thoughts, the housekeeping staff delivered to my room a large container of mint-infused water as part of their turn-down service. That essentially solved my hydration requirements for the stay.
A sliding door separated the room from the bathroom which in turn was made up of three parts. At the center was the sink, with the shower area at the left and the toilet to the right. As was my experience with the bathrobes, I was particularly impressed with the quality of towels used here. I’ve been quite dismayed by the towels I’ve encountered of late in some hotels I’ve stayed in which seem to be getting thinner each time so the thick and quick absorbing ones at The Vagabond Club were certainly something to be happy about.
Toiletries provided were from Etro. As is the clean and green strategy in most properties these days, other amenities such as shavers and dental kits were available free-of-charge and upon request from the lobby. I asked for mine and these were delivered to my room in no time.
Courtyard Executive Club Room
During my second stay in the hotel, I managed to check out the Courtyard Executive Club Room. These rooms are two notches above the entry-level Classic Room and come in a variety of layouts. Most Courtyard Executive Club rooms actually feature a square-ish layout similar to the Classic Room but the one I was staying in had an interesting rectangular plan that had more in keeping with the Deluxe Executive Club Room except that my room also came with a courtyard.
Given the non-conventional layout of my room, it featured 4 sections – the first was the bed area, a rather dark section that was big enough for a bed, 2 side tables and a walkway. The middle section was the work desk which got a lot of natural light as the window was situated here. The door leading to the courtyard was also found here. The courtyards are shared with 1 or 2 other rooms. At the time of my stay, the other room was unoccupied so I had the courtyard all to myself. The fourth section was the bath / wardrobe area.
Although it had been some years since my first stay at The Vagabond Club, I was pleased to find that most furnishings were maintained well. The veneer on the wooden desk and wardrobe surface were still as polished as I remembered when I stayed the previous time. However, the minibar was not as grand as I remembered. You no longer get to have a selection of (chargeable) liquor in the room. This is understandable as many hotels had done away with this in light of the current situation.
The courtyard itself is large enough for 2 or perhaps 3 tables. I did not spend that much time there given the lack of a view and lack of wind since it’s covered up across 4 sides.
In the 50-odd hotels I’ve had the pleasure of staying in Singapore, I have not encountered any like The Vagabond Club before. For something special, I highly recommend this property for its well-appointed rooms, amenities that go a step beyond what is expected and a more intimate setting. My stay here is easily the best boutique hotel experience I have had in Singapore and I certainly would not mind going back.
The hotel has a number of staycation packages. The cheapest room-only rate starts at S$219 net. The rate goes higher progressively for additional perks such as a Little India walking tour, 3-course dinner at Yellow Pot and cocktails at The Salon. You can book these packages here.
The Vagabond Club, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
39 Syed Alwi Road
+65 6291 6677
You can read more of my hotel reviews here.