I visited St Regis today. It officially opened yesterday.
It looks even better on the inside.
We wanted to have tea. So we walked up to the receptionist who was standing in front of a nice-looking dining area, alongside a row of fountains. She appeared unsure about what to do, and checked with another colleague before telling us about the different types of tea they had.
We decided to have the simpler English afternoon-style tea, and were led to the Drawing Room. We were seated on some plush sofas. After a while the waitresses pushed over a table draped with a thick linen cloth. They also apologised for making us wait so long for a table (literally). We said that's OK.
The tea menus were comprehensive. For S$38 you'd get a range of savouries and sweets, including 2 types of scones, smoked salmon roll, a wagyu beef rucola sandwich, cakes and chocolates. That was just for 1 person, so we shared the food and ordered extra cups of tea.
We asked what type of tea (drink) they had, and our mainland Chinese waitress apologised and said that their full range of tea hadn't arrived yet. While she recited the list of available teas, I could tell from her trembling voice that she was nervous. We chose English Breakfast tea.
Check out the sugar cubes! They looked like square Polo sweets. Same goes for the brown sugar.
Another waitress brought us two teapots and asked if she could pour tea for us. I was amused as usually the waiter would just walk up and pour tea for us - no need to ask for permission. This probably implied a higher standard of service as befitted a hotel of this class. The waitress also placed our teapots on a separate table, which again indicated that they would pour everything for us.
As with the receptionist, we realised the waitstaff were greenhorns too. The waitress tried to pour tea using a strainer. However, this was a tip tea strainer, i.e. it had a base attached to it, and the waitress didn't know how to use it properly. So the tea went through the sieve, trickled into the base and then went into one of our teacups. My mum nicely told the waitress she had to tilt the strainer at a right angle. After a while the waitress seemed to understand. She thanked my mum for the instruction and apologised that she was trained to use a simpler type of strainer, which the hotel didn't seem to have.
The mainland Chinese waitress was the next to pour tea for us, and she too received my mother's instruction. She learnt quickly. After that, a third waitress poured tea for us. She poured the tea into the strainer until it filled up the base, which then overflowed and spilled into the teacup. For the third time my mother showed how to strain tea properly, and again we were told that they had been trained to use a different type of sieve, not this one. At least the third waitress was more confident and thanked us for teaching her something new.
We asked the first waitress (the one who took some time to understand how to use the strainer properly) twice to pour tea for us again, and twice she said yes then walked off to serve another table. She never came back to serve us. In the end we got the mainland Chinese waitress to help us and she was more responsive. After a while all the waitstaff seemed overwhelmed with new groups of customers coming in, and our teacups were empty for a long time. So we moved the teapots to our own table and poured our own tea. The waitstaff didn't seem to mind us doing that. I thought that wasn't consistent - if you made it a point to pour tea for us at the start, then do it all the way.
Overall, it was not a big deal but the staff need more training, experience and confidence.
After downing many cups of tea, I went to the Ladies and it was very nice. Look, even the toilet flush has Braille on it!
And there are many rolls of cloth towels. Lots of laundering to do. Alas, one patron didn't know where to put her used towel, and thew it into the dustbin! There was a large laundry bin next to it... she should have put it there.
The only thing lacking in the Ladies' was a place to hang our handbags! Not very clever. I thought all the top hotels would have either a ledge or a stub. So we had to hang our bags on the doorknobs. Not very becoming. What if regular patrons like rich tai-tais are unable to hang their large Louis Vuitton or Hermes handbags on the doorknobs? Surely they wouldn't put their bags on the toilet floor. Also each cubicle is a bit small, which was surprising for a top hotel. So there's not much space to put your shopping bags down, either.
Soon after I used the Ladies', two toilet cleaners arrived and one was sitting down on a chair meant for patrons, yarning away loudly to the other in dialect. It didn't make it feel like a 6 or 7 star hotel. Overall it felt like the staff weren't being supervised and were left to cut it out on their own.
We walked up the main staircase and noticed that there were fibreoptics woven into the carpet! Very unusual to see steps glittering. The hotel also had a huge chandelier that looked like Noah's Ark.
While walking around the lobby I realised I knew the lounge pianist! He's a teacher in my music school. We exchanged knowing looks. I was doubly amused because he actually teaches bass and the piano is his second instrument.
Overall, the hotel was very nicely furnished. It has a lovely Christmas tree, paintings, sculptures and the back corridor was lined with plenty of congratulatory bouquets of flowers. The staff were well-intentioned and many smiled and greeted us, although the few incidents we encountered showed that they need more experience and supervision. St. Regis in Singapore may take some time to get up to scratch with the high standards of staff at other top hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton.