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Raffles Long Bar (Singapore)

It is with regret that I am unable to say that I enjoyed my brief Raffles Singapore experience. Indeed, the afternoon I spent there was almost entirely regrettable.

I had been forewarned of the astronomical pricing of the Singapore Sling (SGD $26++) but thought I’d treat myself on my last day in Singapore.

The Long Bar had few patrons when I arrived Monday afternoon. I made my way to the bar in an attempt to order the drink for which the Long Bar is famous. I say ‘attempt’ as the hostess – and I use this term both loosely and inaccurately as it denotes some hospitality befitting a host – was unable to advise what gin is customarily used in the Singapore Sling. When I prompted: Gordon’s…; Beefeaters…; Tanqueray…? I was met with a stony face and told quite seriously ”gin” is the gin used. I shall have to assume there is distillery hidden from view where the “gin” is produced on site. Thus, the option of an unidentifiable gin necessitated my choice of Bombay Sapphire at an additional charge of SGD$1.

I was then curtly told to take a seat and that actually the Long Bar was table service. That’s nice dear. Do you know what would be even nicer? If you invited one of a number of unoccupied wait staff to escort me to a table or welcome customers as they enter the bar. Tips for new players. Except of course, Raffles is a very old player, and it seems they’ve become the doddering old relative at the family dinner that can’t quite remember why they’re there and what all the fuss is about.

But I digress. I found myself a pleasant enough table, slightly grubby, but not strewn with peanut shells like the one next to it. Apparently this ‘tradition’ adds to its charm.

The drink, I’m sorry to report, was watery mediocrity. How much ice exactly is one supposed to put in a Singapore Sling? Raffles may be the home of the original Singapore Sling but it no longer does it best, or indeed, well. In my humble opinion, a far superior Singapore Sling can be consumed as a complimentary beverage on any Singapore Airlines flight. As an added bonus, the flight attendant will even smile – something foreign to the hostess of the Long Bar.

Trying to make the most of an average situation I thought I’d avail myself of one of the meal choices you can partner with a sling (as advertised on my table for SGD $40). The lamb skewers I selected were good: the satay was fabulous and the garnish options were fresh, the lamb was a touch gristly but otherwise done well. Things were looking up. They didn’t look up for long.

The bill arrived and I had been charged SGD$27 for the Bombay Sapphire sling and SGD$20 for the lamb skewers plus government tax and service charge bringing the bill to just over SGD$55. I really do take umbrage at being compelled to pay a mandatory service charge when the quality of the service fails to meet expectations.

A simple clerical error I thought optimistically. I approached the hostess to address the oversight and was rudely informed that I must pay for what I ordered and what I ordered was not part of the “promotion”. I attempted to reason that surely it would be reasonable to pay the promotional price plus the additional dollar for the use of the Bombay Sapphire instead of the unidentifiable gin. I was told quite emphatically ‘no’ and the conversation was quite abruptly brought to a close.

I am more than prepared to pay for what I select, but when I quite clearly indicated the promotional menu when making my meal choice and the waitress failed to inform me that it would incur a different price I feel, quite frankly, misled and ripped off.

The decor attempts to recreate an atmosphere of its former glory – wafting punkah fans above and tiled floor below – but the music is mismatched 21st century pop. Whitney Houston’s lamentable Million Dollar Bill album was playing during my visit which detracts, well, if there were any ambiance it would detract from that, but instead it merely reminds you this is not your grandfather’s Raffles.

And that’s the really sad reality. This is not the Raffles of my grandfather’s day when he could retire to this bar with his mates and have a drink and converse with his fellow travellers about this amazing place called Singapore.

The Raffles I went to is a disappointing simulacrum masquerading at what it once was.

That Raffles is a relic of a past time didn’t surprise me. That is has now become irrelevant? Now, that’s remarkable.

In review: For $50 I’ll throw sugared water in your face, quote some Maugham and provide you with a more authentic Raffles experience.

The BEST holidays

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