For Chinese culture – and many others – tea is far more than a beverage. It soothes, it’s a ritual, and it’s a sign of hospitality. Which is why at The Clan Hotel, it’s the first thing guests are served upon arrival, even before checking in.
Sitting at the lobby and watching the tea being prepared by one of their Clan Keepers (the term they give their multi-tasking concierges – more on that later) ritualises the welcome – and settles me into my stay at the latest project by Far East Hospitality.
The hot Nanyang Ritual Tea, an oolong, is served with a piece of savoury-sweet tau sar piah (Chinese bean pastry) – the consumption of which gives enough time for checking in to happen, and for admiring the sleekly-designed lobby, an art deco-reminiscent space with multiple oriental motifs – look out for the display of gorgeous, custom-made umbrellas. Completing the view are wall-to-ceiling windows with a view of the surrounding Telok Ayer district. There’s also an option of a cold brew tea, The Ritual, featuring an aromatic blend of tie guan yin and osmanthus.
An experience-driven stay
For those wanting a more condensed experience – like business travellers or staycationers – The Clan hotel provides a value proposition: a chance to explore the CBD-Chinatown neighbourhood and beyond. Exclusive to the brand’s Master series rooms – which encompasses 78 out of the hotel’s 324 rooms – is access to local precinct tours conducted by the Clan Keepers.
At one such 1.5 hour-long tour, we were brought to the various cultural points of interest (including Thian Hock Keng temple and the Sri Mariamman temple) in the area, as well as the URA building for an eye-opening tour of Singapore’s urban landscape.
If you have time to venture even further, the hotel offers exclusive experiences like a chance to tour local craft brewery The 1925 Brewing Co. before heading down to their restaurant in Joo Chiat for a meal of chef Ivan Yeo’s modern Teochew cuisine – highlights include their light but flavour-packed Teochew fish porridge. The brewery also produces the hotel’s signature Orient Brew: a highly sessionable white chrysanthemum lager.
For weary travelers, there’s no shortage of well-conceived details too. Master Series guests get access to something quite special: The Clan Daily Special, an in-room dining service that offers hawker favourites curated by Dr Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost fame.
Options rotate and can include places like Legendary Bak Kut Teh and Janggut Laksa; as well as hotel-exclusive creations from the hawkers themselves. While essentially a selection of hotel-curated takeout, the food arrives warm, and nicely plated in tingkat containers.
We’re also fans of the thoughtful touches in the rooms – like a UV sanitiser for phones (or anything that fits in the box) and welcome snacks. Master Series guests also get a choice of artisanal, aromatherapy bar soap for their stay; as well as a pillow menu to explore. There’s also a tea set in the room – with the hotel’s signature tea and peppery bak kut teh cookies – for guests who want to observe a moment of mindfulness in a private space.
Both the gym, pool, and jacuzzi are located on the 30th floor of the building, which offers a resplendent view of the area. The gym comes with state-of-the-art equipment, digital fitness-on-demand videos, and a wooden wing-chun training dummy for all martial arts enthusiasts. It’s a good way to build up an appetite – especially with all the food options in the area.
Dining in The Clan hotel and beyond
The hotel’s all-day dining restaurant is a modern-Chinese joint called Qin, managed by the Tung Lok Group. In line with the hotel’s contemporary-Asian DNA, the food here is a mishmash of options: breakfast begins with kaya toast and pound cake before a choice of everything from English fry-ups to century egg congee.
It’s during lunch and dinner service where Qin’s identity truly shines though – especially with highlights like an addictive curry-spiced karaage; and a juicy grilled Kurobuta pork rack with a sharp Asian salsa to cut through the fat.
For major foodies, the area is also a prime spot for drinking and dining. Many of the country’s most exciting restaurants are concentrated in the Telok Ayer district (to book ahead of time: Cloudstreet, Hashida, Nouri, Lerouy, Euphoria, Meatsmith, Miznon) while many of the prime drinking spots are in the area too. Just cross the road for natural wine bar Le Bon Funk; or take a short walk to reach some of the best cocktail joints in town: Platform and Native in the immediate vicinity; No Sleep Club and The Old Man at Keong Saik Road; and Jigger & Pony a little further off at Tanjong Pagar.