Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM
All rights reserved
The debonair and intrepid Travelling GourmetTM revisits Raffles Hotel Singapore to have a…
MOST enjoyable tete a tete with Simon Hirst, approachable General Manager of Raffles Hotel in the Writer’s Bar.
Tuesday 16 September, 2014
I arrived at the main entrance to be met by Ian, the Security Guard who asked, ‘Can I help you Sir?” Since my article which went viral, they have since counselled their staff to be more polite and friendly to visitors…even those who are not house guests staying in the hotel. I replied politely, “I’m Dr. Michael Lim and I’m here to have tea with your General Manager.”
See this link for my article:https://thatravellinggourmet.com/2014/09/02/rude-shock-at-raffles-hotel-in-singapore/
Ian’s somewhat grumpy face suddenly broke into a smile and he said, “Please go in..”
I went into the lobby and sat down at a nice table in the peaceful and salubrious surrounds of the Writer’s Bar. It is a nice place but the armchairs are not very comfortable and can give you a back ache. I looked at my Brietling Titanium watch. It was 16:58. The Tiffin Room was about half full with tourists having Afternoon Tea. There was a European gentleman at the Writer’s Bar counter. Tall and friendly Simon Hirst appeared and we began chatting. He explained wryly, “I felt your review was harsh…I’ve only been with Raffles for about a year. I used to be with the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. This policy has been in operation for about a year. We have to control the tourists wanting to come in for a look because there are so many…Our signs are very polite. I added the “Thank you” to the signs when I came. Every few weeks I’ll get a complaint about this policy…either on Tripadvisor or a letter to me. That said, the staff have to be more sensitive in this regard…”
We chatted amicably on many other issues as I enjoyed a cup of hot Early Grey tea with a slice of lemon. “Actually…” Simon went on, “Empire Cafe had to close because the Head Chef there resigned and so did the other four Chefs. We couldn’t get replacements..as you know, there’s a manpower problem everywhere. It’s a pity because now we don’t have our own restaurant serving local cuisine. The same thing with the Bar & Billiard Room. We couldn’t get staff. I want to open it in the evenings after 6pm as a Bar for people to come after work for a drink and tapas, small bites….That’s why I’ve been trying to get four bartenders for the Bar and Billiard Room..and I’m still trying! So we rented out the Emoire Cafe space to Ujong and I gave them a dishwasher and very favourable terms. They serve local dishes but some find the dishes have too much of a modern twist….”
“What do you think of Mortons?”, Simon asked.
I replied, “Frankly, I think the standard has dropped and now the beef is not USDA beef but Australian beef. Mortons was good when it first opened and my friend, Michael Donlon was the GM, but now I don’t find it that good. The big portions are also not in line with the trend now for portion control and weight control.”
Simon commented, “I agree..our Long Bar Steakhouse is good and the ambience is better than Mortons I feel. More cosy and popular with ladies. The Tiffin Room is very popular with tourists.”
I told Simon, “Well, I’m glad that the Singapore Sling is now made with Gordon’s Gin and freshly shaken up. It used to be pre-mixed in big aluminium cylinders and on draught with Seagram’s Gin from Canada.
Simon exclaimed, “You’re very well informed!”
He continued with a smile, “I shall reinvigorate Raffles…we have plans and I shall tell you about them when I’m permitted.”
Well, we shall see…
At this link you can hear Charles Aznavour’s hit song “Hier encore”