Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Private Room: Singapore Airline's Flagship First Class Lounge!

This is one post of a multi-part series covering our Two weeks Tokyo & Hokkaido Travel Guide:
    ▫ Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Singapore to Tokyo
    ▫ Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path
    ▫ Sapporo, Otaru and Cape Kamui: Scenic Self-Drive Guide
    ▫ Furano, Biei, Sounkyou and Asahikawa: Amazing Autumn Colours
    ▫ Jozankei, Noboribetsu and Hakodate: Unparalleled Beauty
    ▫ Scoot's ScootBiz Class from Tokyo to Singapore

Entering Singapore Airlines' The Private Room is a mini adventure by itself. After turning up at the main lounge entrance at Changi Airport's Terminal 3, an attendant ushers you through the SilverKris (SQ Business Class passengers) lounge to reach the KrisFlyer Gold lounge (SQ's Star Alliance First Class passengers). You then need to walk through that lounge to finally reach The Private Room. I'd be interested to know what the planning was behind this lounge-ception arrangement; maybe the feeling of exclusivity? As in a "look at all these people using inferior lounges, they are not as important as you are" kind of way.

The Private Room

It's in this quiet space, then, where The Private Room hosts Singapore Airlines' First Class passengers. The main lounge area has seating room for maybe three dozen people - with table service for drinks and two large flat screen TV's providing entertainment. It's a classy and elegant place to rest & relax before your upcoming flight.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room

Towards the back, there are two small rooms with lounging chairs (if the main area isn't private enough for you) and a slightly bigger family room where guests with younger children can play and laugh without disturbing others.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Family Room

There's also an iMac and a Windows PC for use. But doesn't practically everyone travel with his or her own laptop, tablet and/or other devices nowadays? Anyway, while we didn't find any business-related facilities like printers or scanners, we're sure the attendants will be more than willing to help with printing / scanning if needed.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Computer corner

Of course no lounge would be complete without washroom and shower facilities. The ones here are stocked with hand towels, bath towels and five-star hotel-like amenities, and naturally an attendant wipes down and dries the shower after each use so you never have to step in someone else's shower water.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Shower

The Restaurant

Now that we've gotten the general lounge facilities out of the way, let's move on to what really interests us: the food! (This is primarily a food blog after all). The Private Room has its' very own ala carte, cook-to-order restaurant, with the only limit being how much food your stomach can handle!

In our (biased) opinion, the restaurant is easily the most classy part of the lounge. It's got fancy linens and elegant high-backed quilted leather chairs, and the decor could easily hold its own against many other fine dining establishments around town.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant

There's a small triangular buffet corner with some fruits, chips, sandwiches, chocolates, cakes and a cheese plate, most of which we just ignored as we went straight for the items on the menu.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Buffet

Oddly enough, the fresh watermelon and carrot juices we ordered came blended (instead of being run through a juicer), so there was a lot of the chewy fibrous bits still in the glass. If you're of the 'no alcohol no talk' persuasion, there's an entire bar's worth of wine, champagne, beer, liquer and other spirits available too. Free flow, of course.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Fresh Juice

We whet our appetites with 6 sticks of Assorted Satay (your choice of chicken, mutton or beef) served with peanut sauce, onions and cucumber cubes. It's fragrant, aromatic and juicy, but lacks the charred bits (and corresponding flavour) that you'd expect from a dedicated charcoal-grilled satay stall.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Satay

The Pork Rib Prawn Noodle Soup (also available for breakfast) comes with Hong Kong cai sim (菜心), a few decent-sized prawns and a hefty chunk of fatty, sinfully delicious pork rib. Definitely won't disappoint if you're in the mood for some soupy noodles.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Prawn and Pork Rib Noodle Soup

Moving on, then, to some of the Western choices; starting with the Prime Beef Burger with Foie Gras, Rocket and Fried Quail Egg. We enjoyed this quite a lot! Plus points for the ingredients combining to make a delicious, tasty, juicy burger, but a minus for being that 'too thick to eat with your hands' kind of burger.

I mean, a burger isn't a burger if you need a fork and knife to eat it with (in our humble opinions). No?

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Quail Egg Burger

We also find room to squeeze in an order of Sauteed Lobster with Linguine (served with provencal ratatouille, asparagus, and shavings of parmesan cheese). Al dente pasta? Check. Sauteed young asparagus? Check. Half a lobster's worth of meat, chopped up and fried in a tomato based sauce? Check. What more could one ask for?

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Lobster Linguini

Ten years ago we would have ordered another couple of main courses off the menu, but it seems that the stomach shrinks with age and so we wave the white flag and grab an assortment of various mini cakes and chocolate truffles from the buffet area instead. Most of these are pretty good (for buffet standards).

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Truffles and Dessert

Finding ourselves satisfactorily stuffed, we retire to the Changi Airport Hotel to get a night's sleep.

The next morning we pay a second visit to The Private Room - this time to check out the breakfast offerings before catching our flight. The coffee, disappointingly, comes from those instant grinder machines and isn't really particularly good.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Coffee

In the mornings, the restaurant serves up a shorter list of breakfast items (yes, that means you can't have lobster pasta for breakfast), from which we first try the Singapore French Toast. They use a citrus-flavoured bread with raisins, which adds a sweet, fruity dimension to the egg batter. It's a novel idea which we'll definitely be copying the next time we cook our own french toast at home.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant French Toast

The Dim Sum delights comes with a choice of Jasmine, Oolong, Pu Er, Chrysanthemum, Green or Fresh Mint Leaf teas. While the tea - being TWG-sourced - is superb; the dim sum, despite being freshly steamed to order, is a little less impressive.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Assorted Dim Sum

Finally, we summon some extra room in our stomachs for a half-order of Seafood Congee. This dish was also somewhat mediocre; The congee itself was decently flavored but (dis)honorable mention goes to the you char guai which were soft, chewy and altogether unpleasant.

Singapore Airlines The Private Room Restaurant Congee

Our stomachs filled, we stopped by the washrooms to take a shower before heading to the gate for our Singapore Airlines Suites Class flight to Tokyo - stay tuned for that write-up in a future post!

Conclusions and et cetra

The Private Room is by far the most prestigious and luxurious ground experience available in Singapore's Changi Airport. Heck, it's possibly the best experience available at any airport in the region! It's not just the facilities and the ala carte dining at the restaurant - it's also the unparalleled level of attention, warmth and service accorded by the lounge staff.

Having said that, there are some shortcomings if compared to other top lounges worldwide. For example, there are no day beds if you want to take a nap. Nor are there any escorts to your gate when it's time for your flight. #firstworldproblems for sure, but contrast this with Air France's first class lounge in Paris where you're chauffeured in a car from the lounge right up to the plane.

You might have noticed that we checked in the day before our flight. Singapore Airlines, in Changi Airport, allows check in 48 hours before departure time, so if you were so inclined (and kiasu enough), you could potentially have up to 6 or 7 meals in the restaurant before flying off.

A few other Singapore-resident frequent flyers have reported success in checking in a day early, heading to The Private Room for meals, then simply leaving Changi Airport to go home to sleep (before re-checking-in the next day). We personally decided to avoid any potential complications with immigration or the airport police, and spent some money to spend the night at the airport hotel instead.


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