Looking for a hideaway? This is the question the Naumi asks this on its website as you click through to look at its rooms, and the sentiment rings true: the photos show darkened corridors lined with gentle LED lights. It is, in its own way, the apotheosis of an older Singapore, one where life was lived slightly less visibly. The Lion City is a great place, but it is also loud, hot, hectic, in-your-face: a city where everything is lived out-loud and in-public.
The best of the Naumi is found in the rooms themselves and the malleability of the service and the management. Singapore is small and cramped, but the rooms are of a reasonable size: not too far removed from the level of space you might find in the Mandarin Oriental or the Ritz-Carlton. Technology is kick-ass, as it is everywhere in the city, with mobile phone and speaker docks catering to a full range of handsets and tablets. The hotel squeezes every conceivable TV station and movie into the large, flatscreen television. Space is maximised by placing the mirrors and sinks in the centre of the room, but also somehow making them unobtrusive. If there is a knock on the rooms it is that, like an awful lot of other splendid hotels around the world, the lighting system is almost impossible to figure out, turning nocturnal ablutions into a game of hit-and-miss.
The infinity pool on the roof, much loved by regulars, was undergoing a refurb, so the management very kindly allowed us to use the excellent and surprisingly quiet pool on the roof of the neighbouring Raffles Hotel, with its ghosts of times and peoples past. Naumi by contrast to Raffles is a far more modern affair. It offers an excellent buffet and cooked-to-order breakfast (we had a pair of excellent omelettes). Table by Rang Mahal is rightly judged to be one of the best Indian restaurants in a city infused with a strong South Asian flavour and culture. Three gyms are dotted around the hotel, offering a nice balance of cardio and weights.
We loved the Naumi. We were there for too short a period to benefit from all of its delights, but it gave us what we needed: the chance to decompress en route from Sydney to London. It was quiet and cool, very central, and surrounded by the best of Singapore – not the five-star restaurants for which the city is justly famous, but the grittier, backstreet parts that you remember long after the holiday dust has been brushed from Birkenstocks and strappy sandals. The Naumi is surrounded by some excellent little street bars, notably the Lock Stock Barrel Pub, a classic Cantonese diner on the corner of Purvis Street and Beach Road and, a few doors down on Beach Road, a great little place offering staggeringly good and super-cheap back massages and footrubs.