Singapore - Changi
- Superb meals at the dining room
- Highly attentive service
- A very quiet and relaxing lounge
- No direct access to the terminal
- It's The Private Room!
The Private Room: even the name has a certain patina of exclusivity. And Singapore Airlines chose that name well, considering this lounge at its Changi T3 hub is the ground component of the high-flying first class suites on its Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s.
That's the only way you'll get into The Private Room – with a boarding pass for Singapore Airlines' first class.
If you're flying first class on any other Star Alliance partner airline out of Changi, or even if you hold SQ's top-tier PPS Solitaire frequent flyer status, you'll have to make do with Singapore Airlines' adjacent First Class Lounge.
Partner that to the allure of those silvered letters and you're immediately curious as to what lies beyond those doors. Which is where this review comes in...
Location & Impressions
The Private Room is nestled deep within Singapore Airlines' SilverKris lounge complex at Changi's T3, in an unusual Matryoshka doll-like arrangement.
You enter through the same entrance as most other Singapore Airlines passengers, bar Star Alliance Gold members – including SQ's own KrisFlyer Elite Golds – flying out in Singapore Airlines economy class (who turn right and head for the underwhelming KrisFlyer Gold Lounge).
Your path to The Private Room – a journey on which you'll be escorted from the front desk, so as not to lose your way – takes you through the business class lounge...
... into the rarer confines of the first class lounge...
... and then, at the far end of the first class lounge, to the entrance of The Private Room.
Once past that final checkpoint, two thoughts sprint in quick succession through the mind of the first-time visitor to The Private Room: "This is It!", followed by "Is this it?".
"This is it!" is a soft voice of triumph – you're in the lounge you've heard so much about, an almost legendary lounge due to its SQ-only first class-only policy. That you've been escorted to what is quite literally an inner sanctum only heightens that sense of expectation and achievement.
"Is this it?" comes in a more crestfallen tone, equal parts disappointment and doubt as you take your first actual look around The Private Room.
Yes, The Private Room is certainly private enough: it's not a high-traffic lounge to begin with, and high partitions wrap around many of the wide comfortable chairs.
The fitout is elegant but far from contemporary, while the overall style seems dated, even though the lounge has been open for barely a decade (July 2008) – it's more like a old Singaporean concept of luxury brought to life.
Of course, style is to a large degree in the eye of the beholder.
This certainly isn't a lounge to impress on its own, compared to the first class flagship of Qantas at Sydney International Airport for example.
Rather, The Private Room is a lounge which like the very best of butlers is content to remain in the background.
And that's not the worst analogy, because The Private Room draws some inspiration from a private members-only club tucked away in London, especially when it comes to the dining room (more on that later).
It's when you check in for your SQ first class flight at Changi Airport that you appreciate how The Private Room fits into the whole premium travel experience, which Singapore Airlines has pretty much nailed from a kerb-to-lounge scenario.
There's a dedicated first class check-in area in a seperate wing of Changi's T3, at the far end of the terminal and with its own driveway – one that's easily overlooked if your driver doesn't know to veer off to the left before reaching the terminal itself.
It's a hotel-like experience: SQ ground staff are on hand to open the door for you while a porter transfers your bags from the car to a trolley so you can quickly escape into the air-conditioned first class check-in wing, which could almost be its own little private terminal.
You'll take a seat behind a marble bench while the boarding pass and baggage formalities are taken care of.
Directly behind this is an immigration and security lane solely for SQ's first class passengers...
... and when you step out into the body of T3 itself, the entrance to SQ's SilverKris lounge complex is directly ahead.
I clocked my time from arriving at the first class terminal to being at The Private Room inside of a leisurely ten minutes, and I wasn't rushing.
Given that the appeal of The Private Room is more solitude than style, its stand-out attraction is the dining room.
With its parquetry floor, wide plushly-padded leather lounge chairs and wall panelling, discrete lighting and dusky tones the dining room channels the spirit of an English club – and very much a gentlemen's club, at that, where the mere appearance of a woman would cause conversations to halt and cutlery to fall to the floor.
If Singapore Airlines was aiming to evoke that old world feeling, they nailed it. After an hour of leisurely dining and wining here, moving back to the main lounge of The Private Room is almost a step down.
So why move? As long as it's not peak hour, when The Private Room can be quite busy, we suggest you settle in, pull out a book, magazine or tablet, and order another whiskey or glass of bubbles.
The tables are dressed with crisp white linen and a small orchid centrepiece.
Waiters pad back and forth taking orders and keeping your glass topped up.
The Private Lounge's dining room menus are changed seasonally, although several favourites of the frequent first class flyers remain as your culinary north star.
Our evening visit meant we missed the breakfast menu, but here's the all-day dining selection.
Piper Heidsieck Rare Millesime and Charles Heidsieck champagne headline the drinks menu, with the spirits selection including Absolut Vodka, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Hennessy XO cognac and whiskies from Jack Daniel's through to Johnnie Walker Black, Glenlivet 18 and Chivas Regal Saulte 21.
Over the course of two visits (two seperate flights, not one first class food-fest) I sampled the rich and seconds-worthy satay...
... a superb and quite refined chirashizushi...
... and of course the lobster, which The Private Room chefs fry up in a wok and match with braised wonton noodles.
There's also a modest and under-patronised self-serve buffet area with a decidedly odd selection ranging from sandwiches, sliced fruits and biscuits to cheese and other sweet treats...
... while the selection of hot dishes includes stewed pork ribs and chicken curry; and for the vegans and vegetarians, baked fish fillet with honey, garlic and ginger sauce, and channa marsala.
Although there are two small nooks with desktop PCs at one end of The Private Room, most travellers these days will be packing their own laptop or tablet and settling down in whatever chair takes their fancy.
Thankfully, the marble benches between the chairs and alongside the sofas have AC outlets (using the local UK-style socket, but if you don't have adaptor in your carry-on bag the front desk can lend you one).
There are also two small rooms – think of them as The Private Room's private rooms – with thick glass doors and deep wide leather armchairs and ottomans.
These are ostensibly for sensitive phone calls or a slumber between flights (or meals), but could be pressed into service as a temporary quiet zone for serious work sans distraction.
But on the whole, it's clear that The Private Room is less about work than winding down.
David Flynn was travelling as a guest of Singapore Airlines.