Property mogul Satinder Garcha calls The Big Apple his second home.
The Singapore-based jet setter is not being hyperbolic. He owns a home in his favourite city, a beautiful 19th-century brownstone in the bohemian West Village. Stately in its iconic reddish-brown facade, the rows of brick townhouses have come to characterise the Lower Manhattan neighbourhood.
Although the New York house is nearly two centuries old, it’s fully decked out with modern luxuries such as banquette sofas and hanging drum shade lamps. The restoration was tasked to Brit hotelier-turned-interior designer Anouska Hempel, the same person behind Garcha’s hotel, Six Senses Duxton.
The newly opened boutique hotel in Singapore offers palpable clues into Garcha’s life. The polo-playing tycoon has made Singapore his home since 2001, after selling his Silicon Valley consulting firm for US$55 million during the dot-com boom in 2000.
“There are common elements between the hotel and my home — the long sleek sofas, her signature lamps,” says Garcha, as he points to the ornate furnishing around the sun-dappled suite. “The interiors of my house in New York also has two colours. They are not black and gold (colour scheme of Six Senses Duxton), but beige and olive green. You’ll see a lot of similarities if you go there, and come here.”
“I don’t want to check into a 400-room hotel, it’s not going to change my life. We get to experience more of the neighbourhood, and see more through smaller places.”
Satinder Garcha on choosing to stay in boutique hotels on his personal travels.
He is restoring an architectural beauty in Santiago before opening it as a Garcha hotel later this year. The grand dame of Chile’s capital is rich with a deep sense of history. Opened with a flourish in the 1930s, the old City Hotel attracted the who’s who in its heydays and is in the vicinity of national monuments like the former National Congress Building and Cathedral de Santiago.
“The hotel just blew me away. The context of the hotel to Santiago is what Raffles hotel is to Singapore. My hope is to take it back and make it what it was,” says Garcha, who bought the hotel the same day he viewed the property in 2010.
Garcha’s hospitality preferences are aligned with his travel habits. The adventurous spirit eschew cookie-cutter for character — listening to live music at nondescript bars, and staying in boutique hotels and AirBnB apartments in places bustling with local life.
“I never ever stay in big chain hotels,” says Garcha of his personal travels. “It’s boring. I don’t want to check into a 400-room hotel, it’s not going to change my life. We get to experience the neighbourhood more through smaller places, which are way more independent in spirit. Unfortunately, you can’t do that in very big hotels.”
The hotelier shares his favourite haunts in New York City with Keyyes.
Which is your favourite city in the world?
It’s hard to pick a city because there are so many beautiful cities, each with its own character and charm. I’d go with New York City, it is sort of my second home. I visit New York three to four times a year. New York is a great amalgamation of the world. There is such vibrancy in terms of culture and people. There are so many cool spots for food, music, art. The city is also compact, nothing is more than 20 minutes away.
Favourite check-in in New York?
I have my own house in New York, but there are so many cool hotels. There’s the Gramercy Park Hotel, The Crosby Street Hotel is another favourite hotel of mine. They are in old buildings, but then again, most hotels are in old buildings in New York. They capture the sense of the neighbourhood but are also extremely well-run.
Where do you go for a drink?
One of my favourite bars is the Spotted Pig. It’s an old bar, near our house with a neighbourhood feel. It is a very local institution. It’s quite famous in New York, and used to have a Michelin star. I like the artistic atmosphere of West Village, its leafy streets and the low rise buildings means you can see the sky. The bar is between all of that. I pick my drink depending on my mood. Recently, I just go with a very simple vodka soda. That’s a health drink. No cocktails. You can’t be sinful and also have sugar.
Also in New York, it’s also a big thing to never go out on the weekend. Then the crowd is a lot more non-local. The locals mostly go out on Tuesday or Wednesday nights.
Where’s your go-to restaurant in New York?
I go to Morimoto Restaurant for its phenomenal Japanese cuisine. The interiors, done by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, is mind-blowing. I normally end up eating a big sashimi platter without any sauces. It’s all about the freshness of the ingredient.
What’s fun to try in New York?
One of my top things to do is to watch polo games in The Hamptons in summer. I don’t play there yet because I don’t have horses. I have horses in other parts of the world, like Argentina.
Other than that, you can check out the live music scene in different parts of Brooklyn. I’m not a big fan of the top ten, chi-chi places. I like to wander and discover, go into a nondescript venue with friends.
What’s your favourite memory of New York?
I have a funny memory. It happened about a decade ago before we had our own place. I was staying at a friend’s apartment in South Street Seaport, Manhattan. I came back from drinks with colleagues early in the morning, I kept ringing the bell, he didn’t answer because he was fast asleep. Lucky, it wasn’t during winter. I took my jacket and slept on the sidewalk. The next thing I knew, I had crashed out for hours and I had a five dollar bill next to me. Someone thought I was homeless. I got myself a coffee with the money.