American Express has taken the wraps off Centurion Haus, its new downtown hideaway nestled in the grounds of the iconic Raffles Hotel.
Platinum Charge members look away now, because this space isn’t for you (and unfortunately, there’s nothing in the pipeline to replace Nook beyond Platinum at Basque Kitchen, which is more of a restaurant tie-up than a lounge). Access to Centurion Haus is exclusively for Centurion cardholders and their guests.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit Centurion Haus twice now: once for a media event, and subsequently as the guest of a MileLion community member. While that doesn’t quite make me a veteran, I’ll attempt to give a brief rundown of the experience nonetheless.
Brief Recap: AMEX Centurion Card
|Income Req.||Invite only||Points Validity||No expiry|
|Annual Fee||S$7,490||Min. |
|400 MR points|
|Miles with |
|FCY Fee||2.95%||Transfer Fee||None|
|Local Earn||0.98 mpd||Points Pool?||Yes|
|FCY Earn||0.98 mpd||Lounge Access?||Yes|
|Special Earn||8 mpd on 10Xcelerator merchants||Airport Limo?||Yes|
We can’t possibly talk about Centurion Haus without first talking about the card that gets you through the door.
The American Express Centurion Card needs no introduction, or perhaps it does, given how little publicly-available information there is out there. The card has no official website, and it’s safe to say you won’t be applying for this via SingSaver. For many years, American Express refused to even acknowledge it existed.
What’s funny is that the Centurion Card as we know it was only launched in 1999, in response to urban legends that circulated throughout the 80s and 90s about some super-exclusive card for the 0.01% of society. It came to Singapore in 2005 (I once went on an ill-fated date with a supplementary cardholder who seemed completely oblivious about what she had in her purse), and I suppose the first question must be: just how do you get one?
The qualification criteria is shrouded in as much secrecy as the card itself, but from what I understand, successful applicants:
- Have an NOA showing more than S$1 million in income
- Spend at least S$300,000 a year on their AMEX cards
Keep in mind, these are guidelines more than anything else. AMEX can (and does) approve applications from individuals who earn less than S$1 million, provided they’re of some standing in society. They also consider other factors like tenure and spending patterns; someone who drops a load at Grand Cru would be a stronger candidate than someone who does nothing but GrabPay top-ups (guilty).
Even if you fit the profile, be prepared to wait. The Relationship Manager is a big aspect of the Centurion experience, and the number of staff that AMEX has limits them to between 1,000 to 1,200 members in Singapore at any time. Keep in mind, some of this capacity is consumed by overseas Centurion members relocating to Singapore and transferring their account.
Should that magic invitation appear, membership will cost you S$7,490 a year (plus a one-time joining fee of a further S$7,490). An annual fee waiver? Surely you jest. If Kayne pays his annual fee, so do you.
I’m veering off-topic by now, but if you want to learn more about card benefits and welcome vouchers, refer to my 2020 post below.
Inside Centurion Haus
Centurion Haus is located at #01-06 Raffles Arcade. Some key information is provided below:
- Open daily from 11 a.m to 11 p.m
- Make reservations via Amex Experiences App or Relationship Manager
- Complimentary parking is available for visitors
- Access for local-issued Centurion cards only
American Express has styled the exterior to look like a good old fashioned prohibition-era speakeasy. From the outside, it looks just like a regular hat store.
In fact, it is a hat store, helmed by CA4LA (pronounced ka-shi-la; you know something’s chi-chi when it doesn’t sound anything like how it reads). Any member of the public with millinery needs can get them satisfied here.
It’s obvious why American Express has chosen this theme- just like the Centurion Card, Centurion Haus is intended to be invisible to all but those in the know. Yet the ironic thing about contemporary speakeasy concepts is that they’re not meant to remain clandestine. I mean, the concept simply wouldn’t work in the social media age anyway, not when the entire venue is eminently Instagrammable.
In fact, for all the attempts at cloak and dagger, as if Eliot Ness and the rest of his Untouchables were just two shakes of an old fashioned away, there might as well be a flashing neon sign outside Centurion Haus saying JUST A REGULAR HAT SHOP, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. It kind of gives the game away when there’s an in-store receptionist to receive guests and escort them in, a process which takes place in full view of any hat-shopping patrons.
So those looking for a truly Illuminati-esque experience may be disappointed, but in any case, push the left display panel and the wall opens up to reveal the lounge inside (guests egress through a different exit, so traffic through the hat shop is one-way only).
The interior of Centurion Haus plays it elegant and sophisticated, kind of like a contemporary gentleman’s club. It’s a cosy venue with seating for around 44 guests, and while it’s not completely devoid of natural light, is definitely on the darker side (probably a feature, rather than a bug).
Stamped on a solemn-looking granite feature wall is CENTURION, which makes for a good photo opportunity assuming you’re not into stealth wealth.
While there is a bar counter, the lack of an overhang and stools signal that it’s not intended for seating.
Instead, guests can pick from booth seats in the bar area (which accommodate six people, in a pinch), or two-tops in opposing dining alcoves.
Bisecting the dining alcoves is an eight-seater meeting room adorned with wood panels and the Centurion motif. A dark marble table forms the centrepiece, across which you imagine dynasties change hands and international boundaries are redrawn.
Centurion Haus does not have its own toilets, but public facilities are just a short walk away.
Food & beverage
F&B at Centurion Haus is provided by Raffles Hotel, and let’s just say it comes with prices to match.
I had the opportunity to sample some of the items during the media event (the photos below are of tasting portions, and may not reflect the actual size).
The first course consisted of:
- Smoked salmon blini: OK, but the salmon tasted more supermarket-grade than house-cured
- Oyster: An L’Antilope 1858 Oyster, to be precise. It’s hard to mess up oysters, especially when they’re S$32 per dozen
- Maine lobster roll: Served with light curry mayonnaise, and probably the best of the lot
Next up was a prime beef burger (more like a slider) and chicken satay. I have few complaints about the burger, which was juicy and well seasoned, but the satay lacked the distinctive char you get from grilling it over charcoal.
Then came the Singapore laksa, which was disappointing. For S$30, I have to say I’d expect much more premium ingredients. The prawns were frozen, and the rest of the protein was bulked up by fishcake.
Dessert was a very good cheesecake with sorbet, of which I have few complaints.
I don’t know how reflective this is of the actual dining experience, but I can honestly say I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the food. I’d expect much more from Raffles Hotel, and serving frozen prawns in a S$30 laksa just doesn’t cut it.
In terms of drinks, Centurion cardholders (and their guests, until 31 December 2022) receive a complimentary welcome cocktail ‘lus Centurionis’ (Latin for Centurion’s Elixir) on every visit.
This is crafted from ingredients inspired from a Roman Centurion’s diet (though one imagines they didn’t receive centurion-branded ice cubes): barley, apple, chardonnay, lemon, clove, and a base of Macallan Double Cask whiskey. Tipping the bartender in denarii is optional.
There’s also an extensive wine list which I won’t post in full, but to give you an idea of pricing:
- 2020 Markus Huls Mosel Riesling: S$30++ (glass)
- 2017 Domaine de la Bongran Chardonnay: S$30++ (glass)
- 2018 Patrick Clerget Pinot Noir: S$30++ (glass)
- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut NV: S$248++
- Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV: S$158++
A 750ml bottle of Aqua Panna will set you back S$14++, a can of Coca Cola S$10++.
Centurion Haus won’t be the last word on speakeasy bars, but it’s still a conveniently-located space for a tipple en route to selling a yacht or buying a country, or whatever it is that Centurion members do on a daily basis.
No shame if you just need a hat, either.