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Rich Heritage, Stylish Interiors, Luxe Hospitality: Six Senses Duxton
In April this year, Singapore earned bragging rights for being chosen as the destination for Six Senses’ first-ever city hotel – Six Senses Duxton.
The award-winning luxury hotel and spa group is known for its ultra-luxe resorts in exotic locales as well as its strong commitment to sustainability, community, wellness and design.
Located on Duxton Road, in the historic and culturally rich neighbourhood of Tanjong Pagar, the 49-room hotel is a short walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station.
The hotel occupies eight conservation shophouses that have been sustainably and painstakingly restored by acclaimed British-based interior designer (and one-time Bond girl who starred in the 1969 film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) Anouska Hempel. Hempel is said to have invented the luxury boutique hotel concept when she opened Blakes Hotel, possibly the world’s first designer boutique hotel, in London in 1978.
For its remarkable conservation efforts, the hotel received the Urban Redevelopment Authority Architectural Heritage Award.
5 Things We ♥ About The Hotel
1. Bold, Opulent, Neighbourhood-Inspired Space
We marvel at how Hempel has captured the spirit of Duxton Road, which in a former life was part of a nutmeg plantation as well as a hotbed of activity for opium smokers and gamblers throughout the early 19th and 20th centuries, and given it her signature touch throughout the hotel.
In a nod to Duxton’s notorious past, Hempel dressed the hotel mostly in bold hues of black, gold and yellow, creating a dark, sensual vibe to transport guests to a bygone era.
She also adorned the hotel with Chinese, Malay and European elements – from neo-classical lion head motifs, Chinese porcelain-chip friezes, black lacquered wood Chinese screens and oversized golden Chinese fans to Malay timber fretwork, French windows, Portuguese shutters and Corinthian pilasters – to infuse a touch of local culture and elegance to every space.
2. Lavish Rooms With Character
As Hempel is known for her exacting standards, eye for detail and a penchant for fusing styles to create the unexpected, coupled with the building’s unique layout, we were not surprised that no two rooms are alike.
Rooms and suites are themed in eight categories, with names that reflect the area’s heritage: Nutmeg, Opium, Shophouse, Pearl, Skylight and Duxton.
Every room and suite is anointed with Hempel’s personal touch – from the decorative pillows and furnishings to the lighting and ornaments like calligraphy brushes and bamboo screens, many of which are from her personal collection.
Another interesting piece from Hempel’s collection is the calligraphy wallpaper, covering the walls of some of the rooms and suites, which is modelled after an 18th century property agreement that she owns.
Opium Rooms are inspired by the notorious opium dens that used to occupy the shophouses in the Duxton area
Opium rooms and suites feature black walls and grand black four-poster Chinese platform beds topped with handmade mattresses by Naturalmat, while each Duxton Duplex Suite boasts a restored lacquered wood spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom and bathroom.
As its name suggests, each Skylight Suite has a dome-like skylight which allows natural light to flood the living room.
The centrepiece of the two-floor Duxton Duplex Suite is the spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom and bathroom
Having a soft spot for all things white, we were completely taken by the bright and airy white-walled Pearl Suite. We adore the white walls and the gorgeous marble top dressers inlaid with mother-of-pearl, but most of all, we love the marble bathtub where we can soak our stresses away.
White-themed Pearl Suites are the only rooms that have bathtubs
We must say that the brass, lacquer, marble and mirrored in-room minibars are the best-looking ones we’ve seen to date. Well stocked with the essential liquors, sodas, juices and gourmet snacks like potato crisps, bean-to-bar dark chilli chocolate and premium nuts, each minibar also comes with crystal glasses, a shaker, bottle opener, small cutting board and knife, as well as a lemon, a lime and an orange to perk up your cocktails and drinks.
The minibars have all the essentials (and more) for you to concoct your favourite drink
Those who need a caffeine boost can just insert a capsule and hit the button on the Nespresso machine, while tea drinkers can brew their favourite Chinese teas from the neighbouring Yixing Xuan Teahouse.
Bathrooms feature sleek handcrafted Lefroy Brooks fixtures and are stocked with The Organic Pharmacy bath products which are developed with homeopathic principles and pharmaceutical-grade herbal extracts.
3. Yellow Pot’s Innovative, Healthful Dishes & Handcrafted Cocktails
Hempel’s palette of black, gold and yellow, along with her calligraphy wallpaper, large gold fans and lacquered screen doors are also spotted at Yellow Pot
Taking its name from the small and big yellow pots that take pride of place in the restaurant, Yellow Pot serves traditional and modern Chinese cuisine prepared with healthy, organic and sustainably sourced ingredients.
We are impressed with how Chef Sebastian Goh has given classic Chinese recipes an inventive and healthy spin without using additives and flavour enhancers, creating well-balanced dishes that are packed with natural flavours.
Delightfully juicy and refreshing, the Chilled Organic Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, with skins removed and infused with preserved Li Hing plum, and topped with Farm Delight micro herbs, was the perfect palate opener.
We can’t get enough of the Roast Duck, quite possibly the best one in town, which had lip-smackingly crispy skin and smoky, tender meat. Sourced from Malaysia, the duck sits for two days in a fermented beancurd, herbs and five-spiced powder marinade before it is roasted in a traditional Apollo oven under a hickory wood fire.
Another star dish is the fork-tender Wok-seared Organic Grass-fed Beef Tenderloin, wok-tossed with Himalayan salt, crushed Tellicherry peppercorns and honey, and served with addictive crispy garlic flakes on a white marble slab.
Wok-seared Organic Grass-fed Beef Tenderloin
The Stir-fried Mee Sua may look plain but it boasts robust wok-hei (charred aroma from the wok) and is studded with tiger prawns, Hokkaido scallops, beansprouts and chives.
We’re not big fans of Chinese desserts but the light and silky Lemongrass & Calamansi Jelly, topped with fresh fruits, was just what we needed to round off our meal.
The antiquarian-themed bar features an intricate stained-glass ceiling with circular motifs
Drinkswise, Yellow Pot’s bar serves up top-shelf spirits, premium wines, local craft beers as well as cocktails that are injected with nostalgic Eastern influences such as Chen Pi Collins, an East-meets-West spin on the timeless Tom Collins and Mandarin-infused gin and a sprightly citrus fizz.
Inspired by the flower of Kaifeng city, signature cocktail Escape to Kaifeng is a mix of house-made oriental chrysanthemum cordial and herbal Tanqueray gin
A must-try is the bar’s trademark cocktail Escape to Kaifeng, an infusion of house-made chrysanthemum cordial with Tanqueray London dry gin. The mocktail version which is also a natural tonic, The Kaifeng, is the welcome drink that’s served upon check-in.
There are also artisanal Chinese teas like High Mountain Oolong and Dian Hong Gold Yunnan black tea specially curated for the hotel by Yixing Xuan Teahouse.
4. Extraordinary Experiences & Touches
While other hotels welcome guests with a drink and cold towel, Six Senses goes an extraordinary step further with the Singing Bowl Service.
With our shoes off, we stepped into a large brass Himalayan singing bowl and closed our eyes. We heard soothing sounds and felt vibrations when the hotel staff gently stroke the rim of the bowl with a wand. A smaller bowl was also stroked by the side of our ears. The sound frequencies created by the singing bowls are said to restore the flow of energy, bring about peace and a state of well-being.
The hotel welcomes guests with its signature Singing Bowl Service
We were thrilled that these sound vibrations can also be experienced in the comfort of our room as a small singing bowl and wooden wand (along with instructions) are placed in every room and suite.
Also found on the bedside table of every room and suite are a set of stainless steel Chinese exercise balls (or Baoding balls) which are meant to be placed in the palm and manipulated by the hand and fingers. When the balls are rotated clockwise and counter-clockwise, vital acupuncture points in your hand are said to be stimulated which will help restore energy and blood flow to your body.
The wellness touch shows up again in the form of a thoughtful “intimate wellness bag” placed on the bed during turndown service. Items include nutmeg oil to soothe aches and pains; Tiger Balm to relieve headaches, stuffy nose and insect bites; Po Chai Pills, a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for indigestion and vomiting; brain teaser toys, colouring card, colouring pencils and an organic cotton tote bag.
The wellness experience comes in the form of an "intimate wellness bag" which arrives during turndown service
Photo: Chris Wee
The turndown service also came with two complimentary bottles of chilled tinctures formulated with herbs, plants and flowers such as hawthorn slices, rose buds, roselle, lavender, snow chrysanthemum and globe amaranth by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Professor Zhang Mao Ji of Long Zhong Tang TCM clinic, which is located just opposite the hotel.
One tincture is to be taken first thing in the morning to improve appetite and detox the body, while the other is taken before bedtime to help lower blood sugar, reduce fatigue and promote better sleep.
5. Inspiring Activities
As Six Senses’ mission is to create exceptional guest experiences, guests can expect no less than inspiring, educational and fun activities that can be tailored to suit their needs and preferences.
Wanting to learn more about traditional Chinese therapies, we signed up for the complimentary health consultation with TCM physician Professor Zhang who has over 40 years of experience. He asked us a bunch of questions about our health, felt our pulses and examined our tongues before giving us his diagnosis and prescribing medicinal herbs (charges apply).
For insights into Chinese culture, art and the history of tea or learn more about the teas in your room, there are tea appreciation sessions and demonstrations conducted at Yixing Xuan Teahouse just down the road.
Tea appreciation sessions at nearby Yixing Xuan Teahouse
Free yoga sessions are held at 8am every Thursday and Sunday at an open space behind the hotel, but for those who prefer sweating it out in a gym or swim laps, ask the front desk for a free-access pass to Fitness First at 100 AM mall, a short walk from the hotel. Come December, when sister hotel Six Senses Maxwell (a five-minute walk away) opens, guests will be able to use its gym, pool and spa facilities.
Outdoor yoga is available every Thursday and Sunday at 8am
If you’re a heritage fan like us, pick up a map from the front desk that will point out where the eight heritage trees are located, highlight different architectural designs of shophouses that were built in the 1800s, and show where you can trek to explore a hidden oasis of peace in the neighbourhood or venture further to discover hipster cafes in the Tiong Bahru estate.
For a guided tour with a difference, we recommend joining Jane’s SG Tour which is specially curated for Six Senses guests (advance booking is necessary and charges apply). The company specialises in off-the-beaten-track tours and the guides are a treasure trove of information on Singapore’s history and heritage. Learn more about the history of Duxton Hill, its shophouses, Poo Thor Jee Temple and Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre, and enjoy a tea-tasting session at Yixing Xuan Tea House on this almost two-hour tour.
Rates start from $390++ for a Nutmeg room.
Photos courtesy of Six Senses Duxton