We checked in to Singapore’s newest hotel three days after the official opening to explore the first urban interpretation from the Six Senses brand – right in the heart of Singapore.
About Six Senses
The brand currently operates 11 resorts and 30 spas spanning 20 countries – small fry in the SPG/Marriott and Hilton/IHG behemoth world we live in. Although grand plans lie ahead with seven new resorts and two spas opening between now and 2019 – they are certainly a fast-growing brand to watch out for.
Usually found on a pristine white sand beach – Six Senses hotels have up until now focused on ultra-lux, sustainable wellness resorts. Prime examples of this concept are the Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam (which looks fantastic – we’ll be reviewing later this year for another perspective on the Six Senses brand).
So – an inner city hotel, occupying colonial-era shophouses and situated in the bustling foodie hub of Chinatown in central Singapore is certainly a departure from the norm.
This is the first city hotel for the brand and represents the first half of the overall project, Six Senses Singapore, which later this year will include another building situated at nearby Maxwell Road.
The concept of the hotel is to celebrate local culture and history whilst playing on the stunning heritage aspects of the property.
“There is a diverse mix of Chinese, Malay and European elements in the buildings including neo-classical lion head motifs, Chinese porcelain-chip friezes co-existing with Malay timber fretwork, French windows, Portuguese shutters and Corinthian pilaster.”
Six Senses have partnered with the building owners Satinder Garcha and Harpreet Bedi of Garcha Hotels, experts in the boutique heritage property arena, to ensure the success of this project. The pair is responsible for The Vagabond Club, located only a stone’s throw away – another beautiful and award-winning property.
The question is, with the wealth of pain staking preserved culture and history at this new project – will they still be able to provide the 5-star luxury and serenity that Six Senses’ patrons crave?
In the past the building has played host to rickshaw pullers, opium and gambling dens and even further less reputable vices.
More recently it was operated as the Berjaya Hotel, then replaced by The Duxton Hotel. It closed in June 2015 – promising to be open again the following year.
The hotel has had a bit of an identity crisis since it closed. The Starwood / Marriott group laid claim to it in September 2016 announcing it would be the Singapore debut of The Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts brand. The 2017 opening never happened and it wasn’t until late January 2018 that Six Senses issued a press statement announcing this was to be their first city centre hotel.
It has been restored by Anouska Hempel – of Hempel and Blake’s hotels in London and former Bond girl from ‘On her majesty’s secret service’.
The new hotel features a total of 49 guest rooms and suites.
The entrance way is grand and imposing with elegant dark wood features, Chinese porcelain and the heritage design award plaque flanks the doorway.
The lobby continues the theme of dark wood mixed with Chinese accent lamps. Yellow / gold against black is the main accent colour here, with green palms breaking up the palette.
Check-in was fast and efficient with friendly service. After a refreshing welcome drink, a cold towel and brief chat with the staff about their opening week we were shown to the room by Spencer – soon to be the front office manager at the nearby Six Senses Maxwell.
Due to the unique nature of the architecture, no two rooms are the same giving a wonderful sense of anticipation as you approach your room door for the first time. We were not disappointed.
Three types of standard room and five different suite categories are available for booking. For the main part of this review, we’ll focus on the Duxton Duplex Suite we booked.
Duxton Duplex Suite
These nine suites run along the Duxton Road side of the hotel and are all located on the 3rd storey. As you enter the room you are greeted by three tall traditional style windows. The furniture is almost entirely black with hints of gold and yellow.
Surprisingly, despite the dark woods and black colour scheme, the room doesn’t feel dark. There is plenty of designer lighting in the room, which helps offset the palette and through the windows flows an abundance of bright light and an entirely different low-rise perspective of the Singapore skyline.
A black kidney-shaped sofa, ottoman, desk and dining table occupy the downstairs area. There’s a Nespresso machine with eight coffee capsules and a selection of teas for use with the dedicated teapot and cups.
The mini-bar is a real feature. Care and attention has been spent selecting the products offered. Highlights include locally produced tonic water from East Imperial (a Mainly Miles favourite), homemade Singapore style snacks and The Gold Duck salted egg yolk crisps and fish skin: the ultimate local sinful snack.
The water provided in glass bottles is “Six Senses Water”. The brand produces its own drinking water by treating, purifying, mineralising and bottling it in order to mitigate the negative environmental and social aspects associated with imported water and plastic bottles.
The glassware in particular is beautiful – created by William Yeoward and part of the American Bar crystal collection. A top-end product, the brand has the royal warrant of appointment.
The windows look down over Duxton road, which we suspected would create some noise disturbance. Significant double (possibly triple) glazing has taken care of this and there is no noise at all from outside.
The owner himself is apparently a light sleeper and therefore personally addressed the soundproofing of the windows. Because of this, the windows don’t open. In fact, the only noise comes from the corridor outside the room – other than that it’s a silent sanctuary.
Up the beautiful (but not new to Six Senses) spiral staircase are the bedroom and bathroom. Lower ceilings up here give a cosy feel.
Plenty of thoughtful, quality features help the room stand apart from the crowd: USB ports, multi-standard power sockets and a retro-styled phone to mention a few.
The turn-down service includes sleep promoting tinctures, local herbal remedies and a brain-teaser to help you disconnect and relax.
The bathroom is a sleek, black wet room with high-end fittings from Villeroy and Boch.
A heated mirror runs along the back wall opposite a full-length rain shower. Interestingly – there’s no bathtub. In fact, only one room type at the hotel has a bath: The Pearl Suite. More on that room later.
Amenities come from the well known London-based luxury brand Organic Pharmacy who focus on chemical and toxin-free homeopathic beauty and wellness products.
The complimentary Wi-Fi connection in the hotel was fast and reliable throughout our stay.
After settling in we decided to have some lunch in our room. Typically we’d order our perennial favourite The Club Sandwich – a benchmark by which we have judged hotels worldwide for years.
However the room service menu here (other than breakfast) only offers local options from the hotel’s Yellow Pot restaurant. No issue – we opted for the Cold-boiled Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Pickled Cucumber and Crispy BBQ Pork Belly with Mustard.
Both dishes were excellent. The peanut sauce with the chicken had a lovely warming kick and the pickled cucumber provided the perfect opposing crunchy texture. The pork belly had a crisp, salty skin with tender layers of meat and fat below.
Bar and Restaurant: Yellow Pot
Through the lobby is the Yellow Pot bar. Art deco glass lights, ostrich leather chairs and velvet bar stools create a retro-modern feel.
The drinks menu is carefully curated with references to the designer (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), the surroundings (Duxton Mary) and the history (Martini Triad).
The bartender was unable to go off-menu and make us an espresso martini but we’re sure this is more of a teething problem and will fix itself once the bar and restaurant are open to the public.
We went for the signature cocktail and the gin and vermouth option.
We think the bar is a great addition as a pre- or post-dinner venue in the Duxton Hill dining area. For dinner, we booked ourselves a table at Yellow Pot restaurant. It’s not yet open to the public – a sensible idea, given the cut-throat restaurant scene in Singapore.
Instead, they have chosen a conservative approach to make sure everything runs smoothly with a small number of in-house guests before being put to the test by the unforgiving Singapore food-blogging gourmands.
The menu is small and simple and the concept is modern Chinese. In fact, it’s identical to the room service menu – something we love for those times we just can’t summon the energy to leave the room and would rather hibernate. A full in-room selection is certainly appreciated.
All the food was excellent and we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We can certainly recommend Yellow Pot and believe it will offer a very nice new dining option in Duxton Hill once it opens to the public in May 2018.
Served in Yellow Pot, breakfast is available from 6:30am to 10:30am. It’s an à la carte affair and the first part of the menu is focused on juices, tea, coffee and lighter options. We both started with a cappuccino – which was excellent.
Main dishes are chosen from the next part of the menu with both western and local options available.
I had the avocado toast with poached eggs, my favourite. The toast was crisp, the avocado smash was zingy and the poached egg was perfectly cooked.
Andrew went for the Full English Breakfast, which was perfectly cooked and very tasty.
Six Senses Duxton is a small hotel and space has been dedicated largely to accommodation. This can be explained by the fact that this building has previously operated as a hotel and its URA protected heritage building status – so major structural changes are not possible.
For now, gym and pool access are available at the nearby FitnessFirst at 100AM. In-house, they offer outdoor yoga sessions on Sundays and Thursdays. Chinese tea ceremonies are offered at a local traditional tea shop who also supply the in-room tea.
A local resident TCM practitioner is available and provides health consultations and readings.
“Traditional Chinese medicine is a style of traditional medicine built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice that includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage (tui na), exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy, but recently also influenced by modern Western medicine. TCM is widely used in Greater China (where it has long been the standard system of medicine), and is becoming increasingly popular and recognized worldwide (where it is primarily approached as alternative medicine).” – Wikipedia
Six Senses Maxwell
As mentioned above, the bigger sister hotel will be opening in 3 months time. The building is a similar row of shophouses, located nearby at Maxwell Road. Up until now, they have played host mainly to offices – therefore have a more flexibly laid out interior. It’s also a much bigger space.
As such there will be a much greater number of rooms here and it will also feature the bulk of the facilities including an outdoor lap pool, 2 further restaurants and bars.
“Maxwell Road was originally a nutmeg plantation before 14 three and four-story colonial-style buildings were constructed and later joined together as a single entity. The diverse characteristics have been carefully conserved and the property features 120 guest rooms and suites, a Six Senses Spa, outdoor lap pool, Champagne bar and lounge, whiskey bar, boardroom and club lounge. A verandah lined with lush tropical foliage follows the length of the building and will be the ideal spot to meet for refreshments and alfresco dining.” – Six Senses
Jacques Garcia is the designer of this second building. A French architect and interior designer who is known for his contemporary projects in Paris. As such Maxwell will be quite a different, albeit complimentary design to Duxton. The majority of the rooms in Maxwell will be the entry-level style, similar to the Nutmeg and Shophouse rooms of Duxton.
Other Room Types
Six Senses were kind enough to tour us around some other rooms so we could provide you a full overview and some recommendations.
This is the ‘entry level’ room category – but by no means basic. In Singapore terms, this is a generously proportioned room. All the same fixtures and fittings are available here as in the suites. The mini-bar is a real stand out feature with beautiful mirrored glass walls.
Some rooms will look into air wells, others out over the street. The same soundproofing has been applied to these rooms so expect the same levels of quiet.
Identical to the above Nutmeg room, just with slightly more space. Recommended for those planning longer stays.
Located in the top part of the building, with lower rounded ceilings it certainly encapsulates the “den” feeling. A small living area to the left, with a separate desk to the right, then further into a separate bedroom.
It’s a small space but feels remarkably cosy. Depending on your preference, you will either find this a small secure space or slightly claustrophobic.
Recommended for people who prefer smaller spaces – perfectly formed. Not ideal for taller guests.
As a complete contrast to the other rooms, this room is bright white. To the left of the entrance hall is the bathroom featuring a bath – as mentioned these are the only rooms in the hotel that do.
A generously proportioned living area with a sofa leads through to the stunning bedroom.
Light streams in through the windows and the white linen, Mother of Pearl dressers and light pine wardrobes create a clean, fresh feel. Recommended for guests who like a bath or prefer an overall lighter colour scheme.
Located on the ground floor, behind the lobby. The main feature of this room is the stunning enclosed air well with a glass-vaulted ceiling. This is a living room area with sofas and a TV.
There is a separate dining area, which leads through to the bedroom.
Recommended for rainy days spent watching TV or reading a book in the room.
All the staff we encountered were all very well trained and knowledgeable about the building, the concept and the products. It is perhaps unfair to judge as they were aware we were conducting a review – but from the interactions we observed with other guests, they keep a very high standard.
As always, we pay for all of our own travel. Six Senses currently have an opening offer rate for this property.
We booked the Duxton Duplex Suite through MilesLife, as the rate was identical to the opening offer rate. We topped up our wallet with S$1,000 which earned 750 miles. We then used this credit, plus the Easter 1,500 mile bonus to book the room ($909) earning a further 4,300 miles. On top of this, I paid using my Standard Chartered Visa Infinite, which earns 1.4 miles per dollar spent, earning a further 1,400 miles. Total miles earned: 6,300.
The rate quoted was inclusive of breakfast, Wi-Fi, TCM consultations and yoga.
A great deal of time, care and attention has been lavished on this hotel. From the thoughtful design that has painstakingly preserved almost every historical aspect of the building and it’s surroundings, through to curated local products being included in restaurant, bar and mini-bar.
Once the Maxwell Road sister hotel is opened, with its suite of facilities – the Six Senses Singapore will be top of the market. Sure, it’s expensive, but even now, you are getting good value for money in terms of the space, location, fixtures, fittings, amenities and service. It’s also a cultural experience that the big-brand hotels can’t even hope to emulate.
We have to take our hats off to the team at Six Senses Duxton. Yes there are still a few minor issues – and the upcoming spa and pool at the Maxwell property will certainly help complete the Six Senses experience – but considering they only announced the branding for this hotel less than 3 months ago it’s an incredibly polished product.
Here at Mainly Miles, there is nothing we hate more than a “soft opening” which is often code for “not quite finished yet!”, no issue with that here.
From a customer perspective, it would appear they’ve been open for 3 years, not 3 days! We’re sure that is in no small part down to the experience and expertise of Satinder Garcha and Harpreet Bedi.
Whilst we love the Marriott group’s Luxury Hotel Collection, we do think that Six Senses was the better brand choice for this building. Their holistic approach to wellness, sustainability and their ability to include aspects of the property’s history into the overall experience really sets this hotel apart from the crowd.
We look forward to returning once the hotel at Maxwell is completed to give a full overview of the completed ‘Six Senses Singapore’.
Example non-refundable rates for a weekend stay in June 2018 at the opening offer rate, excluding breakfast:
- Nutmeg Rooms from S$391 per night
- Shophouse Rooms from S$420 per night
- Opium Rooms from S$511 per night
- Opium Suites from S$600 per night
- Pearl Suites from S$680 per night
- Duxton Duplex Suites from S$851 per night
Stayed April 2018
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)