I was a guest of Six Senses Singapore in Duxton Hill but all opinions are as always my own and honest.
Six Senses Singapore in Duxton Hill opened in April 2018 and within the first two months I had already been there four times including a two night stay. I went there for the media tour when it opened, I returned for drinks with friends when we were in the area, I went back for a friend’s birthday lunch and finally I stayed over with a friend.
This was my seventh stay at a Six Senses Resort since my first time at Zighy Bay in 2009 after the resort had just opened. I have since returned to Six Senses Zighy Bay, visited Con Dao twice and also had the pleasure of staying at Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in the outskirts of Chengdu.
Interestingly, I visited all of them, with the exception of the Maldives, shortly after they opened, including the Six Senses Duxton reviewed here.
Six Senses Singapore at Duxton, Six Senses’ first urban resort
Six Senses Singapore at Duxton is the brand’s first urban retreat and is a significant departure from its pastel green, yellow and orange Robinson Crusoe resorts elsewhere. The enclave in Duxton is half of the Six Senses Singapore concept which will be made of the smaller hotel in Duxton Hill and the larger one in Maxwell Road, just five minutes away by foot. In total, both hotels will have short of 200 rooms.
Singapore is also the first in a string of new urban retreats the brand plans to open and will be followed by New York, the brand’s first North America project, which will be hosted in a multi-purpose complex currently under construction in the Chelsea District.
New York was meant to be the first Six Senses urban hotel, but the opportunity to manage the two hotels in Singapore presented itself and the Singapore-based CEO and management team could not resist.
Both hotels are opened in partnership with local hoteliers Harpreet Bedi and Satinder Garcha from Garcha Hotels who also own and operate the red velvet burlesque-inspired Hotel Vagabond in Little India and are set to open The Garcha Hotel in Santiago de Chile.
Previously, the site for Six Senses Singapore in Duxton Road was already a hotel managed by Berjaya Group. I remember going into their cocktail bar during Cocktail Week a few years ago and being amazed by the stunning Art Deco bar which has been preserved. But the rest of the hotel was very different under Berjaya.
Bedi and Garcha were going to reopen the hotel as Duxton Club but they eventually signed a management contract with Six Senses. Its previous life as a hotel and the fact that the Duxton Club hotel was already in the making with the same designer, famous Bond Girl Anouska Hempel, fast-tracked the opening. From announcement to welcoming guests the Six Senses Singapore at Duxton Road spent less than half a year.
Six Senses Singapore General Manager Murray Aiken tells me that the Six Senses Singapore in Maxwell Road is the last heritage building to be approved for conversion into a boutique hotel by the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority and so no more heritage hotels will be opening in Singapore anytime soon, except for the Kempinski Hotel in Bugis which took over the now defunct Petina Hotel.
The design at Six Senses Singapore Duxton
I do not usually include a section on design in my hotel and resort reviews but rather weave it into the entire experience. Until today that is.
Before Six Senses Duxton opened, the brand had a very unique style and an easily recognizable identity. I always love staying at the Six Senses properties because I have come to know what to expect and that is very aligned with my personal values.
This unique personality is changing and expanding with the new focus on urban hotels where every property will have its very personal look while still remaining true to the Six Senses values and promise.
This new approach is reflected in the two new hotels that will make the Six Senses Singapore, each with its own design team. While Hempel has designed the Duxton Road hotel the one in Maxwell has been conceived by Jacques Garcia and will have a more contemporary and European look.
The Duxton Road Six Senses is an artful design masterpiece. Hempel is a well-established New Zealand-born but British-based designer with no formal training and a short acting career as a Bond Girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, who was named by Architectural Digest as one of the Top 100 Designers and Architects in the World in 1990 and 2002.
She had a short acting career and a prolific artistic portfolio which included haute couture design for Princess Diana as well as luxury hotels and homes. She also goes by the name of Lady Weinberg as a result of her marriage to British Financier Sir Weinberg.
Anouska is also credited with inventing the boutique hotel concept for her acclaimed Hempel Hotel which she owns and manages together with The Blakes Hotel in London and Amsterdam. When strolling through the rooms at the Six Senses Singapore, you can identify some of the elements from The Blakes Hotel.
For example, the mix of different room styles, some dark and sensual, others bright and pure, is present at both hotels. The design of the white Pearl Room at Six Senses Duxton is reminiscent of the white room at The Blakes London which has similar mother of pearl furniture pieces. Even the wallpaper at the Six Senses Duxton, which is a 18th century indenture from Anouska’s private collection that she had made into a wallpaper is similarly found at The Blakes.
There is no doubt that Hempel’s design and flair is present throughout the hotel and if you have been to any of her hotels you will be able to identify her trademark mismatch of old and new, dark and bright, East and West, sober and opulent. This blend is perfectly suited to Singapore, a city where shiny 60-floor skyscrapers coexist alongside 150 year old two-storey heritage shophouses.
Anouska Hempel’s obsession to detail is talked about by many of her clients and mentioned even by herself who uses words like “utopia” or “irrational” to define her persona. She is a draconian perfectionist. The staff and management team at the Six Senses Duxton all had stories of Hempel’s hands-on approach and the small personal touches that she added to everything. Everything had an exact place and position in the hotel and could not be placed elsewhere.
When stepping inside the hotel one has the feeling that everything is where it ought to be. Nothing is misplaced, everything is aligned in a way that someone with slight OCD tendencies like me finds immense pleasure. The books on the main communal table by the reception are aligned to the table’s four corners, the tables at the bar and restaurant are perfectly lined. There is a very meticulous order in the chaos of the many different room types and designs.
Beyond the designer’s brush lays a building with rich heritage, The Six Senses Duxton is housed in a row of identical shophouses that were first built in the 19th century when the area around Duxton Hill was a nutmeg plantation (hence the name of the entry level room). The hotel is truly one of the best Instagrammable spots in Singapore.
Arrival and check in at the Six Senses Duxton
Welcome arrangements at most luxury hotels and resorts often include cold towels, refreshing drinks, even a warm cup of ginger and honey tea. But at the Six Senses Duxton the experience starts before you even get to your room.
As the hotel is relatively compact and the common areas are small, the reception is a small booth to the side of the main entrance. After completing the check in formalities, we were escorted to our room by a member of the staff. But not before receiving the official welcome from a Tibetan singing bowl.
Shoes off, I stepped into a large metal singing bowl which the staff then gently stroke with a cushioned stick to create the vibrating and high pitched sound. Eyes closed, I could feel the sound and vibration go through my body. There were also three other strokes on a smaller bowl by the side of my ears.
“Welcome to Six Senses Duxton!” I heard afterwards in what was the official arrival at the hotel.
From there on, we jumped onto the only elevator in the property and were given a tour of the property to our room, a Duplex Suite. We didn’t use the elevator again until our departure, when we rolled our carry on luggage back out again. The stairs gave us the perfect excuse to remain active and since we were just on the second floor it was not an effort.
The rooms at the Six Senses Singapore on Duxton Road
Despite only having 49 rooms, the Six Senses Duxton has nine room types all of which are unique in their own way. This uniqueness of Hempel’s signature is also determined by the building structure made of adjacent old shophouses in an uneven street that not only goes down a hill but also curves with the road. As a result, no two rooms, even in the same category, are the same.
The Nutmeg Rooms are entry level rooms and are the simplest. The are similar to what you may find elsewhere and have less of a defining feature. The colors have been kept more tame, with white walls and black touches plus all the goodies of the other rooms, the minibar and Six Senses gifts. These are the rooms that are most convenient for business travelers as they are also the only ones with a work desk. Shophouse rooms are similar to the Nutmeg Rooms but are slightly more spacious.
The next category up are the Opium Rooms which come in black walls and have an opulent look that reminds guests of the area’s past as a center of opium consumption. The rooms come with four poster beds that were made to order to fit into the confined spaces of the shophouse where every room is different and unique.
The Opium Suites are larger than the Opium Rooms and have a separate living room space. These are the ones that impressed me the most. The walls have the same wallpaper as the corridors and the black, yellow and gold used across the common spaces is brought inside. It is impossible not to feel like dressing up in a beautifully embroidered cheongsam.
Anouska is known for this contrarian design and always likes to add variation to her hotels with a dash of the unexpected. The Pearl Suite contains that touch. In the dimly lit corridors of the hotel and among the black, yellow and gold you can find three suites that are entirely white.
The purity of their design is very much in line with some of Anouska’s hotels which have a clean Nordic look with straight lines, monochromatic whites and beige walls, floors and ceilings and an almost celestial look. The name of the suite should already give away some of its features, namely two mother of pearl chest of drawers that are as beautiful as they are delicate.
The Duxton Duplex Suites, where I stayed, are some of the largest rooms at the hotel save for the top Montgomeri Suite. Designed across two floors, the suite has a lower level with a living room space, a well-stocked minibar, a yin-yang shaped sofa and a large coffee table as well as windows that span both floors. A set of eight lamps facing different directions create a cozy and warm atmosphere at night. In the upper level is the bedroom and the bathroom. A large TV is hidden behind sliding doors and there is a small closet.
The refurbished staircase is beautiful and the hotel’s location in the hill side of a street lined with shophouses and the floor to ceiling windows makes the room surprisingly bright, especially for a traditionally dark shophouse.
The two Skylight Suites are perhaps my favourite rooms at the Six Senses Duxton. They are a cross between an Opium Suite and a Duplex Suite, with the best elements of each. The name comes from the skylight window above the living room area. This is a common feature across shophouses in Singapore.
Traditionally, shophouses have a narrow facade and are very long. This is because in colonial times taxes were paid on the width of the facade and not on the size of a house so residents set themselves out to build elongated buildings. With small facades came little natural light so interior patios were added in the middle to provide light.
The Skylight Suites have the added brightness and romance of these windows plus all the opulent details of the Opium Suites including the four poster hand carved beds and the yellow and gold design. I would choose these ones if I ever stayed at the hotel again.
The highest room category at the hotel is the Montgomerie Suite which will be over 500 sqft. At the time of writing, the suite has yet to be finalised and its design is kept under wraps but I have been told it comes in burgundy colours, so yet a different style to the rest if that is true.
As all the rooms and suites at the Six Senses Duxton are very different from each other, the experience guests will have will also very much depend on what room they book. The entry level Nutmeg Rooms are very good value for a Six Senses property and are probably the most affordable room category of any Six Senses.
In-room amenities include organic bath products from The Organic Pharmacy, sleepers and fluffy bathrobes, one of the best stocked minibars I have ever seen, with craft spirits from small batch distilleries like Kavalan, fresh lemon and lime, appropriate knives and wooden board and all the mixers, including three types of Imperial Tonic.
These excellent drinks could not be served in anything less than crystal cut glassware from a set of various sizes depending on the drink. The ice box was always full so we took advantage of this to enjoy a set of Taiwanese whiskeys on ice.
In keeping with the hotel’s community and neighbourhood driven approach, the rooms feature the usual Nespresso machines and a selection of tea bags especially created by a local tea shop Yixing Xuan Teahouse located near the hotel. Although I am not a fan of tea, I found the Taiwanese tea selection, especially the Pu’er tea, to be so delicate and soft good that I had it every morning before breakfast.
Dining at the Six Senses Singapore in Duxton Road
The Six Senses Duxton only has one restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While this may sound strange of a brand that puts so much emphasis on food and sustainable eating (and has vegetable and fruit gardens at all its properties even the Maldives one), it will change once the other Six Senses Singapore on Maxwell Road opens and more on-site dining options become available.
In the meantime, the dining options in the area are extensive. Six Senses Duxton is located in the hill of the same name, in the heart of the Tanjong Pagar District, an expat hangout that boasts several restaurants and bars. In fact, you could easily spend several nights at the hotel eating within 100 meters of the hotel and never run out of options. I know it well because I live mere steps from the hotel.
But you should make sure to try the hotel’s restaurant, Yellow Pot, at least once for lunch or dinner. Touted as a guilt-free Chinese restaurant, what the chef and team have worked on for months is quite unique in the Chinese fine dining scene.
You can feel the excitement and passion that food brings out on people when you hear General Manager, Murray Aiken, explains the trial and error phase the chef went through to recreate classic recipes without any of the artificial shortcuts people use at home.
The chef makes the soy sauce from scratch, he does not use MSG, sources ingredients locally where possible and visits every farm to ensure the restaurant’s philosophy aligns with that of the Six Senses.
The result is an extensive healthful, organic and sustainably-sourced menu that uses as many locally grown produce as possible in a tiny country like Singapore where there is little to no farmland. You cannot expect the regular recipes of Chinese dishes here but instead, Six Senses’ own brand of wellness Chinese food, for lack of a better label.
For breakfast, Yellow Pot serves an interesting a la carte menu with a large range of options both from East and West that are not your usual breakfast items.
You can sample local breakfast favorites like dim sum, kaya toast with soft boiled eggs, soy sauce and chilli sauce, or a crab congee to feel the city’s pulse. Or you can head for the Western options of eggs, homemade granola, bircher muesli or eggs any style.
I must say the breakfast was great. The portions are good enough for a great start to the day but you can sample a few dishes and still be able to finish them. I had the dim sum, the kaya toast and the bircher muesli. After commenting that I do not like raisins and without me asking for it, the staff proceeded to remove them, so when I received my bircher muesli there were none. I had never had this done anywhere else before.
I have dined at the hotel three times, twice for lunch and once for dinner. One of the meals was a media invite to taste the menu, another was a friend’s birthday celebration and the last one was part of my hosted stay. After three meals I had the chance of trying several dishes and they were all great.
I am not a big fan of Chinese cuisine, I find it heavy, greasy and unhealthy. I eat it from time to time, but I do not seek it out. However, the team at Yellow Pot has managed to successfully deconstruct some of the most traditionally Chinese recipes and bring to the table clean and pure food that conserves all the flavour yet is easier on the health. A lot of the dishes show clear Sichuan influence which took me back to my visit to Chengdu and all the ones we tried were great.
Special mention goes to the braised duck spring rolls, the wok-seared organic grass-fed beef tenderloin which is one of the tastiest and softest meats I have ever had and the bite-sized chilled organic vine-ripened tomatoes which I had at every meal.
The Sichuan chicken is fabulous, spicy but not too much and with that tingling sensation of the Sichuan peppers that I discovered by the hands of the Guest Experience Manager at Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain when he took us out to the UNESCO listed village of Dijuangjian for culinary exploration.
You know when a chef is exceptional and careful thought has been placed on a menu when even the humble cabbage tastes great. I will say it out loud: the boiled cabbage was delicious.
In line with the brand’s Eat With Six Senses philosophy, the menu is extensive enough to cater to all allergies and food restrictions.
Adjacent to the Yellow Pot Restaurant is the Art Deco antiquarian-themed Yellow Pot Bar which serves specially handcrafted cocktails in a beautiful room that has been preserved from the previous hotel. The key feature here is the ceiling decorated in stained-glass that has been replicated and which is original from previous lives the hotel had.
The bar is fabulous and a great place for a quieter drink pre or post dinner in Duxton Hill. It is intimate and cozy and the opulent yellow, gold and black decor with the laquer tables and furniture is sexy but elegant.
The cocktail list at Yellow Pot Bar is inspired by the East Meets West components of the hotel and uses ingredients that are typical of Chinese cuisine. The signature drink Escape to Kaifeng, combines gin with chrysanthemum, and is offered in its virgin form at check . Both were very nice and in fact I enjoyed the cocktail again when I returned to the bar after a dinner across the street at a fabulous Sicilian restaurant with friends on another occasion.
The facilities and activities at the Six Senses Duxton
As mentioned earlier, the Six Senses Singapore will be made of two hotels and the one on Maxwell Road will have all the facilities. As a result, while the Duxton enclave remains the only one, facilities are still limited.
Most notorious for a brand that is so famously wellness-focused is the lack of a spa which will be located at the Six Senses Maxwell which will have almost three times the number of rooms.
In the meantime, the hotel offers access to nearby gyms, there are cycling classes available at the cycling studio nearby, scheduled yoga sessions on the lawn and complimentary Tokyo bikes for use by guests to explore the city.
No hotel in Singapore is pressed to offer any activities on site since the city has plenty to do. If you need ideas, check out my 100+ things to do in Singapore article. However, in synch with the hotel’s community-driven spirit, the hotel offers self-guide architecture tours of the area immediately adjacent to the hotel which me and my friend set out to explore.
The tours are on Google My Maps and have explanations embedded so they are very easy to use. The architecture one was great and even for someone who lives in the neighborhood, told an interesting story of the evolution of shophouse architecture and design in the area from the 1840 to 1960.
For those more inclined to try all the culinary goodness of Singapore, do not miss the fabulous four hour food tour of Chinatown with Context Travel which explores the area around the hotel through hawker center stalls and their food. It is fascinating and I highly recommend it.
For some other very local experiences two stand out. The hotel has partners with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expert who has a practice just across the street to offer consultations. After living in Singapore for over seven years, I had never visited a TCM doctor until then and it was a very interesting experience.
Professor Zhang Mao Ji of Long Zhong Tang studied in Beijing and moved to Singapore over a decade ago. He is today 75 and speaks no English. His assistant and translator came to the hotel with him. When I visited the hotel the doctor’s practice at the hotel itself was not yet open but was in the works.
A TCM consultation always starts with an introduction about the patient, lifestyle and ailments followed by a reading of the pulse which helps the doctor understand what needs care. In my case, I did not have any specific ailment but the doctor caught fresh off a trip to Fiji, a 10h flight away, and I was slightly jet-lagged and missing proper sleep for several days.
He prescribed TCM medicine in the form of tablets for my next flight. I had to go back to the clinic a few days later to collect the tablets which are specifically designed for jet-lag and for me. Most of the TCM remedies involve dried herbs and animal parts which are taken in the form of soup but given that my request was related to travel, that was not a practical form so the tablets were suggested instead.
When I returned to collect them I was given an entire bag full of tablets, approximately 30 to take before, during and after the flight, plus other herbs to mix with water while at the destination. I will report back after my trip to Europe this summer but I suspect that the taste of the herbs may be far worse than a few sleepless nights.
The other signature activity that the Six Senses Duxton offers guests is a tea appreciation workshop. The tea served at the hotel is especially packaged by nearby Yixing Xuan Teahouse that sells tea bags from Taiwan and tea appreciation workshops are offered a couple of times a week. During those, guests learn about how tea is made, where it comes from and, most importantly, how it should be steeped.
This is what I enjoyed the most as the little instructions for each tea available in the room were placed next to the tea bags so I knew how log and how much each type of tea needed to be brewed for optimal drinking. I also learned that tea can be brewed several times by just adding more water, as is traditionally done in Chinese restaurants.
The service at Six Senses Duxton
Six Senses prides itself on its personal and thoughtful service so I wanted to see how the new urban concept would fare without its army of personal butlers, Experience Makers, that are found in their resorts.
The concierge and reception team here can help out with anything you like. They can arrange bookings, help out with insights and recommendations and are genuinely kind, friendly and willing to help. The Front Office Manager, Miguel, is Spanish but has been living in Singapore for as long as me. I found him to perfectly embody the Six Senses philosophy: unobtrusive, well versed, willing to sort out anything and used to dealing with savvy luxury travelers.
Perhaps where the service could still improve is at the restaurant where the more senior team members were always supervising the fresher staff but where the hotel was still suffering from opening teething problems which I am sure will be resolved soon. After all, I stayed within the first two months after opening and the hotel was still in its soft opening.
Six Senses Duxton – The verdict
I found my stay at Six Senses most enjoyable. It was a very interesting experience to see how the famous resort brand would have adapted its offering and persona to an urban setting with limitations in terms of space and experience.
The hotel cannot control how guests feel during the day, when they go out for meetings and exploration in the busy and often sweltering streets of Singapore, but it sure has worked to ensure the hotel remains a realm of peace, calmness and wellness. It is the perfect place to retire to with an added element of surprise, or cultural insights and of culinary journeys. Singapore’s Chinese (and opium) heritage is well preserved in Singapore, more strongly perhaps, than at Six Senses Chinese outpost outside of Chengdu where the brand’s resort identity is favoured.
In the value for money equation the Six Senses Duxton did quite well considering the limitations of a heritage building. The rooms are cozy, in keeping with the sizes of the hotel, but even the entry level rooms are competitively priced and once the Six Senses Maxwell opens and the full facilities become available, the hotels will be a great place to base yourself for business meetings, to which you can almost walk (as opposed to the business hotels in the Marina that are a taxi ride away) and for cultural exploration, as no other luxury boutique hotel is located in Chinatown.
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