Usually when one thinks about the Six Senses Group, pristine, secluded beaches; magnificent views; and isolated paradises come to mind. Their first foray into Singapore, Six Senses Duxton (soon to be followed by a sister property just a stone’s throw away—Six Senses Maxwell), throws all that out of the window. Because there are no pristine beaches, and no unsullied, magnificent views of nature, they’ve had to go in a different direction, blending seamlessly into the heritage area that the hotel is located at.
Luxury escapade in a heritage district
The first thing that strikes me is the location. It’s right smack in the middle of the city’s drinking/restaurant district, where I have spent many nights putting alcohol and often far too much food into my body. So it somehow feels like a fitting respite, given that Six Senses has always had a wellness slant to their properties.
Even then, it’s not some hippie retreat with vegan menus and meditation foisted upon you. Duxton takes mindful cues from its surroundings and history. The building’s interior is designed by (one-time Bond girl) Anouska Hempel, who has dressed everything with a heady black-and-gold scheme that’s supposed to conjure a opiate haze, as a nod to the building’s past as a opium den. The decor? It somehow manages to have elements of a clean, modern chinoiserie, bits of art deco, and small nods to Singaporean nostalgia—all at once.
Entering the property, I’m greeted with a sparkling cordial made with chrysanthemum flowers. This is followed by a session with a massive Tibetan singing bowl, which I’m asked to stand in before it is rung multiple times, sending vibrations from my feet, up my spine, right to the crown of my head. The effect, while disconcerting at first, settles into a small moment of peacefulness. It’s a strange feeling, and one that I carry with me all the way to the room.
There are 49 rooms available, each with a different layout and design. It’s a result of the structure’s status as a heritage building, which has forced the designers to build rooms that will fit into the building’s original layout. I am parked in the gorgeous Duxton Duplex Suite, which comes with a mezzanine-level bed, and plenty of dark, wooden accents. The group also places a huge emphasis on sustainability — there is nary a straw or plastic wrapper to be found. Instead, water is purified, and carbonated on-site, and presented in Six Senses-branded glass bottles.
Food that prolongs your life
Come dinnertime, resist the temptation to go out again (there will be plenty of time for post dinner drinks as many of the best bars in town are within walking distance), and instead have pre-dinner cocktails at their restaurant/bar Yellow Pot. Options include the house signature Escape to Kaifeng, a concoction of chrysanthemum cordial and Tanqueray that almost feels like a tonic (didn’t mother always say that chrysanthemum tea dispels heatiness?); and the Kaya, a fittingly named, eggnog-like cocktail of pandan, gomme syrup and egg yolk. Our favourite though, is the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a bracingly dry, extra-aromatic take on a gin martini, crowned with yuzu and green tea bitters.
Even the food is good for you. Chinese chef Sebastian Goh has crafted a menu in line with the groups Eat With Six Senses programme, which champions “natural ingredients, local and sustainable, and less is more”. Expect an extensive menu, with largely traditional Chinese dishes given contemporary touches—organic, grass-fed beef tenderloin is wok seared and served with Tellicherry peppercorns, honey and crispy garlic; while steamed locally-reared barramundi comes with a fragrant ginger-scallion pesto. The highlight of my meal though, is their roast duck: which comes to your table succulent and well-marinated with fermented beancurd; and boasting crisp, lacquered skin and just a hint of wood smoke.
At the turndown service, I’m presented with a pack containing various ointments, po chai pills, and a metal brain-teaser, driving home the sense of self-care and familiarity—although I can see the exotic appeal this would have for foreign guests. Two nonalcoholic, herbal tinctures are also placed in the fridge — one is meant to help me sleep, the other to provide an energy boost the next morning. Do they work? I honestly can’t say. I’m so well fed, and in such a tranquil state of being that I sleep like a baby.