Travel

Heritage hotel Six Senses Duxton is truly the first of its kind in Singapore

Bold design, detail oriented hospitality, sustainable practices (it's plastic-free), and a focus on wellness is what you get when you spend the night
 


The reception area at Six Senses Duxton
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

“My eyes had to adjust to the light when I came in,” commented our guest when we entered the newly opened Six Senses Duxton. Dim lighting, a bold black and gold colour palette and dramatic elements like decorative fans and blinds greet you at reception. But it’s not only the unusual aesthetic that’s of note. The heritage hotel, which opened its doors in April, generated international buzz for being Six Senses' first city hotel (typically, their hotels and resorts are in idyllic nature spots). But while the location may be urban, the hotel prides itself to be “leading in the industry when it comes to sustainability.” 

When the owner of the former Duxton Hotel asked Six Senses to take over its property, it sparked the idea of heritage as sustainability: a chance to turn a row of restored buildings (trading houses from 1860s Singapore, and an opium and gambling hub in the 19th and 20th centuries) into something rich in history that would also be green – without building from scratch.


The Opium Suite 
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

“Often, heritage gets too modern and stripped down,” says Murray Aitken, the establishment’s general manager. “Our focus: maintain whatever it is from the building that it was originally intended for.”

This meant working closely with the Urban Redevelopment Authority to preserve the structure’s integrity. No walls were knocked down, resulting in different configurations for all 49 rooms and suites.

The décor is also markedly different between each themed room. There are the Opium rooms, which are opulent, dimly lit, and evoke the intimacy of the opium dens of the past. The Pearl rooms are flooded with natural light and predominantly white. The Duxton Duplex, which we stayed in with a friend, has a lacquered, masculine living space and a soaring ceiling with a winding wooden staircase that leads to a second storey. 


The Duxton Duplex
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

Heritage isn’t just honoured in the way the hotel is designed – it’s about the overall experience. Guests can engage in activities like walking tours of Chinatown, and consultations with an in-house traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. The latter is more of a preliminary check-up where the physician checks your pulse and asks questions about your health (be prepared for personal probing about your menstrual cycle). He speaks only in Chinese, but is accompanied by an excellent translator. We were given a clean bill of health, with advice to drink white chrysanthemum tea to reduce heatiness. Our guest however, was advised to take some Chinese herbs – while the session itself is on the house, it’s your call if you wish to pay for the herbs.
 

No plastics please
In keeping with Six Senses Duxton’s bigger vision of sustainability, you’ll find no plastic here. The hotel refuses plastic products (even packaging – they send back boxes for reuse). We noticed that the disposable toiletries in the bathroom (toothbrushes, combs) were made of bamboo or wood, and that the water was in glass bottles. Even our leftovers from dinner came packed in cardboard boxes.

“As much as possible, everything purchased is local,” says Aitken. They visit farms to ensure the produce they buy is legitimately organic, and sustainable fish species are purchased. The hotel is also looking into solar power, and chicken and urban bee farming. For a further feel-good factor, cardboard and cans are proffered to the rag-and-bone aunties and uncles who recycle for a livelihood. “If a guest leaves us after a three-day stay and starts looking at plastic in a different way, that to us is success,” says Aitken.

ALSO READ: 10 HOTELS IN SINGAPORE PERFECT FOR A GIRLS' NIGHT STAYCATION


Date, Yellow Pot Bar
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

Wining and dining
Dinner at the in-house Yellow Pot restaurant is a must, and we strongly recommend that you linger at the opulent bar for a drink or two. The signature Escape to Kaijing was sweet and refreshing thanks to house-made chrysanthemum cordial but with enough Tanqueray gin for a boozy kick. We also enjoyed Date, a robust concoction with red and black dates, cognac, and topped with champagne. The non-alcoholic options were also a hit – our favourite was the sweet and heavily spiced Apple and Cinnamon.


Dinner at Yellow Pot
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

Eating at modern Cantonese restaurant Yellow Pot is akin to experiencing a symphony of classics done right. The dishes are crowd pleasers like roast duck, hot and sour soup, and black pepper beef tenderloin. The difference is in the execution and service – the cook on the duck was textbook, the fat perfectly rendered and the skin a burnished lacquer. Even the serving dish with accompanying sweet sauce was warmed. We also liked the steamed barramundi, which was meaty and fork tender, and topped with a piquant scallion-ginger pesto.

Service is excellent – little wonder, considering the staff at Six Senses are known as hosts, to stay in line with the hotel’s hospitality ethos. Well-spoken, well-informed and cognizant of every detail (even remembering our guest’s name), there was none of the detached courtesy that is occasionally seen in hospitality.


Outdoor yoga
Photo: Six Senses Duxton

Our staycation concluded with a 45-minute yoga session in the early morning, done under a nearby tree outside the hotel (watch out for mosquitoes). It was more focused on relaxation and breathing techniques, so no worries if you don’t have your workout gear or are a yoga newbie.

At the moment, the hotel does not have other facilities besides a restaurant and bar. When sister hotel Six Senses Maxwell opens this year end, guests of both establishments will be able to share amenities which will include more restaurants and bars, a pool, spa and treatment rooms, and a rooftop garden.

That being said, staying at Six Senses Duxton is almost akin to a wellness retreat. The hotel creates an atmosphere of contemplative nostalgia – a remembrance of days gone past, while looking ahead at a future of sustainability. You’re invited to rest your weary bodies in their thoughtfully designed rooms, fill your bellies with good food and drink, and even exercise the mind with a colouring set and brain puzzles that are provided during turn down service. Truly, Six Senses Duxton was well with our soul.