We document a relaxing night at the stylish Six Senses Duxton.
FRESH FACE Designer Anouska Hempel left certain elements of the former The Duxton Hotel intact – such as the main door.
Top and Below: BLACK AND YELLOW Strips of mustard offset the dark woody interiors.
"PROF ZHANG TAKES MY PULSE FOR A FULL MINUTE, THEN TELLS ME MY BODY’S STORY – INDIGESTION, ANXIETY AND ABHORRENT SLEEPING HABITS."
SET IN STONE Heritage status means no modifications to layouts, so no two rooms are alike.
Against the pastels of the Duxton shophouses sits an ashen stretch that cannot be missed. Spanning eight shophouse units, the hotel is the first urban branch by luxury hospitality company Six Senses. The brand is renowned for its holiday havens in farflung destinations, with a keen focus on wellness and rejuvenation. Now based in Singapore following a 2012 acquisition, it’s looking to introduce its health programmes to urban areas.
Two things are immediately apparent upon crossing the hotel’s threshold: the inimitable design – more of this later – and the effervescent reception by front offic e manager Miguel Gamboa. Instead of having me queue unceremoniously at the check-in desk, he guides me to a plush couch. I’m free to gawk at the mustard-on-ebony trappings while my documents are processed. Upon his return, my initiation into wellness begins behind a screen in the lobby. It’s a simple but effective ritual where I step barefoot into a Tibetan singing bowl, close my eyes and let vibration and sound spirit me away. By the end of it, I am thoroughly relaxed. “Welcome to Six Senses Duxton,” Gamboa says with a grin, clearly waiting to drop that line. I’m too shy to ask for another go.
As it’s housed in a building that’s been conferred heritage status, the Duxton had be fashioned around a fixed layout – a challenge that celebrated UK designer Anouska Hempel faced down handily. Hempel’s hand has already guided three boutique hotels in London which went on to win design awards. Her signature style – old-world, clean straight lines, bedecked walls and a heavy preference for dark wood – permeates the halls, which are festooned with oriental artefacts sourced from her collections.
Cracking open the door to the Skylight Suite reveals continuity in the aesthetic and an unabashed likeness to 18th-century opium dens that defined Duxton in the past – of the luxe sort, mind you. Lights are kept low throughout the suite, and from the furniture in the dining area to the four-poster king and a faux vintage telephone, black is the order of the day. Were it not for daylight streaming in through the grand skylight in the living room, you’d never be able to tell the time of day, which sounds like a recipe for a great, self-indulgent staycation.
With the skylight room, however, you may feel compelled to host small gatherings, which I promptly do. The party of five fits in comfortably and makes short work of the complimentary, healthful snacks, before caving in to the well-stocked minibar – Taiwan’s 90-pointer whisky Kavalan for me, juices for the ladies.
Dinner plans are easy in a trendy locale like Duxton, with an oversupply of favourite haunts rather than the dearth one might face in a downtown establishment. The area would also make a great launch pad for visitors to Singapore, with the saturated Keong Saik and Tanjong Pagar hotspots within walking distance.
But in this very room, I’m told to watch what I eat. A key element of the Duxton’s wellness proposition is a complimentary consultation with a TCM practitioner from a nearby medicine hall, who staffs a clinic in the hotel lobby, with the custom-order medicine cabinets still en route from China. He comes to the suite.
Professor Zhang Maoji, who has been in the business for 50 years, takes my pulse for a full minute, then tells me my body’s story. He points out indigestion, anxiety and abhorrent sleeping habits – three for three. These are recent developments that I did not even realise were health issues. After some kind words of advice and hearing a brief tirade on the evils of farmed salmon, we part ways. I am told that medication would cost, and I decline his prescription, but, an hour later, a seven-day dosage arrives at the concierge. (Note to sceptics: It really does dispel my heartburn.)
Good thing then, that the hotel’s Chinese restaurant Yellow Pot prepares high-quality, sustainably sourced produce with healthful cooking techniques (check out the full review with pictures at www. thepeakmagazine.com). Even the bar tries to get in on the agenda, opting to use herbs and spices, in place of syrup or processed additives.
Would I return to the Duxton? Most certainly. There are eight room types, lofts among them, to experience, and it’s situated in an exciting neighbourhood that evolves every other month. The service is faultless at this point. To consider also is a much larger Six Senses branch at Maxwell later in the year, perhaps one not restricted by conservation rules – from including an indoor spa or pool to top off that staycation. We’ll have to wait and see.
83 Duxton Road. Tel: 6914-1428.
TEXT LIAO XIANGJUN