The trend for Singapore ‘staycations’ seems here to stay – and with good reason. No Changi dash, being on hand in case Junior has a complete meltdown on Granny, and some pretty darn fine hotels right here on the island. Here, we round up our ‘staycation’ favourites for down time without the transit. Here’s a look inside two of Singapore’s newest – and quirkiest – hotels.
6 highlights of the Six Senses Duxton
#1 You know you’re in for something different
It’s immediately clear as you pull up to the restored row of traditional shophouses that make up Six Senses Duxton, that this isn’t your average hotel. The entrance is an Art Deco-style porch of stained glass and rattan furniture, and parked on the curb is a retro London black cab – the only one in Singapore, apparently. Stunning ornate glass doors lead inside, where you find no expansive lobby but rather a series of elegant nooks with Chinese screens, antique furniture, and tables dotted with objets d’art and hardcover books about old-school photography and turn-of-the-century travel. The hotel’s signature look – a moody, elegant combo of black and gold – comes from renowned UK interior designer Anouska Hempel. (For trivia buffs: she once starred in a Bond film!)
In all, there’s a deep sense of history here, but it isn’t just for show: a focus on conservation during the development stage saw the hotel bestowed with a prominent architectural heritage award.
#2 No two rooms are alike
Thanks to the differing layouts of the original shophouses, the hotel’s 49 rooms are unique. One of them, for example, is a two-storey suite with an old-fashioned spiral staircase. Another has a sitting room beneath a full glass skylight. The Montgomerie Suite, with an opulent four poster bed, is named after the family who owned these buildings in the 18th century. And the Pearl Suite is bright and white to offset the dark tones elsewhere, with stunning cabinets embellished with mother-of-pearl.
I was in an Opium Room – this part of Singapore was notorious for opium dens a century ago – though I swear the brilliant quality of my sleep had nothing to do with illicit drugs and everything to do with the bed’s Naturalmat organic mattress!
A shout-out to the mini-bar: it’s a beautiful piece of bling, featuring mirrored walls, cocktail shakers, a cutting board with fresh fruit for garnishing drinks, and a great selection of boutique booze, tonic waters and more.
#3 There are some special little touches:
• The in-room phone is a proper “old-school” rotary telephone.
• Complimentary still and sparkling water in the rooms is produced by the hotel itself with a state-of-the-art mineralisation machine and a zero-carbon footprint. (Sustainability is a huge focus here – a percentage of revenues goes to a sustainability fund used to support local social and environmental projects.)
• At each turndown service, staff leave a different folded origami creation on your pillow.
• Instead of a clunky plastic Do Not Disturb sign, you hang an antique Chinese calligraphy brush on your door for privacy.
• The lobby area is adorned with pretty lacquered boxes, and when I absentmindedly opened one I found a slip of paper inside – like a fortune cookie – with a wellness tip: “To improve the quality of your dreams, think about a happy place or happy moment before nodding off.” Other boxes contained different snippets of advice.
• Small glass vials are left in your fridge containing non-alcoholic tinctures to drink before bed and on waking. My morning tincture contained “snow chrysanthemum and marigold to lower cholesterol and improve digestion”.
#4 It’s next to some of the city’s best eats and drinks
This is a seriously good location for foodies. Love a taco at Lucha Loco? Duxton’s popular Mexican restaurant is 30 seconds away. More a fan of Italian? Alba 1836 and Latteria are both just as close. Maxwell Food Centre – perhaps my favourite hawker centre in Singapore – is an extra one-minute walk. Keep an eye out for the 3rd Culture Brewing stall at Maxwell, with superb imported pale ales and porters on tap!
If you’re a teetotaller – or just totally into tea – the Yixing Xuan Teahouse is 100 metres from the hotel, and Six Senses arranges visits there so guests can learn the Chinese art of preparing and appreciating tea.
I was busy with dinner events during my stay, so I wasn’t able to try in-house restaurant Yellow Pot in the evenings, but my two breakfasts there were sensational: a chilli crab omelette with mantou buns one morning, and a healthy grilled salmon bowl the next.
#5 It has its own TCM doctor
Yes, you read that right. Six Senses Duxton offers guests a complimentary wellness reading with an in-house Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, and herbal medicines can be purchased from an authentic dispensary across the road for any ailments. I had a fascinating chat with the doc about everything from qi deficiency (ginseng is a good fix, I’m told) to the common Singapore problem of people having too much moisture in their bodies. You can also learn about acupuncture, diet, tui na massage and more.
In keeping with the TCM theme, every guest is given a “wellness bag” as a welcome gift, containing everything from iconic Tiger Balm, Po Chai pills for indigestion and nutmeg oil for soothing aches, to a brain-teaser toy, and a health and fitness diary.
#6 Another Six Senses is opening in the neighbourhood soon
I was entirely charmed by Six Senses Duxton, so I’m happy to hear that sister hotel Six Senses Maxwell will soon open just a short walk away (probably around October). It will be bigger – 120 rooms – and will boast some facilities that don’t fit at Duxton: a spa and a pool, for example, which guests from both properties can use.
Six Senses Duxton
83 Duxton Road
6914 1428 | email@example.com
48 hours in Andaz Singapore
Architecturally speaking, Andaz Singapore and Six Senses Duxton are chalk and cheese. Opened late last year, Andaz is located in one of the two curved, gleaming towers that make up the DUO development on the edge of Bugis and the Arab Quarter.
There’s a bit of a buzz about this place, and I’m not referring to the distinctive honeycomb pattern on the building’s glass-and-metal façade. This is the first Southeast Asian instalment of Hyatt’s luxury boutique brand, which launched in London in 2007. Designer André Fu is no slouch: past projects include the Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong and a pop-up apartment for Louis Vuitton. He also designed Cassia restaurant in Capella on Sentosa, where Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un stared each other down at lunch recently.
If those two had met at Andaz instead, it would have made for interesting television. Everything feels a little different here. The lobby, for starters, is far from traditional; it’s on a high floor (the 25th) and consists of open tables with laptops – a bit like an Apple store. On the tables are bowls of retro-style snacks, including Pop Pop-brand corn puffs and sachets of Ovaltine. The staff dress in semi-casual gear – a collaboration with local brand In Good Company; there are 15 different uniform components, and staff members can mix and match as they like.
The trendy touches continue in the room. To enter mine, I waved a key-card across what looked like an antique post-box. A pair of flip-flops supplied in my closet was stamped with the words “Stolen from Andaz Singapore”. (They must have read my mind!) And the room service menu – offering everything from mee goreng to a Black Angus beef burger – comes disguised as a daily newspaper, The Andaz Times. It includes a neighbourhood map of nearby attractions and a list of recommended restaurants for local cuisine: chicken rice at Chin Chin Eating House, murtabak at Singapore Zam Zam, and so on. (I like when a hotel with a strong food focus like Andaz isn’t scared to suggest outside dining to guests.) The Andaz Times also has an MRT map and a series of QR codes connecting you with apps and online experiences to enhance the stay. It’s very nicely done.
Also nicely done was my grass-fed rib-eye at 665°F, Andaz’s 38th-floor steakhouse – the name comes from the temperature of the charcoal-fired Pira oven in the kitchen. I went there after enjoying “Andaz Lounge Hour”, which is a daily session of complimentary local beers, and red and white wines available to all hotel guests from 5 to 7pm in the lobby level’s Sunroom bar. Who doesn’t love a free tipple in a place like Singapore?
If you’re not in the mood for a steak, there are loads more eating options at Alley on 25, also on the lobby level. This eclectic collection of adjoining shophouse-style restaurants is the focal point of the whole hotel; it weaves its way across an entire floor, with each outlet focussing on a particular cooking style: for example, barbecue at Smoke & Pepper, seafood, charcuterie and other cold dishes at Icehaus, and baked and braised items at The Green Oven. This is also where you come for daily breakfast, and the variety of eateries meant I could skip the usual eggs, toast, yoghurt and juice (they’re all available, of course) and instead opt for some spicy curries and noodle dishes. Never too early for chili padi, in my book.
The other F&B outlet of note is Mr Stork, on the hotel’s highest floor (level 39) – the name comes from the belief that storks bring good luck when they build nests on the top of buildings. This is one of those special spots – like 1-Altitude and CÉ LA VI – where you’ll want to come for a drink with friends or family who are visiting Singapore; the views are a knockout. It’s surprisingly lush for a hotel roof, with small teepees dotted amongst the foliage where couples can sit and enjoy a cocktail; try the Ruby – it comes in an elephant-shaped mug and features lemon, ginger, mint, vermouth and traditional Sri Lankan arrack distilled from the sap of coconut flowers.
If the views from Mr Stork are breathtaking, they’re no worse from the gym on level 28, the pool on level 25 (in which I spent the bulk of my stay), or, frankly, the hotel’s 342 guest rooms. My room’s vista took in the Singapore Flyer, Suntec, Marina Bay, Sentosa and, beyond, the sea. I liked how the super-comfy bed faced straight out to the floor-to-ceiling windows, too, so I could lie there drinking it all in. Speaking of drinks, there are plenty to be had in the complimentary mini-bar, and the room has every other amenity you might need.
What’s in the surrounding neighbourhood? In short, a great mix of old and new. Just across the road is Blue Jaz bar, open for more than a decade now, from where you can access the interesting back alleys of Kampong Glam. Even closer (below the hotel entrance) is DUO Galleria, a just-opened retail complex of boutiques, an art gallery, a florist, a fitness centre and loads of restaurants covering a range of cuisine, from poke bowls to pizza. There’s also a direct connection to Bugis MRT by a covered underpass, and all the shopping and transport options there.
I’m told that “andaz” is a Hindi word meaning “personal style”. It’s an appropriate name, as this hotel has plenty.
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