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Cook & Tras Social Library

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to Six Senses Maxwell after my Uber driver got hopelessly lost in Chinatown (less than 100 metres from the hotel, as it turned out).  However, it was definitely a case of good things come to those who wait when I finally entered the hotel’s glamorous lobby. Chinatown is one of my favourite parts of Singapore. I love the culinary chaos of the Maxwell Food Centre and the rows of historic shophouses which line the streets. On this visit I got to stay in one these ornate buildings which encapsulate the multicultural heritage of the city.

Six Senses Maxwell lobby
Six Senses Maxwell lobby

Six Senses Maxwell has been created from 14 three and four storey colonial-style shophouses dating back to the late 1920s. These have been sensitively restored and joined together to create a historic 138 room hotel with a rooftop pool and urban spa. Provided you don’t end up with my Uber driver, the hotel is easy to find at the junction of Duxton, Tanjong Pagar and Maxwell Road. It’s just around the corner from the Maxwell Food Centre and a few minute’s walk from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

Historic Chinatown shophouses in Singapore
Historic Chinatown shophouses

Six Senses Maxwell quickly became one of my favourite Singapore hotels during the two nights I spent there as a solo traveller. I loved the hotel’s refined yet flamboyant French inspired décor and the cosy Cook & Tras Social Library. This destination restaurant and bar on the ground floor is lined with shelves holding more than 3,000 books which are available for guests to borrow. With plenty of nooks and crannies to tuck yourself away in, the restaurant is a delight for solo diners, book lovers and Instagrammers.

Cook & Tras Restaurant & Bar
Cook & Tras Restaurant & Bar

A series of original property deeds, or indentures, are framed and placed throughout the hotel with descriptive plaques detailing the history of each document. If you’re a local history buff like me, these will keep you entertained for hours. So will the pool deck. Located on the hotel roof, this urban oasis is surrounded by local residences, most of which are also housed in historic buildings. Swimming here makes you feel like you’re truly a part of the city. There’s also a herb garden plus a peaceful lounging area and bar which opens at peak times.

Six Senses Maxwell rooftop pool
Six Senses Maxwell rooftop pool

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Six Senses Maxwell rooftop pool lounging area
Six Senses Maxwell rooftop pool lounging area

On this level you’ll also find the petite urban spa which has five treatment rooms and two personal post-treatment relaxation rooms featuring a So-Sound Legato Healing Lounger which uses sound vibrations to relieve stress and tension. Accommodation at Six Senses Maxwell is lush and features a palette of peacock hues or rich reds, depending on which room you’re allocated. If you’ve got a preference you can ask, but I would highly recommend a beautiful red room like the one I had as it feels especially opulent and luxe.

My room at Six Senses Maxwell
My Terrace Room at Six Senses Maxwell
Terrace Room bathroom
Terrace Room bathroom

Whimsical framed photos of the local area taken from the property owner and luxury hotelier Satinder Garcha’s personal collection decorate the bathrooms which are impressively large. My only regret was I didn’t have time to try out the huge claw foot tub in my bathroom. Rooms are quiet as the joined shophouses extend up a pedestrian-only alleyway which gets no traffic. Windows are also soundproofed to ensure a good night’s sleep. On my first night, a turndown gift of a small metal puzzle and Six Senses cloth tote bag was waiting for me.

Six Senses Maxwell
Six Senses Maxwell

If you feel like a change of scene, there is also the Six Senses Duxton sister hotel located less than 300 metres walk from Six Senses Maxwell. The Duxton is smaller than Maxwell, and has darker, more sultry chinoiserie decor with a masculine edge. It is equally beautiful but I preferred the lush opulence of Six Senses Maxwell – with one exception. Yellow Pot Restaurant on Duxton’s ground floor was my pick of the dining venues, with some of the best and most innovative Chinese cuisine I’ve had during my many visits to Singapore.

Yellow Pot Restaurant
Yellow Pot Restaurant

Yellow Pot Restaurant also offers a mix of western and Asian dishes for breakfast such as chili crab omelette and beef kway teow, whereas Cook & Tras maintains a firm focus on western fare in the morning. The Spanish omelette I had for breakfast at Cook & Tras on my first morning in Singapore was good, but not a patch on the excellent dishes I had for both lunch and breakfast the following day at Yellow Pot Restaurant.

Wok fried tiger prawns with house-made XO sauce
Wok fried tiger prawns with house-made XO sauce

If you are staying at one of the Six Senses Singapore hotels for a few nights, make sure you try both options for breakfast.  Even if you aren’t staying at Six Senses, you should definitely drop into Yellow Pot Restaurant for lunch or dinner while you’re in Singapore. Top picks include the signature chilled organic vine ripened tomatoes which pop with flavour thanks to a sweet yet savoury “Li Hing” plum infusion. The wok fried tiger prawns featuring XO sauce that’s made in-house, plus wild mushrooms and crispy sugar snap peas were also excellent. 

Chilled organic vine ripened tomatoes
Chilled organic vine ripened tomatoes

Signature cocktails such as the Escape to Kaifeng, made with bespoke oriental chrysanthemum cordial and herbal Tanqueray gin, are also a feature. The atmosphere and cocktail menu at each of the Six Senses properties is different so it’s worth visiting both bars. Over at Six Senses Maxwell, Cook & Tras Social Library offers a well-priced three course set menu for dinner. It’s a steal for S$68 but only features western dishes such as steak chimichurri and broccoli and spinach soup. I’d be inclined to skip this in favour of the a la carte menu at this restaurant.

Escape to Kaifeng cocktail
Escape to Kaifeng cocktail at Yellow Pot Restaurant
Steak chimichurri at Cook & Tras
Steak chimichurri at Cook & Tras

One thing you shouldn’t miss is the ice-cream cart. Scoops of house-made gelato and ice-cream are complimentary for in-house guests and include classic flavours like chocolate, plus local favourites such as corn, durian and red bean. In good weather, the cute little tricycle cart is parked outside.

Ice cream tricycle at Six Senses Maxwell
Ice cream tricycle at Six Senses Maxwell

Complimentary activities are also available for in-house guests and can be booked at reception. Most of these take place either at Six Senses Duxton or nearby shops, with choices ranging from a yoga and singing bowl session, to a traditional Chinese medicine consultation, or tea demonstration. I spent almost an hour chatting with Charlene Low, who runs the Yixing Xuan Teahouse with her father.

Tea appreciation with Charlene Low
Tea appreciation with Charlene Low

After working in banking for nine years, she joined her father working at his tea shop which has been operating for 30 years. Doing a structured tea tasting here is akin to trying Grand Cru wines. Staying at Six Senses Maxwell offers a rare chance to truly immerse yourself in the heart of Singapore, and nourish your mind, body and spirit. It goes far beyond a typical hotel stay and is an experience not to be missed.

Disclosure:  The writer stayed as a guest of Six Senses and would gladly stay and dine at these hotels again at her own expense.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.