One of the first two urban-based hotels of its eponymous upscale brand, better known for its luxury coastal wellness resorts, the year-old five-star Six Senses Maxwell is yet another Singapore establishment that both commendably and cleverly utilises the city state's alluring shophouse architectural heritage for upscale accommodation. Across four storeys of an early 20th century building (comprised of a series of shophouses formed to create a single structure), Six Senses Maxwell somehow manages – along with 138 guestrooms – to accommodate restaurants, lounges, a snug 25-metre outdoor rooftop lap pool and bar, and a new spa that opened earlier this year.
The hotel is situated in the lively heritage neighbourhood of Tanjong Pagar, full of attractive preserved shophouses, and on a site where a nutmeg plantation once stood. In keeping with the local area, Six Senses Maxwell is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, bars and the Maxwell Food Centre, the city's most well-known and accessible hawker stall market.
The imaginative and considered design by Jacques Garcia – the renowned French architect and interior garden designer known for his Parisian restaurants and hotels – combines the Asian traditions and European influences that have contributed to Singapore's heritage identity. The hotel's plush interior is infused with brocades and damask fabrics adorning Italian furnishings as well as lampshades in pleated silk. Hardwood floors, ethically-sourced from Africa, adorn much of the hotel, while other public areas feature stone flooring recycled from Italian medieval churches and cathedrals. One of Six Senses Maxwell's most intriguing elements is a collection of original Singaporean property deeds, or indentures, sourced by the hotel's owner and framed throughout the hotel's public areas; plaques detail the historical background of each document. In another novel touch, a brass traditional singing bowl (read: gong) greets guests following check-in at the art deco, exposed brick-fronted hotel.
The Orient-meets-the-Occident theme continues right through to the somewhat floridly-decorated rooms, many of which are irregularly shaped and sized due to the architecturally eccentric footprint of the building (in one spot you encounter a bump in floor where the shophouses are amusingly not quite perfectly co-joined). There are seven unique room types and shapes – some of which are small but well-designed to maximise space – and feature brass, lacquer and marble finishes with bathrooms sporting handmade Lafroy Brooks bathroom fixtures and rain shower heads.
Cook & Tras is the hotel's congenial clubby library space with a specially-compiled, 3000-volume book collection. It's open throughout the day for light breakfasts and an all-day small-plates menu. Since your reviewer's stay, a new dining option, Six Senses Brasserie, has opened for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday with brunch on Saturday and Sundays. You can also keep your dining choices in the family with a reservation at the elegant Yellow Pot Chinese restaurant at sister property Six Senses Duxton, a short stroll away. For those hankering for an Australian-style coffee, head directly around the corner to Five Oars Coffee Roasters, inspired by the cafes of Melbourne. It also keeps Australian breakfast hours, opening a full two-hours or earlier than the sleepier Tanjor Pagar cafes.
If you're inspired by the heritage flavour of Six Senses Maxwell, then allocate time for a visit to the Chinatown Heritage Centre, located in the middle of Singapore's Chinatown. Over a number of floors, this excellent museum details the fascinating history of the Singaporean shophouse and the people who have lived and survived in them. For an authentic and affordable Singapore experience, don't miss the famed Maxwell Food Centre, a two-minute walk from the hotel.
The majority of hotels, even at the five-star level, offer little or no sense of place or history. Six Senses Maxell is not one of them, serving up lavish amounts of heritage and ambience in generous, and at times too much so, doses. But you certainly won't forget you were in Singapore at this enjoyable and atmospheric establishment.
Doubles start from $S239.40 per night. Six Senses Maxwell, 2 Cook Street, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore, ph: +65 6914 1400. See sixsenses.com
The sheer level of detail apparent in Jacques Garcia's interior design is inspiring.
Jacques Garcia's sumptuous interior design can be a little too extravagant at times.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of Six Senses Maxwell.