The elegant white façade of Six Senses Maxwell Singapore gives no hint of the treasure trove housed within: The Cook & Tras Social Library Restaurant and Bar, undeniably one of the most beautiful hotel libraries in the world.
Name after the two streets the hotel sits on, the library is a cavernous space with semi-private nooks framed by wooden bookshelves and dressed up in neo-classic European style. Sumptuous purple velvet armchairs, and sofas with ornate cushions invite guests to relax and lose themselves in a book. There are also more casual dining tables and chairs, and a bar with plush high stools to unwind over a libation or two.
But the pièce de résistance are the book spines that line the shelves of Cook & Tras. This intelligently curated library boasts more than 3,000 carefully chosen books, not only contemporary titles but also modern literature and vintage or antique leather-bound, gilded editions of classics and poetry, as well as stunning coffee-table tomes.
Curated by UK’s Unlimited Library, the impressive collection comprises books that will appeal to both casual and serious readers alike, and is divided into an array of browsing categories. There’s general fiction (from Shakespeare to Zadie Smith), local interests and Singapore literature, as well as travel and sports. History enthusiasts will revel in the smorgasbord of titles at the history nook, with books on ancient times through to recent history across geographical regions, alongside topical history.
Nature lovers will find volumes of interest in the natural history (there is a particular focus on books about birds here), ocean and botany sections, while the artistically inclined is sure to fawn over the books on art, architecture, photography, music, and performing arts. Lifestyle topics abound in the wellbeing, and food and drink sections, while selections in the psychology, business and global affairs shelves give much to mull over.
One will spend many an evening giddily browsing the shelves, with drinks and bites in close attendance. The bar has on tap its house pilsner exclusively brewed for Cook & Tras by Singapore’s Trouble Brewery — light and refreshing with an aromatic head. Aside from wines and liquors, the menu has 10 signature cocktails, and the AE Martini (S$24) comes highly recommended. Concocted with Tried & True Vodka, passionfruit, lemon juice and sweet vanilla, the cocktail is served with a splash of cava on the side, which you can either imbibe separately or stir into the cocktail.
A stark contrast is the tart and assertive Hemingway Royale (S$24), composed of Bacardi Carta Blanca, grapefruit, lime and a hint of maraschino. The Ann Siang Collins (S$24) is the most interesting of the three: a nicely layered cocktail made with Martini Riserva Ambrato, Suze, lemon, basil and celery bitters, finished off with seltzer and a touch of tonic.
Its dedicated food menu offers refined interpretations of local fare. There are flavourful morsels of Nonya Style Chicken Meatballs (S$12) with assam glaze, as well as well seasoned, juicy Iberico Pork Sate (S$14) with the requisite ketupat, achar and peanut sauce. The Barramundi Bakar (S$28) came topped with chunky tomato relish that enhances the sweetness of fish, and the smoky Grilled Sotong (S$20) was done just right. A real crowd pleaser was the Maxwell Sirloin Burger (S$30) with its juicy patty slathered with bacon tomato jam, caramelised onions, and topped with pungent aged cheddar and lettuce.
For dinner literature, my choice was Kirk W. Johnson’s thrilling The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. It’s not a subject matter I am usually inclined towards but I happened to be seated next to the natural history shelves and this title caught my eye — it proved to be such a riveting read that I bought myself a copy.