Friday, January 18, 2013

The Return of Majestic Beauty

Every Friday, a column in NST RED will feature an article written by me. It's all about the unique spaces which I have come across that provide interesting or unusual experiences. 

Yes, the stories I write for NST RED can be about anything as long as it is related to spaces/places. After all, the RED in NST RED stands for Real Estate & Decor.

So, this Friday 18th January 2013 - I have written an article about the much anticipated re-opening of The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. 

As there are always "constraints" in the newspapers' publication, this is the full version with extra pictures and information. 


It is becoming almost a rarity these days to be able to walk through conserved old historical buildings, as many are being torn down and replaced by new modern structures. However, it is only through the architecture and monuments of the old which we can catch a glimpse of a country’s heritage and culture. So much of who we are as a citizen or a nation is carved into all the old buildings. The great Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.”

The Majestic Lobby

As Malaysians, we are fortunate to have corporations like YTL Hotels, which invests in the restoration of heritage buildings. They help keep our architectural lineage alive for future generations to come. YTL Hotels owns and manages an impressive portfolio of award-winning resorts, hotels, spa villages in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, France and the United Kingdom.

The Reception

After nearly 30 years of absence, YTL has made it possible for a well-regarded nobility to return to the Kuala Lumpur landscape by the re-opening of The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. This is the second Majestic Hotel after the property in Melaka that bears the same name.

Reception Area

The Majestic Kuala Lumpur holds a rich history which prided itself as the grandest hotel during her hey days. This grand dame hosted dignitaries, celebrities and politicians of that time. Now, her majesty has returned once again to grace the city which has missed her characteristic presence deeply.

The View Of The Tower Wing

Majestic Restoration

The Majesty Hotel Kuala Lumpur reopened in December 2012 after a long massive reconstruction. It comprises of the four different buildings: Majestic Wing, Tower Wing, Majestic Spa and The Smoke House. The Majestic Wing, Majestic Spa and The Smoke House are housed in the original historical structure. The Tower Wing is a completely new addition to the entire building. The original architect was the Dutch Van Leangeanderg, who designed and built it in 1932.

The Pool at the Tower Wing

In the redevelopment of “Her Royal Highness” to her former glory, YTL entrusted the honour to Zaidan Tahir almost a decade ago. He is the same architect who had worked his magic on “The Majestic” in Melaka and “The Cameron Highlands Resort” of YTL.

The Roof Top Garden at the Tower Wing

The Original Dome 

Zaidan and his team did a remarkable job in preserving the nostalgic 1930’s ambience within the Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, as well as its classic facade. While he adhered to the art deco influences of the era, he added his own interpretation of elegance to the whole design of the hotel. Zaidan shared, “We wanted to maintain the look and feel of the place but, at the same time, give it new life. For example, we kept the dome roof in the entrance hall but we added the gold leaf, which has livened up the room.” 

Majestic Wing and Tower Wing

As one wanders through the hallways and every floor of the Majestic Hotel, one cannot help but imagine the golden days of hospitability of this establishment. It is as if time stood still within the realms of this resplendent hotel. 

Nostalgic Hallway

I had the priviledge to be taken on a personal tour of the revitalized property by Ms. Izan Yusuff, the Director of Public Relations of YTL Hotels. She informed me that the Majestic Wing only houses suites. Each suite comes with complete the claw foot bathtubs and personal butlers. 

The Governor Suite's Living Room

The Governor Suite's Bedroom
Breakfasts are even served in the privacy of the suites, delivered by the personal butlers at the guests’ preferred times. There are 18 Colonial Suites, 15 Governor Suites and 2 Majestic Suites in the Majestic Wing. I especially adored the bathroom tiles of the Majestic Wing’s suites. They are the “Metro Beveled Edged” white tiles that are also used in the “London Underground”. Imagine the extent of classic details embedded into these suites. 

The Claw Foot Bath Tub

Those who long to re-live the glory of colonial days, the suites in the Majestic Wing would be the perfect choice. The Majestic Wing remains Izan’s favourite section of the hotel because she used to visit the original Majestic Hotel with her parents as a child. This is indeed a “personal revisit” for her in many ways. 

The Governor Suite's Bathroom

For guests who crave a more contemporary accommodation, the Tower Wing provides 176 Deluxe Rooms, 55 Junior Suites, 11 Grand Suites and 11 Premier Suites. All the rooms in the Tower Wing are modern rendition of the hotel’s art deco style. 

The Deluxe Room in Tower Wing

Zaidan explained that, “The Art Deco period represents luxury, glamour, exuberance and technological progress, which I found would be the best concept for the interior of this new building, elements of which are found in the old building.” Opulence is not lacking in any of the Tower Wing fashionable rooms. Every decorative item has been personally selected and designed by Zaidan. Hence, the exterior and interior of the hotel pervade in the same architectural language and theme.   

Majestic Spa

The garage and staff quarters of the old wing have been transformed into a double storey Spa. 

Majestic Spa Reception Area

The Majestic Spa is very much infused with the designs of the world famous Scottish architect, designer and artist: Charles Rennie Mackinstosh. Here, one would find art nouveau converged with the old world of British Malaya. Even the spa menu reads like an English Afternoon Tea Party. Lavender, the flower, its scent and the colour, plays a central role in the Majestic Spa. 

Prelude to Spa Treatments: Foot Bath 

An additional special feature of the Spa is its pool that overlooks the Moorish Heritage Train Station. Before a treatment begins, every guest will be treated to a foot soak or bath. They will be enjoying this prelude to their spa treatment at the second storey lounge area of the spa. There is nothing more luxurious than soaking up the ambience of this very majestic spa and being pampered from head to toe.  

Spa Pool with a View

If the spa treatments are not enticing enough, one could easily relax in the Smoke House of the Majestic Wing. The Smoke House is the only place in the entire property that one could still smoke indoors. It is a games room of sorts. As soon as you open the doors, a Billiard’s Table in the middle of the room greets you. 

The Smoke House

There is a bar, cigar room, card room, private dining area complete with a showcase kitchen, a living room with the state of art visual and audio systems, and that is not all. 

The Audio Visual Area of Smoke House

As one ventures down the stairs to the lower ground of the Smoke House, one would find a 12 seater Private Screening Room and a Gentleman’s Barber with its own bespoke tailor on call, and shoe shine services. Yes, the men can enjoy their own “personal grooming” here.

The Screening Room

The Gentleman's Personal Grooming Space

A Room of Ten Thousand Perpetual Blooms

One of the highlights of the Majestic Hotel is the “Orchid Conservatory Room”. This may be the first hotel in Malaysia that could boast of having a dedicated conservatory to orchids. 

Orchids Galore

The temperature in this room is set to a constant 22 to 24 Celsius degrees. It is a unique space specially built to connect the new and old wings of the hotel. It measures no more than 28 feet by 50 feet. Izan said that conservatory is nicknamed, “a place of ten thousand perpetual blooms.” 

Perfect Spot for Afternoon Tea

A local renowned orchid cultivator and enthusiast, Steven Cheong, is responsible for maintaining and changing these splendid local varieties known as the Phalaenopsis. As Steven explained that the Phalaenopsis is “relatively easy to grow and care for, thriving especially in a controlled climate environment.” All I could do was swoon at the sight of this stunning conservatory. Enjoying one’s afternoon tea amid these elegant blooms would be a true delight.

Colonial Café and Contango

Apart from the traditional English Afternoon Teas, the Majestic Hotel offers two very distinctive dining choices. The first is the “Colonial Café”, prized for its traditional dishes such as the “Oxtail Soup”, the “Potterhaus Steak”, “Hainanese Chicken Chop”, “Chicken Rice Balls” and “Ayam Kunyit” just to name a few.

Colonial Cafe

Heritage Recipes

Some may have not be aware that the hotel’s Executive Chef Mohammad Ali Kunhi had actually undergone an “intensive training course” with the YTL owners’ mother, Puan Sri Datin Seri Kai Yong. Therefore, Chef Mohammad had actually learnt the traditional “colonial” recipes directly from a very special individual. These are what I’d call “heritage recipes”, as they have been passed down from one generation to another, unadulterated by the modern changing flavours. For example, the sauce for the “Ayam Kunyit” takes more than 20 hours to prepare in order to achieve its authentic taste and flavour. There are no short cuts here. Therefore, if one would like to experience the flavours of the old British Malaya, then the “Colonial Café” is the place to go. Some may be surprised or unaccustomed to the “original” tastes of these dishes, but do know that they are definitely as authentic as it comes. After all, Chef Mohammad has made sure that he had acquired the exact measurements of all the ingredients to each recipe from Puan Sri Datin Seri Kai Yong and worked to perfect them.

Contango and their savy Chefs

The second dining option in the Majestic Kuala Lumpur is “Contango”. Chef Mohammad fondly describes “Contango” as an interactive dining experience. 

The Western Station at Contango

Although the lay out of the restaurant is similar to a buffet of two exclusive stations, it is so much more than a “normal” buffet styled dining. Diners at “Contango” are actually encouraged to speak with the chefs at each cooking stations, and then the chefs would customize the dish to suit each diner’s palate. The two stations offer an International and Asian cuisine.

The Asian Station at Contango

I must say that “Contango” offers a diverse and vast menu. They make their own freshly baked breads, pastas, salads, sushi, ice creams, and there is even a Churrasco. One can literally order anything and the chefs of each station will gladly cook it and serve it up. What’s more, the restaurant changes its menu selection during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Mohammad is constantly challenging himself and his team to create something new while infusing the local flavours with various spices.

Each of Contango’s station invites the diner to create what they like, as they like it. I was most thrilled to find that I could make my own version of “rojak buah” and add the fruits which I liked best. However, my natural gravitational pull was towards the Dessert Bar. “Contango” has an impressive selection of homemade ice creams which range from the usual flavours to “Cempedak”, “Calamansi” and “Durian.”

Delectable Desserts with Berry Sago on Display

My personal favourite at “Contango” is the “Berry Sago Dessert”. You just have to come and taste it for yourself. If you want to fully enjoy this dessert, I strongly recommend that you add a scoop of “Strawberry” ice cream to it. Trust me, it tastes simply divine.

Private Dining Area in The Smoke House
As they say in YTL, “Sometimes the resurrection of a Hotel can herald a second renaissance.” It is indeed a pleasure to welcome back a magnificent structure such as The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. May “Her Majesty” remain with us for many years to come, so that future generations may also experience its rich heritage. Like a “Sleeping Beauty”, SHE has awakened to stir our long cherished memories and to assist us in making new ones.

So, whether you choose to come to The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur for the glorious food, or you’ve come to savour the history of the hotel, you would no doubt experience something marvelous here. At every corner, lovely surprises await you. Come expecting nothing, but leave with your very own majestic moment.

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