Re­cently re­opened, this his­toric ho­tel in Kuala Lumpur pays a stun­ning homage to past el­e­gance.

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Walk­ing into The Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel Kuala Lumpur is like step­ping back in time to the colo­nial el­e­gance of Bri­tish Malaya in the 1930s. This ho­tel was once the largest and grand­est in the city, un­ri­valled in its pres­tige and glam­our.

For years, though, The Ma­jes­tic had sat idle, a vic­tim of time, over­taken by the glitzy sky­scraper hotels that now dom­i­nate the Kuala Lumpur sky­line, its colo­nial charm a sym­bol of a more gen­teel past. The last guests checked out of the orig­i­nal prop­erty in 1983, and from 1984 un­til 1998, when it was pur­chased by pres­ti­gious ho­tel op­er­a­tor YTL, The Ma­jes­tic was home to the Na­tional Art Gallery.

In 2012, The Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel Kuala Lumpur – to great fan­fare – re­opened its doors af­ter a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar restora­tion that in­cluded the ad­di­tion of the 253-room Tower Wing, which has been de­signed to sub­tly com­ple­ment the orig­i­nal Neo-Clas­si­cal build­ing now called the Ma­jes­tic Wing.

What YTL has cre­ated is a clas­sic ho­tel that it part of a col­lec­tion with le­gendary icons such as The Ritz Lon­don, The Pierre in New York, Hô­tel Le Bris­tol in Paris and Villa d’Este in Lake Como, Italy – all mem­bers of the Lead­ing Hotels of the World col­lec­tion.

I am stay­ing in one of the 47 im­mac­u­lately re­stored suites of the Ma­jes­tic Wing. The am­bi­ence of yes­ter­year’s colo­nial charm is a tan­gi­ble in­flu­ence with Art Deco nu­ances, tim­ber floors over­laid with tufted car­pets and el­e­gantly curved fur­nish­ings. The blackand-white che­quered tiled bath­rooms with their claw-footed baths repli­cate the orig­i­nal 1932 design. Another touch of by­gone el­e­gance is the 24-hour but­ler ser­vice for all those stay­ing in suites. To have a but­ler or­gan­ise all the smaller ne­ces­si­ties of life – from per­fectly pressed clothes to a meet­ing room, to a book­ing for High Tea – is a real as­set.

An air-con­di­tioned walk­way of­fers a glimpse of The Smoke House and the as­ton­ish­ing flo­ral dis­play that fills The Or­chid Con­ser­va­tory’s glass atrium as you pass from the Ma­jes­tic Wing to the Tower Wing. This mod­ern wing has a more con­tem­po­rary feel, with its dark mar­ble and pol­ished chrome. Although a touch of Art Deco en­twines the old and the new, the so­phis­ti­cated rooms and suites are mod­ern in their style of fur­nish­ing, with a min­i­mal­ist four-poster bed as the cen­tre­piece.

Re­stored grandeur The prop­erty’s rich­ness and glam­our is the com­mon thread through­out the ho­tel, from the con­tem­po­rary open style of Con­tango restau­rant to the tim­ber-pan­elled warmth of the Colo­nial Café, which dishes up clas­sic favourites from an age of rub­ber plan­ta­tions and tea dances. The Ma­jes­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, how­ever, wouldn’t be com­plete with­out

such dis­tinc­tive venues as The Bar, The Tea Lounge, The Ma­jes­tic Spa, The Smoke House and, of course, The Or­chid Con­ser­va­tory, each evok­ing its own her­itage style.

Of all the prop­erty’s de­lights, it is surely the glass-en­cased Or­chid Con­ser­va­tory that is the high­light. Up to 15 guests can dine or take af­ter­noon tea sur­rounded by some 1000 colour­ful cas­cad­ing or­chids, many in full bloom de­pend­ing on the sea­son. It is a true botan­i­cal won­der and also makes a per­fect venue for small meet­ings, cock­tails and gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing a dis­play of Bul­gari’s lat­est col­lec­tion that adds to the flo­ral splen­dour.

Def­i­nitely hark­ing back to another era is The Smoke House, an el­e­gant gen­tle­men’s club where mem­bers can sit back in com­fort­able leather chairs while sip­ping sin­gle malt whisky and where John­nie the Bar­man can pre­pare your favourite tip­ples. Com­plete a colo­nial repast in the Cigar Room, an in­ti­mate en­clave for the smok­ing con­nois­seur with el­e­gant smok­ing jack­ets and the per­me­at­ing scent of the world’s finest cigars and whiskies, or en­joy a blackand-white movie in the screen­ing room, or even a cosy din­ner for up to 10 guests in the pri­vate din­ing room.

The Smoke House also in­cludes Truefitt & Hill, which has been pro­vid­ing groom­ing for gen­tle­men for over two cen­turies, of­fer­ing such ser­vices as the Tra­di­tional Hot Towel Wet Shave and a be­spoke tai­lor on call.

The Bar is steeped in colo­nial grandeur. Set in the Ma­jes­tic Wing with dark pan­els, mir­rors and brass, its goldleafed dome is an orig­i­nal fea­ture of the old ho­tel. In the evening it is the best venue to feel Malaysia’s her­itage of the 1930s with a Gin Pahit or a Sling in hand, lis­ten­ing to ren­di­tions of clas­sics from by­gone eras em­a­nat­ing from the grand pi­ano un­der the dome.

Af­ter­noon tea with a twist

Filled with cosy leather chairs, The Tea Lounge opens onto the lawns sur­round­ing the Ma­jes­tic Wing. With its clas­sic cut-glass light­ing and an­tique brass fit­tings, it is the per­fect set­ting for a clas­sic English Af­ter­noon Tea – with a Malaysian twist. Anna, Duchess of Bed­ford, is said to have cre­ated the idea of af­ter­noon tea by tak­ing a pot of tea and a light snack in her boudoir to tide her over un­til din­ner. The fash­ion quickly spread through­out Lon­don and be­yond, to be­come an in­deli­ble part of English colo­nial cul­ture.

For an af­ter­noon tea with a dif­fer­ence, how­ever, I opt for an un­usual spa treat­ment. The Ma­jes­tic Spa is based on the Art Deco style of the Scot­tish Wil­low Tea Rooms and its spa ex­pe­ri­ences fea­ture Queen Vic­to­ria’s Laven­der and my choice – English Af­ter­noon Tea. I be­gin with a de­li­cious an­tiox­i­dant berry and cream scrub fol­lowed by a gar­den berry oil mas­sage topped off with a fra­grant English rose nat­u­ral fa­cial. A chamomile bath and ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage left me calm, re­laxed and in­trigued by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of tea.

While ex­ud­ing the el­e­gance of its colo­nial past, this prop­erty is a won­der­ful mix of the old and the new. It is like step­ping back in time, to a more gen­teel past – but with a mod­ern, lux­u­ri­ous twist.


02 02 The sounds of colo­nial grandeur

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