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