AS TIME GOES BY Evanna Ramly revisits the golden era of colonial Malaya.
Glamorous evenings of pure jazz
Growing up in KL circa the late ’80s would include quiet drives down historic Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin. Till today its landmarks carry different meanings, whether it’s remembering a loved one who once worked at the old railway station of Moorish inspiration, making a spiritual connection at the National Mosque, or reminiscing the 1957 declaration of independence at Dataran Merdeka just down the road. And then there were trips to the National Art Gallery, which we were told was once the iconic Majestic Hotel. Sitting upon a verdant hilltop, it was where the international elite would stay on tropical vacations, where artists from Hollywood and London’s Coliseum performed, and where our grandparents danced the waltz and the tango long into the night, dressed to the nines.
Back then, we could only imagine the glamour to be so incongruous with the wars of the time, and it seemed destined to remain but a memory. Until YTL Hotels took on its restoration. The original five-storey building with its Roman columns and detailed cornices was fully restored to become the Majestic Wing, boasting 19 extravagant suites of Art Deco perfection complete with 24-hour butler service. Check into a room of dark polished timber, plush beds, and soft tufted carpets before lunch at the Colonial Café. Here, framed photographs recall halcyon days of planters in old Malaya. Try the delicious chicken rice and succulent Hainanese chicken chop. Come late afternoon, drop by the Tea Lounge facing the front lawn. A haven of cut-glass lighting and antique brass fittings, it is a charming spot for a cup of Earl Grey to go with traditional savouries, scones, and desserts. At night, the grand piano will be taken over by the descendants of jazz legend Alfonso Soliano.
Should your taste be more contemporary, the new 15-storey Tower Wing seduces with modern flair. 253 rooms with elegant four-poster beds, gleaming chrome touches, and splendid views offer chic sanctuary. By the entrance is the Contango, a restaurant with an open kitchen that promises an interactive dining experience. Travel the world in a menu with tantalising Asian and Western dishes. Think Japanese robatayaki and Brazilian churrasco grills, as well as kaleidoscopic pizzas fresh from the oven. Finally, the Opus One vertical collection of wine, a remarkable collaboration between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi, will delight wine enthusiasts. The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, 50000 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2785 8000. www.majestickl.com
Vintage photographs adorn the Colonial Café
The Majestic Hotel
Deluxe Room in the Tower Wing
The Drawing Room is great for afternoon tea parties, and also houses a library of classics
The rooftop garden