Kuala Lumpur - Amid Malaysia’s increasingly glassy, sky-scraping capital, the newly reopened Majestic Hotel is a vestige of Kuala Lumpur’s colonial past.
When the hotel opened in 1932, with the country under British rule, the Majestic was the centre of the social scene, the place where writers, singers, dignitaries and film stars stayed or came to party.
The hotel’s fortunes dwindled, and it closed in the 1980s. It was nearly demolished, but it was saved under the Antiquities Act. It went on to house the National Art Gallery (now relocated close to the National Theatre), and has just been renovated as part of the YTL Hotels stable (Pangkor Laut Resort, Cameron Highlands, Tanjong Jara and The Majestic Malacca), with a large, modern “tower wing” designed with businesspeople and families in mind.
The hotel is protected as a national heritage site and celebrates its past (although the pith helmet-doffing doormen in white are perhaps a reference too far). The Thirties aesthetic runs throughout, but is most evident in the historic majestic wing. Here many original features, such as the grand staircase, have been restored. There are classy drawing rooms with dark wood floors and 1940s furniture, and a conservatory with 1 000 pink and white moth orchids. Downstairs is a small screening room where guests can watch black and white classics. There’s a gym, two open-air pools, a terraced garden for events and a grand ballroom. Men are well catered for with a Truefitt & Hill’s barber. The Smoke House has a cigar room, cards room and pool table.
The Colonial Café is similarly refined, with a retro menu – prawn cocktail, faggots and spotted dick – alongside Asian-influenced dishes such as Hainanese chicken chops or mee hailam. A band or pianist play gentle jazz during lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, and there’s a large shiny bar where tuxedoed barmen knock up evening cocktails.
Attached to the Majestic is a spa. In the absence of a Scottish option, I went for the spa’s “English afternoon tea” treatment, which involved a cream and berry scrub, berry oil massage and a fragrant English rose facial.
It’s 28 minutes from the airport on the KLIA Ekspres train to KL Sentral Station, where a car picked me up and dropped me three minutes away at the hotel – a service offered to all Majestic wing guests.
The Majestic stands opposite the gleaming white 1910 railway station and within the “historical mile”, with attractions including the National Planetarium, the National Mosque and Museum of Islamic Art, and the National Museum.
There are 300 rooms and suites, mostly in the tower wing.
The majestic wing has only suites.
l Hotel Majestic, 5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (www.majestickl.com). – The Independent