Preserving the old while making way for the new, this tough and intricate balance is not an easy feat, especially when it comes to refurbishing timeworn hotels. Sustainability stands the test of time, it must outlive one generation and the successful passing down to the next generation is a testament to a hotel’s respect for its heritage, tradition and culture.
Opened in August 1932, The Majestic Hotel is a national treasure and an icon to Kuala Lumpur’s city scape and social tapestry. My parents have fond memories lunching at the hotel and the food was highly regarded as one of the best. Hainanese chefs dominated the kitchen churning out favourites like chicken chop, steak, hailam mee and sweet fluffy kaya Swiss rolls.
For more than 50 years, the hotel thrived as one of the leading hotels in Kuala Lumpur, a prime social venue for the country’s elites, highflying international travellers and government officials. The well-worn building collected many memories and if the walls could speak, they would tell of fancy dance parties and banquets, important political and business meetings and grand weddings.
As with all good things, the old Majestic Hotel had to close its doors in December 1983 to give way to other newer hotels that sprung up in the city. Somehow, in the pages of the hotel’s history, a complete shutdown was never in mind. YTL Hotels took up the challenge to rebuild, restore and refurbish this heritage building that was and still is a much loved venue for those that have experienced its former glory.
“The restoration of The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur is a project that is close to our hearts. It was a venue that was tremendously popular back in the days. YTL Hotels aims to bring this hotel back to its former glory; to share the heritage, popularity and success of its predecessor,” Dato Mark Yeoh
Designed by Dutch Architect Van Leangeanderg, the original hotel accentuated a mix of neo-Renaissance and Art Deco design, where simple lines are married with Roman columns and intricate cornices. The façade is simple, yet classy. The refurbishment of the Majestic Hotel included a new adjoining building, the Tower Wing to accommodate larger capacity without compromising or taking away from the original main building, now called the Majestic Wing.
”There were many challenges in designing the hotel, mainly with regard to the Majestic Wing, which falls under the Antiquities Act 1976. We had to be very sensitive to its original design architecturally and structurally, and could only do minimal changes to the interior space and ensure we maintained the architectural elevation of the original design” said Zaidan Tahir, distinguished architect who has taken on projects of similar nature such as the refurbishment of Cameron Highlands Resort in Pahang and The Majestic Malacca.
Entering the lobby of the Majestic Wing, a doorman dressed in white safari-style jacket, khaki Bermuda shorts, pith helmets and boots greet me with a warm hello. The atmosphere transforms quickly whisking me back into the golden era of colonial days. Rich wooden furniture lined with rich leather coverings, timber floorings and thick tufted carpets tastefully make up the lobby. I was told that guests staying in the Majestic Wing suites have their check-in procedures done in the comforts of their suite.
The Majestic Wing has three different suites to choose from and each delicately designed to the tee to resemble the glamorous days of old. No rooms were added to this building and the configurations were not altered, hence some of the suites are not massive, but still spacious. However, despite the given space, furniture has been chosen to maximize the space, for example long lounge chairs perfect for an afternoon read while looking out KL’s city scape.
The bathrooms are a stunning recluse, with luxurious clawfoot bathtubs, separate rain shower and toilets and glossy black and white checkerboard tiled floors. The suites are lavishly styled with timber floorings, chandeliers, day beds, plush lounge chairs and embroidered pillows. The suites in this wing also come with personalised service such as a personal butler and car enhancing the experience of a luxury holiday. Even if you do not sleep in this wing, do venture into the lures of the charming and old-fashioned heart of the hotel.
The hotel brims with flourishing extras that keep its history alive such as the Orchid Conservatory, a glass atrium lined with hundreds of colourful orchids creating a captivating venue for special events, photo shoots and intimate afternoon tea sessions.
The hotel’s Colonial Café is the heart of the old building where delectable afternoon tea is served daily from 3pm – 6pm. The grand golden dome ceiling is the centrepiece of the café where magical tunes fill the air upon nightfall as the Soliano family, the only family whose musical tradition dates back into the nation’s history, entertain with classic renditions. The café offers a delightful menu marrying Hainanese favourites and western flavours. The Hainanese have always been known for their delicious meals and were very skilful in the kitchen delivering well-loved favourites like chicken chop, Hailam Mee, steaks and Swiss rolls. Back in the day, Bristish expats would gladly welcome Hainanese cooks into their kitchens and trusted them with their meals.
I stayed in the Tower Wing, the new adjoining building where modern meets old. My Junior Suite was extremely spacious with a separate living room and lounge. The Art Deco design followed through from the old building with a modern touch of luxury and simplicity. The suite had many mirrors, polished chrome, stainless steel and dark ebony veneer and its furnishings minimalistic in design. The bathroom was a sanctuary and a getaway on its own, with glass doors separating it from the bedroom and a sexy bathtub its centrepiece with separate basin and toilet and rain shower. The hotel’s line of toiletries is a rich selection of Malaysian fruit scents like the mangosteen, watermelon and pomelo.
Staying at the Majestic definitely heightened my appreciation for Malaysia’s rich history. The hotel’s nostalgic ambiance and sense of history denotes a great sense of respect for bygone years. A building so magnificently lined with history has once again been restored and the pages in its book continue to churn many memories for travelers and generations to come.* Fancy some afternoon tea and blissful pampering in Kuala Lumpur? Got the perfect place!