A Majestic presence
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 05 Apr 2013
IN 1932 when the world was still reeling from the Great Depression and Germany witnessed the rise of Adolph Hitler, the Majestic Hotel opened its doors in Kuala Lumpur.
Dinner is served at the Contango, a contemporary restaurant
on the ground floor.
For the next 52 years, the Majestic Hotel was one of the iconic structures in Kuala Lumpur. Anybody who had dined there had fond memories of the place.
It was after all one of the most imposing British colonial buildings that was ever built in the capital city.
On Sept 17, 1951, when the rumblings for an independent Malaya triggered writing an important page of local history, Datuk Onn Jaafar called for an inaugural meeting to establish the Independence of Malaya Party. The venue was the Majestic Hotel.
In 1984, the old Majestic Hotel, as some of us called it, closed its doors.
It was a bleak chapter in the annals of this famous colonial hotel.
Thereafter for the next 28 years, this iconic landmark much like the grand railway station opposite the road slipped into the dark shadows of its long history.
For a while, the premises served as the National Art Gallery (1983-1998).
Before it finally closed its doors to the public as a hotel, there was an auction where bottles of whiskey and other interesting items were auctioned off.
A friend of mine rushed over to make his bid and walked away with a prized bottle of one of the hotel’s notable whiskeys.
I do not know whether he has relished its spirited contents or it is still being kept under lock and key at his house.
The new Majestic Hotel, which some well-heeled travellers have described as the “Raffles of Malaysia”, has 300 rooms.
It incorporates the original five-storey section which has been listed as a national heritage site under the Malaysian Antiquities Act.
Even though the hotel’s heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, those of us who have had the pleasure and privilege of having dined there would remember its undeniably pleasurable ambience.
The atmosphere within its many halls, rooms and passageways is reminiscent of the E&O Hotel of Penang and other great Asian hotels.
Just the place at the Majestic Hotel to have high tea.
There are almost 300 hotels in Kuala Lumpur and presently the Majestic Hotel must surely be among the Top 10 in the city.
In December last year, the Majestic Hotel awakened from its long slumber under a new owner – YTL Hotels.
The old building was restored, a new wing was added and the rest is beginning to create its own history.
If not for an inquisitive young upstart who wanted to parlay with other young members of the upper crust, I would have continued to keep my curiosity in check.
Nevertheless, a small party, including me, found ourselves sitting in the elegant Tea lounge, trying our utmost to imagine what it was like when the august building saw the likes of author Graham Greene and the late actor David Niven.
I have to confess that the high tea was above average and it would be impolite for a member of the genteel society to compare it with other places which also serve very fine English high tea consisting of highland tea, scones, strawberry jam and clotted cheese.
But I must add that it was quite comforting and a rather pleasant feeling to have a fine gentleman of a pianist agreeing to the request to play “As Time Goes By”.
Strains of that tune made that afternoon so much more memorable. Those of us who are old enough will recall that “As Time Goes By” is the theme song of the classic movie “Casablanca”.
The unexpected bonus of paying a visit to this very fine establishment culminated in a grand tour of the hotel, old and new wings, by a very nice young lady named Murni.
We were shown some of its finest and most expensive rooms.
The Majestic Wing houses Colonial Suite, Governor Suite and Majestic Suite. The Tower Wing has the Deluxe Room, Junior Suite, Grand Suite and Premier Suite.
The prices of these rooms as per night stay are such that you do not need to know presently unless you have an unbreakable bank account.
Suffice to say that the grandest room of them all is priced at a five-digit category.
So unless you have just received a US$10 million cheque for a key role in a blockbuster Hollywood movie, take my word for it that it is probably worth every sen.
I boldly touched the exquisite table top and felt the rich veins that ran over its surface.
If you have received an invitation from an esteemed member of high society to this place, you may happily retire to the Colonial Café to get a feel of its plush red leather chairs and the very fine wood panelling.
Then there is the Contango, a contemporary restaurant located in the Tower Wing which is rather popular during weekends for its high tea and dinner cuisine.
The varied dishes at Contango are from Asia, Japan and Europe.
Other facilities include a gymnasium, drawing room, reading room and the orchid conservatory.
In-house butler service is provided if you so wish. And if your face needs a bit of pampering, Truefitt & Hill, the in-house hairdresser, will be just the thing for you.
Truefitt & Hill comes with the highest recommendation. It is a name that is associated with St. James’s of London and has a nameplate that says “By Appointment to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh”.
The ultimate shaving experience will set you back a mere RM110 which includes its signature wet shave and a relaxing facial massage.
Only real men with a beard or an intense five o’clock shadow will qualify for that very close shave. Think Daniel Craig, James Bond!
Having said all that, perhaps it is time to put all your hard-earned cash to good use!