Invigorated by a recent makeover, the Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur melds modern style with timeless luxury
The legacy of Ritz-Carlton
The word ‘ritzy’, meaning impressively or ostentatiously fancy or stylish, first entered the English language in 1920. It is derived from the unparalleled luxury synonymous with famed hotelier César Ritz’s eponymous properties of the time in London and Paris, and especially the Ritz-Carlton in New York. Half a decade later, the phrase ‘putting on the ritz’ – to assume an air of superiority – entered popular parlance, and it would soon be borrowed by composer and lyricist Irving Berlin who penned the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, tweaking the meaning to the one we know today: to dress fashionably.
This year, there has been some tweaking of the fashionable kind over at Kuala Lumpur’s Ritz-Carlton, a makeover that would surely meet the approval of Mr Ritz himself. In April, after an extensive refit, the 354-room hotel unveiled its vibrant modern redesign. A four-humped glass-and-metal canopy now keeps inclement weather off arriving guests, who step into an impressive lobby, all sleek black-and-white marble topped off with a shining mirrored reception desk.
The two-tone theme runs throughout the property, softened in the rooms by raw silk walls the colour of creamy coffee. But in a throwback to the chain’s roots early in the last century, spaces such as the Lobby Bar and seating areas in the reception hall sport padded high-backed chairs, gilt-framed paintings of 17th-century Venetian scenes and dark wood panelling.
Of course, to truly get “dressed up like a million-dollar trouper”, as the lyrics to Fred Astaire’s version of the song go, one must bedeck oneself in alluring garments and perhaps splash out on a few glittering baubles. Fear not, for connected by a discreet covered walkway to this five-star haven is Starhill Gallery, the Bukit Bintang area’s swankiest mall. Housed over seven gleaming floors are outlets of Alexander McQueen, Valentino and Kenzo on the fashion front and Chopard, Carrera Y Carrera and Garrard for watch and jewellery aficionados.
However, an afternoon spent shopping can be wearing. Those looking to fuel up before a night of foxtrotting should look no further than the Ritz-Carlton’s justifiably famous high tea, where delectable scones, scrumptious cakes and exquisite fancies await. “Super duper”, as Fred Astaire once sang.
Kuala Lumpur’s rainforest
Kuala Lumpur may be synonymous with soaring skyscrapers and glitzy shopping, but it is also home to a patch of ancient rainforest. On the slopes below the iconic Kuala Lumpur Tower lies nine hectares of towering dipterocarp forest, the enjoyment of which is made easy by a 200-metre treetop walkway. Helpful signs give information on the attendant flora and fauna, and visitors might even spot the troupe of silvery lutung monkeys that call the KL Forest Eco Park home.
The Li Yen restaurant
For the best in Cantonese cuisine, there are few finer options than the Ritz-Carlton’s award-winning Li Yen restaurant. The styling is resolutely ‘oriental’ – the dark panelling, deep red textiles and carved screens setting the mood, aided by musical accompaniment from a traditional Yangqing dulcimer player. Silver fish with chilli and garlic, Marmite pork ribs and astounding roast duck are just some of the culinary highlights. Plus there is one of the finest tea selections this side of Canton to wash down one’s repast.
Old school film
Whatever happened to that old analogue camera, the one that was jettisoned when smartphones started to produce images that didn’t look like 1980s video game stills? Chances are it may have ended up at Bang Bang Geng, cognoscente Chin Koon Yik’s shrine to the days of film, housed in a unit at Publika Shopping Gallery. Revel in the days of shutter clicks, take a short course in the art of 35mm photography or develop that roll of film that’s been sitting in your fridge since the turn of the millennium.
Stay at Kuala Lumpur’s Ritz-Carlton
Tel: +60 (0)3 2142 8000. Address: 168 Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur, 55100. Website. Rooms: guests can choose from 68-square-metre one-bedroom, 176-square-metre two-bedroom or 211-square-metre three-bedroom suites. Or there is the 250-square-metre Ritz-Carlton Suite and the 600-square-metre Penthouse. Suggested accommodation: the enormous Penthouse, which boasts expansive city views plus separate dining and living areas.