Swirling ceiling fans, dark cane plantation chairs, art deco flourishes in pristine white against a sophisticated beige palette, palms adding a luscious splash of green. It sounds like such a cliché, but walking into the Tea Lounge of The Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur really does feel like stepping back in time – you could almost believe you’ve stumbled into a smart colonial mansion.
First opening in 1932, this lavish establishment dominated the city’s hotel scene for half a century, before closing and undergoing extensive renovations that included the addition of a more modern wing aimed at business travellers, a tranquil spa in the old servants’ quarters and a downstairs screening room and speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
The Majestic reopened in late 2012, and the restored Tea Lounge, Orchid Conservatory and bedroom suites that fill the historic Heritage Wing have not only recreated but also superseded the establishment’s former grandeur. It’s hard to believe such a tranquil space exists just minutes from the bustling Central Market, another art deco gem filled with boutiques and craft shops.
In a bid to escape the city’s oppressive heat for a few hours, we headed along for afternoon tea which is held daily in a room decorated with pretty blue-and-white china plates and sepia-toned photographs of Kuala Lumpur. The centerpiece of the room, aside from the dark wooden bar which has a kind of Mad Men appeal, is the gold domed ceiling under which sits a grand piano. The roof feature originally served as an extractor fan, and it’s just one example of how lovingly this place has been brought up to date. And yes, the piano is put to good use every afternoon Mr Ooi, who is something of an institution on the Malaysian music scene.
Sinking into our armchairs, we sip on one of the first of many cups of tea. The white-jacketed staff are keen to keep everyone’s cups topped up, and teapots sit on heated stands around the room, ensuring the refreshing brew maintains its optimal temperature.
And then it arrives. A circular cake stand stacked with savouries – cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon rolls, and egg mayonnaise ciabatta – and scones. Freshly baked, they come with a liberal serve of clotted cream and homemade jam.