Kuala Lumpur is a staple destination in Southeast Asia for business travellers and holidaymakers alike. Being in the middle of the Klang Valley, the city toes the line between being a hub for rugged Malaysian charm and its identity as a busy regional hub. There is something for everyone in this capital, which explains why it ranked among the top ten most visited cities globally last year.
These factors have combined to draw one major luxury hotel and resorts titan to its streets. The opening of Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur this July marks the conglomerate’s debut in Malaysia, right in the thick of the city centre.
Though the seven-floor hotel may seem small in scale, its location makes all the difference. Constructed on top of the existing Banyan Tree Residences in the Pavilion Building, everything between the 53rd floor and the rooftop is part of the five-star premises. The sky-high destination brands itself as an urban resort, so instead of the lush greenery and ocean views you might get at the more remote Banyan Tree outposts, the Kuala Lumpur property offers an eagle-eye perspective of the concrete jungle, with the misty ridges of the Valley’s mountains as an idyll backdrop.
It is a 45-minute to an hour’s drive from the airport before you get to the hotel, which is smack in the middle of the Golden Triangle, Kuala Lumpur’s main shopping, entertainment and nightlife district. If you are visiting for business, leisure, or hankering to splurge, it cannot get any more convenient than this.
Connected to the hotel via an overhead bridge is Pavilion, an iconic maze of a mall packed with 550 outlets to satisfy your every luxury retail need, and then some. About a 15-minute walk away is Changkat Bukit Bintang, a collection of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that count themselves the finest in Kuala Lumpur. It’s an ideal site to visit for dinner should you branch out beyond hotel dining — marketed as “the United Nations of fine dining”, Changkat Bukit Bintang offers cuisines that span all corners of the globe.
Those keen to get into the spirit of Kuala Lumpur’s thriving street food scene can walk 20-minutes to Jalan Alor. It may seem a bit of a walk, but we were told that driving during mealtimes might entrench you in a traffic jam that could take far longer. Burn some calories on your stroll there so you can feast guilt-free. Hop from stall to stall along the soulful avenue and stuff your face with anything from seafood to satay.
The 55-room hotel houses seven different room and suite categories, each more scenic than the last.
We stayed in the Signature Banyan Retreat room, a 63 square metre beauty outfitted by Sydney-based Studioaria, an interior design firm with an expansive portfolio in the luxury hotel sphere. Their modern, minimalistic sensibilities are applied to the Banyan Tree project as well. The spacious room is dressed in warm orange tones, deep neutrals and dark wood furniture — pristine without being clinical.
All Signature Banyan Retreat rooms are divided neatly between the main area, with feather-soft king-sized or twin beds, a study table (parked just enough of a distance away from the bed that you can actually get work done here), a healthily-stocked minibar, and a long daybed that faces a floor-to-ceiling window.
The bathroom stretch is, hands-down, the star. Just walk in, and the heated Toto toilet beeps in welcome, automatically lifting its lid to wave. A few steps in, and you’re in the wardrobe and dressing area. Lit mirrors are panelled all along one wall, facing comfortable settees for you to get your grooming done. For those who wear makeup, this means no more crouching uncomfortably at an angle by the sink just to get as close as you can to the mirror.
Further in, and it’s bath territory. You will never want to get out of the cosy fibreglass tub because few things are better accompaniments to a deep soak than panoramic views of the skyline. Next to that is a rain shower, with a control that allows you to toggle between colours for the LED lights fit within the nozzle for chromotherapy. “Why light up the water?” you might ask? Because extravagance is never necessary, but always welcome.
At the time of writing, the hotel has been open for about two weeks. During mealtimes, you wouldn’t be able to discern the hotel’s infancy, as all its dining options are decked with a crowd.
The main restaurant, Horizon Grill, is the chief all-day dining option. Breakfast is a modest buffet spread of cereals, fruit, cold cuts, and a build-your-own-nasi-lemak option. Go straight for the last choice and load up on the beef rendang, with extra helpings of the airy dry gravy, still bright with slivers of lemongrass. You can also choose to order eggs or waffles, but opt for the local fare and you won’t look back.
For lunch and dinner, chef de cuisine Daniel Wong, formerly from Bombana Hong Kong, and Austrian executive chef Alexander Waschl have teamed to create a menu of continental classics, with a particular focus on charcoal grilled surf-and-turf.
Altitude is the hotel’s bistro, serving afternoon tea until sunset. The array of sweet and savoury treats for tea had some ambitious flavour combinations that don’t immediately scream “petit fours”, like cured salmon and cream cheese on a macaron. Nibble with an open mind, and you will strike gold — the curry cappuccino and crab tuille, for one, was an ingenious, warming combination of coconut milk froth, spice, and smoky coffee.
Once dark, Altitude turns into a wine lounge, with live jazz bands scheduled to play nightly from August onwards. You can start your night there, then head up to the 59th floor for Vertigo, the pinnacle of Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur. It has already become a nightlife hotspot that draws locals and tourists every single night.
Officially the city’s highest hotel rooftop bar, the al fresco Vertigo wraps around the building’s peak, giving patrons an unobstructed view of the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower as they sip on a house cocktail or bottle of wine. No other rooftop owns a view like this one.
Depending on your vice, there are three choice options you can look for when seeking some downtime — the gym, the spa or the pool.
Banyan Tree’s lean gym is worth popping by for a quick workout, especially if you don’t need complex equipment to get your heart rate up.
Still, if you’re down to truly unwind, have a dip around its open-air pool before parking yourself in the adjacent jacuzzi, or lounge by the waterside.
Deep relaxation seekers can make a beeline for the spa, where all therapists have undergone 350 hours of training at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Phuket. These experts are so attentive, all your needs are catered for even before you ask.
After a welcome foot bath, we enjoyed an hour of the traditional Balinese massage, where a rhythmic deep pressure is applied to the body parts to ease muscle tension. A house blend of lavender and geranium oil is applied to the skin to aid the massage, and once done, the therapist uses a warm towel to clean the greasy residue off your skin, leaving a soft moisturiser that you can have on for the rest of the day without feeling steeped in grime.
It’s not all play on site, though. Businesses can book any of the three 16-seater boardrooms available to host meetings.
The competition is stiff in the Golden Triangle area amongst the five-star hoteliers, but Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur premiered head-and-shoulders above the rest. Partly due to its height and the optimal location, but also because it is able to provide maximum satisfaction within just seven floors of hotel space — you have to marvel at that.
Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur
Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur
+ 603 2113 1888