Luxury redefined at The Ritz-Carlton KL

The brand has built a portfolio of loyal guests over the years who prefer staying at the hotel for its exceptional personalised service

by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic credit: Ritz-Carlton

If you’re blue
And you don’t know where to go to
Why don’t you go where fashion sits
Puttin’ on the Ritz

YOU might be familiar with the tune written by Irving Berlin in 1927, that is derived from the slang expression “to put on the Ritz”, which also means to dress very fashionably.

The expression was actually inspired by the opulent Ritz Hotel in London, a posh outlet that was initially established by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz in 1906, who was also the founder of Carlton Hotel in the same city.

He and the renowned chef from his hotels, Auguste Escoffier, opened a la carte restaurants known as “Ritz-Carlton” on board the Hamburg-Amerika Line ocean liners SS Amerika in 1905 and SS Imperator in 1913.

The restaurants on those ships ceased operating in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I. That led to the establishment of Ritz-Carlton Investing Co by Albert Keller, who bought and franchised the name in the US.

The first Ritz-Carlton in the US opened in New York City in 1911. It was located at 46th Street and Madison Avenue.

Today, the name that is still associated with all the glam and glitz is in various cities around the world, including in Kuala Lumpur (KL).

The Ritz-Carlton KL sits in a class of its own. From the day of its launch on Dec 1, 1997, till now, it has been the epitome of a luxurious home away from home for many, including former US President Barack Obama and superstars like Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston.

The hotel underwent a relaunch in March 2016 after 19 years, aiming to refresh its 364 guest rooms and suites, as well as the restaurants, spa and public spaces.

Ritz Carlton KL area GM Mahmoud Skaf said the task was given to people who consider every element that defines a space, like its history, setting, purpose but above all, the people.

“The task of refurbishing such a beloved hotel was aptly given to Alexandra Champalimaud and her atelier of designers, who are also behind the stunning designs for The Gainsborough Bath Spa in the UK and The Green Leaf Niseko Village in Japan,” Mahmoud told The Malaysian Reserve.

He said the hotel is contemporary-styled with attention paid to the location it sits in, as well as its busy and vibrant guests.

“The sense of place and luxury has been redefined to engage modern world authenticity, attention to detail and quality of materials,” he added.

The fully carpeted 1-bedroom suite on the 10th floor offers spacious accommodation with a separate sitting room area, dining table and bathroom

The Building and Location

The luxury hotel sits in the heart of KL’s Golden Triangle district, surrounded by sleek malls, fashion boutiques and a host of upscale hotel chains.

Among the malls nearby are Pavilion KL, Fahrenheit 88, Starhill Gallery, as well as a string of eateries and various cuisines from around the world.

The hotel is also strategically placed and has options for public transportations like the KL Monorail, Mass Rapid Transit and buses. The Ritz-Carlton KL consists of a hotel wing which is a 22-storey building, while the suite wing is a 38-storey building.

According to Mahmoud, the hotel wing houses the deluxe rooms and one-bedroom suites.

“Those travelling with families may opt for the suite wing which comprises two-bedroom and three-bedroom suites.

“We see this more popular with long-staying guests. However, both the hotel and suite wing offer full butler services, pressing and laundry services, and a fully stocked refreshment cabinet with complimentary bottled water,” he said.

In particular, the fully carpeted one-bedroom suite on the 10th floor offers spacious accommodation with a separate sitting room area, dining table and bathroom.

The bedroom features a king-sized feather bed with a plush comforter and duvet, and a powder room, leading to a walk-in closet area that is big enough to store plenty.

The marbled bathroom is something worth getting the room for, with its dazzling oversized bathtub, separate glass shower and lighted make-up and shaving area.

Other than the bathroom being stocked with the exclusive Asprey London products, there is also a jar of bath salts ready to be used before one falls into the comfort of a soft terry bathrobe.

The pools provide modern lounge chairs for a quick tan or simply to relax

Fine Dining at The Ritz-Carlton

Dining at the hotel is a guaranteed gastronomical experience with its distinctive culinary experiences awaiting guests at each outlet.

The Library does indeed resemble one. With elegant dark brown wood panelling and flooring, and armchairs surrounded by tall shelves full of books, it offers an intimate atmosphere for one to enjoy good food over a hearty conversation.

Chef Wai Look Chow, its main chef, brings the finest dishes to the table, blending a harmonious combination of quality ingredients and cooking skills that can only mean one thing — perfection.

Creating a specialised vegan menu for the writer, Wai honed his skills to curate four dishes that are elaborately styled and served, accompanied by different wine pairings.

To kick-start the night, a roasted portobello mushroom and silken tofu with a macadamia nut pesto is served, its flavours balanced with freshness from a radish salad.

The starter is accompanied by a glass of Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses, France.

Then, a sweet and sour vineripened peach tomato broth with coriander and lily bulb is served, accompanied by Frescobaldi ‘Remole’ Bianco, Italy, wine.

To cleanse the palate, a tangerine sherbet is served. It is wonderfully refreshing, offering light and neutral flavours before the main course of creamy pasta with brinjal puree and roasted eggplant is brought to the table.

A dessert of Japanese Kyoho grapes with valencia orange slices and pistachio ends the tantalising four-course dinner.

Another eatery, The Cobalt Room is an expansive elegant space that serves up a vibrant breakfast with various food stations offering both local and international cuisines.

With its dark brown panelling, comfortable leather chairs and white walls, the eatery is spacious and a cheerful place with plenty of direct sunlight streaming in.

For lunch, The Patisserie offers a snazzy selection of savouries and desserts as well as salads, and speciality coffees and freshly brewed teas.

This eatery is relaxed, casual and a good place for business meetings or a friendly gathering between mates.

Next up is The Lobby Lounge, a space that is decadent yet classic with plush armchairs, marbled floors and gold-leafed ceilings. This eatery is most famous for its exclusive afternoon tea, available in a variety of sets, and served on a three-tiered tray full of sweet and savoury delights.

One highlight is the perfectly baked scones, buttery and light, served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

The tea menu is extensive and vast, offering fruity, herbal and fusion teas served in decadent floral teapot sets that come with a warmer.

Both The Lobby Lounge and Patisserie guests are entertained daily by the string quartet that sits by the large, glistening chandelier as its backdrop, playing renditions of oldies to pop songs.

With most hotels housing an Asian-inspired restaurant, The Ritz-Carlton does not disappoint with its award-winning Cantonese eatery, Li Yen.

Mahmoud said it is an exquisite redesign reminiscent of a blossoming garden of elegance which will continue to be the epitome of fine Chinese cuisine and grateful service.

“Located on the second floor, the refreshed restaurant offers an intimate ambience that embraces Chinoiserie design and elegant service, with seven stylish private dining rooms that can accommodate from eight to 30 people,” he said.

Some of Li Yen’s more popular dishes include bird nest’s dishes, a variety of freshwater seafood and fish maw soup.

The desserts are equally enticing, drawing inspiration from classic recipes, but with an Asian twist to it.

For instance, the chilled fresh lemongrass with lime is a delight to eat, a refreshing cooling last course topped with dragon fruit and melon pieces, with a crunchy water lily bulb and pomelo leaves.

Legendary Amenities and Service

One thing that stands out about The Ritz-Carlton is the offering of a personalised butler service for each floor which is unique to the brand.

Mahmoud said the round-theclock service aims to deliver every request with a single phone call.

“From unpacking and packing, shoeshine and car transfers, to organising the perfect itinerary for shopping, dining and entertainment, our highly trained butlers add an integral edge to a perfect stay,” he said.

According to Mahmoud, for a private affair at the private dining room, guests are served by a personal chef, host and butler throughout an event.

“The service enhances a portfolio of choices for classy business meetings and corporate functions, accompanied by impeccable hospitality and attention to detail synonymous with the hotel,” he said.

The hotel also boasts a 24-hour fully equipped gym with ample spaces for weight and machine training. Accessible with a resident card only, the gym offers water, juices and warm towels for one working out.

The hotel also has two swimming pools with differing views of the city or an outdoor garden, both providing modern pool lounge chairs for a quick tan or simply to relax.

Its upscale spa, Spa Village KL, is an oasis of regeneration and relaxation in the middle of a bustling city.

The unique retreat offers a mix of sophisticated therapies with healing practices from across the region.

A special service is the one-of-its-kind Sensory Sound Bath Room which provides a combination of sensory sensations to destress and rejuvenate the body and mind.

The Lobby Lounge is most famous for its exclusive afternoon tea, available in a variety of sets

The Ritz Brand

Mahmoud said the brand has built a portfolio of loyal guests over the years who prefer staying at the hotel for its exceptional personalised service.

“Here at The Ritz-Carlton, we recognise that the travel industry is ever evolving, and for us to keep up with the trends and be one step ahead of our competitors, we constantly strive to provide the highest level of personalised service and state-of-the-art facilities,” he said.

Mahmoud said the aim is to serve each guest with utmost service and create experiences to both business and luxury guests.

“Truly, what sets us apart is our extraordinary level of personal service with genuine care and attention. The moment guests step into the hotel, they can expect all their needs to be catered to and fulfilled by our Ladies and Gentlemen.

“Our service also entails amplifying the brand’s legacy and all its attendant values with contemporary flair and expression, making it relevant to consumers of today,” Mahmoud said.

The hotel sees an average of 60% in occupancy rate throughout the year, with significant increase during peak seasons.

“During peak seasons such as the China and Japan Golden Week and the festive season, we see our occupancy rate going up to 100%.

“Our prices are dynamic and evolve based on the occupancy — during peak season, one can expect to see our prices be two-fold than during off-peak,” he added.