I had a sombre mood before I checked into my flight on route to the Intercontinental Bangkok. I had purposely planned my Bangkok trip to fall on the 30th day, after the much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej had died. I expected the city to be in mourning. I wanted to share my respects too. 30 days was the accepted time for restraint and reverence.
Thailand holds a dear spot close to my heart. We have a lot of history together. Even with the new king in waiting, Maha Vajiralongkor.
Maha Vajiralongkor was a client of mine from London days when he was the dapper Crown Prince. My family ran an upmarket interior design and gift business on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. His wife, the Crown Princess, loved visiting us. I would lock the doors and give them (and their massive entourage of dark-suited diplomats and security guards) exclusive access to all four floors of the building, whilst they went shopping for the palace. And trust me they did! The process was fascinating.
Returning to Thailand evokes many memories for me. It is more than just a pleasure. I genuinely love the country. I love the people and their culture.
I didn’t take the Skytrain this time. I had too many bags to jostle through the turnstiles of the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS as “rot fai fa”). I opted for a hotel limo to drop me at the Intercontinental Bangkok where I was greeted by a hanging poster of the late King. It was draped and framed in black and white material, a reminder that the hotel was in tune with the mood of the country too. In fact most of Bangkok was in the same vein of mourning,.
An officious white-gloved guard whistled us to a stop outside the lobby, as if this was his only purpose on the planet or he’d shoot you. I jest. That is all part of the culture and ritual that I love here in Thailand. I always tip my hand and salute to uniformed personnel, out of custom and respect. They never forget you when you do.
The lobby of the Intercontinental Bangkok is not imposing, though giant columns lend themselves to a feeling of power. It feels busy. Too busy.
To the right, there are ascending stairs to the first floor with an overlooking balcony. To the left is an almost unnoticeable, small concierge rest area with few seats. It has no real defining area, except for a few shelves with boxes and a standard lamp providing a zone of demarcation.
Beside it, to the right, you find stairs, only this time leading down to the lower street level and the Theo Mio restaurant and Grossi Trattoria & Wine Bar. And there is the Balcony Lounge and not too far from that, the check-in desk with a plethora of bronze colours and shapes. Above is a giant circular ceiling light that radiates golden light. It seems more becoming of a cruise ship or a ball room, than a hotel lobby. On the floor directly below it is a padded circular seat on a large round carpet. People fill the voids like scurrying ants. Some resting. Others just passengers on route. It is active but not frenetic
It is “very Thailand”.
I’m getting use to Intercontinental hotels. I like them. The check-in process is swift as we exchange details and my bags traffic themselves via a bellhop to my room. This time I’m not jet lagged. But I am in a hurry. I have a meeting within the hour. I need to do what I call a “Batman change”. Finding my room is imperative. I don’t need hassle or obstacles.
Predictably, the Intercontinental offers none.
I swiftly reach my room and swipe my electronic key card. Before I nudge open the door, I sigh. I have this familiar “welcome home” feeling. It’s good.
The Room – #2018
I prise open the door with my foot and head toward the window light. It’s like a magnet. As a consummate traveller, I always throw open the curtains first. I want to know where I am. I’ll be living out of a suitcase, devoid of my creature comforts from home. This centres and placates me.
At the Intercontinental Bangkok I’m in for a treat. When I prise open the sheer curtains a swath of skyscape unfurls before me, the Bangkok I know and love. It could be reminiscent of Dubai or Tel Aviv, miles of concrete towers popping up with no discernible break in the pattern. The evening sunlight glints warm off the sun-bleached concrete and sky rise cladding. It is soothing.
Inside my Grande Deluxe Suite there is a preponderance of earthy, brown colours from the mirrored cupboard doors to the patterned carpet. A long bank of built-in drawers run full length with its doors cut in a chevron pattern according to the wood grain direction. One of the cupboards hid the mini bar, which slid quite easily if you tried to open the door (a sign that it was not very heavy and therefore empty!).
On top of one these sets of drawers was a kind of recessed nook with metal runners on the furniture and wall to house and protect your suitcase. Very useful. I’m not a fan of the fold-out luggage racks.
I immediately used it.
A small glass desk jutted out from the wall, out of which emanated multiple plug and phone sockets (pre-configured for international travellers that don’t have adaptors). A love seat was positioned the opposite side, to the right of the window. In front was a small, round coffee table with a welcome fruit platter.
In keeping with the tones, even the king-size bed had a fawn coloured runner edged in a darker brown trim with a spiralling foliage pattern. At its foot lay a soft, padded stool. Two side tables stood either side of the mattress with thin dark legs; ample space for the glass ball lights, and the odd phone and message pad. The bed head was a giant feature in itself with long, beige rectangular leather padded tiles that ran to the ceiling. This was framed in a rather bold silver frame. A thin, colourful rectangular print ran the width the bed.
The hallway cupboard offered ample hanging space and of course, the trusty safe for securing personal belongings.
I loved the overall feel of the room. It was neither large or small. It was adequate for my short stay. My schedule was punishing and the bed became my best friend when I just wanted to crash and put my feet up.
The bedroom feels like a subdued and mellow room, but wait until you see the bathroom. This is “in-your-face” ornate with bold yellowy-white and terracotta veined marble that makes you nod your head and purr. It is not decadent, but it is warming and inviting.
There is a walk-in shower and separate bath tub. I used both. And there were towels and robes in abundance, along with the bathroom shower gel, shampoo and body lotion accessories. Big ticks all around.
The Club Intercontinental
This was the 4th Club Intercontinental I had visited in a week and without question the one with the most impressive view. You are literally parked up against a window on the 37th floor, staring down at a racetrack. I couldn’t help wonder if it was the most expensive real estate in town! With a 9-hole golf course in the middle!
There are two definitive eating areas beyond the business section: the main buffet dining room with larger tables. This had a city view and quite a few tables. Or you could choose the quieter, smaller, elliptical windowed area with tables for two.
I opted for the latter because it was more secluded. From my eagle’s eye perch, in the safety of the club dining area, I could stare down on Bangkok for hours. There was so much to digest. It was like a giant poster of “Where’s Waldo” except I couldn’t find Waldo.
The club buffet was perfectly ample, nothing over the top. More of a sampling of choices. I have groomed myself to eat lean: smoked salmon, cold cuts, salad, muesli with yoghurt. Some fresh fruit. A little bit of cheese. I could have ordered more substantial food, but I was overly content to hover over my coffee and keep the waistline under control. I never needed more than what was on offer and it was totally within the Club Intercontinental concept that I was warming to more and more.
The Club Intercontinental Privileges
Guests have the opportunity to enjoy the following services and facilities:
- Private check-in and check-out services at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Daily fruits refreshment
- Complimentary pressing of two items per stay
- Complimentary one-hour usage per day of the meeting room at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Complimentary local landline telephone calls
- Complimentary high-speed internet connection
- iPad available for use at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Personalised Concierge and Business Services at Club InterContinental Lounge
A lot of the guest indulgence revolves around the elegantly appointed Club Lounge with its impeccable and noticeably high standard of Thai hospitality. It is also open from 6am to 11pm where guests enjoy:
- Refreshment bar
- Indoor seating in full air-conditioned comfort with a beautiful sunset view
- Local & international newspapers, business & lifestyle magazines
- Fully equipped meeting room
The Pool and Gym
If you whizz up to the top of the Intercontinental Bangkok you’ll find the small pool area with a bar cabana. Expect to find panoramic views of Bangkok, especially good at dusk when the sun sets.
There are sun lounges and towels for pool guests and though I only visited once, it was quite busy and mostly used for refreshing dips rather than exercise. If you wanted a work out, you headed to the lower gym below which was not your average health club, but certainly housed enough gear to work up a sweat and keep you toned on the road.
My Favourite Dining Areas
Here’s a little secret and a massive dichotomy: I’m not a big fan of eating in hotels. But I do like to stay in them (a lot). I just feel that eating in a hotel is somewhat lazy and unimaginative when there is so much more choice out there. If you’re going to visit a country, then do just that – visit it.
Don’t hibernate in your hotel!
I’m more of an explorer. I like to get out and “do as the Romans do in Rome”. To hunt down where the locals hang. But this trip has completely re-written my text book on travel dining logic, particularly in Bangkok and it begins squarely with Theo Mio.
Theo Mio has become my favourite restaurant in Bangkok which is like a slap in the face to my love of Thai food. I didn’t go to Bangkok to eat Italian, but I did. Twice. At the same joint.
Theo Mio is the brain child of award winning chef Theo Randall. It is a modern street-front Italian kitchen located on the ground floor of the Intercontinental Bangkok which straddles the Phloen Road and what would normally be a rather uninspiring view of concrete and people; there are lots of both. Yet Theo Mio breathes life into this corner with its bold glass frontage and external terrace edged with carefully planted shrubs and topiary trees. Turquoise umbrellas and blue padded chairs add colour to this little garden enclave which is mirrored inside by gigantic ficus trees in dark ceramic planters. The black and white mezzanine floor adds even more authenticity to the Italian kitchen concept, along with the baskets and bread racks, the dangling salami meat and the blackboard menus.
The feel is definitely bright and airy. Quite intimate with its open-kitchen plan and seating choices. I loved the studded bench seating that ran uninterrupted around the windows as well as the little touches of throw cushions. Even the limited number of bar stools lent themselves to the cucina experience as you gawped at the busy chefs whipping fresh produce into action.
The Carpaccio di Manzo was a game winner with its thinly sliced beef filet, toasted pine nuts, wild rocket and large parmesan shavings. It was supposed to come with aged balsamic vinegar and Puglian olive oil but after a quick rummage around the rocket leaves I was compelled to call for some (or extra).
On two occasions, I ordered the gorgeous traditional Ligurian Trofie al Pesto Genovese with fresh pesto, potato and green beans. And I stole mouthfuls of the Risotto con Gamberoni e Zucchini (prawn risotto) and the Pappardelle con Ragu di Guancia (ribbon pasta with slow cooked wagu beef cheeks) from my paying guests. Thumbs up all around.
When coffee time beckoned, a thin slab of chocolate accompanied it, served on a chopping board with a bronze hammer to smash it. Clever. Memorable.
The wine choice was excellent and the atmosphere lively and I have to say, the service was brilliant. I barely had to look parched before my glass was topped up.
From antipasti to pizza, the choice is spot on. Prices are as expected for a hotel but nothing outrageous either. Pretty much what’s you’d expect to pay for good Italian fare.
Seats: 62 seats (main dining); 32 seats (terrace)
Open: 11:30 to 23:30 (daily); 11:30 to 14:00 (weekend brunch)
Address: 973 Phloen Chit Road, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
Telephone: +66 (0) 2 656 0444
Website: Theo Mio website
Fireplace Grill & Bar
The Fireplace Grill & Bar is the Intercontinental Hotel’s legendary steakhouse that has fed carnivores with its superior grilled meats since 1966. The flair and style is very French with starters like escargots (French snails) to frog legs, roasted bone marrow, beef cheek, foie gras, beef tartar and even Osetra Caviar Prestige for the slightly more financially cash flushed. Not to be outdone, seafood is thrown in for good measure. Try the “From The Sea” sharing platter and get stuck into the oysters, Alaskan King Crab legs, Maine Lobster, prawns and green lip mussels from New Zealand.
The main courses are equally impressive: pan fried scallops, duck a l’orange, duet of wagyu lamb, and prime rib (served with Yorkshire pudding, just to make the poms feel at home). In fact Wagyu leads the menu on the grill, followed by the tried and tested Black Angus steak.
The wine menu boats an equally impressive range of French wines and champagnes, though the Italians and new world varietals do get a look-in too.
The restaurant is timelessly classic with distinct modern touches and an open-kitchen design. All the action happens around the centre-mounted charcoal grill for true culinary theatre.
Open: 12:00 to 14:30 hours (lunch daily); 18:30 to 22:30 hours (dinner daily)
Telephone: +66 (0) 2 656 0444 ext. 5505
Website: Fireplace Grill & Bar website
Location of the Intercontinental Bangkok
The Intercontinental Bangkok could not be more perfectly located, being in the Rathchaprasong district, one of most pre-eminent business and commercial areas in the city. You are a stone’s throw away from the Erawan Shrine and walking distance to all the major shopping centres like MBK, Siam Paragon and Centralworld. If you’re smart, use the covered walkway that follows the route of the Skytrain. It is right outside the hotel and helps you avoid the endless traffic lights and intersections.
- Adjacent to Chidlom BTS Skytrain Station
- 25 KMs from Suvarnabhumi Airport
- 40 minutes by car via Express Way from Suvarnabhumi International Airport
- 20 minutes via Airport City Line from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Phaya Thai BTS Skytrain
- 3 stops from Phraya Thai BTS Station to Chidllom Station
- 20 KMs from Don Muang International Airport
- 30 minutes via Express Way from Don Muang International Airport
Final Words from the Walking Critic
I have stayed in well over 20 hotels in Bangkok and it annoys me that I have not looked at the Intercontinental Bangkok before, because it ticked all the boxes.
The room was sizeable, modern and well furnished. The bed was amazingly comfortable. It had the right number of electrical outlets for charging my phone, lap top and cameras, all at the same time. The bathroom was wonderfully spacious and I pretty much wanted for nothing. Room service was done without me even noticing.
Location was a huge major plus….and I can’t underline this enough. A huge plus.
The Skywalk is right outside the hotel lobby with all major shopping centres in walking distance (do take comfy shoes). The night life and markets are equally close by, and I barely used a taxi (or tuk tuk) during my whole stay.
Price-wise, the Intercontinental Bangkok sits on the edge of the comfort zone for the budget-minded but totally on par with other “international brand” hotel chains. I would easily recommend this hotel for both for tourists, because of its proximity to shopping and tourist attractions. And as for the business traveller, it is a total winner, especially if you go for the Club Intercontinental experience. I was able to work and enjoy my time in Bangkok without flinching. It has completely whet my appetite for more Intercontinental hotel experiences.
When I arrived at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, I felt a bit like Caesar returning to Rome after years of fighting Barbarians in the wilderness. By the time I had checked out a few days later, I felt as if I’d won an Oscar.
And that was the point.
This was not a coincidence. This was supposed to happen. I was meant to have an Intercontinental experience.
Just like all the other guests.
But someone should have warned me not to fall in love.
Thanks to the brilliant Vicky Wong, Director of Marketing & Communications at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, I had arranged for a driver to meet me at the airport and sure enough, there was “Jauzi” waiting for me at the arrival gate. After being in four countries in 29 hours, I could have kissed him. He was like an apparition at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
I was whisked through the formalities of customs and baggage claim by my driver and eventually into his gleaming black BMW. I took a bottle of chilled fresh water, swabbed my brow with a towel (god knows how filthy I must have looked and been) and settled in for the 45-minute journey to the city. I was feeling somewhat shell-shocked. I was no longer in an aeroplane and wow that felt good.
Arrival was a breath of fresh air too. As the car pulled up to the front of the hotel, my door was opened by a beautiful, beaming face that greeted me by name. Personal touches matter to me, especially a grubby and weary executive who was sick and tired of being treated like toothpaste being squeezed from a tube – at least that’s how I describe air travel!
The lobby is fascinating and very clever, a modern, powerful, fusion of contrasting textures and shadows. Behind the reception desk is a giant climbing mural of sharp, golden erratic triangles and diagonal lines that cast angular shadows and patterns everywhere. It is like a tryptic rock formation. Or a giant game of Tetris that’s collapsed.
Counter to this are the smooth polished floor tiles below, with tiny square insets, providing conformity and consistency underfoot. Even the reception desk refracts light off the marble floor from its back-lit rectangular panel. But the pièce de résistance, the jewel in the crown, are the glass pillars that frame the hanging centrepiece where dangling shards of glass glint in the light and emulate a cascading waterfall. And if you look carefully beyond it, a staircase is revealed, rising into the heart of the property. The soul and real reason for being at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur.
Check-in was a painless and flawless process of name, rank and number (credit card that is). By the time I had blinked, I was being escorted to the elevator and into my room. My poor old bags, brimming with dirty clothing, were there before me, I could hear them begging to be cleaned. But not today.
Room # 2709
I get really excited by what lies behind a hotel door. The expectancy of the unknown driving me as I pull out my key card and wait for the, “Whoa!”
First impressions are everything to me.
Once in, I invariably move with trepidation towards the window to find my bearings and soak up the moment of where I am. I want to know what view I have. It defines the importance of the space; my new home.
I was booked into a Deluxe City View Room, which was precisely that, with a startling panorama of soaring skyscrapers bursting upwards and everywhere. But that was the beauty of it: urban art. It was reminiscent of where I’d just been, the concrete maze of San Francisco. I liked it. It was comforting. It was all I wanted or needed.
And then I switch mode.
I have a mental check list of things that I go through every time I step into a hotel.
Where are the plugs? How many are there? Is there a luggage rack? What are the bathroom amenities and shampoos like? Is the bathroom clean? Are the towels soft and do they have a bathrobe? Where is the safe? Is there a mini bar? Is there room in the fridge for my own things? Can I get laundry done and how soon? Do they have Wifi? Where is the password? How is the bed?
I’m an expert on beds. My family use to run an interior design business in London and all our beds were bespoke-made and hotel quality. The king size bed was gorgeous and inviting. I had to test it. I threw myself star-fish on top without pulling back the sheets and woke up 13 hours later.
I think it passed!
I travel with a lot of electrical goods: phones, cameras, computers, tablets. Finding plugs is the single most important criteria I look for in a room and Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur was not only up to the grade here, it excelled. A big tick for having a plug socket close to the bedside table for charging my laptop and mobile phone and better still, a built-in adaptor board by the desk. No need to rummage around for travel adaptors as this was provided for in the same board. A simple time-saving process of “lock and load” or plug in and go!
Next is the safe. I’m a man of process. I deconstruct my backpack of all valuables and lock away my cash, passport and other irreplaceable necessities. I liked the fact that this was not at floor level too. Again, ease of access for someone on the move where time is money.
Ample hangars and shelf space made unpacking a joy, and better still, there is a fixed rack to keep one’s luggage, without having to dump one’s case on the floor. I like an element of decorum when I travel, not mess. Another tick.
The bathroom suite was an abundance of space and light with a full-length mirror creating even more depth. I liked the open-plan feel created by having a glass window separate the bathroom and bedroom, instead of a closed-in brick wall. You could either choose to soak in the bath tub and peer into the bedroom or simply roll down the blind for privacy. Or for those on the run, you always have the option of a separate walk-in shower with heavy glass door.
A lush marble counter top was also inviting with its mild yellow and earthy tones. Beside the basin was also the signature Intercontinental amenity box of gels and shampoos, sided with hand towels and face cloths. Inside were the usual culprits of branded cotton buds, tooth brush, shoe polish and other amenities.
It was here, on the 26th floor, at the Club Intercontinental Lounge, around 06.15m, that I had an epiphany. I was shrugging off the vestiges of jet lag, wide awake and watching the condensation build on and roll down the windows. The dawn light was brightening over Kuala Lumpur. I had already ordered a cappuccino and was wandering about ogling at the tantalising buffet selections. No guests were there. It was just me, myself and I…and a few staff members.
My mind was focused on the day ahead. I didn’t want clutter and noise and random people doing random, distracting things. I had my business head on. I just wanted somewhere that suited my purpose. And that was the Club Intercontinental Lounge.
I had been in so many places, in such a short time, that I hadn’t realised how vital a “Club” concept was to me. As an executive, I needed two things: time and money. I could not afford to lose either. I needed both the tangible and intangible benefits of having things at my fingertips.
The Club Intercontinental delivered this:
- Dedicated check-in and check-out
- Complimentary High Speed internet
- Concierge and Business Services
- Late check-out (until 16.00 hrs) when available
- Club Lounge Buffet Breakfast and a la carte selections (06.30 to 10.30 hrs or 11.00 on weekends and bank holidays)
- Serena Brasserie Buffet Breakfast (06.00 to 10.30 hrs daily)
- Club Lounge Afternoon Tea with snacks (15.00 to 17.00 hrs)
- Club Lounge Evening Cocktail with cocktails & appetizers (17.30 to 19.30 hrs)
- All-day refreshments (06.30 to 23.00 hrs) – juice, tea, coffee, soft drinks
- One complimentary visitor to the Club during the stay
I remember thinking to myself, what a great place to hold a Board Room meeting in the Club Board Room. I just wish I’d been more organised and used my complimentary hour as a Club Intercontinental guest.
The newly refurbished Club Lounge is really modern and openly furnished over two levels: the lower food court and buffet area; the quieter upper lounge with tub chair seating and a private Board Room.
There was an immensity of choice from the buffet food selections, all of which I could easily have attacked and devoured, but experience has taught me to go nimble on the palette and stomach, especially on long journeys (and holidays!). I approached one of the young chefs and said, “Make me any omelette of your choice.” This was one decision I was willing to relinquish and an excellent one too.
DINING AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL KUALA LUMPUR
Tao Chinese Cuisine
Tao Chinese Cuisine is for the discerning connoisseur that loves traditional Chinese food with an impressive dim sum menu. The name “Tao” is taken from the Mandarin for peach, and it has consequently adopted the bloom motif of the pale pink April peach flower. The restaurant is a contrast of dark wood and bright lights, soft linens and striking carpet patterns. A collection of hundreds of carefully chosen Chinese teapots adorn the nooks and wall features, creating a unique showroom feel that would be worthy of any collector. Tao also houses six private dining rooms with their own story to tell based upon the six dynasties in China: Han, Song, Tang, Yuan, Ming and Qin.
For me the food was the nectar in the peach flower. I was honoured to share a tasting with General Manager Clive Murray and to be dazzled by award winning Chef Wong Lian You. He introduced each plate as it arrived at the table, with such a broad Chinese accent that I just nodded and smiled. Where my ears failed me, I let the food do the talking. It was superb. A perfect balance of old-world-meets-new.
- Location: Level 1
- 6 private rooms available
- Website: http://kualalumpur.intercontinental.com/dining/tao-chinese-cuisine
- Open daily: lunch & dinner
- Book Online or Call: 1800 801 881 or +61 3 2792 6000
Tatsu Japanese Cuisine
I did not expect to do a double feast in one sitting but when Clive Murray, General Manager, told me to up sticks from Tao Chinese Cuisine and head here to Tatsu Japanese Cuisine I was not expecting that. Nor was I expecting such stunning presentation and outstandingly exquisite sashimi from Chef Tadashi Inose.
Tatsu is true to Japanese aesthetics where simplicity underscores the complexity of great food. The surroundings are clean and modern, a fusion of contemporary minimalism and modernism that flows effortlessly across the sushi bar, teppanyaki counter, the main dining room and the lounge bar. There are also four private dining rooms for executive meetings or special occasions.
I loved the little touches: the ice mould; the “hit me” chocolate which you literally have to mash and mangle before eating.
Thank god I didn’t tuck into the sake and wine, because this is a connoisseur’s paradise surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows. The views are stunning. You can ogle at the cascading waterfall and perfectly manicured gardens whilst sampling any of the 20 types of sake, as well as Shochu and wines.
- Location: Level 1
- 147 seats
- 4 private dining rooms
- Website: http://kualalumpur.intercontinental.com/dining/tatsu-japanese-cuisine
- Open daily: lunch & dinner
- Book Online or Call: 1800 801 881 or +61 3 2792 6000
Bentley’s Pub touts itself as “an authentic English pub in the heart of Kuala Lumpur” and in that respect, it is like an old English pub, though this one is distinctly less traditional and definitely more in tune with modern day “brand” pub chains.
For me, my visit was a quiet affair, fresh off a late flight on a Monday evening. I was gagging to have anything to eat that didn’t resemble airline food and by god it was good. I opted for the beef burger with tomato and sweet onion relish, and lettuce and a fat glass of wine to wash it down. Pure heaven. It was exactly the shining star I needed to see and follow.
It is called The Bentley’s Pub Dining Menu Edition Daily which is really a menu printed on a kind of A3 newspaper look-alike, with a few ditties pilfered from news articles in 1671 (good reading in a pub, by the way). My “menu” story was about a certain Thomas “Colonel” Blood and a few of his reprobates who bluffed their way into the Tower of London to steal the gem-encrusted Crown jewels. Their joy was given short shrift, as they were quickly captured in possession of their stolen cargo. King Charles II subsequently learnt of Blood’s incredible daring and was so impressed that he forgave and pardoned him and then sent him to Ireland to live on a vast estate he had granted him.
On the back of the menu is a gigantic list drinks, of which whisky fills up about 50% of the page. Beer, cocktails and liqueurs fill the rest of the space.
Another sign that caught my attention was clearly pitched at Thursday ladies Night. It read, “Skirt nite. Anyone in skirt drinks free from 6pm to 8pm.” I wondered if I wore one too, would I get a free drink? Would I lower myself to that level? Mind you Colonel Blood did!
I only had one negative comment and that is smoking. There is a smoking section in the pub which was close enough for some trendy yuppy to waft painfully repulsive billows of cigar smoke my way. Surely in this day and age they can go outside to kill themselves, no?
- Website: http://kualalumpur.intercontinental.com/dining/bentleys-pub
- Open daily: 3pm to midnight
- Call: 1800 801 881 or +61 3 2792 6000
Serena Brasserie offers a truly tranquil setting for hotel guests to enjoy a medley of international flavours from its huge buffet spread or a la carte options. It delves into the local Malay, as well as Chinese and Indian cultures offering variety for all palates and tastes.
IVIV (OneSixFive) Lounge & Bar
OneSixFive (I prefer this name to the less confusing Roman numeral title of IVIV – which sounds more like an “ivy” plant you could get poisoned from) is the embodiment of a stylish lounge. Giant windows offer a tropical, water-feel that is both soothing and a perfect presentation for relaxing with company or on your own.
Try the freshly baked cakes or the signature afternoon tea. Or amp up the volume later with cocktails or wines from the bar. Here you’ll find less pizzazz than most hotel bars, but that in itself offers a more intimate vibe to while away the evening listening to soft jazz.
Final Words from The Walking Critic
Of the 10 hotels I visited in 16 days, I will say this: Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur was singularly the most organised and welcoming or all the hotel properties I stayed at. They moved mountains to help me, before, during and after my stay. Without their input, my journey would have been half the experience it could have been in KL.
I would never have seen the hero sites of KL: the Batu Caves, the Lake Gardens, the Islamic Arts Museum, lunch at Sri Nirwana Maju, Merdeka (Independence Square). I would have missed an induction into local life. Never eaten at local haunts or sampled such a broad tourist experience. I am immensely grateful. But the most enduring part of my stay was having an affinity to the Intercontinental brand. Relating to the Club Intercontinental experience. Finding myself smiling, because they understood my expectations and made my surroundings subliminally familiar.
In the coming days, I was to value and cherish these same concepts in two other properties too: Bangkok and Singapore.
But I know one thing for sure. It was here that I unwittingly fell in love with Intercontinental.
I just didn’t know it yet.
Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur
165 Jalan Ampang 50450
T: +60 3 2782 6000
F: +60 3 2161 1122
I love that nervous feeling when you pull up to the front of a hotel like the Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore and you just know that you’ve arrived somewhere special before you even step out of the car.
The Pan Pacific Singapore was no exception. From the very second my taxi door was eased open by a smiling doorman, I sensed that I was special too.
That my needs mattered.
That someone else cared about me and what I wanted.
I spend a lot of time travelling on the road and reviewing hotels both for work and a growing list of readers. And I love it when everything seems to gel and come together. When the check in process is so effortless and soothing, that in one fell swoop, your body untangles every tense knot and just melts into this kneaded lump of puppy-dog contentment.
My opening reception augured well for my upcoming “Odyssey”. In the next 16 days, I was going to stay in 10 hotels, in four countries. And now, with hindsight on my side, I can look back affectionately and say, that the Pan Pacific Singapore eclipsed, outclassed and outshone most hotels I stayed in.
Harbour Studio – Room 3117
I barely had to breath for myself as I ambled across the foyer towards the elevator. I was in the capable hands of Charlene Ong, the Guest Services Officer, my bags already on route to my room on the 31st floor.
Service is clearly a forté of the Pan Pacific.
When the doors whoosed open, they revealed an external lift with the most amazing floor-to-ceiling glass view of the city. As we ascended to the 31st floor I watched the turquoise blue of the swimming pool disappear beneath me. It looked endlessly inviting, even on a grey, rainy day. But my real treat was yet to come: the room.
I was booked into a Harbour Studio, room 3117, which at 46 square metres (495 square feet) was not titanic but incredibly stylish. As a man on the go, it ticked most of my boxes with an enormous cherry on top, an outrageously great view beyond the Marina Bay towers and out towards Sentosa Island. On this morning, I spied two cruise ships in the distant port, side by side.
There was no luggage rack immediately noticeable (built in or otherwise) which was disappointing, but cupboard and hangar space was ample for the stay. I often prefer to dump and live out of my unzipped suitcase in lieu of unpacking it. A mild irritation.
I found a safe in the closet too, quite a large one, always a welcome resource for my clutch of meagre items (mostly cash and electronic goodies). I smile when I find one, mostly out of habit, not insecurity. And better still, I prefer a lock box with a four-digit code. I’m always flummoxed when I have to contrive a six-digit passcode when jet lag reigns supreme. I’m pretty sure I don’t have a six-digit code for anything back home home and I’m damned if I’m going to break that habit in another country. Too much stress to deal with.
Work space is crucial to me, but even that pales in significance to one other thing: electric sockets. I need them.
I travel for work and with me comes enough electronic hardware to light up a factory: laptop, iPad, phones, camera (generally two), back up battery pack. You get the gist. Nothing bugs me more than when I find there are limited or no electrical plugs, especially near the desk, or by the bedside table. The Pan Pacific Singapore had not such issues. A massive tick.
And trailing close behind, nearly neck and neck, is my need for internet access. This too was provided complimentary with my stay.
I swivelled my focus to the king-sized bed. It was alluring, delicious, huge. Beautifully set against a soft, panelled wall that had a distinct neutral, yet Asian theme. Like immovable papyrus panels lit my warm wall lights.
I love a big bed. It has to be soft. Warm. A giant workstation that I can crash in. I can put my laptop beside me. A book. A phone. A newspaper. I can drift off and relinquish myself to sleep, but when I wake up, everything will be just as it was. Barely a crease in the sheets. A well-earned slumber that was only possible from space and comfort.
These are the little things that matter. To me.
When people say, “It’s like a hotel bathroom,” they do so for a reason because it carries connotations of being lavish and plush and often over the top. As travellers, we forget that we spend a very large percentage of our hotel time in our bathrooms which is why space matters in this room. So do the accessories.
The Pan Pacific Singapore does not cut corners here. The premium Hans Grohe fittings, the marble surrounds, the fresh white robes and towels, and rain shower completing the “hotel bathroom” feel. The “home-away-from-home” we all yearn for.I loved the glass window pane above the bath tub. It made the studio brighter and that much more spacious and inviting. I took a bubble bath and watched the flat-screen TV in the lounge with the integrated speaker volume up and the lights off. It was really soothing and regenerative.
The Little Bits That Count
I’m not a giant mini-bar user (especially with prohibitively expensive prices!) but this one was fully computerized and automated, apart from being well stocked and very cold: Asahi, Heineken and Tiger beer; tonic, juice and Perrier; Bombay Sapphire gin, Smirnoff Vodka, Bacardi rum; Snickers, M&Ms, Twix and an Alpen bar. I did, however, dip into the slightly less fattening complimentary fruit bowl.
The Dining Experience
“Embark on a diverse culinary experience at Pan Pacific Singapore,” the hotel likes to boast and they are not far wrong: innovative dining concepts, award winning restaurants, a massive, full length 44-metre lobby bar and a gourmet marketplace are but a few of the treats on offer.
Han Tien Lo
The Pan Pacific Singapore is renown for its choice of food and if there is one restaurant that leads the charge, it is the superb, award-winning Han Tien Lo. Here you find the best traditional Cantonese dining with a contemporary twist. The chefs still dip into age-old recipes to produce classic dishes, but their modern spin has got the food pundits calling it ‘new Cantonese’ cuisine.
Leading the foray is Master Chef Lai Tong Ping whom I had the great pleasure of being cooked for and served by. A medley of outstanding dishes from dim sum, double-boiled soup, Peking duck and a modern spin on the “Trio of Treasures” and “Lobster in Lemon Butter Sauce”.
- Location: Level 3
- Seating: 180
- Private dining: Room for 20 guests, 4 private dining rooms (10 guests each); 4 semi-private dining rooms (8 guests)
- Lunch: 12:00pm to 02:30pm (daily)
- Dinner: 06:30pm to 10:30p (daily)
Edge presents an engaging gastro-tainment dining experience and a culinary tour of Singapore, the region and the Pacific Rim. Seven ‘live’ food theatres present a la minute cuisine which include a variety of delectable Asian and Pacific cuisines – including Chinese, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, Japanese and Pan Pacific’s signature “Pacific Cuisines”. A self-serve dining concept, diners are invited to explore the live food theatres to interact with the chefs and take their pick from an extensive choice of almost 120 dishes and 35 desserts that are available. For the ultimate indulgence, Sunday Champagne Brunch is a convivial event with traditional roasts, crustacean on ice, freshly-made pasta, a grill, 30 types of cheese and 20 varieties of dessert.
- Location: Level 3
- Seating: 298
- Private dining: Room for 14 guests
- Website: www.edgefoodtheatre.com
- Breakfast: 06:00am to 10:30am
- Lunch: 12:00pm to 02:30pm (daily)
- Makan Makan: 12:00pm to 04:00pm (Saturdays only)
- Sunday Champagne Brunch: 12:00pm to 04:00pm (Sundays only)
- Dinner: 06:30pm to 10:30p (daily)
Renowned for the use of seasonal delicacies air-flown from Japan, Keyaki provides authentically prepared and immaculately presented traditional Japanese cuisine. These include sashimi, teppanyaki, kaiseki, omakase and more. Perched on level 4 of the hotel and surrounded by a beautifully sculpted Japanese garden and koi pond, this elegant venue provides an authentic setting for Chef Hiroshi Ishii’s exquisite cuisine.
- Location: Level 4
- Seating: 146
- Private Dining: One private Tatami room (six persons): one private Western dining room (10 persons); one semi-private dining room (eight persons); four outdoor tables (seating four persons each)
- Lunch: 12:00pm to 2.30pm daily
- Dinner: 6.30pm to 10:30pm daily
Located in the heart of the lobby, Atrium presents a curated collection of craft beers, boutique wines and spirits. Guests can enjoy a bespoke cocktail at the dramatic 44-metre (144 feet) long bar or have an intimate tête-à-tête at a private pod floating over a reflection pool.
- Location: Ground floor
- Seating: 207
- Pods: 16 pods (holding a total of 132 persons)
- Living Room: seats 48
- Front & Back Bar Counters: seats 24
- 10:00am to 01:00am (Sunday to Thursday)
- 10:00am to 02:00am (Friday & Saturday)