Disclaimer: In exchange for this hotel review, I received a stay in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia in one of the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur’s Horizon Club Executive Rooms.
The Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, located in the heart of the popular Golden Triangle shopping and business district – you know, just a brief walk from the Petronas Towers – offers 561 guest rooms and 101 suites. Although it is one of the older properties in the Malaysian capital, having opened on April 20th, 1985, the facilities are generally in good shape, especially given the fierce hotel competition in the city’s tourism epicenter.
My first impression was that the main entrance was relatively easy to find, if a bit awkward to maneuver for pedestrians. I must point something out here — during my entire stay, not one hotel employee in the lobby area greeted me or tried to offer assistance. Now, personally I’m fine with that; I generally don’t want folks hounding me to help with bags or what not. However, as you will come to find out, service in the food and beverage outlets was much much better.
Once in the appropriate lobby, I enjoyed the very high ceiling, comfortable sofa, and without a doubt, the air conditioning. I spoke to Lynette at the front desk, who escorted me to the Horizon Club just one floor up. Ya know, it would have been easier if you just checked-me in right then and there, then invited me to enjoy the lounge after settling in.
I should give a shout-out to Horizon Club staffer Feez, for trying to help me track down a North Korean football jersey.
The Horizon Club is for guests staying on the 20th-23rd floors, although it does have a meeting facility that all hotel guests can reserve. Head there midday for some small bites, tea and coffee, or go later on between 17:00 and 19:00 for cocktails. The place can get busy, especially with families, so fortunately there’s a section blocked off for adults only.
And it was in that latter section where I may have created a cocktail that is decidedly Malaysian; although I have no name for it yet, it was a mix of the very sweet Malay staple teh tarik plus tequila:
AROUND THE HOTEL
On the 2nd floor lies the gym, spa, massage rooms, and the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur pool. Although I didn’t avail of any of these services, I was quite enthusiastic about the poolside views:
Noticed that adults-only section sign again? Fret not, for if you are with little ones in tow, the hotel has a bunch of activities planned every week for your kids:
And there’s a free hotel shuttle five times a day to shopping centers throughout downtown … that sure beats dealing with rip-off taxi/Grab drivers!
After my tour of the hotel with the lovely Pat and Neena in the communications department, wherein they showed me the retail shops, gave me a brief history of the hotel, and pointed out where I’d be taking my meals — much more on this later, of course — I decided it was time to check out my Horizon Club Executive Room.
HORIZON CLUB EXECUTIVE ROOM
My first impression was that the room was very clean, and had a cool view of the Kuala Lumpur Golden Triangle (even though I didn’t get a Petronas Towers view, I’ve seen them enough; actually, I quite like the variety in buildings in KL’s skyline, so this was a nice nuanced take on it). The central air conditioning worked well, the minibar came unstocked (that’s a plus! Don’t you just hate the ones where if you move an item by accident, you get charged for it?), and there were plenty of places to charge up the devices… except by the bed! What was that about!
However, I was able to play my music through the Bluetooth alarm clock by the bed, which is great because I like listening to music infinitely more than watching tv.
Lighting was good, the room service menu was dense and varied, and to recoup a bit after my ridiculous flight itinerary, feasted upon the Nespresso machine and dragon fruit.
In the closet, there were slippers, an iron and ironing board, and a safe, as well as a robe and ample hangers. Save for the lack of outlets (power points) bedside, I’d say the room had just about everything I needed. If only the room door were soundproofed, then we’d really be in business.
As for the bathroom, it had both a walk-in shower and tub, although one unusual aspect of the shower door was that it became a “door” for the toilet when you slid it open. Other than that, it was clean-looking, agreeable bathroom that stocked L’Occitane en Provence jasmine and bergamot products– that’s a big plus in my book, if not specifically for the brand, then for the aromas!
In addition to the below establishments, there’s also Arthur’s Bar and Grill (the only one where you can smoke), the Lobby Lounge for afternoon tea (and one that has a serene view of the koi pond), the poolside terrace for drinks and a nibble, and Lemon Garden 2GO for pastries and sandwiches.
Furthermore, occasionally there are food-themes in some of the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur restaurants. Unluckily (for me), it was durian season during my stay. Up next, mooncakes (again, how inauspicious). Why can’t there be a pandan cheesecake event!
Now it’s time for the main event, the food (yes, I’ve tried them, and no, durians aren’t food in my book)!
The ground-level Lemon Garden, although offering an à la carte option, finds most of its foot traffic heading towards the buffet. With a breakfast and dinner option Monday through Saturday and a brunch on Sunday, parts of the buffet get a lot more stampeding patrons than others, if only because it’s a bit cramped at times. That said, you’ve got a nice selection of local Malay, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, mixed bag (some Arab and pan-Western items like salads and smoked salmon, one of my favorites), desserts, and a kids’ corner for pancakes and Nutella.
I was invited to try both breakfast and dinner, and must say that the breakfast was a lot better overall. I found that a lot of the seafood (namely, the raw bar) at dinner lacked flavor, but was quite content with the Malay kueh (traditional desserts, often gelatinous) and fruit crumbles. And smoked salmon. Have I mentioned my affinity for smoked salmon?
The breakfast was choice. Malay nasi lemak, Japanese miso soup (perhaps my favorite type of soup) and sushi with ample wasabi, a small but suitable steamer of dim sum, and a bunch of fruit juices. Add to that a bunch of pulses and nuts, an omelet bar, and lots of double espresso, and you’ve got a pleased customer. Add in a fun conversation with Azira, assistant restaurant manager and perhaps the hotel’s nicest employee, and you will be back for more eats in no time.
Originally, I was going to have a burger at Arthur’s Bar and Grill. However, after checking it out, I immediately shunned the place, precisely because even the non-smoking section was redolent of cigars. Blech. Keep out. Thus, Shang Palace, the mostly Cantonese and Sichuan-inspired Chinese restaurant located on Level 1 (the floor right above the lobby), became my lunch spot.
Joining me for lunch were Pat and Daniel, one of her colleagues. The one thing I wanted to order wasn’t available, so they ran amok and chose a few different things. Since it was a Chinese restaurant, I actually asked the waitress if the chef could prepare some 擂辣椒茄子 (mashed eggplant and chilies, a Hunan dish), but the randomness of the dish eluded the Malay chef.
It had been so long since I’ve eaten Peking duck that it was a delight to have it again, along with a nice few cups of tieguanyin (a type of oolong tea). Although I may have embarrassed myself a couple of times with the chopsticks and the lazy susan-spinning tabletop common in Chinese banquet-style restaurants, we all shared some laughs and a good meal, with a serene vista of the hotel koi pond and palm trees.
Indeed, I enjoyed most of what was ordered, as well as the fortuitous red theme of the restaurant:
Zipangu, the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur’s Japanese restaurant, can also be found on Level 1 of the hotel, a stone’s throw from Shang Palace. To get to the minimalist and finessed décor of the restaurant, you amble by a modernist collection of sake and whiskey, in addition to a small but pleasant sake bar. After my meal was over, I had a nice chat with Chew, one of the restaurant managers, who invited me to try a couple of his favorite sake.
For a brief moment, I was transported to somewhere in Japan:
Feeling nostalgic for Japanese food, I proceeded to order the “zeitaku zanmai” teishoku (set meal), which included a tofu tobiko appetizer, miso soup, sashimi, sushi, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), Japanese pickles, grilled steak, tempura, and ice cream. Generally speaking, I lapped up the sushi and sashimi, which both tasted quite fresh in spite of having been frozen until right before consumption, and yearned for more tempura and steak (it’s Japanese food, don’t expect quantity, instead treasure that quality). Sharizad was my diligent waiter who always stopped by to refill my water or tea, and even gave me a couple of Malaysian restaurant recommendations in the KL suburbs.
All told, I had an enjoyable stay at the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur. In addition to Pat and Neena being hospitable, restaurant staff were generally willing to help, the room, Horizon Club, and pool area were appealing, and I had some good eats the majority of the time. Although there were a few issues here and there – such as oblivious lobby staff, underwhelming food every now and then, and a some folks disobeying the “wear a mask at the buffet” rule – I’d certainly stay at the time-honored Shangri-La KL again.