In the heart of the action (or what doubles for it in conservative Kuala Lumpur), the 364-room, five-star Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur is in the Malaysian capital's Golden Triangle district, which incorporates the popular Bukit Bintang business, shopping and entertainment area.
Earlier this year, the two-decades or so old hotel underwent a major multimillion-dollar "refresh". The project was driven by Alexandra Champalimaud, a leading New York-based interior designer whose impressive portfolio includes the Dorchester London and the Waldof-Astoria New York. Champalimaud and her team delivered an understated, stylish top-to-toe makeover, as befitting of a Ritz-Carlton – and not a moment too soon. The revamp coincides with some stiff and flash competition in the form of the newly opened 208-room St Regis in KL.
The reviewer's elegant room – a whopping 67-square-metre one-bedroom suite – is the highlight of his stay. Such is the quality of the room, decked out in an appeallingly muted colour scheme of greys and beiges and extremely well-appointed, that it wouldn't look out of place in London or New York. Each room at the hotel includes full butler service, marble bath with separate tub and (rainforest-head) shower, free Wi-Fi and more. Despite KL becoming an increasingly frenetic, traffic-chocked city to navigate, my suite feels very much the advertised "a haven of tranquillity in the midst of a busy city".
With Kuala Lumpur being one of south-east Asia's food capitals, the Ritz-Carlton includes no less than five restaurants including Li Yen, specialising in Cantonese cuisine and with dim sum daily, The Library, an attractive, clubby space serving an international dinner "menu du jour" daily (and Sunday roast for lunch once a week) and the Lobby Lounge serving an excellent and popular afternoon tea. Outside the hotel, food is cheap and plentiful.
The Ritz-Carlton's room affordability is not matched by the cost of its fleet of posh Maseratis, with a car costing about $80 an hour so take a cab or walk instead. KL isn't an easy place to navigate, with many of its main attractions, such as the National Museum, the Istana Budya (Palace of Culture) and the city's outstanding Chinatown, up to 20 minutes drive from the hotel. But there are plenty of shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. Malaysia's "answer to the Champs-Elysees in Paris and Japan's Ginza", the nearby one-kilometre-long Bintang Walk, anchored by the Ritz-Carlton complex, is lined with alfresco cafes, bars, shops and entertainment spots.
The Ritz-Carlton may be one of the world's most luxurious and sophisticated prestige hotel brands but it can also be one of the least exciting and predictable. Yet the spruced-up, business guest-oriented Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur delivers on most fronts. Service can falter at times with the receptionist at the Ritz-Carlton's much-vaunted spa having no record of a treatment reservation organised by the hotel's management. Still, the hotel, a tranquil haven in the middle of KL, qualifies for a solid rating.
The rooms are beautifully designed and decorated and a real bargain for visitors seeking luxury at an affordable price.
The view from the room: there was a lot of high-rise building construction under way around the hotel during this reviewer's visit.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur and Tourism Malaysia