St Regis, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, review: Sophistication eschews obvious glitz

THE PLACE 

Asia has almost cornered the market in swish hotels with lavish restaurants and outsized guestrooms, and the St Regis Kuala Lumpur – not yet a year old – is one of the finest examples. The 208-room hotel occupies a glass tower block that winks and melts in the KL heat, but quickly soothes you inside with enough airconditioning to please a polar bear, considerable style, and cohorts of soundlessly gliding staff always on hand to help. The hotel's yoga room, spa and rooftop swimming pool, with its umbrella-shaded deck and sunglass-polishing butlers, are other amenities that provide a gorgeous oasis in the humid bustle of the Malaysian capital.

THE LOCATION 

Sentral is a newly developed business hub for Kuala Lumpur with soaring office and residential buildings and several shopping malls. You couldn't be better located for convenience, with the airport express and intercity trains arriving at near-adjacent Sentral Station. Downtown's Merdeka Square and Chinatown are only a seven-minute taxi ride away; those who aren't intimidated by KL's oppressive humidity could walk in 30 minutes.

THE SPACE

Two vast leather murals of polo players by British artist Mark Evans, set against the grey marble simplicity of the lobby, are a striking introduction to a hotel that takes its art – and its cool, soaring-ceiling spaces – seriously. Equally impressive is the huge sculpture of a bulging horse (occasionally mistaken for a hippo) that graces The Drawing Room, a section of lobby devoted to cake-nibbling, lacquered ladies. Attention to detail and luxurious materials provide a very upmarket feel, but in an understated, sophisticated manner that eschews obvious glitz. Hard edges and a predominance of grey give the decor a rather masculine appeal.

THE ROOM

My St Regis suite is vast, with a hallway, living and dining area, massage room and walk-in wardrobe that alone could sleep four. (Even the hotel's standard rooms are an impressive 63 square metres.) The bathroom has a wallow-worthy, TV-gazing bathtub and a Japanese loo promising unexpected pleasures. The minibar comes in the form of an imitation leather steamer trunk, where I'm happy to find coffee pods for the in-room machine. The decor, though blandly international – hard to discern you're in Malaysia – is chic and contemporary in a relaxing palette of browns and creams; to cross the threshold after a day out in KL is to be instantly soothed and delighted. Curtain windows provide views over the skyline of Sentral, where high-rises are sprouting like mushrooms.

THE FOOD

Restaurants up the swank levels. Taka is Malaysia's first restaurant by a three Michelin-star chef; Takashi Saito's Tokyo restaurant Sushi Saito is considered the world's best sushi bar. Rooftop Crystal Bar and Jazz Age-inspired Astor Bar offer suave dishes such as king crab with caviar or lobster club sandwiches to match their opulent decor. Afternoon tea at The Drawing Room is a splendid sugar overload. The Brasserie has an impressive Malaysian and European breakfast buffet and bistro-style Mediterranean fare at night.

STEPPING OUT

You can walk or morning jog in the sprawling Perdana Botanic Garden just behind the hotel, which features orchids, lakes and both a bird and butterfly park. Lively, multicoloured Little India in up-and-coming Brickfields district is just on the other side of Sentral Station. Brickfields features historic churches and temples, good neighbourhood eateries and textile shops. 

THE VERDICT

If you like new hotels for their lack of scuffing and jaded staff then hurry to check in. This establishment makes comfort and elegance seem effortless, leaving little doubt that the St Regis is the best place in which to hop into bed in Kuala Lumpur.

ESSENTIALS

6 Jalan Stesen Sentral 2, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, Kuala Lumpur. Rooms from $245 a night.  Phone 1800 221 637. See stregiskualalumpur.com

HIGHLIGHT

My suite comes with an attached and impeccably presented butler, who unpacks, iron clothes, deliver drinks and organises appointments and restaurant bookings at the buzz of a phone – and all apparently 24 hours a day.

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LOWLIGHT

The St Regis seems rather empty and lacks a bit of buzz and excitement, though that might be a plus for those looking for a haven of tranquillity. This ought to change as travellers become more aware of the new hotel.

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of Malaysia Airlines, Tourism Malaysia and The St Regis Kuala Lumpur.

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