Deep in the heart of old Kuala Lumpur, the Chow Kit district's latest landmark isn't a wet market or a red-light establishment: it's a new 113-room hotel by Malaysian group Ormond Hotels. Best known for its super-cheap Tune hotels dotted throughout the country, Chow Kit is the group's first boutique property, and comes with its characteristic move of pushing out the budget boat.
Sure, the DIY room service idea sees you pick up your order yourself, while the restaurant channels Malaysia's humble kopitiams (coffee houses), reminiscent of old KL.
Yet the 113-room property contains design features found in much more pricey establishments: signature cocktails at the bar, commissioned artworks from local and Southeast Asian artists, walking tours around its neighbourhood and yoga and meditation in the rooftop yoga pavilion, with bonus views over the city's skyline.
Ormond Hotels brought in Brooklyn-based design group Studio Tack to set the tone. The team tapped into the gritty good times of the neighbourhood: witness the touches of risqué, 1930s style in the dark red fabrics and studded leather bedheads in the Dens – as the entry-level rooms are named, up to the Towkay Soh suite (that's the Boss Lady suite, in the local Hokkien dialect). The onsite restaurant reimagines the country's great dishes: find rendang channelled into a burger, the fish on the side of chips is tandoori marinated. Wash it down with a The Chow Kit cocktail, which blends Matusalem Platino, Aperol, lemon juice and homemade lemongrass liqueur with maple syrup.
Stays at the Chow Kit cost from $85 a night. If this isn't budget enough, the hotel shares the building with another new Ormond brand, the 99-room Momo's KL, which is even cheaper, at just $40 a night, for those who may have finally outgrown hostels (but still love a designer bunk). Melbourne is next in the sights of the Ormond Hotels group, with a 2022 opening on the whiteboard. See thechowkit.com