Review: Authentic Italian Flavours @ Mandarin Grill, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur

There’s much more to Italian food than just pizza and pasta.

This is what Luigi Stinga – the new chef de cuisine at Mandarin Grill @ Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur – hopes to instil in Malaysians. Originally from Naples, Chef Stinga joins from a stint at the 2-Michelin star Seta in Mandarin Oriental, Milan, and he draws from this experience as well as flavours inspired by his grandmother’s cooking to create modern dishes with just a touch of rustic familiarity.

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The Mandarin Grill has also undergone a facelift and now showcases botanical elements, including light green and turquoise colours that are an expansion of the adjacent KLCC Park’s lush greenery – a veritable oasis in the heart of a concrete jungle. Able to seat up to 76 guests, the restaurant features a private dining room and semi-private dining area, making it ideal for casual meals and special celebrations.

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I started off the meal with a creamy mushroom medley, followed by a risotto (the exact names escape me). The risotto was cooked perfectly, with nuanced, cheesy flavours that were not overwhelming.

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If you could only order one item, go for the Ravioli Di Baccala – Chef Stinga’s specialty. The dish features cod fish, potatoes and oregano. The flaky texture of the fish disperses its sweet, natural taste with each bite, lovingly enveloped in ravioli which is cooked perfectly. My sample portion only had a few pieces; I wished there was more!

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Cernia In Umido, or giant grouper served in miso sauce and celeriac. This had a more East-Meets-West approach, what with the miso and bok choy, but the flavours were well balanced.

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Slow cooked lamb with the perfect pinkness and no hint of gaminess.

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Of course, one has to keep room for desserts! The deconstructed Tiramisu rounded off the meal on a sweet note, with a wonderful blend of mascarpone cream, coffee and chocolate beautifully presented like a work of art.

MANDARIN GRILL 

Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur

Opens for lunch and dinner, daily 

 

 

 

Review: Trader’s Hotel, Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Whether for business or leisure, it doesn’t get any more convenient than a stay at Trader’s Hotel. The luxury five-star hotel boasts stunning views of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and is located literally steps away from the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and KLCC Park.

Checked in for a short staycation in one of the hotel’s Executive Twin Towers Rooms. The room was spacious and cosy, with a warm colour scheme of beige and muted gold, and amenities geared towards business travellers such as a large work desk and multiple plug points and sockets. There was also a sofa, large flatscreen TV, mini bar, closet and safe, and a large marble bathroom complete with bathtub.

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We went when the haze was still plaguing Malaysia, so the skies were a bit grey. Still a gorgeous view though – imagine if the background was blue sky!

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The initial plan was to head up to Sky Bar on Level 43, where they have the bar right next to the pool, but they were closed for a private function. We ended up working out at the gym, which was well equipped with various state-of-the-art machines.

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A yoga studio. They also have yoga mats and medicine balls.

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Then it was up to the Executive Lounge for Cocktail Hour! The right side of the lounge, which offered a view of the Twin Towers, was fully occupied, so we settled into a couch in the corner.

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Free flow of beers, wines and mocktails.

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There was a buffet of finger food and light canapes, with items such as fried wantons, cheese / crackers, salad, bread rolls, lamb satay with mint sauce, baked potatoes and chicken shawarma, as well as pastries and cakes. The food was tasty, and we were so full by the end of it we ended up saving our dinner!

 

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The Black Forest cake was awesome – surprisingly light, the cake had a light, airy texture and was not too sweet.

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Walked around Suria KLCC to burn off some calories, but the haze was so bad we decided to just go back to the hotel and stay in. (Above) View from our room at night.

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Breakfast was at the all-day dining restaurant downstairs. The design somehow reminded me of an airport lounge. The space can easily fit a few hundred people. There were different stations offering a variety of cuisine, from Japanese (sushi and miso soup) to Western fare (turkey bacon, beef sausages, ham, hash brown) and Asian food (dimsum, porridge, noodles, etc.)

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Got a sweet tooth? You’ll be delighted with these freshly baked pastries, muffins and sweetmeats!

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Pancakes, waffles and French toast.

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The omelette station produced two beautiful sunny side-ups.

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Food was tasty, but not outstanding.

All in all, a great staycation! If you like convenience, Traders will make a good base for exploring the city. Rooms start from RM480++ per night.

Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phone: +603- 2332 9888

 

 

Review: Two Friends One Cuisine @ The Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur

Experience the cosmopolitan flavours of London right in the heart of KL, as The Library @ The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur presents Two Friends – One Cuisine, a limited-time only dinner menu featuring guest chef Alexander Tyndall, of Marco Pierre White’s Wheeler’s restaurant at the Threadneedles Hotel. Collaborating with YTL Corporate Executive Chef Wai Look Chow, the four-course dinner is available from now until July 20 2019, showcasing the best of each ingredient through modern and traditional culinary artistry.

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The elegant interiors of The Library immediately sets guests at ease, with intimate dining spaces and cosy corners. Surrounded by bookshelves (hence the name) ad lots of wood, the warm lighting and classy vibe makes for great conversations with friends and loved ones over a glass of wine, as you wile the night away enjoying the delights of a full fine dining experience.

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We kicked off with a prelude of amuse bouche to whet the appetite – Oysters Rockefeller au Gratin, and Seared Scallop with skirlie potato cake and vanilla purée. The oyster was large and juicy, topped with a creamy blend of butter, parsley and green herbs with a layer of melted cheese that accentuated the oyster’s brininess. The seared scallop was perfectly cooked, and the potato cake lent an element of crispiness to the bite-sized appetiser.

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The light and airy Tempura Quail, which comes with pickled cucumber, kimchi puree and polenta fritata had each individual ingredient shining on its own, but also coming together to form a beautiful mix of textures and flavours. I enjoyed the bouncy quail eggs with their creamy centre, the robust, slightly gamey and tender quail meat, cut through by the tanginess of pineapple slices and the kimchi puree.

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Here is your chance to taste a signature Marco Pierre White dish – Marco’s Lobster Macaroni – an oceanic bisque of lobster and macaroni topped with black truffle. You’ll taste the familiarity of a simple, homemade comfort food – namely Mac n Cheese – spruced up with luxury ingredients, including generous portions of sweet lobster tail, gruyere cheese and earthy black truffle.

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Next came Roasted Rack of Lamb with Cockles, Baby Spinach, Gratin Dauphinois (sliced potato baked in milk and cream) and Roasting jus. The meat was top grade, slicing apart like butter before melting in the mouth. The cockles didn’t go well with the meat, but it was still easily my favourite dish of the night.

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Ending the night on a sweet note, we had Chef Alex’s signature dessert – Wheeler’s Poached Pear with vanilla panna cotta and passion fruit sauce. The poached pear had just the right amount of sour-sweet to balance out the thick but smooth creaminess of the panna cotta.

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A cheese platter was served at the end of the meal, although this isn’t part of the 4-course dinner; featuring Vintage Stilton, Mature Cheddar and Ripe Brie. Personally, I love blue cheese so the Stilton was my favourite, but it may taste a little strong for others.

The exclusive four-course menu will be available from now until July 20 2019, from 7pm until 11pm and is priced at MYR350 nett per person with an option of wine pairing at MYR450 nett per person.

For dining reservations and enquiries, call +60 3 2142 8000 or email
dining@ritzcarltonkl.com.

 

*I was invited as a guest to this food review as part of work. Views here are entirely my own. 

Union – Beijing’s Latest Bar – Opens at The Opposite House In Sanlitun

UNION – Beijing’s latest bar – opens at The Opposite House in the Sanlitun district, bringing with it a brand of elegance, comfort and the free spirit of an artist’s studio infused with a curated hospitality experience.

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With a 20th-century modernist sensibility, the beautiful space embodies the spirit of 1920s modernism with a showcase of artworks and objects reminiscent of the International Expos of the era, paired with drinks inspired by the ancient Silk Road.UNION was designed by leading, New York-based design firm, AvroKO.

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Seemingly whimsical in nature, UNION was created to have a clear social flow. Copper architectural frames and metal mesh sheets showcase artwork, sculptures and objects, drawing in and engaging guests, whilst hidden elements such as the bar trolley, spicery wall and DJ booths enable a seamless transition from day to night. The interiors are inspired by potter Lucie Rie’s studio – a beautiful yet versatile space well suited to living, working and socialising. The aim is to create a sense of belonging and discovery, evoking the sense of witnessing something for the first time. A carefully curated soundtrack allows the bar to seamlessly transition from day to night with the perfect eclectic mix of tempo, BPM, energy levels and genres.

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A sophisticated drinks menu consists of an extensive wine list made up of 60 bins that are all available by the glass, as well as selection of signature cocktails and alcohol-free drinks. The wine list changes monthly and whilst it features some well-known wineries the list is carefully curated to provide representation for lesser known producers, hard to find bottles and biodynamic wines.

As for the signature cocktail list, it encapsulates a diverse range of flavours inspired by international tastes; non-alcoholic creations include Spring breeze (a representation of Eastern Chinese flavours) which has pear, vanilla, coconut, citric acid and sea salt , whilst the traditional cocktail menu includes highlights such as Genghis Khan Martini (Mongolian representation) with French Gin, Mongolia Milk Wine, Dry Vermouth, Elderflower, Coconut and Sea Salt.

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The Opposite House by Swire Hotels is one of four Houses in The House Collective. Located in Taikoo Li Sanlitun — a vibrant open-plan shopping, dining and entertainment destination developed by Swire Properties, The Opposite House was designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s most celebrated art and design geniuses.

The House’s 99 guest studios include nine spacious suites and a penthouse duplex with a 240-sq m roof terrace, all pet-friendly with special treats and amenities available for guests’ furry companions. More than half of all the studios are over 70 sqm and all are strikingly simple with natural wooden floors and subtle touches of Chinese décor. The Atrium of the House presents itself as a contemporary art gallery, showcasing art steeped in fresh cultural insights. The House has one restaurant and a bar, Jing Yaa Tang, which specialises in local fare including the famous Peking duck.

 

Hotel Review: Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur

With its grand, sweeping staircases and elegant interiors, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur has long been considered the grand dame of five star luxury hotels in the city. Having been around for a number of years, the decor was getting dated – so the hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar facelift, with refreshed dining concepts and more rooms.

Weekend getaway, here I come!

The first thing that greets guests upon entering is the grand lobby, complete with sparkling multi-tiered chandeliers, tall cavernous ceilings and elegant decor. The hotel is best known for its wide, sweeping staircases that lead from the ground floor up to the ballrooms, making it a popular venue for weddings and photoshoots.

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N and I checked in to our Club King room, which was not only spacious but offered a beautiful view of the city. Boasting 42 square metres of space and a comfy king-sized bed, the room’s modern interior was well furnished, with hues of beige, gold and grey. There was a small work table and sofa bed by the floor-to-ceiling window, as well as the usual amenities: large-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, Wifi, etc.

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A thoughtful little welcome gift that was much appreciated 🙂

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Luxurious bathroom with bathtub and separate shower, lighted makeup mirror, all the works.

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Lunch was at the cheerful all-day dining Essence, which features a good selection of local and international fare. Aside from a cold cuts counter, sushi island and dessert island, the space also hosts a noodle bar where you can customise your own noodles to your liking. Not to be missed is their signature curry laksa, which has a rich, savoury broth with just the right amount of kick to get you sweating, and the chicken satay.

After lunch, you can opt to explore the city, or make use of the myriad of facilities available at the hotel, such as the 24-hour fitness centre, the spa (book in advance to avoid any disappointment, as they tend to be quite full), or the swimming pool with its daybeds, cabanas and gorgeous view of the Kuala Lumpur Tower nearby.

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Tuck into a scrumptious, full-course dinner at Sheraton KL’s Chinese restaurant, the aptly named Celestial Court. The restaurant is currently having a promotion called The Fabulous Big Feast, which offers all-you-can-eat ala carte dining for RM148nett per pax, with a minimum of two persons.

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If you still have space, adjourn to the lounge near the lobby for some drinks and music.

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Night view of the city from our window.

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Morning saw us back at Essence for breakfast, with a slightly different line up which included breakfast fare such as pancakes, sausages and ham, porridge, noodles, pastries and cakes, and roti canai.

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After another dip in the pool and some lazing around in the room, it was time for lunch again (seemed like we were just eating the entire time of our stay, lol) at Villa Danieli, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, which was in a standalone building on its own. I wrote a separate review of the place, so check it out here !

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Ending with a nice warm cup of tea at the Club Lounge before our late check out, we were treated to a beautiful day view of the KL Tower atop Bukit Nanas.

It was certainly a relaxing weekend, filled with lots of delicious food! The service was impeccable and we were left wanting for nothing throughout our stay. Best of all, it’s located in a more quiet part of town, but still offers easy access to the bustling Golden Triangle area via the monorail which is just steps away from the lobby.

SHERATON IMPERIAL KUALA LUMPUR

Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Reservations: +603 2717 9900

Website

Review: Shangri-La Hotel Singapore – A Night’s Stay At One of The Best Hotels In Asia

With its towering skyscrapers and vibrant lifestyle scene, Singapore is a nice place to visit. Now if only their exchange rate vs the Malaysian ringgit wasn’t so high, I’d go every weekend. 😦

As it is, my last visit was in 2016 for a travel assignment – so it was nice to be back again, even if it was just for a short trip. I stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, located close to the Orchard Road shopping district. Founded in 1971, it is one of the country’s oldest hotels, but has managed to keep up with the times with splendid yet classic decor and modern-looking rooms. It has also been consistently voted as one of the best hotels in Asia, with the annual Shangri-La Dialogue being hosted here since 2002.

CHECK IN

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The lobby’s high ceiling and towering pillars evoked a sense of space. Check-in was a breeze, as we were given welcome drinks and were attended to by friendly and professional concierge staff.

ROOM FACILITIES

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My Deluxe Room was located in the Tower Wing, which had a nice view of the surrounding skyscrapers, as well as the swimming pool and parts of the garden below. The room itself is spacious and well furnished, with a comfortable king-sized bed, large screen TV and minibar. The fact that they have a large work desk and also plenty of charging ports (both USB and standard) seemed to indicate that they’re geared towards business travelers – but then again we’re so reliant on our gadgets these days that a couple of ports just won’t cut it. I loved that they had a tall window to let in natural light in the day, and warm, ambient lighting when you need to cosy in at night.

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A Nespresso machine, complimentary water and a well-stocked minibar.

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I know alcohol is fairly common in most if not all five star hotels (that’s why they call it a minibar!) but coming from Muslim-majority Malaysia, it’s still interesting for me to see every time I visit a foreign country.

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I was surprised to find a welcome gift on the table, which was a box of delicious chocolates. I might have finished the entire box by myself lol.

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A space saving wooden dressing table, complete with pop up mirror and a compartment for the hairdryer.

I don’t have a picture of the bathroom, but it was very spacious as well, with a bathtub and a rainshower. Guests will also find the usual luxury amenities such as bathrobes, in-room slippers, shaving kit, toothbrush and toiletries.

IN ROOM DINING 

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Hadn’t had anything to eat since the morning, so I ordered room service. They had an extensive menu offering both local and Western dishes, such as nasi lemak, laksa, pizza, fish and chips, salads, pizza and the like. I opted for a Seafood Marinara Tagliatelle, which was delivered promptly (complete with table setting!) in 30 minutes. They also give you a glass of water and bread rolls with butter.

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Presentation was a little messy, as  sauce was splattered on the sides. Taste wise, the pasta was done al dente but the scallops were overcooked and rubbery. Maybe skip the in room dining and dine in at any of the hotel’s 11 restaurants and bars instead.

Didn’t manage to explore much of the hotel as I had an event to attend and left early the next morning, but they offer many other top notch facilities as well, including a pool, health club, spa, meeting rooms and conference halls, ballrooms for events, and a children’s club.

Prices average from RM1,000 onwards.

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL 

22 Orange Grove Rd,  Singapore 258350

 

Review: Urban Retreat Onsen Spa – First Private Onsen In Malaysia!

It is said that the first spa was invented by the Romans, consisting of a large public bath where people went to relax and recuperate – not unlike the modern spas of today. In Japan, where there is an abundance of hot springs or ‘onsen’, soaking in the mineral springs dates back to ancient times, as the water is believed to have curative properties to help cure or reduce various ailments.

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The good news is that you won’t have to travel all the way to Japan to experience an onsen – we have it right here in Kuala Lumpur! Newly opened in February this year, the Urban Retreat Onsen Spa at 163 Retail Park in Mont Kiara is the first in Malaysia to offer private onsen services, in addition to luxurious treatments such as body polish and wraps, as well as massages.

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Tucked in a quiet corner on the second floor of the mall, the spa is designed to provide a holistic, pampering experience, offering the ambience of a traditional Japanese onsen with a local touch.  Bamboo and wood accents, coupled with warm lighting, immediately puts visitors in a state of Zen, as the hustle and bustle of the city melts away.

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The experience begins immediately upon entering the premises, where there is a cosy waiting area with comfortable pouffes and seats. A menu of bath salts (for the onsen) and scrubs (for the body polish treatment) is displayed on one side of the wall. You can try some of the samples and rinse it off at the sink.

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All the salts are imported from Japan, each with specific properties. The Hinoki (Japanese cypress), for example, has a refreshing vibe and scent, while the Relaxing, which features lavender, is designed to calm and soothe. There are also salts for Smooth Skin and Shoulder and Back Pain. I went with this since I’m constantly hunched over a computer screen at work.

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Also picked out the scrub for my body polish – I went with Jasmine – but they also have variants such as Tropical Spice, Hinoki Mandarin and Coconut.

Once done, I was ushered into the locker room and changing area. Time for my 45-minute onsen session!

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There are separate facilities for men and women, with lockers to keep your valuables and an electronic bracelet that you can tap to lock and unlock your unit. Toiletries such as face wipes are provided, as are combs and hair dryers.

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A beautiful woven basket is provided for you to carry your clothes and towels into the changing room. These are made by local Penan women as part of a social enterprise – you can also buy them if you’d like to support the initiative!

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Stepping into my spacious but cosy private onsen, it felt like I was experiencing a tiny slice of Japan in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Smooth stones littered the base where the huge wooden tub was, and the shower area came complete with a wooden stool and bucket – just like how I’ve seen in Japanese films and TV shows! The tubs are specially crafted and imported from Japan and are made from 200 year old hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood, as it is believed that the wood has natural oils and a soothing fragrance which are released when in warm water.

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Iced water on the side, and there is a call button nearby for emergencies.

For those who have never tried onsen, it is recommended to have a cold shower for five minutes to clean the body, before going in the tub. My water temperature was at 40 degrees Celcius, but you can request for warmer temperatures if you prefer. Soak and relax for 10 to 15 minutes, then take another short shower before soaking again. Your 45 minutes will fly by!

The hot water is great for relaxing tired muscles – I could feel the tension easing from my legs, shoulder and back. The warm temperature makes you sweat, but once you’re out of the tub and after you’ve had a shower, your body feels super refreshed and loads lighter.

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The cosy ladies waiting room where you can chill and relax in your yukata with a drink, while waiting for your next treatment.

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For my Body Polish (45 minutes), I chose the Jasmine scrub, which had a nice, sweet scent that left me smelling like flowers. My skin also felt extremely smooth and soft after the session, especially since the therapist worked meticulously on areas that are usually hard to reach.

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The room had everything for a guest’s comfort – shower area, comb, mirror and even hairbands (a lot of people forget to bring hairbands when going for spa/massages). The bed had a heated blanket so I was warm and toasty throughout the session. It’s in these little details that I think Urban Retreat shines, because it shows how much thought they’ve put into ensuring a guest’s comfort.

The body polish session was followed by a 30-minute back massage to undo tired knots: we all need this once in awhile, since most of us are always hunched over our desks at the office. My Thai therapist, despite her small size, was extremely strong, delivering powerful strokes to reach deep into the tissue. Well, as they say, no pain no gain – but if you’re sensitive to pain, always communicate with your therapist. 😀

For those looking for luxurious and pampering treatments, Urban Retreat Onsen Spa comes highly recommended. Not only will you get to experiencing bathing in Malaysia’s first private Japanese onsen, their range of treatments are excellent as well, as is the warm and professional service.

URBAN RETREAT ONSEN SPA 

 Lot 2F-02, Second Floor, 163 Retail Park, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM (daily)

Bookings: 017-8814486

Website 

 

**erisgoesto was invited to Urban Retreat Onsen Spa in exchange for an honest review. Views here are entirely my own.

Hotel Review: Modern Luxury at Marriott Yogyakarta, Indonesia

During my recent stay in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the Moomikins and I were privileged to stay at Marriott Yogyakarta, the latest five-star hotel to join the city’s burgeoning tourism scene.

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Modern and contemporary, the 347-room hotel is Marriott’s first foray into Indonesia, and impresses with its top notch facilities and delectable dining options. Its close location to the Adi Sutjipto Airport and various attractions also make it the perfect base for both business and leisure travelers.

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Marriott hotels are one of my favourite places to stay at because they have this cosy, warm and welcoming ambience, as opposed to some five-star places which may feel luxurious but ‘detached’, somehow.  The spacious lobby boasts unique local touches, such as decorative kawung batik motifs and Javanese elements.

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Official photo vs my photo in 3…2…1….

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This is why people hire professional photographers. :’D 

We stayed in the spacious Deluxe Pool room, which had twin beds and a view of the pool. There was an additional sofa bed in the corner, as well as a work table. Instead of a conventional walled-off bathroom, the design featured sliding walls – so you can open them up for more space.

As mentioned, I like the cosy, warm ambience you get from the dark wood, clean lines and calming colour scheme. Cleanliness was top notch, there were a lot of channels on the widescreen TV to choose from, and the beds were soft but supportive.

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Welcome towels in cute shapes! 🙂

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Refreshing herbal drinks upon checking in to the room.

DINING

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There are plenty of dining options within the hotel. During our stay, we got to dine at the all-day dining Yogyakarta Kitchen. Bright and welcoming, the restaurant serves international-style buffet, which includes several firm Indonesian favourites.

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Dinner is best spent at the Taman Sari Bar & Grill by the poolside. Specialising in Mediterranean cuisine, the charming outdoor patio dishes out a selection of steaks, seafood and grilled items as you dine under the stars.

*PS: Will be posting an in-depth review of both resto in separate posts. 🙂

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No five star hotel would be complete without a spot of pampering and relaxation. Marriott Yogyakarta is home to Quan, the brand’s signature spa. The spa menu includes various treatments, from traditional massages to body wraps and foot baths. At the recommendation of the friendly therapist, I went for the Swedish massage, which focuses on soothing muscles and releasing tension.

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Besides tourism, Yogyakarta is also a hub for business and MICE, so its not surprising that Marriott has the facilities to match, including meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art AV equipment, as well as the 1,870-square-meter pillarless ballroom – the largest in Yogyakarta – making it the grandest venue in town for special occasions.

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The hotel even has its own atelier for weddings, where the bride and groom-to-be can select outfits from local designers, and discuss with the hotel team on table setting, decorations, etc.

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Marriott Yogyakarta is located directly next to Hartono Mall, a modern shopping centre with retail outlets, departmental store, cinema, entertainment centre and restaurants. It was extremely convenient for me and Moo, because she could just pop over for food or shopping when I was busy with work.

We didn’t have time to check out some of the other facilities such as the pool and the gym, but all in all, I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Marriott Yogyakarta, and would definitely consider it as a place for accommodation if I’m ever in the city again. Beautiful rooms and convenient facilities aside, it is also strategically located, with excellent food and even better hospitality.

Rooms start from USD80 (about RM320+) onwards.

MARRIOTT YOGYAKARTA

Jl. Ringroad Utara, Kaliwaru, Condongcatur, Kec. Depok, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55283, Indonesia

Reservations: +62 274 6000888

*I was invited for a review in the capacity of work, which has been published in a magazine. The views here are entirely my own.