One of the great things about a life in luxury hotels is getting to know the Powers Behind The Thrones. Dato’ Mark Yeoh is, says the gal, one of those power people. Although his brother, Tan Sri’Francis Yeoh, is more often in the global news, it is Dato’Mark who runs the hotel empire of Kuala Lumpur-based YTL, and what a diverse collection of luxury hotels it is, too. In UK, there is the Gainsborough in Bath, plus YTL has just bought Monkey Island, originally Monks’ Island, at Bray. There is a Muse in Marbella, another Muse outside St-Tropez, and add a handful of properties in Thailand, and Swatch Art Peace Hotel on Shanghai’s The Bund, and three in Niseko, Japan and three Marriotts in Australia, plus several hotels in Malaysia.
We met up again at the highly popular Sunday brunch in the Library of Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, separated from the J.W. Marriott, also part of the YTL empire, by a six-floor open-atrium Starhill retail mall. The brunch buffet was outstanding – see the video, below. A band played, a dozen or so teddy bears, of assorted sizes, awaited kids, and for adults there was freeflow Champagne. Dato’Mark raved about sailing his boat up the Croatian coast. I raved about the quality of the oysters, followed by thinnest slices of beef skilfully carved from one of the two trolleys. I congratulated Dato’Mark on the enhancements made to this hotel since my last visit; this very March, one of the seven rulers of Malaysia had ceremonially unveiled the new-look lobby. Now you arrive to champagne-coloured marble, designed by Alexandra Champalimaud, with the former heavy-wood space that was previously the lobby now forming an admittedly-claustrophobic Club Lounge
I was feeling good, as any traveller to luxury hotels should. A couple of hours before I had headed to the hotel’s Spa Village, for which read a designer ambience, lots of decorative water plus an outside pool exclusive to the spa. I loved the spa boutique, so colourful and enticing, and my room, looking out to a private courtyard with outside tub. Kerstin Florian is the preferred brand today: being all white, her products look good and professional, and the treatment lived up to those words. I headed through, direct from the hotel, to the Starhill shopping village, enthralled by the plethora of brands.
I had actually felt good from my arrival here, at 11.30 last night. After a gruelling day – Australia to Malaysia – and a long flight and more, and Air Asia’s appalling Business Class food (a congealed mass in a sat-upon foil rectangle), I was hungry. I ordered the first thing I saw on Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur’s menu, which turned out to be a beef salad. I expected salad with bits of beef. I got an entire hanger steak, moist as anything and full of flavour, topped with arugula, and beetroot dressing. Wow, Nicolas Kassab, Manager of this luxury hotel, must be a food person (he is). He is also divinely thoughtful: he was standing on the steps to greet me last night and, with colleagues, he is there again, today, to see me off – see the photo at the top of the page. Now THAT is what I call the sign of a true luxury hotel. NOW SEE THE BRUNCH SET-UP, BELOW