Saturday, 30 June 2012

Rompin House, Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Malaysia

How any times have you had the urge to leave the city behind and head for the hills?  Well I’ve found the perfect getaway that’s accessible, ideal for up to 10 people and which is indeed in the hills…Fraser’s Hill to be precise.  Introducing Rompin House, formerly known as Duberly House, one of the original hill station dwellings built by the British in the 1920s.

Fraser’s Hill has an elevation of between 1,200 and 1,500 meters.  The average, year-round temperature is 17 to 25 centigrade, very pleasant compared to the heat of the valleys below.  It’s about a 2-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and arriving on the hill is like stepping back in time.  Passing by stone cottages with beautiful flower gardens, one could be forgiven for thinking that a little bit of the British Isles has been transported to Malaysia.

The main entrance to Rompin House is accessed through a large outdoor seating area, which opens directly onto the well-appointed living room.  The comfortable, chintz armchairs, orchids and original works of art evoke a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere.  There's also a fireplace for really cool evenings.

There are five bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms.  The master bedroom has a queen-sized bed, and the two other bedrooms at the front of the house have twin beds.  The two bedrooms in the rear each have one single bed and a trundle bed.  

My spacious twin room had a large bathroom complete with a tub and shower.  The bedroom was furnished in keeping with the period of the house, and catered to all my needs.  There was even a couch.  The large bathroom had a bathtub and a shower, and  a suitable range of toiletries was provided.   The linens were exceptional, fluffy white towels, and pure cotton bed covers with a high thread count.  I especially appreciated the feather and down duvets and pillows.  Just as cozy as could be.

The bungalow has live-in hosts, Yap Sai Cheng and his wife.  Mr. Yap, whose family have been butlers on Fraser's Hill for three generations, made sure that our every need was met, while his wife worked in the kitchen to prepare delicious meals.  We were greeted with a welcome drink of pineapple juice, and as soon as we were settled in our rooms, Afternoon Tea was served.   

The dining room seats 8 comfortably, but there could be room for 10.  We were served a lovely homemade spread of curry puffs, and delicious warm scones.  I eschewed the strawberry jam in favour of the homemade orange marmalade.  It's many years since I've had this treat, and it was another personal touch that makes this a special destination.

It was a lazy afternoon.  After eating I had a lovely wander around the quiet roads with my binoculars, sat in the garden for a while then napped.  How perfect.

Suddenly it was time for dinner...where did the time go? Mrs. Yap outdid herself and served a barbecued feast: tender Lamb Chops, Chicken Wings, Pomfret, Sausages, Roast Sweet Potatoes, Biryani Rice, Corn on the Cob and a Fruit Mayo salad.  It was very difficult to move after so much food!  After dinner we started to watch a movie...television and DVD player provided...but I was the first to be ready for my bed and the others followed soon after...

I had a refreshing sleep, and managed a bit of bird-watching before breakfast.  We had put in our orders the night before with a choice of  Western, Chinese or Malay food.  More of that yummy marmalade with the Western set, and my Chinese friends assured me that the rice porridge was delicious.

I spent the morning enjoying country pursuits, then it was time to eat yet again.  Everyone enjoyed Mrs Yap's fish and chips.  There a baked lemon souffle for dessert too, one of my favourites, and fruit. I had a wonderful stay.  There was an attention to detail that did not go unnoticed: slippers provided, well-lit mirrors in the bedroom and bathroom, anti-noise stoppers on the chairs, and many other little things with the comfort of the guests in mind.  Rompin House is the ideal choice for a family getaway, a hen party or a romantic weekend.

Reason to Visit:  Peace and quiet, cool, fresh air and an ambiance of days gone by.

This house belongs to the Avillion Private Collection, an exclusive group of rental properties that typically exceed expectations.  The rental of Rompin House is being offered at a special price of RM1,300 ++ a night for a limited time only, which includes breakfast.  Other meals are available upon request, and there are special rates for longer stays.  

For further information and reservations, call 603-2730-9988 or visit the Avillion website at    

The Loft & The Balcony @ The Sterling, Malacca, Malaysia

The Sterling, Hotel, Malacca, Melaka, bar
The Balcony - an open area ideal for pre or post dinner drinks
The Sterling, Hotel, Malacca, Melaka, bar, drinks, wine, beer, cocktails
Sunsets and roofscapes from The Balcony
Hotel The Sterling, Malacca, Melaka, boutique, western, Asian
The Loft - rooftop restaurant at The Sterling
The Loft, Hotel, Malacca, The Sterling, boutique, restaurant, Melaka
Braised Lamb shank - fresh vegetables and pasta support a tender lamb shank bathed in a balsamic vinegar and tomato herb sauce RM45
Hotel, The Sterling, Malacca, Melaka, Steak, Prawns, dinner, The Loft
Surf and Turf- fillet of beef simmered in its own juice crowned with a king prawn and sided with an array of fresh colourful vegetables RM72
The Loft, The Sterling, boutique hotel, restaurant, rooftop, Malacca, Melaka
Poached Straits King Prawns – topped with orange butter and served on vegetables of the day RM56

Dessert, sweets, Malacca, Melaka, The Sterling, rooftop, bar, restaurant, boutique hotelThe Sterling Malacca has two food and beverage outlets worth a visit. The Balcony offers a simple drink list with resplendent sunsets and The Loft attracts with rooftop dining al fresco, or sheltered, as you please. Situated on the 2nd floor and rooftop respectively, both can be accessed via secure lifts from the hotel lobby or public access separately from the street. 

Ascend to The Balcony at dusk for pleasant temperatures and bewitching sunsets glimmering over tiled historical roofs. Puffs of wind sweep the terrace mellowing the heat at twilight and the exposed patio advocates mingling under the night sky. Happy Hour promotions run based mainly on beer, but the drink list makes room for wine and liquor too.

Dessert, sweets, Malacca, Melaka, The Sterling, rooftop, bar, restaurant, boutique hotelThe Loft is best appreciated early morning or under crepuscular light. Dine under the stars on a predominately western menu with some local curlicues. Born and bred in Malacca the consultant chef has close relationships with the local fishermen and hence sources the freshest local seafood. The menu is narrow keeping a few dishes done well but covers all of the bases. The Braised Lamb Shank was a winner with its tender flesh bathed in a balsamic vinegar and tomato herb sauce. The Poached Straits King Prawns is the chef's favourite topped with orange butter and crisp vegetables of the day. Hubby liked a little from land and a little from the sea with the Surf and Turf. My fancy for passionfruit and hubby's fondness for all things creamy was met with the Passionfruit Cheesecake – a home made speciality. Confident portions are sizable enough to just order a main. Time and stomach space was short so we didn't try their satay celup, but we hear it's popular because it is the only version in town that is pork free. 

Reason to visit:  twinkling twilight roofscape views, halal satay celup (so we hear)

The Balcony is open from 6pm
The Loft from 7am – 11:00pm

The Sterling
Lot 232, KB XXI, Jalan Temenggong
75100 Melaka
+6 -6 283 1188

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Sterling, Malacca, Malaysia

Hotel, Malacca, boutique, accommodation
The Sterling Malacca
hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, couple
The Brighton Room - spacious with classic contemporary design
hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, couple
The best room in the house (in my opinion), The Brighton, comes with private garden patio and jacuzzi

hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, coupleThis towering white facade, reminiscent of Raffles Singapore, is The Sterling, new kid on the block in the neighbourhood of boutique hotels in Malacca. While the exterior has a heritage appearance the interior is modern and practical. Opened at the end of 2011, The Sterling is in its first phase of development. The second extension should see a pool, additional rooms, a covered car park and an expansion of meeting facilities. Currently secure parking, a bar overlooking Malaccan roofscapes and a rooftop restaurant are up and functioning.

hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, coupleLocated in Little India, The Sterling has the benefit of being centrally positioned, but also of the hush that creeps into the streets in the early evening as retail shops close for the work day. The famous Satay Celup is just around the corner, but for those who require halal, the hotel makes an acceptable version for you to try. Golden sunsets can be viewed from The Balcony and the major historical and foodie interests can be found within a 10 minute stroll. The amiable staff will guide you with a map or offer suggestions if you so request.

hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, coupleRooms are spacious and of classic yet contemporary design. We stayed in the Brighton. Worthy of the  few extra dollars, it includes a private garden patio with covered jacuzzi. Comfortable for two, thoughts of a glass of wine and a good book spring to mind. Completely sheltered, you can bathe al fresco while being ensured discretion. All rooms are supplied with what you'd expect from a hotel of this class - mini fridge, TV, hair dryer etc. The added extras are luxurious bath products and a welcome basket of traditional Malaccan sweets. Breakfast (Western or Asian) in The Loft is included in room rates and tea and coffee making facilities are available in the room.
art, hotel, boutique, accommodation, Malacca, Melaka, business, family, coupleThe Sterling has some commendable aims to be greener too. Solar powered hot water, rain water collection, energy saving light bulbs and airconditioning are a few of the ways they are working to reduce their carbon emissions. They appear to be conscious of their impact on the earth and attempt to source local resources where possible. The Sterling Path is another effort towards a socially responsible work ethic. Basically a gallery set up in the corridors of the hotel, The Sterling Path, highlights local artists and donates 25% of sales to charity organizations such as the SPCA.

Reason to visit:  The Brighton room - private garden patio with jacuzzi, central location, personalized service

The Sterling
Lot 232, KB XXI, Jalan Temenggong
75100 Melaka
+6 06 283 1188

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Chef Joe, Pizzeria, Hard Rock Hotel, Penang, Malaysia

Hard Rock Hotel
Jalan Batu Feringgi

Penang, Malaysia

Satkara Spa, Casa Del Rio, Malacca, Malaysia

Casa del Rio, Spa, Malacca, Melaka, massage
Malacca, Melaka, spa, massage, treatment
Satkara Spa at Casa del Rio, Malacca
Casa del Rio, Malacca, Melaka, massage, treatment
Casa del Rio, Malacca, Melaka, massage, treatment, beauty
Treatment rooms at Satkara Spa, Casa del Rio
Casa del Rio, Malacca, Relaxation, massage
Satkara Spa welcome - cold scented towels and iced lemon water
Casa del Rio, Malacca, Melaka, treatment, therapies
Choose your massage oil - Rejuvenate was to my liking with a nutmeg aroma.

Cool, serene and organized, Satkara Spa at Casa del Rio Malacca, is quite the opposite of the sweaty narrow cacophonous streets in the city centre. A modest but sufficient area allows three treatment rooms, including a large suite for a couple accommodating two massage beds, king and queen's chairs and a bathtub just waiting to be filled with soothing salts and warm water. Natural tones, laundered fabrics and Peranakan touches adorn all rooms. Personal treatment is at the forefront of business with every detail considered from start to finish.

Arriving for our appointment we were immediately greeted, seated and refreshed with cool scented towels and lemon water. Our shoes were exchanged for the softest spongiest slippers ever and when ready we were escorted to the treatment room. Facilities were explained and we were left to disrobe and redress with a sarong and disposable panties. Sounding the one bar xylophone indicated to the therapists that we were set to embark.

Every spa therapy at Satkara begins with a Peranakan ritual. You sit like royalty while your feet are washed, massaged and scrubbed. By the end of the beginning the grot of the historical laneways is close to forgotten. Personal preferences are further decided as you whiff the aromatic massage oils to choose one of your liking - Rejuvenate appealed to me with its nutmeg scents. Therapists undergo training in Bali with regular updates to refine technique and their professionalism was evident throughout. The ladies quietly carried on their work with occasional check-ins regarding comfort and pressure. I had their Signature massage which takes the best from a number of reputed techniques and combines them into one experience - focusing on pressure points, muscle and relaxation. Hubby benefited from the traditional Malay rub down with long kneading strokes and pressure applied at significant sites. Both were excellent choices and the routines were some of the best we've been fortunate enough to judge.

Finishing off we were again given privacy. I chose to rain shower and hubby decided to leave the luxurious oil to soak a little longer into his skin. Changed we returned to the meeting room concluding with hot ginger tea and an exchange of slippers for shoes.

Avoiding Malacca on the weekend not only has the benefit of eluding crowds, but also gifts you with off peak rates. In this case, a stellar afternoon of luxury for RM99. Making an appointment between 2 and 5pm Sunday to Thursday allows you a one hour relaxation massage with the highly regarded foot and relaxation rituals.

Reason to visit: foot pampering ritual, Signature massage, excellent price during off peak periods

Satkara Spa
Casa del Rio Malacca
88 Jalan Kota Laksamana
75200 Melaka
+6 06 289 6888

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Casa Del Rio, Malacca, Malaysia

Casa del Rio, Melaka, Sunset, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Casa del Rio - a home by the river
Malacca, Melaka, Spa, Resort, RetreatWelcome - cold towels, ginger and lime sorbet and a personalized leaf
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Sunset, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Deluxe Lago Room - spacious and airy
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Bathroom and living areas with a fanned and garden patio overlooking the lake with glimpses of the river and sea
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Spa, 5 star hotel, resort,
Refillable bath products and recyclable packaging on disposable items reduces garbage by the tonnes. Contribution towards river cleaning and maintenance also add to their growing Corporate Social Responsibility endeavours.
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Gourmet tea bags, local speciality coffee, hot chocolate sachets, loose leaf tea & coffee to brew freshly in the plunger provided
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Infinity pool overlooking central Malacca - river, town and sea views from the roof top
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Hotel, Spa, Retreat
Elegant touches even in the public areas - this bathroom is equipped with moisturizer, hand soap, mouth wash, fabric towels and a bouquet of orchids
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
Small but well maintained gym overlooking a Malaccan roofscape
Casa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotelCasa del Rio, Melaka, Resort, Retreat, Malacca, boutique hotel
The lago (lake) in the centre of the complex helps to provide natural cooling just as in a traditional Moroccan home. Mediterranean architecture adds to the holiday ambience.

Your 'home by the river', or Casa del Rio, is a name taken seriously by the team at this property in Malacca. From the moment of arrival to the second of departure guests are handled with tender care and attention implicative of genteel hospitality from times long gone. The striking Mediterranean architecture inaugurates your senses. Water touched drafts lift off the central lago (lake) abating the heat while frangipanis and bougainvillea scent the air. The lake is only one natural cooling system eliminating the need for overuse of air conditioning. High ceilings, wide walkways, arches and open wrought iron walls also capture breezes in an otherwise sweltering town. Stone washed walls, dark wood trimmings, and floor to ceiling windows are adorned with tiles, lamps and vibrant paintings. Hues of deep blue, turquoise and ochre add splashes of colour to the warm wooden furniture and salmon washed walls. The colonnades seem to whisper holiday, relaxation and fun.

Spacious is an understatement to describe the area afforded in even their basic room (Deluxe Lago) where we stayed. It is bigger than some apartments in which I've lived! Separate balcony, living sleeping, bathroom and storage areas can be closed off or opened up providing more or less intimacy as desired. Each of 66 rooms annexes a private balcony with either lago or river views. Gardens frame the outskirts and ceiling fans the porches according each occupant privacy and a pleasant space to roost. Wi Fi throughout the hotel and in room LAN cables mean connectivity day or night. Screen and audio addicts will be pleased with a 42" flat screen TV, DVD and CD player and iPod docking station. A firm bed base, with soft upper and luxurious cotton sheets ensure a good night’s rest. The feeling of home is further extended through a coffee plunger with ground coffee and loose leaf tea – you’ll find no nasty instant Nescafe here. The Library houses a pod espresso machine where you can fix yourself a cup as desired. A local touch too is provided with the addition of the famous Malaccan two in one coffee packets and Kebaya Tales – a novel by a local author. A rubber ducky keeps you company in the bath and salts (scents changed daily) soak away your worries. A turn down service sees mosquito coils and candles lit at dusk. Walls are tastefully adorned with colourful oils, lamps and textured fabrics. Details surprise you in every corner from the cleverly disguised-as-books remote holders to the thoughtful nightly notes with the next day's weather forecast.

The location could not be more convenient. On the river banks in the heart of Malacca you're only steps away to the sites. The infinity pool and all of their food and beverage outlets award views of the meandering river as it leads out to sea, the old Dutch boat, restored buildings and the illuminating spectacle as the evening lights awaken and begin reflecting back from the water. Pool, gym, spa and talented chefs might make you consider staying put and just watching the attractions from your cool perch. With the addition of this phrase by our helpful baggage carrier, "anything you desire is just a call away," you seriously might be tempted to stay in. Even after we checked out the unmistakable service of Casa del Rio followed us. Arriving to our car we found that our windows and mirrors had been cleaned for a 'safe and comfortable journey home'. Casa del Rio Malacca, home by the river, is 100% class.

Reason to visit: hip resort feel with pretty river views, meticulous attention to detail, central location, excellent spa and, tasty F&B outlets

Casa del Rio Malacca
88 Jalan Kota Laksamana
75200 Melaka, Malaysia
+6 06 289 6888

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ramadhan Buffet, Kababish Restaurant, StarPoints Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Hotel Entrance

I’ve had the good fortune to preview several Ramadhan Buffets recently, and each has been unique.  Photographer Vicki Fennessy and I were wondering what would be in store at the StarPoints Hotel, nestled in the heart of the Masjid India area.  The entrance was not imposing, and the place was quite difficult to find, so I wasn't holding out too much hope.  But after taking the elevator to the 14th floor, I was thrilled to find that Kababish Restaurant will be offering Pakistani delights during Ramadhan, and it was these dishes that I had the been invited to try.  Executive Chef Samson Victor competently heads a staff of six, three chefs from Pakistan and three from Malaysia.  Together they produce a myriad of dishes, incorporating a slight tweak of spices, no curry leaves but extra coriander, tantalizing differences that set Pakistani food apart from its North Indian cousins.

I began my dinner by sampling various Chaats.  The number of dishes with the inclusion of the word Chaat was a little confusing, and it was only later that I realised that this means appetizer or snack in Urdu.  No wonder they were so diverse.  I tried three varieties that were based on chickpeas and potatoes, each with a unique twist.   One was made with more tomato, another had dark red lentils and the third was mixed with a yogurt sauce.  Each was delicious, but I found the tomato version most pleasing.  With plenty of chilli and coriander leaves it reminded me of a nice, fresh salsa.

Chicken Boti Tikka
Samosa Chaat
Roghani Naan

Al fresco dining
The Restaurant has outdoor seating that is perfect for breakfast or a cool evening.  It was outside that I found the Samosa Chaat, crisp little savoury bites served with a hot sauce of chickpeas and tomatoes (hot both in temperature and in spice) and condiments such as potato cubes, raw onion, tomato and coriander.  There were also lovely chutneys that were highly desireable.  The large balcony allowed plenty of space for two of the chefs to show their skills.  Chef Hussain was busy at the tandoor oven making yet another form of Chaats - Paratha and Roghani NaanI enjoyed the potato-stuffed Paratha straight from the oven with the piquant chutneys, really a wonderful combination.  Chef Ghaffar fired up the barbie and very soon began to sear long skewers of Chicken Boti Tikka, which resembled Shish Taouk, and Lamb Kofta.  Soaking the chicken breast overnight in a marinade ensured a juicy finished product, cooked to smoky perfection.  I can never resist melt-in-the-mouth, lean meat so I must confess I went back for a second helping.
Lahori Fish and Pakora

I went back for more Lahori Fried Fish too, pieces of well-marinated red snapper cooked in a light batter and served with a zingy mint chutney, another lip-smacker that tingled my taste buds.  Battered yam, bananas and cempadak, and Mixed Vegetable Pakora rounded out the Chaats.  Obviously there was plenty of variety just with these snacks, but it was time to return inside for the mains.  Several dishes looked and tasted familiar: Aloo Palak (potatoes in spinach, rich and full of goodness), Asparagus in Oyster Sauce, Qeema Matter (peas and minced mutton in a clove infused sauce), Sotong Sumbat (stuffed squid) and Beef with Ginger.  The Biryani Rice was lightly spiced, and it paired well with the Chicken Badami Korma, tender stewed chicken in a rich curry sauce thickened with ground almonds.
Sotong Sumbat
Chicken Biryani
Gubger Beef

Chicken Badami Korma

By this time I’d eaten quite enough, but how could I write about the desserts without trying them?  Vicki and I shared half a hot Gulab Jamun each, oozing with sweetness and half a cold Rasgulla, a ball of Paneer soaked in sugar syrup.  I must admit that I could have eaten more of these goodies, but I managed to control my sweet tooth and felt all the better for it later.  There was also a salad made of apples and cucumber in mayonnaise, a rose blancmange and plenty of fruit.  To drink there was an unlimited supply of orange juice and the more traditional rose syrup with milk.
Gulab Jamun

Add caption

The chefs at Kababish...Chef Samson on the left

The Ramadhan Buffet will run from July 20 to August 19, 2012, between 6pm and 10pm, with a different menu for each day of the week.  It is priced at RM60 nett and RM30 for children aged 6 to 12.  There’s an early bird promotion from July 20 to 27.  Kababish Restaurant also has an extensive a la carte menu, which includes Western, Pakistani, Malay, vegetarian and barbeque options.  Outside the festive season, there is a lunch and dinner buffet at weekends only. 

Reason to visit:  Super-friendly service and authentic Pakistani food.  

For reservations call Rostardino: 603-2698-1866 or 016-393-9142

Fruit Chaat

Kababish Restaurant 
StarPoints Hotel 
149 Jalan Masjid India
50100 Kuala Lumpur