For those seeking a fantastic variety of food and shopping, zero in on Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL to locals). A city known for its ethnic diversity, mega shopping malls and a thriving 24/7 casual dining scene, this is the melting pot of the Asian culinary world. It’s not unusual to begin a conversation here, not with ‘How are you?’ but rather with ‘Have you eaten yet?’ so let’s start with some of the best places to dine in KL.
Owners Frederico and Maple Asaro have built a hospitality empire with a restaurant roll call including Tamarind Hill, Neo Tamarind and Tamarind Springs. The latter’s traditional Indochinese house is nestled in a tropical luxe hideaway in the city. Executive Chef Somjuhan Wandee hails from Chiang Mai, and finds inspiration from her grandmother, who once served the King of Siam. Here she’ll help you restore your soul with dishes like sweet prawn with watermelon, charcoal simmered Laotian spiced chicken soup, and steamed white cod with tamarind sauce.
This wildly successful ‘truly Malaysian Cuisine’ casual restaurant chain tempts you with an extensive menu of savoury favorites such as nasi lemak, curry mee and dessert cendol. Renowned for their Nasi Bojari – a colourful meal served on a banana leaf including tri-coloured rice, crispy fried chicken, sambal prawns and beef rendang.
This newcomer replete with a large show kitchen lets you feast on the food preparation before your steak. PRIME is the only restaurant in town that offers guests the choice of having their steaks grilled on either imported charcoal or on lava stone.
A firm fine dining favourite, Cilantro is a French-Japanese establishment with well-respected Chef Takashi Kimura at the helm. Avoid food envy with an appetizer of assorted hors d’oeuvres, move on to the grain fed lamb rack with houba miso and save room for dessert. The Chestnut Creme Brûlée, and extensive wine list is not known to disappoint.
Ritz Carlton Lobby Lounge
This sophisticated Lobby Lounge is the place to go when you’re after some respite from the hustle and bustle. Relax in the elegant surroundings, choose your specialty Ronnefeldt tea, and enjoy a selection of freshly prepared savoury sandwiches, quiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, before moving on to pastries including chocolate gateaux, mango cheese cake, berry tartlet and macaroons.
Located on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel, opt for a sunken booth next to the window with cocktail in hand. Skybar boasts the ultimate KLCC views and a striking spot to soak in the majestic Petronas Twin Towers by night. Note, stay clear of the swimming pool – no late night dipping allowed.
Those with a penchant for 360-degree city views, a fine restaurant, wine bar and lounge, go straight to the top floor of the newly opened Grand Hyatt KL. At the newly opened Thirty8 you can enjoy delicious fare ranging steaks, seafood, sushi and sashimi but don’t miss out on dessert – Thirty8’s signature cake is a marvel featuring dry ice cocooning butterscotch drizzled layered chocolate cake and caramelised banana ice cream.
Troika Sky Bar & Dining
Expect the ultimate shiny new bachelor pad at Troika Sky Bar & Dining, designed with an aesthetic that’s striking and elegant. The space is segregated into Cantaloupe (French restaurant), Strato (Italian restaurant) and Claret (wine bar). Overlook the Petronas Towers whilst you enjoy classical French delicacies served up by Chef Christian Bauer, formerly of Frangipani.
Best shopping destinations
Bukit Bintang KL
This shopping and entertainment district houses one of Asia’s most beautiful shopping malls, Starhill Gallery. She’ll impress you with seven floors of of avant-garde architecture and premiere outlets including Dior, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Valentino and Missoni. Spend some time (and credit) at Pavilion KL for temptations by Diptyque, Jo Malone London, Club 21, Tiffany & Co, BCBGMaxazria, Burberry, Bvlgari, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Versace and Zara.
Amongst the cafes, bars, and night markets you’ll find leading boutiques such as Sephora, a 4-storey H&M (look out for collaborations such as the recent collection with Maison Martin Margiela) and Debenhams.
Drop into Sungei Wang Plaza only if you want a local flavour and be prepared to bargain.
Located at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers, tear yourself away from the shopping and up to the skybridge for amazing city views and a display of remarkable architecture. Then get back to exploring six levels of retailers including boutiques from many of the luxe labels and major department stores Isetan, Marks & Spencer and Parkson.
Top Malaysian designers
Luxury with an edge, high fashion mixed with street credibility. Khoon Hooi’s Ready To Wear range is known for its romantic, ultra-feminine personality and its fusion of youthful sexiness.
With romantic creations that mix modern and vintage styles Melinda Looi draws inspiration from Malaysia’s rich cultural diversity. Using a soft colour palette, plenty of intricate embellishments and flowing fabrics, her styles are designed with a vintage aesthetic.
Farah Khan’s bright, funky and modern, ready-to-wear designs are meant for sophisticated women on the go: the type of clothes you can pack into your suitcase easily and wear later without fuss. Her use of luxurious and innovative fabrics, and signature intricate embelishments make Farah Khan a staple for your wardrobe.
Top places to stay
Tucked amongst consulates and embassies this hidden premise offers the only Villa-in-a-residence in the capital city. Perfect for couples, choose from a collection of 21 contemporary Asian-inspired rooms, each raw and refined in design providing all the comforts and luxury amenities you’re after (private plunge pool or Jacuzzis included in Luxe Cribs and above). As the sun sets and you’ve finished with the cabanas at the lagoon-shaped central pool, head to the soaring grass thatched-rooftop Bamung Bar for killer cocktails and canapés prepared by the friendly staff. The ultimate boutique hotel to nest in.
Grand Hyatt KL
Grand Hyatt KL is the hottest new hotel in KL. Floor to ceiling windows in each of their 412 guestrooms and suites offering panoramic views of the city, exciting show kitchens, pool side dining and the tranquil Essa Spa.
Majestic Hotel KL
The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur is one of the iconic hotels in the capital. Colonial architecture with accents of Art deco nuances, and amazing spa, and tearoom makes this hotel an exciting place to stay. Timber floors, luxurious furnishings, black and white chequered tiled bathrooms featuring claw-footed bathtubs and a butler service for Majestic Wing suites make this accommodation one of a kind, and sure to be a delight.
This hotel is great if you’re in Kuala Lumpur and seeking a city central hotel. Set in the midst of the bustling Golden Triangle; enjoy premium shopping and entertainment precincts right at your doorstep. Whether for pleasure or for business (or both), you’ll love the central location.
A day trip to Melaka
Melaka has a rich history, originating from early sultanates trading in spices, as well as colonies of Portuguese, Dutch and English settlers. Here you can spend a day meandering 600 year old narrow pathways, exploring red-brick Dutch colonial buildings and finding antique wares along Jonker Street, an area which transforms into a night market after 6pm (most lively on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday).
Take part in a traditional Nonya cooking class and refuel with delicious dishes cooked yourself including Lemak Prawns (prawns in spicy coconut gravy) and Ayam Pongteh (stew chicken in soy bean sauce with potatoes). For dessert nothing beats a bowl of Peranakan cendol.
At the end of the day, return to your stay at the Majestic Malacca and soothe your tired feet with a relaxing massage at the Spa Village.
Editor Carrie Kwan travelled to Kuala Lumpur as a guest of Tourism Malaysia, GTI Tourism and Air Asia.