John Brunton discovers a luxurious hideaway in Kuala Lumpur where complete rest and relaxation are within reach.
Take a break from Kuala Lumpur's noise and traffic at Villa Samadhi
Kuala Lumpur's taxi drivers have not yet registered Villa Samadhi on their radar, so getting here can be a problem, especially as there is only a tiny sign and the property is tucked away behind a bamboo-clad gate. But immediately on walking into this stylish compound, I feel I have stumbled on a luxurious private getaway. A tall, tiered roof is covered with a traditional Malaysian attap thatch, but the reception has a sleek modern, minimalist design, with a sliding glass door opening out onto an inviting lagoon-style pool. Guests are personally greeted by Cherie, the charming manager who looks like a fashion model. She expertly makes everyone comfortable and at ease without ever being intrusive. The room isn't ready? She accompanies a new check-in to the breakfast room and suggests they go for a swim.
Evening arrivals are treated to sundowners, while delightful extras here range from free laundry, homemade biscuits served with afternoon tea, their own olive oil soap, and free internet, something many luxury chains still refuse to provide. The Villa is independently owned by a young Italian and his dynamic Malaysian wife, Federico and Maple Asaro, who have created a reputation for opening innovative and unique hotels and restaurants in South East Asia. They took two and a half years to painstakingly transform what was originally a fabulous private mansion into this discreet hideaway retreat, and their next project is a similar concept in Singapore.
The Villa is located in a "best of both worlds" neighbourhood. This exclusive residential zone of low-rise luxury condos and beautiful old colonial bungalows and mansions is the favourite address for Malaysian royalty, embassies and ambassadors, and high-powered expatriates. Calm reigns in these leafy avenues, and although there is very little of interest within walking distance, a five minute cab drive takes you to the foot of the iconic Twin Towers, with its state-of-the-art KLCC shopping mall, gourmet restaurants and fun street-food stalls.
Each room is individually designed and decorated with a subtle mix of tasteful Asian antiques and modern design furnishings, juxtaposed against industrial-style polished concrete walls, bamboo and salvaged-timber floors. Even the smallest room is 56 square metres, while the Villa is spread over 186, with spacious living rooms, bathrooms that include walk-in tropical showers, and several terraces boast their own private plunge-pool. Some suites offer a small tropical garden, while others have direct access from the room into the lagoon pool.
It is difficult to imagine a hotel so devoted to the total rest and relaxation of its guests. From the lobby to the pool or the bar, a zen, chilled-out ambience pervades the Villa, and it is best to go with the flow and imagine you're somewhere exotic like Bali, either sipping a drink under a coconut tree by the water's edge, reading a book on a floating futon-gazebo, or just disappear into your room and plug the iPod into its dock. The clientele is cosmopolitan, especially popular with Europeans who are drawn here because it is the only property from the prestigious Relais & Chateaux association in mainland Malaysia.
There may not be a classic concierge or doorman doffing his hat, but the staff here could not be more friendly, from the demure receptionists to the helpful waiters in the restaurant. For the moment, it does not have a spa or health club.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in "Mandi-Mandi", an intimate dining room looking out over the Villa's turquoise pool. As you would expect from the owners of several of KL's top fine dining restaurants, the food is absolutely fabulous, from inventive salted cod with poached eggs at breakfast (free), light tagliatelle smothered with porcini mushrooms (Dh54) at lunch, and their signature Thai-Burmese dishes in the evening such as spicy sour barramundi fish with blue rice and ginger flower (Dh66) or a sea bass yellow curry with fried rice "kampong" style (Dh66).
The "far from the maddening crowd" atmosphere, especially the romantic Bumbung Bar, hidden away on the rooftop. This really is a genuine haven of peace, impossible to imagine that the congested traffic and bustling crowds that teem through the centre of KL are just outside the door.
Perhaps to create an exclusive, mysterious atmosphere, the hotel's outstanding restaurant is open only to guests, and while a quiet romantic dinner is fine for one evening, the restaurant could do with a bit of buzz and excitement.
Finally Kuala Lumpur has an original, high quality boutique hotel, an exclusive urban resort that is the perfect bolt-hole after a busy day sightseeing, shopping and partying in one of Asia's liveliest cities.
The bottom line
A double room costs from M$500 (Dh595) per night, including taxes and breakfast, up to M$1,300 (Dh 1,550) for the spacious Loft suite; while each of the three self-contained villas are priced from M$1,750 (Dh2,085) per night, including taxes and breakfast.Villa Samadhi, 8 Jalan Madge, Kuala Lumpur (www.villasamadhi.com.my; 0060 3 2143 2300).