For those who enjoy a quiet holiday in understated luxury, The Majestic Malacca is a gem. The beautifully refurbished 1920s Straits Settlement mansion previously owned by a tycoon – complete with its original porcelain tile floors and teak wood fittings – transports you to a bygone era.
My husband and little one enjoyed the stay at this five-star luxury boutique hotel so much so that my son kept asking me throughout our day out: “When are we going back to the hotel?”
We fully enjoyed the food, the elegant room, the pampering spa session, historical walk and the personalised Kristang cooking class – all which offered a traipse through Malaccan-Portuguese heritage.
My family was invited for a short stay at The Majestic and here is my review of the experience.
Life in Vintage Luxury
The elegant room and rich teak wood fittings were spotless. In addition to restoring the original mansion, YTL Hotels added a new wing in 2008 – which is where the guest rooms and Spa Village are situated.
At the heart of the Deluxe Double room are a dark teak poster bed and an inviting bath tub with clawed feet. I’ve always felt that hotel bath tubs were iffy, grimy things – but this tub was clean. And it came with complimentary Himalayan pink sea salt for baths.
The plush lounge chair came with a good view of the city from our 10th-floor room.
The warm welcome included a delicately aromatic lychee black tea from a beautiful tea pot in a gorgeous basket.
There are modern amenities, of course, like a coffee capsule machine, complimentary drinks in the bar fridge, tea and snacks.
A fresh selection of Peranakan kueh awaited us every day at the coffee table. It’s thoughtful gestures like these that makes a stay a notch more special.
Heritage Through Food
It’s the food that makes The Majestic truly shine. The hotel’s dining room Melba at the Mansion offers family recipes from the personal collection of well-known chef Melba Nunis.
Apparently, we missed her at the restaurant as she had retired just the month before, according to sous chef Khay. Chef Melba had helmed the place since 2017. Be sure to pick up her recipe book ‘A Kristang Family Cookbook’.
A heady mix of various traditions, Kristang refers to both the ethnic group of people of Malaccan-Portuguese (Eurasian) descent as well as heritage practices, like food, for example.
Known for its fiery sambals, comforting stews and rich coconut curries, Kristang cuisine is a melting pot of Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, Indian and Chinese culinary styles. Don’t be surprised if you taste a little of everything in there – because there is.
For our complimentary dinner, we began with a merry appetiser of onion fritters, crispy threadfin fish and refreshing pineapple salad. The crispy strips of fish with the chilli dip were a joy.
We ordered the Galinhia chicken set for mains. I love really hot, spicy food, so the very hot Kari Debal (devil’s curry) gave way to fireworks on the tongue – it was delicious, with complex flavours.
The Kari Serai, or curry with lemongrass, was considered medium-hot.
It was a potent mix of aromatic spices. One thing is for sure – the various rempahor spice pastes, used as a foundation in their dishes, is consistently good.
The chunks of chicken in my son’s tasty chicken-prawn fried rice were tender and juicy – his words!
Dessert was a treasure trove of rich, smoky gula melakasago, tempered with delicate coconut milk and edible blue pea flower.
The complimentary daily breakfast is a half buffet. Besides a buffet table of cereals, salads, cheeses and breads, you can order from an a la carte buffet menu too.
We enjoyed the smoked salmon Eggs Royale on English muffins with hollandaise sauce. But the local dishes were the true winners.
Go for the Kristang omelette with fermented krill (cincalok), fried onion and green chilli. The curry, deep fried soft egg, and grilled cheese sambal on toast hit all the right spots. It’s hot, but all-guns-blazing in flavour.
We stayed away from the sweating cheese platter and cereals as we didn’t quite enjoy them. After all, there is limited space where all this food is going.
Heritage Culinary Journey
I’m not a morning person, so I dragged my feet a little for a 9 am visit to the market, ahead of the private cooking class with the sous chef from Melba at the Mansion.
But I’m glad we went. About 10 to 15 min drive away, the Melaka Sentral wet market is clean, organised and filled to the brim with local produce, meats, fish and spices. A hotel staff member explained the names and uses of various local produce.
Pick up flat, round cakes of belacan, cylinders of gula melaka or dusty knobs of buah keluak for your trip home. Wash it all down with a strong cup of local kopi at the hawker centre area when you’re done.
The cooking lesson held by the swimming pool was engaging and hands-on. Sous chef Khay was clear in his instructions and gave many great cooking tips. I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook rempah and prepare curries, so here I am.
The fragrant, sweet-savoury chicken pongteh was slightly easier than the flaming, fiery fish curry. But it was a rewarding lesson in learning Kristang cuisine.
The dishes were part of our lunch afterwards, topped off with other dishes like this scrumptious crab meat omelette and deliciously caramelised eggplant.
Depending on availability, guests get a complimentary guided walk around prominent historical landmarks of this 600-year-old coastal port. You could go with trail guide Rahayu’s recommended route, but are free to suggest spots that you would like to visit instead.
Knowledgeable and soft-spoken, Rahayu took us to places like Christ Church and St Paul’s Church.
Christ Church is an 18th-century Anglican church. Its iconic red-paint walls hearken to practices in the past. One story is that passers-by used to chew betel nut leaves and spit red juice all over the walls. Another is that the Dutch used to grind coral to be made into wall plaster, giving the walls red, patchy colour. Christ Church is the oldest functioning Protestant church in Malaysia.
A short 15min trek up St Paul’s hill brought us to good vantage points to see the city. The little one started asking Rahayu many questions about Malacca and reclaimed land. The point where you see the huge replica ship is where the original shoreline of Melaka used to be (old Melaka); beyond that is all reclaimed land (new Melaka).
Originally built in 1521, St Paul’s church is the oldest church building in Malaysia and South-east Asia. The little one was astounded by its age: “It’s 500 years old?!”
Afternoon Lounge Tea
The Peranakan afternoon tea set at the Library is a bite-sized palette of sweet and savoury treats both Malaccan and European, with our choice of tea.
From onion fritters with chilli sauce to chendol and scones and strawberry tarts, this is a very substantial tea that you should leave room for.
The vintage handkerchiefs that accompany many of their meals and snacks are a nice touch.
Time to unwind and loosen those knots in the muscles.
A pre-treatment hairwash ritual inspired by the traditional Peranakan wedding, my spa session began with a shampoo and scalp massage with olive oil and conditioner, finished off with fresh lime juice and floral rinse. Tingly goodness.
My choice of the warming nutmeg-rice rolling massage was 100 minutes of happiness, under the expert hands of the therapist – all the right acupoints.
Rice and nutmeg is heated in the therapy room and then placed in a pouch for use later, leaving a spicy, warm fragrance wafting through the air.
The warm oil massage, coupled with the rolling pouch of nutmeg rice, supposedly removes ‘wind’ in the body. Especially good for those with joint and back pain, it seems.
Pre- and post-treatment relaxation involves reclining at one of the lounge chairs with hot tea and refreshing light snacks.
Relaxing, Pampering Stay
Being at The Majestic felt like travelling back in time, with pampering treats and hearty meals in a beautifully historic place.
From door man to receptionist, bell-hop to restaurant waiter, the warm service in the hotel was thoughtful yet unobtrusive.
Of course, it’s a small hotel, not a 400-room property with all the bells and whistles, so it’s probably easier to manage. But the ease with the way things ran belies the well-practised operations of this 10-year-old hotel, with the trimmings of five-star luxury in a niche, quaint package.
And yes, we would come back here again. This, ultimately, is the litmus test of any hotel.
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia