Restoring an icon from a glorious past, the former Lee Rubber Building is now a restorative urban getaway in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.
Words by Corina Tan
Preservation and restoration of old buildings is a perfect way to honour the architectural legacy of days gone by. This was the vision of Justin Chen and Javier Perez when they, together with local leading designers, artists, Malaysian design firm Studio Bikin and Faizah Architect set out to restore one of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic landmarks. The former Lee Rubber Building located on Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in the heart of Chinatown was originally constructed in 1930 in art deco style with a grey facade. It has now been restored and repurposed as a swanky new boutique hotel named Else Hotel. Providing respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, both local and international guests will have a base to embark on journeys of exploration, taking in all that KL city has to offer.
The property sprawls over 56,000 square feet with 49 rooms across seven levels. Rooms are available in four categories to suit every kind of traveller with modern amenities and sustainable personal care products by Omno, Lulla bathrobes and Dyson hairdryers. All rooms are also tech-enabled with in-room multi-media tablet and Bluetooth sound systems. A splash of inspiration is provided by Art from locally sourced artists and reading paraphernalia by Malaysian authors.
Wellness facilities span throughout the hotel. One highlight are the two floatation pods inside the state-of-the-art gym. In an over-stimulated and overworked world, the pods provide a chance to slow down and access a profound level of stillness through sensory deprivation. Guests are free from mental stimulation, and physical strain as the mind slows down and enters a deeply meditative state, while the body recovers rapidly from aches, injuries, and stress. The gym also caters to free-weight training and calisthenics, promoting a greater sense of body awareness and mobility. Extending on, the infinity pool at the podium level utilizes salt-water which is softer and less harsh on the skin than chlorine, providing a relaxing escape to a long day with a renewed perspective of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.
Else Hotel has an all-day dining restaurant called Raw Kitchen Hall which is an extension of its sister brand Raw Kitchen Bar in Singapore, with a menu headed by Chefs Leong Chee Mun and Wah Yin Xing who are returning home after stints at world-class restaurants including Spago and Burnt Ends in Singapore. The culinary team will execute Asian and Mediterranean-inspired recipes unique to Else and led by seasonal, local produce. Guests will also be able to enjoy personalised service in an intimate setting when The Yellow Fin opens by year-end. Paired with a fine selection of natural wines, the open-fire restaurant forges international and local seafood flavours cooked to perfection by authentic flamed cooking. Else’s boutique bar programme has been designed by award-winning Proof & Company, and will lead the spirit curation for a classic and elegant cocktail menu.
With a heart for sustainability, independent, local, artisanal brands and partners were selected for minimal environmental impact and to inspire a meaningful stay. Custom-made bedhead textiles, rugs and arresting carpets have been designed and crafted in Malaysia by Singapore-born, KL-based Omar Khan. Antiquities and cultural artwork can be found throughout the property, including guest rooms and the Library Den. Each piece has been hand-picked from Gilded Lion, a curator in rare, fine antiques and cultural curiosities.
Meanwhile, complex, thought-provoking and inspiring art pieces have been acquired from award-winning Malaysian artists, including Fauzul Yusri, Fendy Zakri, Fawwaz Sukri and Nathan Fikri. Emerging local artist W. Rajaie. B’s beautiful art and reflective work by Firdaus Ismail also adorn the Else walls. Art by Canada’s Joe Fleming, who has exhibited internationally for over two decades, including at the Holocaust Museum in LA and FIAC Paris and raw, free-spirited pieces by celebrated Argie Bandoy from the Philippines are also showcased.
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Commenting on the opening, Co-Founder Justin Chen said, “Else has been a four-year project realized through the challenges of the global pandemic and inspired by the emerging new era of travel. The result is an urban haven for the globally minded and curious. Our design and construction team have sensitively balanced a contrast of new and old with a refined juxtaposition of a pre-war building beautifully preserved and innovative design that invites all our guests to explore the property on their own, and discover intimate pockets to pause and reflect.”
Else Hotel opens on September 10, 2022 with special opening rates starting from RM398 until October 31, 2022. For reservations and more information, please visit the hotel’s website.
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This article originally appeared in The Peak Malaysia.