|Macalister Mansion at Night|
Standing proudly on the historic Macalister Road, Macalister Mansion appears to rise out of the ground as an awe-inspiring apparition amongst construction sites and older, less well-kept shop houses. Sophisticated, contemporary and quirky, this majestic manor though cannot escape its cultural heritage.
Lovingly and luxuriously restored, Macalister Mansion honours Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first British Governors of Penang. As such, a giant white cubist styled sculptural portrait of the man himself is cradled in a nest of milky pebbles, welcoming guests as they enter the driveway. A perfectly trimmed hedge serves to conceal a pool and other facilities while leading visitors to the principal entryway.
The past and the present are juxtaposed immediately in the main entrance. The heritage façade is colonial in nature with its immaculate white walls, ornate terrace and paneled window shutters. Yet once through the front doors, a sleek futuristic lobby awaits. Clean lines and shiny surfaces lead a U-shaped bar around the receptionist where guests sip on welcome Chilled Infusions (our orange juice with chili, mint and lemongrass was a refreshing pick-me-up after the four hour drive from KL) while documents and luggage are checked in. Propped up on bar stools, the sound of chic electronic music with French vocals and dizzying light projections on the curved wall surface lull guests into a near hypnotic state of upbeat happiness and joviality. The only hotel in Malaysia achieving the status of Design Hotel, Macalister Mansion just breathes hip from the very beginning.
While a feeling of modern luxury pervades the property, antique structures and furniture are purposefully placed reminding inhabitants of its 1900’s origins. From the restored sideboards in The Dining Room and the reference lined bookshelves in The Cellar, to the exposed truss beams in some bedrooms, colonial charm is ever present.
It’s not just the contrast between old and new though that provides fascination. The addition of offbeat and unexpected decorations add elements of surprise and intrigue. Pastel coloured deer statues frolic in the Dining Room. White bears and other animal figures play in the courtyard. Giant portraits of the gentleman and lady of the house with antelope heads are hung either side of the simulated fireplace. While oozing sophistication, the incorporation of these pieces animates the building, supplying the mansion with a distinct personality – one you can almost imagine smiling at itself.
The essential arrangement though of Macalister Mansion maintains that of an old English manor. The Den, Dining Room, Living Room, The Cellar, The Lawn and the eight guest bedrooms all mimic those of a traditional home. Spaces remind one of the hospitality offered when staying in the residence of a friend.
Light tete-a-tete or deeper confabulation, the property is laid out allowing for it all. A casual conversation while lying by the pool at The Lawn, a spirited discussion over dinner in the Dining Room, or more thoughtful contemplation and reflection in The Den over a tumbler of whisky might all be witnessed across one evening.
The Lawn comprises a lap pool, swim up bar and manicured gardens. As the sun disappears at the end of the day this is the ideal spot to watch the magical lighting of the mansion viewed over the aquamarine waters of the pool.
The Dining Room, a wash of crisp white with splashes of pale and cerulean blues, has the charisma of a winter wonderland. A snowy tree is the centrepiece in the dining hall reaching up to a tent like ceiling and looked upon by soft-hued forest animals. The fine dining restaurant offers innovative gastronomy with a modern look at French cuisine.
The Den and The Cellar are both stylish places to unwind and relax, each with their own idiosyncrasies. A palate of chocolates, with metallic specks and highlights reflected in subtle lighting, sweep both rooms. Deep, engulfing king-sized armchairs encourage prolonged stays. An admirable collection of Single Cask whiskies and possibly the largest collection of wine labels on the island provoke pensive exploration.
The bright and cheery Living Room provides all day refreshment and a casual spot to escape the Penang heat. Hanging plants, whites and greens, stenciled walls and natural light, fashion a relaxed café ambience. The food and beverages too mimic the hotel, classic with a refreshing modern twist.
Uniqueness in composition doesn’t stop in the common areas. Each of the eight guest rooms is individually designed. Specially commissioned art pieces from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, with the running theme of the life and times of Norman Macalister, adorn each.
From Room 8, nicknamed the chocolate box (because of the automated curtains that enclose the space giving it the effect of a luxury box of treats), to Room 3 featuring its own balcony overlooking the pool, to Room 4 with its original wrought iron spiral staircase leading up the mansion’s turret, each offers a distinct opulent experience.
|Room 4 with spiral staircase|
Meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout: letter-headed paper individually personalized with guest’s names; animal shaped paperclips amongst a desk full of writing supplies; toilet paper not just folded in the customary triangle to signify the room has been made up but also imprinted with mm, the hotel’s initial; an information card about one of Penang’s founders placed on the bed nightly; slices of cake on the nightstand for sweet dreams; not one but two choices of bathrobes – the smooth warm velour type or a lighter waffle material; lavish bath products; espresso machine; complimentary mini-bar and snacks; high end bedding; quality sound system; free standing bathtub… the list continues.
As you might expect, Macalister Mansion is not a budget option. Published room rates range from just under RM800 to around RM1300. It’s an ideal location for couples, an event or wedding. The food and beverage outlets however are open to the public, so a sampling of this innovative, yet also traditional boutique hotel is possible even for those watching their dollars.
From the old to the new, the traditional to the eccentric, Macalister Mansion offers an unforgettable stay.
Reason to visit: a chic classy combination of old with the new, gorgeous rooms, personalized service, good location for seeing the historical and culinary sites of Penang, excellent food and beverage outlets, swim up bar with lounges in the water
228 Macalister Road
10400 George Town
+6 04 2283 888