A UNIQUE SYNTHESIS

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Published on May 08, 2018 with No Comments

Making claim to a slice of Straits heaven at The Majestic Malacca.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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Credit(s): Anis Ramli

When it opened in 2008, The Majestic Malacca aimed high: not only to restore the once revered landmark of the city, The Majestic Hotel, but also revive the city’s unique heritage and legacy. A decade on, and we are glad to see the promise remains unchanged.

The Majestic Malacca’s main attraction remains its unmatched scale in which it passionately embraces Malacca’s rich cultural history for the present to appreciate. Founded in 1929 and built as a private home, the building turned into a hotel only in 1955 before taking the present name. Though it resembled little of the luxurious boutique hotel that it is today, the property back then still enjoyed the perks of a prime location being near the Melaka River.

Throughout guests’ stay, patches of the hotel’s past can be spotted, amplifying the important part of its identity: from the decorative Straits Chinese porcelain tiles in the lobby to the Straits Settlement windows in the restaurant. The greeting upon arrival at the lobby, housed in the original mansion, by staff in unique kebaya, feels more like a homecoming of sorts. But beyond the re-polished tiles and dressed-up attendants, this hotel is anything but symbolic.

The newly minted Melba at the Mansion, the hotel’s main restaurant, offers a window into one of the city’s most signature-heavy yet elusive cuisines: Kristang. This lesser-known gourmet tradition is a hybrid flavour of Malacca and Portuguese, commonly known as Eurasian, and is rich with spices and herbs that made Malacca phenomenally rich during the spice trade of the 15th century. Chef Melba Nunis delves into her family roots and comfort foods from her award-winning cookbook, A Kristang Family Cookbook, to bring guests on a journey of unique Kristang flavours. Her black sotong (squid) sambal is an artful study in slow cooking and delicate flavours, making use of the intact ink sacs to create a velvety black sauce with a distinctive umami taste. Another, kari debal, or popularly known as devil curry, is a great example of Kristang’s amalgamation of cultures, bringing together the culinary styles of the Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, Indian and Chinese. While there are many versions to this dish, at Melba’s, there was just the right amount of vinegar to cut through the otherwise overly fiery sambal while the chunks of chicken meat and slivers of onion and ginger lend both a rustic and wholesome feel to the dish.

If sampling the food is not enough, then try your hand at its preparation. The Kristang Culinary Journey lets you spend half a day with Chef Melba and join her as she navigates her way through the local market. There are frequent stops in between shopping – as expected – as everyone calls out to their favourite chef. Likewise, Chef Melba would stop briefly to chat with her favourite fishmonger (who tells her the crabs today are fresh) or the gentleman who prepares her supply of fresh coconut milk. The excursion goes beyond discovering the various herbs and spices common to the Kristang kitchen and instead provides the rare opportunity to experience the friendliness of the locals and their cordial relationship with her. Once the shopping is done, guests return to the hotel for a private cooking class.

The Majestic Malacca is also perhaps the only hotel in the world that celebrates the unique healing and beauty traditions of the Straits Peranakan community. The Peranakan culture, sometimes referred to as Baba Nyonya, is a unique synthesis of Chinese and Malay influences. Those familiar with the Spa Village brand will no doubt understand the work that goes into curating the menu of each Spa Village. Unsurprisingly, the team did not disappoint here. The hard-boiled egg treatment was a throwback to my childhood, where every bruise and bump would feel better with an egg roll. As weird as this sounds, the egg rolling body therapy – where a hard-boiled egg is literally rolled over the body – has a soothing and calming effect. Plus, the massage afterwards seems to be a fitting end to the delicious ennui that came later. Many of the treatments here strive to replicate the multi-faceted 12-day wedding ceremony typical of the Peranakan culture. It’s an elaborate fanfare of sorts – with hair masks luxuriously made from calamansi or coconut and pandan, facials of birdnest with tapioca or starfruit, and bodywraps made from aloe or cucumber. Short of the real thing, the treatments still manage to whisk you partially away into this colourful community that sadly, remains very few today.

The property further invites guests to immerse themselves in the city’s enduring past. The complimentary Historical Walk allows you to see firsthand remnants of the city’s rich history: the paradox and contradiction between the (surprisingly) haphazard development and the hidden beauty of the old buildings and structures. Walk past old godowns and former homes of rich merchants that all open to the river and its once busy traffic, see old forts formerly alive with military secrets, and traverse evocative neighbourhoods with their anomalous trading activities. Streets are hauntingly quiet in the evenings, but this is when you can – if only just briefly – breathe in the beauty that must have been.

Special offers to selected YTL Hotels properties bookable on the Royal Brunei website.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Kuala Lumpur 2x daily for easy connections to Malacca. Discover things to do in Malacca in www.muhibah.com.bn

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