Amidst the bustling stalls and colourful nightlife in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, a new beacon for conscious hospitality has emerged to inspire curious minds to slow down and reflect within its storied walls. Else Kuala Lumpur, simply known as Else, is that mindful destination for you.
Occupying what was formerly the Lee Rubber Building—a historical art deco property constructed in the 1930s—Else opened its doors last September after careful restoration to honour the property’s architectural legacy while embracing a contemporary design language that speaks to its mindful concept. This marks the first hotel project by founders Justin Chen and Javier Perez, who commissioned Malaysian design firm Studio Bikin to conceptualise the design and celebrated local partner Faizah Architect to bring their vision to life.
“Else has been a four-year project realised through the challenges of the global pandemic and inspired by the emerging new era of traveller,” co-founder Chen commented on the opening.
“The result is an urban haven for the globally minded and curious.”
Designed as a destination to disconnect and connect, the repurposed property offers 49 rooms sprawled across 56,000 square feet and seven floors. And as I have discovered during my recent stay, almost every corner of the boutique hotel lives up to its name—it is truly something Else.
The moment you step into the hotel, you’ll notice how its conscious living philosophy flows from the lobby through to the rooms and wellness areas. Thought-provoking art pieces add character to each pocket of space, carefully sourced and selected from independent, local and sustainable artisanal brands to ensure minimal environmental impact and to support Malaysian talents.
Among the award-winning artists whose works are featured in the hotel include Fauzul Yusri, Fendy Zakri, Fawwaz Sukri, Nathan Fikri, W. Rajaie B, and Firdaus Ismail. Renowned Canadian artist Joe Fleming, who has exhibited internationally for more than two decades, also has artworks displayed on Else’s walls. Meanwhile, custom-made bedhead textiles, rugs and carpets by Singapore-born, KL-based Omar Khan adorn the rooms and unexpected nooks around the property.
One unique space I came across was the sunken living room, quietly inviting guests to sit back and admire the antiquities hand-picked by Gilded Lion—a curator of rare, fine antiques and cultural curiosities. The Library Den offers another area to escape and pour into the pages of a book (although there were limited titles on the shelves during my visit), with meeting rooms further inside for groups to exchange ideas and topics of interest.
There are four categories of rooms at Else, starting with the 25 sqm Mantra Room (Standard) that features a king-sized bed and en-suite bathroom; and the 33 sqm Urban Room (Deluxe), which includes a cosy seating area. Located on the higher floors, the Sanctuary Room (Premium) comes with 41 sqm and is furnished with a Super King-sized bed and a private balcony for guests to bask in the city’s vibrant anergy. Then there’s the Sutera Suite, spanning 69 sqm with a private living area that can accommodate a family.
The Else Suite is the largest of the rooms, boasting 84 sqm of space with a living and dining area, a bathtub, and two private balconies—one overlooking the infinity pool below and another featuring sweeping views of KL’s skyline. All rooms are equipped with an in-room multimedia tablet (filled with insights about the hotel’s art pieces and tips on what to do around the neighbourhood), a Bluetooth sound system, Lulla bath robes, Dyson hairdryer, and personal care products by Omno.
I checked in for a night’s stay in the Urban Room and the first thing to strike me was the contemporary interiors and muted colours that exude a sense of calmness. The beanbag sofa also offered a more laid-back setting to work from or lounge in. Coupled with the choice of furnishings and artisanal tableware, the room felt decidedly warm and homey. As far as boutique hotel rooms in KL go, Else leaves a mark as one of the most artistically-minded yet unpretentious addresses I’ve stayed in.
Else was designed with two dining concepts in mind; only one of which is currently servicing guests whilst the other is set to open in 2023. The former is the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, Raw Kitchen Hall, an extension of its sister brand in Singapore (Raw Kitchen Bar). Headed by Malaysian chefs Leong Chee Mun and Wah Yin Xing, the menu comprises Asian and Mediterranean-inspired recipes that highlight seasonal local produce. It’s also where guests can enjoy the hotel’s breakfast, comprising a main of their choice from an a la carte breakfast menu, served with a starter, a beverage, and a tropical fruit platter.
Breakfast aside, I would highly recommend trying the lunch or dinner menu at Raw Kitchen Hall. Tall Roman columns, modern fixtures, and dark wooden furniture set the scene for social gatherings or date night, with sharing plates completing the experience. My dinner here was nothing short of satisfying, with some personal favourites including the vegan-friendly Creamy Ricotta; the Snapper Ceviche, and the Black Mamba (squid ink sofrito with tiger prawns, fermented chilli sambal, and egg yolk).
On the other hand, the soon-to-open Yellow Fin Horse promises to be an exciting destination for seafood lovers, especially under the helm of distinguished Malaysian Chef Jun Wong (formerly Head Chef of Kikubari). It will also feature a fine selection of natural wines to pair with the freshest produce from the sea, prepared using primitive methods such as fermentation and wood-fire cooking.
If you’re craving a pick-me-up, the Pool House located near the infinity pool is a nice hangout spot for a sundowner and light bites. It’s worth noting that the hotel’s boutique bar programme is designed by award-winning Proof & Company, so you can expect a well-curated, elegant cocktail menu.
In lieu of the usual gym and spa facilities, Else’s wellness spaces are guided by its focus on conscious living. Think a gym that’s designed to promote a greater sense of body awareness and mobility through free-weight training and callisthenics instead of conventional heavy-lifting equipment.
Another highlight is the floatation pods that offer the chance to escape an overstimulated, fast-paced world through sensory deprivation. The pods are available for 60-minute or 90-minute treatments, where guests can learn stillness or enter a meditative state and relieve both physical and mental strain. This might take some getting used to, speaking from my maiden experience, but you’ll leave feeling renewed—and have smooth, glowing skin after too (the salt in the water acts as a natural exfoliator).
Even the infinity pool on the podium level is made for relaxation. Specifically, it utilises salt water which is softer and less harsh on the skin than chlorine, allowing guests to enjoy a safe, refreshing dip while basking in views of the city skyline.
All in all, my overnight escape at Else was unlike any other hotel staycations I’ve had in KL. If you were paying attention at the start of this article, I mentioned that almost every corner of Else lives up to its name. That’s simply because the hotel wasn’t exactly completed at the time of my visit. In fact, I’d appreciate the notion of the hotel still being a work in progress, which leaves room for the imagination—perhaps for future pop-up social events or creative projects—and reflects the evolving possibilities of the surrounding neighbourhood. That, in my humble opinion, is what makes the hotel something Else.
Address: 145, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Contact: +603 2300 3700
Read more hotel reviews here.
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