LUXE and the city – Rachel Jena’s insider tips
After 2 years of suspense, the glamorous LUXE city guide aptly chose Kuala Lumpur for its new opus, providing us with the best bars, restaurants and hotels in the Malaysian capital city – all this fitting in a perfect pocket sized format.
It is with utmost delight that we are interviewing the sparkling Rachel Jena, gem hunter, talented art critic and inspired editor of the freshly pressed LUXE City guide Kuala Lumpur. We couldn’t think of a better KLite to write about Kuala Lumpur not to be missed places, with a je ne sais quoi of glamour, irreverence and awesomeness.
Here she gives us her inside scoop to the series’ newest top destination… and speak about burgeoning art scene and strange tanning lines!
The svelte city guide has changed the codes in the travel guides universe over the last 10 year, selecting fascinating cities from Hong Kong till New York via Istanbul. What makes KL the perfect new city for the LUXE collection?
The landscape of the city has changed so much over the last few years, and the nature of her businesses has followed suit – Klites and the city’s guests are simply spoilt for choice now. As far as LUXE goes, the city has also hit a point of maturity that warrants an edition of its own. LUXE places a strong emphasis on quality and the extraordinary, and there’s been a phenomenal boom in the F&B line and hotel business, especially. KL’s also known as a springboard for visits to other parts of Malaysia, so this year’s edition also features recommendations for Penang, Malacca, and Langkawi. Penang, in particular, was especially fun to research and write about and the offerings in Georgetown offer a lovely compliment to the attractions in KL.
Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant city with new restaurants and bars opening every other day, making it difficult to keep up with the pace: we cannot thank you enough for your precious tips that will lead us to the right venues! Can you share with us your must-go-to place in KL?
I have a few, and they really vary from hole in the walls to dapper joints, where the tunes are lush and the people, beautiful. For an authentic banana leaf meal, I trek to Brickfields with an empty tummy in tow (pick up the guide to see where!), and when the sun sets, I recommend the unbeatable views at the Helipad Bar and fine conversations and cocktails at Pisco Bar.
What was your main criterion when selecting the best bars, restaurants and hotels in Kuala Lumpur – Luxury?
Not necessarily, although that is a definite consideration as we always have the LUXE reader in mind; he/she is the consummate traveller, with discerning tastes. For KL, it was necessary to offer an eclectic selection that mirrored the very nature of the city, which – if you’ve ever been – you know is a real hodgepodge. So, there is a host of top-end places in the guide, like The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur and Troika Sky Dining, to more boutique-style gems like Hit & Mrs and Sekeping Sin Chew Kee.
Your insider’s tips cover the young KL arty scene, which you closely follow as an art lover and critic. Where should a newcomer take his first steps to get a strong feeling of the Malaysian creation vibe?
There’s always something going on at Publika, so I recommend starting there. Their White Box hosts rotating exhibitions, often featuring the works of younger Malaysian artists, but for more serious pieces, pop into some of the more established galleries in town like Wei-Ling Gallery and Richard Koh Fine Art. And, keep your eyes peeled. Art isn’t always found within the confines of a gallery.
We love KL, and yet sometimes we need a break from the hectic city life. Which destination do you recommend for a nearby getaway?
Penang, for sure. It’s a few hours away from the capital and there’s tons to see and do there. I, for one, am particularly taken by the heritage zone of Georgetown where temples, old businesses, and the contemporary all coexist. Seven Terraces has the loveliest beds in the area, with a Nyonya fine dining restaurant onsite called Kebaya. And, if you’re not too appalled by the afternoon heat, the heritage zone is the perfect place to wander around and get lost in.
Speaking of travels… Are you sightseeing and cultural, or beach and barefoot?
I’m all ocean and waves. It’s an incurable malady, but one that I am proud to suffer from, strange tan lines and all.
Thanks for sharing your insider tips and love for KL Rachel!
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Foodin’kl, Kuala Lumpur, LUXE city guide