In the 1700s, this sprawling godown overlooking the Strait of Malacca was a hub for maritime trading. Today, it’s one of Malaysia’s buzziest new hotels, inspired by, of all things, the 2006 psycho-thriller film set in Victorian-era London starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians. The interior, spearheaded by Singapore’s Ministry of Design, uses “visual trickery” to create its own kind of magic. In the lobby of this 162-key hideaway, guests are met with a mirrored stainless-steel reception desk “floating” atop shiny chrome spheres — an illusion made more puzzling by the brass-trimmed maze laid atop the marble floor. The rooms are even wilder: Hidden doors conceal pantries and toilets, while lighting beneath the bed frame makes the mattress look as if it is levitating. The Prestige is open for business but still under partial construction, with its final level slated for completion in early 2020.
George Town is a densely packed, fabulously walkable, UNESCO-recognized heritage city on Penang Island, an easy train ride away from Kuala Lumpur. The Prestige is wedged into the banking district, minutes from the Pinang Peranakan Mansion; Fort Cornwallis, an 18th century citadel erected by the British East India Company; and the Clan Jetties, a series of historic Chinese settlements built on stilts. Street art is also popular here — if you don’t snap a pic with an Ernest Zacharevic mural, did you even visit Penang?
Room to Book
The Deluxe King rooms on levels two (No. 227), three (No. 331) and four (No. 429) offer spectacular views of the sea and the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal in Penang Port. Each is kitted out with a luxurious rain shower, pink bromeliad ottomans and bronze wall fittings. Bonus points for the 21st century spin on Victorian wainscoting, crafted with eye-popping white-on-white trapezoidal shapes.
The sunny Glasshouse restaurant is the centerpiece of the neo-Victorian arcade and the perfect place to tuck into a salmon poke salad or a regional dish like char kway teow (flat rice noodles with prawns, squid and duck egg). The English-inspired conservatory is stunning, done up with bentwood-style bistro chairs, white wicker seating and a mesmerizing M.C. Escher–esque cube-patterned floor. Mirrored walls add to the visual sorcery, making the room appear as if it goes on forever.
Good to Know
The Glasshouse isn’t the only noteworthy communal space. The arcade also houses a florist, pharmacy, coffee shop, dessert bar and local fashion label. But the biggest see-and-be-seen venue is the skinny rooftop infinity pool with panoramic views of the bustling quayside. Reserve a spot on a lounger or in the gazebo and watch as the chameleon pool tiles morph colors under the shifting sun — yet another wondrous mirage from Ministry of Design’s bag of tricks.
Q+A with Melvin Ooi
How was the Prestige’s design inspired by George Town’s historic architecture?
Set amongst 19th century Victorian buildings, the hotel blends into the neighborhood with its Colonial façade. But don’t mistake it for just another heritage building. Enter through the glass doors and you’re transported to a contemporized, quasi-Colonial universe — a touch of magic in a tropical Victorian Eden. It sounds like a misnomer when you think of England and her weather, but this is what we are blessed with here in Penang: elegant Victorian buildings set in a climate where lush vegetation abounds.
Do you have a favorite space here?
The Glasshouse restaurant for its mix of real plants and tropical plant prints used on the sofa cushions.
What are your top Penang recommendations?
Hiking at Penang National Park; there’s a turtle sanctuary there and the beach is gorgeous. If you love history, Penang has plenty of museums, like the Blue Mansion and the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery. At night, you can walk 15 minutes to Love Lane, a long, narrow lane with plenty of good bars, bistros, cafes and pubs.