Pride of Place
The new luxury boutique hotel that is 88 Armenian is full of bold moves: beside its exposed original brick walls, you’ll find burnt wood elements and lavish splashes of copper in the form of a single-piece bar counter and Tom Dixon Etch lamps in the airwell. The three-storey hotel houses only six deluxe suites (which range from RM750 to RM1,300 per night), and each one comes with an ensuite bathroom featuring a natural stone bathtub, Aesop amenities, and an abundance of Italian marble.
Of course, if you meet Dr Angeline Yong – the hotel’s owner and the driving force behind 88 Armenian – you’ll realise that boldness is very much in her nature, as is never doing things by halves. As well as being a leading consultant dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Singapore, Dr Yong is an experienced hotelier who owns Lotus Villa in Luang Prabang and Noordin Mews in Penang. “I really wanted to show that you don’t have to compromise on luxury when you stay in a heritage property,” she says of her third hotel.
“You remember a hotel when it delivers something unexpected, and that was my goal: to create something so out of the box that you don’t expect it in this locality. It’s about creating this feeling of ‘wow!’ when you walk in from the street that just blows your mind.” Well, consider our minds blown. Over a period of five painstaking years, the early Straits Eclectic-style building has been restored and refurbished as sensitively as possible, but always with the requirements of modern luxury travellers in mind.
There is, for instance, a lift – a highly unusual feature in a Penang heritage building – allowing you to bring all the luggage you’d like on this grown-up getaway (the suites really are quite romantic, so leave the kids at home). The staircase is almost as generously proportioned as the bedrooms, which boast a Simmons super king-sized bed and double-glazed soundproof windows, meaning you’ll rest easy despite being footsteps away from some of Penang’s most popular tourist sites.
The bathrooms again deserve a second mention: you’ll want to spend hours in the spa shower, or you can request 88 Armenian’s signature bath butler service, where a bath is drawn for you using bath salts selected according to your personality. The attention that Dr Yong has poured into all of the tiniest details – locally made artisanal treats in the complimentary minibar, custom-designed clothes hangers, dark stain-proof makeup towels – make it an absolute jewel of a hotel.
Just as much of a draw is Copper Bar and Restaurant, which sits downstairs towards the entrance of 88 Armenian, with its well-executed reinterpretations of classic Malaysian dishes (an equally brave concept in a city renowned for its cuisine). No matter how eager you may be to head upstairs and make the most of your suite, don’t forget to ask for an ‘Elements of the Coconut’ cocktail crafted by international mixologist consultant, Cocktail Professor. One taste of that, and you’ll be booking your next stay at 88 Armenian before you’ve even left Penang.