Macalister Mansion, Penang, Malaysia

Authentic, quaint and historic, Penang just got a whole lot hipper with the opening of the highly anticipated Macalister Mansion. Recently opened in November, this eight-room hotel with five restaurants and bars is the first lifestyle oriented ‘residence’ in George Town and pays tribute to Colonel Norman Macalister, the first British Governor of the state in the 1800s. From his love life to sea voyages, Macalister Mansion’s design explores intimate details of the colonel’s life. The result is an authentic vintage vibe set in a modern context.

Housed in a 100-year-old historic mansion, Macalister Mansion raises the bar for boutique hotels with its holistic concept. From curated art to specially designed uniforms, and personalised stationery to handcrafted paperclips, the hotel is a little house of treasures. For local owners Dato Sean H’ng and Datin Karen H’ng, Macalister Mansion is their first foray into the hotel world and they collaborated with Colin Seah, of Singapore-based firm Ministry of Design, to create a single, unique vision.

As avid art collectors and supporters of the local arts scene, they have commissioned pieces throughout the hotel’s public spaces and rooms. Each of the eight themed rooms traces different periods of Colonel Macalister’s life and various Southeast Asian artists were invited to create works for them. The rooms are dressed in bespoke furniture pieces and carpets all carefully handpicked by the owners. Bathrooms are fitted out with filigree inspired silver and white mosaic, and circular mirrors are suspended from the ceilings at a distance from the walls.

Many of the mansion’s original features were restored to their former glory including a wrought iron spiral staircase in the middle of one of the guestrooms leading to a viewing tower. The hotel is also the first project under Heritage Redefined, a conservation initiative spearheaded by Dato Sean to showcase the regeneration of Penang’s old colonial buildings into useful and practical, contemporary spaces.

Dato Sean is a culinary heavyweight in Penang, having been involved in well-executed restaurants and bars such as Suffolk House, Beach Blanket Babylon and the old Bagan bar. His next ventures at Macalister Mansion do not disappoint and the five restaurants and bars are now George Town’s new go-to hangout and event spaces, attracting the fashion and creative crowd.

Mostly named after different sections of the home, the Dining Room, Living Room, The Lawn, Bagan Bar and The Den offer a wide variety of dining and drinking options. From modern French cuisine at the Dining Room to local cuisine with a twist at the Living Room, guests are spoilt for choice. The Den carries a good selection of cigars and is the only spot in Penang to offer both single cask and single malt whiskies.

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