Imagine driving into an industrial zone arranged with rows of uninteresting shoplots and suddenly…kapow! You see a mini Waldorf Astoria right there in front of you. That would be The Ardens Hotel, resplendent in chandeliered grandeur and looking quite out of place in that part of Austin Perdana, Johor Bahru.
We were down south almost to the border to Singapore some two months ago and didn’t know anything about anything regarding accommodation except what we could gather from Google. It was a rushed trip as usual ─ a quickie if you will ─ and in case you’re wondering, yes, this is a tale from two months ago, which explains why you’re seeing Christmas decorations in the photographs.
But, coming back to the story, Ardens Hotel coming right through the computer screen during the booking stage of our trip caught our eye right away.
As a newly-opened establishment barely weeks old, it had already garnered a string of rave reviews. The prices were about right too as we were looking for a budget stay, but it was the photos of its Olde World splendour that clinched the deal right away.
We crossed our fingers that all would be as promised and when we arrived at its doorstep, we weren’t disappointed at all.
A Rare Gem
Ardens Hotel is actually quite a rare gem being appointed with ornate elegance reminiscent of a bygone era from another world quite unbeknownst to us Malaysians. I mean, there’s even a fireplace in the lobby, deer head wall mounts and animal skin rugs on the floor. OK, so they were all fake replicas but the recreation captured the essence of what the hotel was getting at.
Their inhouse restaurant, dressed in fine crystal and silver tableware, was appropriately named: The Stag, complete with a faux resin head bust at the entrance.
And talking about animal names for pubs, you know the inns and pubs of old England used to be named this way. Some are still in business and making headlines as today’s new-age gastropubs, like The Slug & Lettuce, The Cock & Bull, The Old Black Lion, The Fox & Hound, and of course, … the most memorable one from the 1981 comedic-horror film, An American Werewolf in London … The Slaughtered Lamb.
The Slaughtered Lamb
The Slaughtered Lamb is for real, by the way. Here’s a picture of their website plus their history and their relationship with the movie, address, phone number and website address. Website: www.slaughteredlambpub.com Address: 34-35 Great Sutton St, London EC1V 0DX, United Kingdom Phone: +4420 7253 1516
The Slaughtered Lamb scenes made quite an impact in the movie as the characters in the pub, who were a funny-strange lot with sinister secrets, were integral to the plot. They knew something but weren’t telling and this kept audiences on edge and the plot rolling. An American Werewolf in London has become quite a cult classic over the years. And in case you haven’t watched the movie, here are some clips, beginning with the scene inside The Slaughtered Lamb.
An American Werewolf in London (1981). Classic Clips
No Such Carnivorous ‘lunar’cy at The Ardens
But…I digress. Mea Culpa.
Back at The Ardens, never worry about such carnivorous ‘lunar’-tic activities ever taking place as it’s pretty safe and sane there. The hotel is located under bright lights on a clean and peaceful enclave among idle shoplots with ample parking space. And besides, the security guards who double up as concierge provide all day and all night security and peace of mind.
Coming back to The Stag which was newly opened along with the hotel at the time we were there, this exquisite haute cuisine restaurant is on the ground floor and serves excellent Western and Eastern fare as well as top range beverages. The breakfast, provided at a promotional price, comes as an add-on package with room stay but you can opt to include or exclude the meals.
The Ardens, despite its grand demeanour, is really a small boutique hotel with only about 20 rooms or so. Some are larger, some smaller, and come with or without bathtubs in the bath, depending on your choice. All rooms are reasonably priced at RM100++, plus-or-minus-a-few ringgit, and a little more if you’re taking the Family Room comprising two dual-key concept rooms.
There are some well-thought-out facilities for guests included in the price, such as free DIY laundry provided through their washer and dryer and iron downstairs, strong Wifi throughout the hotel, a fully-stocked mini refrigerator and coffee maker in the room along with hair dryer, mini safe, a modern bathroom with gushing Rainwater Shower for a luxurious bath, and friendly, attentive staff at the reception.
But having stayed there, and finding user functionality in the rooms a tad overlooked at times, I would say that Ardens is more suited as a Honeymoon hotel for lovebirds than one made for say, a family vacation with young kids or a business trip. The rooms are simply too tight and too full of fine but easily-breakable accoutrements for rampaging children and definitely, it’s too remote out for business people rushing for appointments, particularly if they are without a car. See, there are no taxi stands nearby and calling one could take ages, especially during rush hour as one may not be available at the time you need it.
However, having said that, Austin Perdana is really only 15 minutes to the JB city centre. The trick, of course, is getting the transport to get there.
Form over Function
The rooms and their luxurious trappings as can be seen above are laid out for the sole purpose of delighting your senses, preferably at a leisurely pace, like the kingsized beds and freestanding tubs in see-through glass encased bathrooms to take long lingering spa baths in. These modern fittings are for the appreciation of the adult and the full glass paneling as bathroom walls is for the appreciation of each other’s nudity, or whatever pleasures that come in between, if one so wishes. If not, you can always draw the curtains.
But if you have no time to smell the roses, this form over function principle does sacrifice usability in a big way. For example, there are no wardrobes provided to hang out your clothes. Well, there’s a short wall-mounted rung given for this purpose but it only fits five hangers and no more. So not enough thought has been given to this practical aspect as surely, one will bring more than five pieces of clothing for a trip, what more when it’s in a room made for two.
There are also no benches or platforms to place one’s luggage. These will have to go on the floor, along with your clean and worn items and shoes. So beware the obstacle path when you’ve switched off the lights to go to bed, you could trip over your floor-bound laundry enroute, as was the case.
The work desk is too short to accommodate two laptops if two in the room want to work. Only one laptop can fit, and it’s a tight fit at that, along with only one chair. Two would have been impossible given the lack of space and table top. Also, there are not enough plug points to charge phones and other electronic devices at the same time. You’d have to make your items queue.
But as I said, if you came for a honeymoon or for an unhurried holiday, you wouldn’t be opening laptops or even thinking of work. So stay at Ardens for the right reasons and you’d have a pampered time.
But All in All
But all in all, teething problems notwithstanding, Ardens provides an enjoyable stay. It’s lavish, it’s one-of-a-kind and it’s value for money anyway you look at it. As for food, which was pretty scarce in that part of Austin Perdana, there is probably a full menu and room service from The Stag by now (they didn’t have it then). So for all the indulgences that could be had at the Ardens, this hotel has surely hit the spot…I mean, where else can you get a piece of the Waldorf Astoria at this price?
If you’ve enjoyed that gruesome bit on The Slaughtered Lamb, click to see the related story on 23 of the Weirdest Pub Names in Britain linked here.