latest reviews

A boutique, designer, inner-city getaway.


Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

First Impressions

What is it? Boutique hotel

Will set you back: MYR990 – 1660 p/n


Wow. Macalister Mansion is set back from the busy and historic Jalan Macalister (Macalister Road) and amongst an eclectic variety of new, high-rise apartments and old, local buildings. It is an absolutely gorgeous restored Colonial mansion, massive and pristine with an all-white exterior save for the blue scalloped entrance roof and tanned mansion tiles. The elegant U-shaped driveway takes you past the icy-hued, pastel pool with its inviting clear blue water and pool bar, and ensures that you arrive in style right outside the reception area where the hotel staff eagerly await your arrival.

Design & Style

As a member of the brilliant Design Hotels group, it goes without saying that Macalister Mansion is in a league of its own when it comes to design and style – we have quite simply never seen anything quite like it. Lovingly put together based on the theme of an old and immaculate English mansion, every space in the building exudes an unwavering dedication to unique and quirky design decisions. From the Living Room with its mish-mash of terracotta, green and white, to the dreamy, white Dining Room and the cigar-fragranced and plush, velvet-lined walls of The Cellar, everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes.


We stayed in Room 8 for four nights and loved every moment spent in this absolutely stunning room. Although we attempted to hide our awe on being welcomed into our temporary quarters, it was not easy to do when we first cast our eyes on the squeaky-clean and pristine space, and were then shown all of the extra design details ingeniously executed by the talented team at Singapore ’s Ministry of Design. The room is large, and the palette is clean and elegant with tones of ash wood, icy grey and white implemented through soft furnishings, art and the hero of the room: the bathroom.


The room features exposed truss beams from the original construction of the building in the early 1900s, which adds some character, while the privately commissioned piece of art by local artist Thomas Powell adds a personal touch and the right amount of warmth. The artwork itself is a modern interpretation of the life events of the hotel’s namesake, Sir Norman Macalister, and so is an ingenious extension of the contemporary-meets-colonial theme of the room (and hotel overall).


It’s apparent the owners have gone to considerable length to ensure the comfort of their guests at Macalister Mansion. The beds are oversized and very comfortable, and a pillow menu is offered for those who would prefer something other than the 80% goose down feather pillows on the bed. Every room features a complementary snacks and beverages mini-bar, topped up each day, a nespresso coffee machine, generous-sized designer toiletries and loofah in the bathroom, a perfectly organised and branded stationery draw that is, quite frankly, a writer’s dream, and a futuristic-looking Bang & Olufsen wall-mounted sound system (unfortunately, like many hotels’ systems, not compatible with the lightning port of the iphone 5 onwards).


There are, however, a few practical issues in the room that seem to have been overlooked despite good intentions – namely there is no power outlet in the bathroom, which means one (ie. me) is forced to blowdry their hair at the study desk with nothing but the reflection of the TV three metres ahead to use as a mirror. Another is the air-conditioning temperature seemed to be rather temperamental, and lastly, there was no iron and ironing board in the room which doesn’t fare well for someone living out of their suitcase! Aside from these couple of oversights in the rooms, though, comfort plays a key role throughout the rest of the Mansion, and there are endless lounges and seats for relaxing in comfort and style in The Cellar and The Den, as well as the small guest lounge.


The amenities are naturally limited in such a small-scale hotel, and Macalister Mansion does a good job of providing as much convenience as possible in its boutique environment. The gym consists of a treadmill and cross-trainer if you just can’t go without working up a sweat (although you’ll do plenty of that just walking the streets of Georgetown), however you will need to ask for a towel and water at reception. In the same area as the gym is a cute and quaint study lounge, which we found to be a good space to work without disruptions. You can’t miss the large, icy-hued swimming pool as you arrive at the Mansion, and the water temperature is absolutely perfect. There is also a trés sophistiqué pool bar, but unfortunately this was never staffed while we were there, and as there are only a couple of loungers and umbrellas by the pool, it’s not the type of environment you can stay in for longer than an hour without pool-side service to offer you refreshments to cool you down from the steamy concrete surroundings.


One of our favourite details about Macalister Mansion is the excellent turn-down service. Each early evening the staff do a quick zjoosh of the room and the bed, leaving with you with a mat and slippers on each side of the bed, and two samples of cake straight from the cabinets in The Living Room, along with two bottles of water and a “Good night and sweet dreams” note. It’s a really special touch, especially on the first night when you come back from dinner to this welcome surprise (and dessert!). Unfortunately, there was a problem with the WIFI for half of our stay which was quite inconvenient, as we attempted to work through the 3G on our phones. Although the front-of-house staff were apologetic, we had to constantly check in to see if it had been fixed rather than being notified or updated as the days progressed, which would have been a more fitting response for such a high-end hotel. However, the service in The Cellar, The Living Room and The Dining Room was especially attentive.


There are three dining options at this boutique hotel: the fine dining French cuisine of The Dining Room, the breakfast, lunch and high tea options at The Living Room, and the bar menu available at The Cellar and The Den. The Dining Room’s menu is in the degustation style only, with a four-course and an eight-course menu on offer for around RM150 and RM245 respectively, before drinks. We enjoyed the four course menu on our first night and the combination of flavours was bold and enjoyable in many of the dishes. The plating and presentation was particularly impressive by Executive Chef, Lance U’ren. The Living Room’s still high-end and elegant a-la-carte breakfast menu is unique and delicious, and doesn’t skimp on luxurious ingredients such as salmon and truffle. We can also recommend trying the delicious local coffee on the menu if you haven’t experienced Malaysian coffee before. Made with condensed milk, it is rich, creamy, sweet and totally addictive as your morning pick-me-up.

In The Neighbourhood

Macalister Mansion is located in a non-touristy area of Georgetown, within walking distance of local food eateries such as the popular New Lane evening food market. It is between 15 and 30 minutes by taxi to the main attractions of Kek Lok Si Temple, Batu Ferringhi and the street art of Georgetown, all worth seeing in this buzzing Malaysian city. For tips on where to go and what to see in Penang, visit Wanderluxe and explore our image gallery. To book your stay at Macalister Mansion, click here.

the devil is in the detail:

  • The quirky and original design
  • The service in the drinking and dining areas
  • The turn-down service

they could up the ante by:

  • Adding a power outlet in the bathroom and iron in the rooms
  • Attending the pool area with food and drink service, and adding more areas to lounge and relax
  • Adding an area for towels and water in the gym

go here if you are after a:

unique, contemporary designer environment

this is in the same realm as: Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort and Spa