PAHANG, Malaysia – Once an inn and a watering hole for homesick British expats hankering for a taste of their homeland, The Smokehouse Hotel in Malaysia has stood more than three quarters of a century on the same Cameron Highlands lot.
As a hotel, it has witnessed one World War, endured several changes of ownership and survived some significant renovations to remain the heritage hit it is today.
Room rates lean toward the higher end of the Malaysian vacation spectrum with prices starting at around RM400 (USD100) for a night’s stay but expect to pay triple or more for one of the premier cottage suites.
Despite this hotel pricing, however, The Smokehouse is low-density and intimate and feels more like a country Bed & Breakfast (B&B).
Let it be said that The Smokehouse Hotel is more than just rooms for rent. It stands as a well-preserved relic of Malaysia’s colonial past with Britain and is a dashing heritage site worth your time to visit.
Note that The Smokehouse is not retro – at almost 80 years old, it’s actually vintage and its age-old decor will blow you away if you are after a bit of an English cottage encounter with all the trimmings.
Time-weathered ornaments adorn almost every wall and surface of The Smokehouse and the air is thick with an unmistakable Old English charm.
The architectural style of the main building is mock Tudor and the dark exposed rafters, well-worn lounges and dim lighting do complete a sense of stepping back in time.
The Smokehouse even comes with a small batch of veteran house staff to attend to your whims. Look out for Maître D’ George, who grew up in the Highlands and whose three generations of family has worked at the hotel. It’s likely he has some stories to tell.
The hotel is situated at a junction between the main Highland towns of Brinchang and Tanah Rata. It’s on a lot that is adjacent to a main road. It also happens to overlook a golf course but once on the premises, you would be forgiven for assuming you are far away from such modern amenities.
It helps that the hotel grounds are a well-placed network of paths and flora that shelters the compound cleverly from the bustle of passing traffic, and guests who come to the Smokehouse are assured of a restful stay.
The Smokehouse gardens are extremely photogenic, being flush with hedges, trees and even a little bubbling fountain. Thick overgrowth hangs freely from the main and annexed buildings and whisper of a little Secret Garden experience for every patron.
With advance notice, and upon approval, the hotel is said to be popular with wedding couples visiting the area for their bridal shoots.
But generally, the grounds and buildings are off-limits to all but staying guests or dining patrons and this policy helps preserve the quietude and exclusivity of your time at The Smokehouse.
The hotel’s restaurant menu mirrors The Smokehouse’s past, so expect English-style breakfasts, cosy afternoon teas, and rounds of hearty steak, beef wellington or pot pie served with mash or steamed vegetables.
As with yesteryear, many diners aren’t in-house guests but locals and tourists to the Highlands who have come to The Smokehouse just to dine at its restaurant.
In truth, The Smokehouse’s British grub is famed and remains as popular as ever with Anglophiles from near and far.
Afternoon Tea (of course!) is available, but it’s basic. Be warned, the scones at The Smokehouse are small and dense; rather puck-like in fact, and really more of a cookie than a cake. Hard and crumbly, this writer found them a battle to butter.
For lunch or dinner, allow for at least USD15-20 per head sans wine. The food is hearty, with an emphasis on red meats and starchy carbs. Portions are decent, but the price point is high, even by the touristy standards of the Highlands.
Amidst the muted clutter of cutlery and quiet conversation, it feels very much like you are no longer in Asia but instead at some quaint English home enjoying the creature comforts of another era.
A visit to The Smokehouse will especially delight those with a penchant for history and a love of old things.
And, between the cool Highland air and the hotel’s English-style hospitality, The Smokehouse is one of the best heritage experiences you’ll find in the Cameron hills.
- The English cottage setting, lush garden surrounds and quiet British charm.
- Candle-lit dinners featuring traditional British favourites such as pies, roasted chicken, steaks and mash with gravy.
- A British-style B&B getaway; albeit at hotel prices.
- The lackluster Afternoon Tea Sets. Scones are hard, dry and crumbly – more like cookies.
- Afternoon Tea sandwiches are ordinary and simply presented.
The Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands,
Tel : 605-491 1215
Fax : 605-491 1214