DoubleTree by Hilton expands its presence with the launch of its Johor Bahru property to meet the growing demand for upscale hotels in Malaysia’s southern region. One distinctive trait of the hotel chain is its hospitality that begins with a warm chocolate chip cookie upon arrival, which characterises welcome and care in DoubleTree by Hilton’s culture. The hotel chain has been baking these signature chocolate chip cookies for travellers all over the world for the past 25 years.
Fact: DoubleTree by Hilton gives out approximately 60,000 chocolate chip cookies to guests each day, adding up to more than 21 million cookies annually.
Since the opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru in July, more than 10,000 chocolate chip cookies have been given out to guests.
Located in the Central Business District of Johor Bahru, the hotel is less than 5 kilometres from the Johor-Singapore Immigration Checkpoint, and 25 kilometres from the Senai International Airport. Its accessibility to Singapore and Changi International Airport is a major plus to international travellers.
The hotel is within walking distance to Johor Bahru City Square Mall (0.5km away), and close to notable commercial and cultural landmarks such as the Sultan Ibrahim Building (1km away), as well as Asia’s first LEGOLAND theme park (28km) and other leisure establishments such as Johor Zoo (1.5km) and Daiman Bowling (14km).
During my 3-day getaway, I visited City Square Mall daily. It is a great location for eating and shopping, as dining options and shops are aplenty and diverse. Singaporeans will find that they have bigger spending power in Malaysia compared to Singapore due to the currency advantage. Dining at restaurants like Nando’s, Kenny Rogers, Seoul Garden and Hong Kong Kim Gary Restaurant is a great bargain to us! I also enjoy dining at Dragon-i Restaurant (love the xiao long bao) and Canton-i (for dim sum lovers) under the same group (both on level 3), as well as Robin’s Portuguese Chicken (level 2). Our family would also catch a movie each time we visit Johor Bahru, at Cathay Cineplex, located on the top floor of City Square Mall. Movie tickets are slightly more affordable compared to Singapore’s pricing.
Returning to the hotel after a day of shopping and eating, the comfy and clean Executive Club Room greets us. An ideal sleeping environment would be one appointed with the Sweet Dreams by DoubleTree Sleep Experience. This sleep standard includes a custom designed plush top-mattress, jumbo down pillows and a luxurious linen package of baffle-box down blankets, high-thread count linens with triple sheeting, elegant contemporary bedcovers and matching bedskirts.
Here are some photos of the room I stayed in.
Sleek and modern bathroom
Premium CITRON bath products by Crabtree & Evelyn
Complimentary fresh fruits in the room
There are 335 guestrooms and suites in total, including 52 apartment-style suites. Wireless internet access, the signature Sweet Dreams by DoubleTree sleep experience, in-room work space, 40” LCD TV, and a walk-in rain shower are standard features in each of the hotel’s guestrooms and suites.
I also took a peek at the Presidential Suite. One word: massive. Catering to business needs, there’s a meeting table for a group of 6 and a “hole-in-the-wall” workspace conducive to maintaining a high level of both comfort and productivity.
The Presidential Suite’s bathroom is almost twice the size of the one in a basic room!
The Presidential Suite also comes with a mini kitchen, equipped with an electric stove, microwave oven and a large (compared to our “mini bar”) refrigerator of residential standards.
The hotel provides 24-hour in-room dining as well as the 24-hour Fitness by TechnoGym.
There are 10 versatile meeting spaces including 4 meeting rooms, a boardroom, two divisible ballrooms out of the 5 ballrooms, spacious outdoor function areas, a Business Centre and a Wedding Centre where their professional events team will be on hand to take care of your requirements.
The hotel encompasses four F&B outlets: Makan Kitchen (an all-day dining and buffet restaurant with four show kitchens), Tosca (an Italian restaurant and bar offering stunning views of the Straits of Johor), The Food Store (offering gourmet take-outs, perfect for casual meetings or afternoon tea), and Axis Lounge (providing complimentary WiFi access and furnished with plush sofas for guests relax and unwind over refreshing beverages).
The Food Store
Those who’re hooked on their signature cookie can purchase them in larger quantities at The Food Store. They’re great as gifts too!
This semi-private dining area in Tosca provides diners with a spectacular view of the kitchen team at work!
The well-appointed restaurant has gotten the settings right, exuding casual elegance with its homely yet rustic wood-dominated theme, awash in subdued lighting, plush seats and napery.
Pan-seared Sea Scallops, Broccoli Puree and Fish Roe (RM30)
The well-curated menu offers tempting dishes in categories of Antipasto (starters), Zuppa (soup), Pasta e (and) Risotto, Pizza, Piatti (main courses), Formaggio (cheese) and Dolci (desserts). Diners are spoilt for choice.
Insalata dello Chef – Poached Egg in Truffle Oil, Mixed Leaves, Cherry Tomato, Sun Dried Tomato, Onion, Kalamata Olives (RM30)
My first disappointment came with the salad that’s marked as ‘chef’s recommended’ in the Antipasto section. The Insalata dello Chef is terribly unexciting, and lacks basic seasoning. The only reason why we managed to finish most of this dish is because the following dish took ages to arrive.
I suggest skipping the Zuppa di pesce (spicy seafood soup), marked as ‘chef’s recommended’, as it tasted like the person cooking had zero passion in gastronomy. Should I have gone for another soup instead, the fail-proof mushroom soup perhaps?
Salmone Affumicato con Rucola – smoked salmon, rucola, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and olive oil (RM29)
There are about 10 varieties of pizzas available, and I played really safe by going for the one marked as ‘chef’s recommended’, also partly because I love fish in general. It was decent. The fairly thin crust is baked to a crisp –I like that it’s not exceedingly thin. The wood-fired oven gave it a nice smoky char. My only gripe was in the flavour department; since the toppings are plonked on only after the pizza has gone through the baking process, could it have benefited from a final touch of grated Parmesan cheese, or olive oil?
Filletto di Manzo – black angus beef tenderloin, roast potatoes, grilled vegetables (RM79)
The main course arrived before the pasta did, but I can easily overlook that because we were starving from the long wait between the courses. The black angus beef tenderloin was seared to medium rare as requested, nicely pink and juicy on the inside.
Piatto dello Chef di Mare alla griglia – chef’s grilled seafood platter with squid, prawns, sea bass and mixed leaves (RM110, feeds two)
I wish I could give an entirely positive remark on this dish, but the sea bass is slightly overcooked, so are the prawns. Was the person firing the grill feeling under the weather?
Fettucine al Nero si Sepia – homemade squid ink pasta, tiger prawns, calamari, sea scallop, black mussels, clams, garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes (RM32)
The pasta dish finally arrived. I like the fact that they use handmade pasta instead of factory-produced ones. So much potential with what culinary magic they could churn out in the kitchen with such wonderful ingredients. Sadly the pasta arrived clumpy.
The restaurant was barely a month old when I visited, and unfortunately not all items impress (judging by international standards). It seems the kitchen crew needs re-training in certain aspects, best under strict guidance of an experienced Italian chef. Equipped with great kitchen appliances, a wood-fired oven and premium ingredients, Tosca has much better potential than what it offers currently. I will be keen to re-visit when they’re more seasoned and hopefully by then I will be able to give a raving review, as I’ve not given up hope on them.
There are plenty of dining options around the hotel and you’ll have much better luck with Asian cuisine.
Makan Kitchen is where guests enjoy their breakfast buffet.
The bright and spacious restaurant gives guests a sense of comfort. Tables are spaced far enough so conversations remain private.
The several show kitchens offer a diverse range of cuisines, such as Indian, Malay and Chinese.
Dim sum! I quite fancy the Lo Mai Gai (Steamed Glutinous Rice with Chicken), as well as the Siew Mai.
There’s a live noodle station where you can pick your own ingredients, noodle type and soup base.
There is also the ubiquitous egg station. They’re pretty good with eggs; the omelette turns out nicely moist within. I like the creamy and slightly runny scrambled eggs too.
The dining experience at Makan Kitchen for me was pleasant and satisfying on the whole. The staffs are pretty efficient with the clearing of empty plates, and food is always replenished at the stations.
Those with access to the Executive Lounge can enjoy a light breakfast spread as well as evening drinks and canapés.
There’s also a private meeting room in the Executive Lounge.
A very cosy and intimate setting; somewhere I would enjoy sipping on tea and working on my articles for prolonged hours.
Here are some photos I took of the evening canapé spread.
The fried rice comes with succulent sizeable chunks of prawn. Yummy!
I totally dig the fried dumplings. One is never enough!
DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru is ranked amongst the tops in Johor Bahru. Carrying out Hilton’s industry-recognised Culture of CARE (Create A Rewarding Experience), the hotel staffs are dedicated to providing personalised service and all the little gestures that add up to make the stay a pleasant one throughout.
As part of the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, DoubleTree by Hilton offers guests the opportunity to earn and redeem points for stays through the Hilton HHonors guest loyalty program. As part of this hotel’s launch promotion, Hilton HHonors members will be rewarded with an additional 1,000 HHonors bonus points per night, up to a maximum 5,000 points per stay from now till 31st December 2014.
I have stayed with DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru one two separate occasions, both enjoyable, and there’s another upcoming stay that I’m really looking forward to. There’s something comforting about the hotel, what some people would term “home away from home”.
For more information, visit johorbahru.doubletree.com.
DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru
No. 12 Jalan Ngee Heng, Johor Bahru