Malmaison gives Frasers a playful edge

(Clockwise from left) Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996; signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms; each room has be
Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996 (above); signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms; each room has been formed by merging three separate cells.ST PHOTO: DENNIS CHAN
(Clockwise from left) Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996; signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms; each room has be
Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996; signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms (above); each room has been formed by merging three separate cells.ST PHOTO: DENNIS CHAN
(Clockwise from left) Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996; signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms; each room has be
Malmaison Oxford is a boutique hotel that has been converted from a prison that closed in 1996; signs of the building's former purpose are still visible, as in the rows of cells that now make up the guest rooms; each room has been formed by merging three separate cells (above). ST PHOTO: DENNIS CHAN

Regular stayers at a Frasers Hospitality apartment - be it the high-end Fraser Suites, Fraser Place and Fraser Residence or second-tier Modena and Capri - have often found a certain homogeneity across all its properties, such as a quiet dignity in the common space and limited all-day dining.

With the addition of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chains to the Frasers stable, this familiarity begins to fray. No doubt there is still the same high service standard and room quality with which Frasers is associated.

But if Frasers' branded residences are - to use a film analogy - rated General or PG13 in terms of suitability for general audience viewing, then the equivalent rating for the Hotel du Vin and Malmaison hotels is either an NC16 or M18.

For one thing, the strong emphasis on the food and beverage (F&B) business means that the atmosphere inside a Hotel du Vin or Malmaison property is anything but quiet. At night, it can get raucous when the bar is in full swing.

Hotel Du Vin caters largely to an older, more conservative crowd.

With Malmaison, there is also an added raunchy element, given its appeal to a younger and more edgy clientele.

For instance, a visitor to London Malmaison Brasserie will be greeted by a large, original Jack Vettriano picture in the lobby called Game On, which depicts a sensual scene that the more prudish folks might blush at. The painting is a gift from the artist to the hotel.

Other unique Malmaison offerings include a hotel in Oxford that was converted from a prison that operated until 1996.

For bashful guests, the room's thick walls and iron door located in the former A-wing cell block at the Malmaison Oxford provide excellent soundproofing from prying ears.

The block is also a popular place to hold parties, including weddings, and movie shoots. Some scenes of 101 Dalmatians were shot there, said the duty manager while giving a tour of the property.

The difference between the Frasers and MHDV brands is to be celebrated and not a source of worry as they "perfectly complement" the company's portfolio, said Frasers Hospitality chief executive officer Choe Peng Sum. "MHDV is very strong in F&B. They run wonderful bars and evening cocktails. When we opened Capri in Frankfurt, we used their expertise. When we open our Hamburg property, we will also use their expertise to run a restaurant, with a bar set-up."

He is keen to tap the respective strengths of Hotel du Vin and Malmaison. Plans are afoot to expand the Hotel du Vin brand into Europe and tap Malmaison for the Asian market.

Dennis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Malmaison gives Frasers a playful edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe