With a couple of stays in KL under our belts, we’d formed an idea of where the action was and where the best area for us to stay would be – somewhere offering shopping, bars and restaurants all within easy reach of each other. The chance to do a little people-watching would be nice – and after all, who wants to spend all their time cooped up in an air-conditioned freezer compartment? – but above all we wanted convenience.
So we’ve ended up staying at what we’ve already called the “venerable” Federal Hotel elsewhere on this site (see our review of Delaney’s Irish pub and restaurant). Truth be told, part of our reason for booking into the Federal was the sheer convenience of being able to stagger out of the pub, into the lift and then into our room at the end of the evening!
But the location’s convenient in other ways too. Less than five minutes’ walk from the Imbi monorail station, even less to the Sungei Wang Plaza shopping mall with its Giant supermarket branch; and just across the road from the Low Yat Plaza IT shopping mall, if that’s what floats your boat.
We also visited the Berjaya Times Square shopping mall – which connects directly to Imbi monorail station on the other side from the Federal – but were rather disappointed by it, for all that it’s supposed to be KL’s biggest shopping mall. The Malaysians just don’t seem to have got the hang of department stores in the way that, say, the Thais have. Parkson Grand in Sungei Wang Plaza is a confusing hotch-potch of a place tucked at the back of a very dated shopping centre; Metrojaya in Berjaya Times Square just didn’t excite us at all.
Enough about the location, though. What about the Federal itself?
The Federal was built just ahead of Malaysia’s independence in August 1957, so it’s not a spanking new construction by any means – in fact, it’s showing its age a bit. Our room (a Merdeka Deluxe) was certainly big; but it was rather on the empty side as regards furniture – it wouldn’t have hurt to include a proper desk as well as the dressing-table sized thing underneath the mirror up against one wall. Several of the fixtures and fittings weren’t working when we arrived (notably both bedside lamps, the lights over the head of the bed, and the handle inside the shower door). The bed was on the short side (barely over six feet/1.80m), a bit narrow, and very bouncy…
That said, though, the overall standard was not bad at all. The rooms have reasonably spacious minibars which really do cool down the beers quickly; there’s a television and a DVD player in the room (though our DVD remote had flat batteries), and the bathroom has a separate shower and bath, rather than the shower-attachment-on-the-bathtap setup common in many cheaper hotels. WiFi Internet access is available, though it’s not that cheap at RM25.00 for 24 hours.
Breakfast was included with our booking, and – unusually – we did actually make it downstairs to the Verandah on the first floor to see what their buffet offered. It was a pleasant surprise to find a range of perfectly acceptable options on offer, ranging from noodle soup and nasi lemak to fry-ups and Continental-style bread and cheese. We wouldn’t say it was the best hotel breakfast we’ve ever had, but it was certainly one of the better ones we’ve seen on offer in Malaysia, or indeed in South East Asia generally.
Hotels often stand and fall by the quality of their staff, and in our experience the staff of the Federal have been excellent: very polite, usually very cheerful, and always very willing to help their guests with any reasonable request. You certainly couldn’t fault the Federal on that score.
Our rating: 3 out of 5
The Federal’s not the most comfortable hotel in the world, and is showing its age, it’s true. But it’s got a great location in the heart of KL’s best shopping area, it’s reasonably well equipped, and it’s got good staff who’ll take care of you. You could certainly do worse than consider the Federal.
We booked our stay at the Federal Hotel through Agoda. Rates vary, but were typically around MYR 210 (£77/$55) for a Merdeka Deluxe room as of March 2009.
Book your hotel with Agoda!