Seven Terraces: Peranakan history weaved into your stay in Penang

The grand front lobby. Source: Seven Terraces

IN Malaysia’s northern state of Penang, where boutique hotels abound, Seven Terraces is arguably the most beautiful of them all. Its largely inconspicuous location along Stewart Lane only adds to its charm, lending itself the status of “hidden gem” even if it’s within minutes of George Town’s bustle.

Once you walk past the vintage Rolls Royce in the entrance and into the lobby, the first thing that strikes you is the abundance of rich, dark-wood antique furniture inspired by Peranakan roots. Wardrobes, floor partitions, coffee tables and chairs are intricately carved into floral motifs, while fillers such as vases and tiffins paint a picture of yesteryear.

Many of the trinkets and décor pieces are from co-founder Christopher Ong’s personal collection of kamcheng, or Straits Chinese porcelain ware. Outside of Penang, it’s rarer to come across sites that still parade Peranakan antiques to this extent; these days, antiques from the era are very expensive and can fetch up to tens of thousands of ringgit per piece.

Don’t forget to look down when booked in here. The pretty Peranakan ceramic tiles peppered across the property carry distinct geometric aesthetics, making for some memorable Instagram shots. The Peranakan community in Penang and Melaka have been fond of this style of tiling since the 20th century, and is widely retained in many boutique hotels in the former.

If you’re traveling as a couple, the Terraced Duplex Suite is a stunning, sprawling two-floored space that weaves in a rich heritage. The detailing here – tall doors with wooden latches, timber flooring, vintage treasure chests, velvet-lined cushions – is evocative of a gilded past.

One of the best things about the suite is the very large bathrooms. Lined with old-school mosaic tiles and fitted with rain showers, they’re reminiscent of plush hotel bathrooms of Malaysia’s bygone era. Bonus: The hotel provides silk kimono-style bathrobes that are, frankly, some of the best bathrobes you’ll get to use in any hotel.

It’s not a stay here without a dinner at Kebaya Dining Room, the hotel’s in-house restaurant helmed by a local Penangite. The restaurant is a snapshot of all things Peranakan what with the antique medicine cabinets that lurk in the corners, dainty china crockery, and friendly waitresses in traditional kebayas.

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While the influence of food here clearly takes from Straits Chinese and Indo-Chinese traditions, there are elements of the West that sneak into the menu in the form of otak-otak (grilled fish custard) in puff pastry, duck confit lor bak (pork rolled in bean curd skin), beef braised in tamarind and palm sugar, and palm sugar mousse layered on sponge.

Altogether, Kebaya is a stunning tribute to everything that is Nyonya, and non-hotel guests regularly dine here, which is saying something for a hotel restaurant. That even in a street food haven like Penang, it stands out.