With its English country home vibes and captivating garden, Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands is as mysterious as it is beautiful.
There were three things we knew about Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands before our visit. Number one: it’s supposedly like being in an English bubble. Number two: a lot of people talk about its garden and traditional English food. Number three: given its reputation, the hotel doesn’t seem to shout about itself much.
Of course, that got us even more excited to see what the fuss was all about.
Tucked next to a sprawling golf course between Tanah Rata and Brinchang, the Tudor-style hotel is known for its award-winning garden, traditional British cuisine and nostalgic flair. The stay itself was an experience, so we’ve compiled 10 things anyone can do at the highland’s unique boutique hotel.
1. Imagine you are on vacation in England
With its cool climate and verdant greenery, it’s no wonder Cameron Highlands is such a popular holiday retreat in Malaysia. During the early 20th century, British settlers would flock to the highlands whenever they are reminded of home.
Smokehouse Hotel is one of these little remnants of England in Malaysia. Opened in 1937, every room is filled with antique furniture and memorabilia, from Dutch porcelains to ornate tableware, plush sofas, intricate carpets and other curiosities collected from around Europe.
For those who appreciate nostalgia and tradition, there’s a story behind every element in the hotel. One of the more significant pieces of decor is an old clock that dates back to the 1700s.
Alex Lee, the second generation Malaysian owner of the Smokehouse Hotel, explains that the hotel is designed as a holiday home where people can hang out, rest and relax – the way families would do in the past. “That’s a type of holiday that Malaysians have forgotten how to enjoy, but we still stand for that,” he said.
2. Enjoy a traditional English breakfast
In the morning, we tucked into a traditional English breakfast at the Conservatory. There is a fair selection on the menu, from the full English breakfast to familiar brunch classics. Every table would also be served with a basket full of bread and jam spreads.
We went for the Salmon Royale and fluffy Omelette, served with a side fresh vegetables grown in the highlands. According to Alex, most of the ingredients used in their kitchen are sourced from a nearby local market, to ensure freshness and introduce guests to some of Cameron Highland’s agriculture.
3. Wander in the charming garden
As we explored the rest of the hotel, we were immediately enchanted by the private garden. Colourful flowers of all shapes, sizes and species are dotted across the lush wonderland. There are meandering pathways, moss-covered sculptures and overgrown greenery along the walls. Even the weather had a slight British gloominess, which added to the ambience!
Since it is only open to guests and those who have a meal at the restaurant, the garden is well-preserved, easy enough to make anyone whip out their cameras. Strolling through the secret garden and taking in the beauty felt incredibly soothing.
4. Delight in afternoon tea at the terrace
If not to stay at the hotel or have a meal at the restaurant, most people visit Smokehouse Hotel for its afternoon tea. The Devonshire Cream Tea set comes with a delightful trinity of freshly baked homemade scones, fresh strawberry jam and hand-churned cream, along with a pot of tea.
With a little bit of luck (and good weather), you can enjoy your afternoon tea out in the terrace by the garden. It really gave us some Alice in Wonderland vibes!
5. Tuck into classic English meals at the restaurant
The finest traditional English food in Cameron Highlands? With a claim like that, we had to try some of the dishes.
The menu mainly consists of roast, steaks and Western grubs. If you’re ordering the starter, we recommend the French Onion Soup, Mushroom Soup and the Grilled Mushrooms with Cream and Wine Sauce.
Among the mains, one of our favourites was the Beef Wellington. Wrapped in crispy puff pastry, the tenderloin is succulent, moist and beautifully fell apart as we sliced into it. In between the layers, you can taste their signature chicken liver and mushroom pate.
The Roast Lamb was another worthy contender. The aromatic meat goes well with the hint of acidity from the redcurrant jelly.
One thing we noticed was how large and hearty all the dishes were, especially if you are going for the roasts. For light eaters, we suggest the Grilled Cod, with its subtly sweet flavour accentuated by the buttery mashed potato. Or you can always fall back on their classic, crispy Fish and Chips!
6. Indulge in signature desserts like the Bombe Alaska
After dinner, we knew we couldn’t miss out on Smokehouse Hotel’s decadent desserts. Their signature Smokehouse Bombe Alaska is quite the retro showstopper, stealing the scene with its flaming entrance. The ice cream dessert is coated with meringue and Cameron strawberries, then flambéed for that subtle smokiness and caramelised flavour.
We also tried the Apple Crumble, another classic British comfort food. At Smokehouse Hotel, this is reinterpreted by having the stewed apple chunks fitted back into the whole apple. We enjoyed the tanginess of the compote balanced by the buttery crumble, complete wide a side of warm vanilla custard.
7. Enjoy a drink at the bar
Tucked at the back of Smokehouse Hotel is a cozy bar. Dimly lit by antique lamps, there are two areas consisting of a lounge next to a working fireplace, and a pub. Along the shelves, there are rows of wine bottles sourced from different regions in the world.
The bar is closed during CMCO, but on normal days it is open to guests looking to unwind while sipping on a drink.
8. Curl up by a roaring fireplace
Imagine snuggling up on a couch, warmed by the calming crackling of the fire. As the fire illuminated the room and the sky darkened against the windowpane, it began to look a lot like Christmas. Or at least those cozy fireplace scenes in Christmas shows.
We noticed that every room in Smokehouse Hotel has its own fireplace. Most of these have been walled up, with only two working ones left in the bar. It isn’t often that you can see an actual fireplace in Malaysia, so experiencing this amidst the chilly highland atmosphere is certainly a highlight!
9. Take a break in the Residents’ Lounge
The Residents’ Lounge is a hidden area reserved for guests of The Smokehouse. Like the rest of the hotel, it is decorated with antiques and knick-knacks, but it is much quieter so that anyone can rest, enjoy a good book or chat away the way you would in a family holiday home.
10. Retire for the night in a boutique suite
Within the hotel, there are 24 boutique rooms, each with different antique decor and personality. You could find a rocking chair in one, a beautiful writing desk in the next, and a stretch of window that overlooks the garden in another. One thing is for sure, spending time in the room is already an experience on its own, as it makes you feel like you are staying in a traditional country house. As Alex mentioned to us, “we’ve designed all the rooms for you to spend time in them.”
We were pleasantly surprised to find that we could easily spend most of our day at the hotel. It’s not your usual contemporary accommodation or resort stay. But if you’re one for nostalgia and eager for that bit of highland heritage, something about Smokehouse Hotel feels like an adventure.
Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands
Address: By the Golf Course, Tanah Rata, 39000 Tanah Rata, Pahang
Phone: 05-491 1215
Facebook: The Smokehouse Cameron Highlands