Several years ago, while scouting hotels for uber-sexy boutique hotel collections company, Mr & Mrs Smith, I had the pleasure of meeting hotelier and restaurateur Narelle McMurtrie and visiting her boho chic retreat in Langkawi, Bon Ton Resort. I loved Bon Ton, both for its rustic charm as well as for Narelle’s fabulous food. Since that first visit, I’ve been telling my overworked and gorgeous wife S that I’d like to whisk her off there for a relaxing weekend of doing nothing but stuffing our faces.
Fast forward a few years and I still haven’t delivered on that promise — more proof to S that I’m pretty much full of hot air and not much else.
A few weeks ago, we ran into Narelle at a gathering of food media and Southeast Asian jury members of The San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants survey — Narelle, S and I are all members of the jury. During dinner, Narelle told us about her latest venture, a cool set of residences in the historic district of Penang, Malaysia. The Straits Collection is, in her words, “an eclectic mix of retail, restaurants and residences” spread through two separate rows of heritage Chinese shophouses in Georgetown. Narelle suggested we drop by, to check out the property and to do some serious eating. Of course, I said “sure, we’d love to”, thinking we’d get around to it someday, but probably not that soon. But as it turned out, we were actually able to identify a free weekend this month. This is a real rarity for us. We’re usually commited to something or other most weekends several weeks, if not months, in advance. So, we quickly blocked out the dates, jumped on the Internet and booked some budget airline flights and emailed Narelle. This fat fella and his fetching femme were heading to Penang for the weekend! Super-host extraordinaire that she is, she informed us that she’d fly in to hang with us during our stay.