A thorny issue at a 5-star hotel

Like most of the hotels in Malaysia, the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur too prominently displays the obvious signage —
“No Durians and Mangosteens” — at the entrance to the guest rooms.

Due to its strong lingering smell, that may not appeal to many, the King of Fruits, as Durian is commonly known, is definitely not welcome in this five-star hotel. Mangosteens are also discouraged as their purple juice cause permanent
stains on clothes and other fabrics.

Ironically, this writer was invited by the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur few days back for a “durian festival” in its premises.

True to the signage, durians were tactfully placed right at the far corner of an open air corridor in the hotel, while the patrons and guests were invited to a unique experience of feasting on the durians at the hotel’s terrace cafe.

An invite to the Durian Festival politely cautioned hotel guests and patrons: “Please be informed that guests are only allowed to consume the fruits at our designated cafe as it is our policy to respect our guests who may find the strong scent of durian fruit not to their taste.”

A special spread

This writer joined the other guests at the cafe to sample premium grade durians such as Musang (moo-sang) King, D24 and 101 in an all-you-can- eat spread.

Besides the custard like potion of the fruit, the spread included popular durian desserts such as pulut santan, (durian flavoured glutinous rice with coconut milk), bubur kacang durian (sweetened peas and durian rice pudding) and
serawa durian (durian with sticky rice).

Durian tarts and durian flavoured ice-creams were also thrown in.

The idea of a Durian festival was the brainchild of the hotel’s general manager Franz Swoboda, an Austrian national, but a true Malaysian at heart.

“After 28 years of living here, you can’t get way from the fruit. Eating Durian is a truly Asian experience and I would not want my guests to miss out,” he said with a smile.

Some of the foreign guests too shared his enthusiasm and were seen savouring the unique taste of the fruit on the very first day of the festival, not minding the “offensive” smell.

About 300 kilogrammes of durians, which were brought from Melaka and Perak, were consumed in no time on that day.



Love for durian

One person, who absolutely loved the taste of durian, was Richard Boggon, an engineer from Global Press Systems (Oil & Gas company).

The 32-year-old Englishman has been living in Malaysia for the last four years and it was two years back that he first tasted the fruit.

“Hmm…I am giving this one 8 out of 10 marks,” Boggon remarked in jest, when this writer asked for his opinion on the taste of the fruit he was sampling.

Not only did he finish three whole durians, he also helped himself with durian desserts. “I am accustomed to the smell, in fact it can be such a sweet smell that you will crave for the fruit,” he said.

An Arab couple tried some and ended up finishing five whole durians!
Annual event

Rizal Johan Wan Geyzel, assistant public relations manager of the Royale Chulan, said plans were underway to turn the durian festival into a yearly affair to accommodate international patrons who were not be able to participate
this year.

“Maybe next time we will do it early in the season because some of the invitees came back with the “more durians?” remark,” he said laughing.

In Malaysia, durians are usually found in the month of June and July, but with genetic modification, these fruits are now actually available all year around.

The Royale Chulan Durian Festival is being held from July 18-25 at the Terrace Cafe, Briyani House, lobby level from 4pm to 11pm. The entry fee is only RM39++ per person.

Director of Food and and Beverage, Azrule Azia said the special event was in keeping with Malaysia’s only 5-star heritage hotel.

“As we are a hotel representing Malaysian culture and heritage, it is  only natural to want to host a festival of durians whilst the fruit is in season.

“But we strictly ban the fruit from entering our premises, we maintain the hotel’s standard as usual, and respect our guests.

“So long as the season is permissible and logistics are handy, why not,” said Aziz when asked if there would be another durian festival next year at the hotel.

– Bernama