IF YOU are in Kota Baru and need a place that’s simple, cosy and intimate, you will feel right at home at Habib Hotel.
This charming, boutique-style hotel with 32 tastefully decorated rooms is the first Habib Hotel in Malaysia. Yes, Habib as in Habib Jewels.
Tucked in a corner of Jalan Maju, right in the heart of Kelantan’s capital, it is a convenient location for all types of guests be they businessmen, tourists or families.
Hotel manager Khalid Mohd said the guest rooms were designed to cater to people with a variety of requirements.
“Our main priority is comfort and security without any costly frills,” he said.
The place exudes a relaxed vibe despite the surrounding hustle and bustle as it is situated along a busy road.
Habib Hotel’s strategic spot means it is surrounded by popular shopping areas and is within walking distance to the state museum, is close to the Sultan Mahmud football stadium and only 20 minutes to the airport.
The hotel staff are friendly and helpful and more than happy to give you tips on the town’s best eateries, shopping centres and places of interest, such as Pasar Siti Khadijah.
Pasar Siti Khadijah is an extremely busy market selling delicious Kelantanese food and traditional products. You can find pickled petai, keropok losong and cincalok (fermented small shrimps) here.
Then there’s the long list of sweets or desserts such as akok (a classic Kelantanese dessert made from coconut, palm syrup and eggs), cendol pulut tapai, bunga tanjung, jala mas, sira labu, butir nangka and the curiously named tahi itik.
Alternatively, book a trishaw or a cab from the hotel to visit the Wakaf Che Yeh Midnight Bazaar, Che Minah Songket, a wau maker in Kampung Badang, Islamic Museum, Merdeka Square, Istana Jahar, Craft Village and Pantai Cahaya Bulan.
For the more energetic, rent a bicycle from the hotel and cycle downtown where there are many attractions and tourist spots within easy reach.
Most of Habib Hotel’s guests keep coming back for return stay because they like its central location, homely atmosphere, the pampering and the delicious food.
The coffeehouse, Suasa Restaurant, is popular even with the locals because of what it has to offer.
Its food and beverage team, headed by Chef Rosmandi Ismail, whips up local and Western spread.
The best offering is the buffet breakfast spread, which is cheap and tasty. One can have a hearty meal for only RM10.50.
For lunch, there is a bigger spread of traditional fare including gulai darat, jantung kerisik, nasi kerabu, laksam and a whole array of Kelantanese delights and sweet desserts. Not to be missed are the nasi ulam, nasi dagang, nasi kukus, nasi ayam kampung with gulai rempah and sambal. Equally good are the nasi briyani kambing, ayam percik and nasi tumpang.
If your taste leans towards Western food, indulge in Rosmandi’s own concoction of Fish Piccata, chicken chop, grilled lamb or grilled salmon steak.
But the truly memorable dishes are local — jantung kerisek Kelantan, daging kerutuk and murtabak raja.
There is also a special menu featuring gulai kawah, sambal lala, solok lada (green chillies stuffed with fish paste and grated coconut), prawn fritters, steamed rice with fried chicken, rojak buah (fruit salad in shrimp paste) and keropok lekor (fish crackers) with sweet chilli dip and serunding (meat floss) aside from dodol (sticky and sweet dessert flavoured with pandan, gula melaka or durian).
Nasi kerabu fans are in for a treat as there are options — white, blue and yellow rice, served with a mix of raw bean sprouts, minced herbs and sambal.
The hotel opened in August 2010 and went through a makeover recently.
There is a Habib Jewel outlet next to the hotel (but of course!), offering some of Habib’s most popular designs and diamond pieces.
“Guests can take their time shopping in our jewellery store, an added convenience for our customers,” said Habib Jewels Sdn Bhd general manager (corporate relations) Jean Tan.