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QBA, a new restaurant, wine and cigar bar in the Westin Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, sees the rough brilliance of Havana and Trinidad transplanted onto bustling Jalan Bukit Bintang. Heavy on ornament and light on straight edges, the interior of QBA represents a rediscovery of the pleasure of ornamentation and excess.


There's an air of faded glory to Cuba. Grand colonial architecture and baroque-style Catholic churches stand as a testament to years of foreign occupation [mostly Spanish]. Their now dull, peeling paint seems to weep not only for the multitude of slaves that supported the once booming export trade of tobacco, coffee and sugar, but also for the more recent political turmoil and economic destitution. As jumbo 50's and 60's American cars cruise the isle, and slow, whirring fans stir the subtropical air within run-down marble floored mansions, the atmosphere is at once relaxed, unpretentious and graceful.



QBA at The Westin Hotel

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 


The Westin KL



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Press Release


Ish : fragments of an urbanscape 5.3

Text by Narelle Yabuka

Page One Publishing : Singapore



This is what Singapore-based designer Ed Poole recently discovered after traveling through the Caribbean island for one month. Poole had been asked to create an authentic Havana environment for a new Cuban restaurant, wine and cigar bar at The Westin Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The result is QBA - a distinctly Cuban two-storey establishment that features grand arches overlooking a spectacular double volume, intricate hand-painted frescoes, scrolled wrought-iron balustrades, decorative timber ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and an all-seeing, bodily-sized carved timber angel that presides over the downstairs bar. "WOW" seems an understatement. Indeed, indulgence is rife, yet QBA remains as graceful and unpretentious as the Cuban architecture on which it was largely modeled.

Five main areas compose QBA : downstairs, there is an alfresco tapas garden for light, economical meals, and an island bar flanked by booth seats and a stage for live Cuban bands. Upstairs, there is a private cigar divan and a wine bar, as well as the main paladar dining room, which overlooks the downstairs bar. Aside from the grand staircase [complete with typically Cuban balustrade post statuette], which leads to the upstairs dining room, the focal point of QBA is inarguably the resident angel - carved from a single tree trunk and painstakingly painted and sanded back numerous times to create an "instant" aged patina - represents a motif commonly found in and on Catholic churches in Cuba.


The imposing seriousness of the angel is countered somewhat by the simple furniture selected by Poole; the timber chairs and barstools are of an elegant, yet unpretentious design, which achieves a satisfying balance between old-fashioned and contemporary styles. Heavy Spanish-baroque style scrolls hem the downstairs booth seats, whose leather upholstery is reminiscent of the interiors of the classic cars that swing around Cuba's streets. The decorative floor tiles that line the island bar area were custom-made in Malaysia. The pattern is based on one observed by Poole in a Cuban church. Elsewhere are white marble floor tiles - a common Cuban building commodity.



A paladar is a Cuban house that has been converted into a restaurant, usually seating no more than 12 persons. These establishments are encouraged by the Cuban Government due to a shortage of restaurants and growing tourism in the country.

Behind the guardian angel sweep the curving archways that confine the upstairs dining room. The scale of the arch spans were designed with the large door openings of Cuban houses in mind. The baroque-style trim moldings on the arches were all custom-made; the process involved hollow-setting concrete reinforced with fiberglass and steel in a fiberglass mould. The set form was then attached and sealed to the main arch. The distressed paintwork on the trims were applied by hand by Californian artist, muralist and renderer Willy Baet, as were the scroll motifs on the walls. This goes some way to explaining the rather lengthy nine-month-long construction period. Cuban cigar bands were the inspiration for the design of these wall motifs. Baet is also responsible for the specially produced artwork that hangs within QBA. For these pieces he took his inspiration from Cuban cigar labels.



Project Design Team :

Poole Associates Private Limited

Ed Poole, Mateo H. Osorio Jr.,

Wong Kim Mei, Norman Anton


T 65 | 6536 | 3928


Photos :

Peter Mealin Photography [above]


Below : courtesy of Westin KL

An open kitchen greets patrons at the top of the staircase. A corridor leads away to the wine bar and cigar smoking area. The wine bar's scroll bar top, curling in and out to form niches, allows patrons to sit almost facing each other along the bar. Crystal chandeliers, lamps and wall lights, which are abundant around the curly bar, were also designed by Poole. His selection of old-fashioned German filament globes was a deliberate play on the "old world charm" theme. The light thrown out from behind panes of onyx on the fittings is warm, yellow and comforting. The ceiling fans that hang above the bar were also custom-designed by Poole. They bear an enormous blade span diameter of 3.5 meters, from which the deliberate colonial connotations can not escape.


Although utterly successful, such a decorative interior does come as something of a surprise to those of us accustomed to the slick brand of minimalist design that so many contemporary establishments strive to achieve. For many, the modernist dissent for ornamentation remains a mark of advancement and superiority. Yet, such a viewpoint ignores the primary intention of ornament - to give pleasure. Theatrical, emotionally charged, dramatic, passionate and engaging, the decorative interior of QBA is delicious in its indulgence and excess, offering much visual pleasure whilst remaining absolutely reflective of the rough brilliance of Cuba.

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