In this age, a café is more than just enjoying a cuppa or ordering your favourite dish — it’s about the experience, the ambience, and creating memories with the people you’re with and taking a piece of it with you. In other words, a cafe which are good-looking and picturesque make it easy on the eye (and on the ‘gram) and will cater to those seeking out aesthetically-pleasing photographs.
Aside from just offering deliciously-crafted beverages or a slew of scrumptious meals to indulge in, these cafes and restaurants in and around Kuala Lumpur are just some of the best and beautiful that anyone can enjoy — whether you’re just passing through this metropolitan city or you’re playing tourist in your very own home country.
1. ChoCha Foodstore
Established in 2016 by Shin Chang, Penny Ng and Chang Li Youn, ChoCha Foodstore is a quaint eatery located where Mah Lian hotel once stood, along the shophouses in Chinatown. An area steeped in history; this tranquil farm-to-plate restaurant prides itself on its homegrown seasonal ingredients served in Asian small plates. Cosy beyond expectations which is floodlit via its air well, the two-storey shop house is a vision.
Exposed brick walls, ancient floor tiles and beautiful potted plants lay claim to this space, and designer and architect Penny Ng of Mentahmatter Design who breathed life into this rustic gem could not be prouder.
Helming the kitchen is head chef Mui Kai Quan, who serves up mean meals such as goat char siu with ginger relish, ikan mabong and budu mayo, Heirloom red rice with chicken wings and skin, mushroom and cured egg yolk drizzled with curry leaves vinaigrette dressing to name a few. Enjoy these signature dishes alongside freshly brewed tea or a bottle of wine to your liking.
For boozy goodness customers can also head up to Botak Liquor for some refreshing cocktails and take more cool photographs in the botanical bar.
Operation Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 6 PM – 12 AM
Saturday – Sunday: 12 PM – 3 PM (lunch) and 6 PM – 12 AM (dinner)
Address: 156, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2. Lisette’s Café & Bakery
The Social Group of Restaurants is a household name in the culinary business in Malaysia, and with a slew of restaurants under them, a standout stablemate would be the quirky-beautiful Lisette’s Café and Bakery situated along Jalan Kemuja in Bangsar. The cafe was formerly known as Dr. Inc prior to 2018 (Lisette Scheers who was the founder, is also known for the print design and fashion brand Nala Design). Staying true to the hearty and wholesome concept, The Social Group enhanced it and is now a beautiful (and hard-to-get-into) spot for brunch.
Vegetarians can enjoy a twice-a-week vegetarian friendly spread, while bread-lovers can indulge in yummy pastries, specialty cakes, and healthy loaves. All of which are made with organic flour and pure butter. The Beautiful Buffet formerly known as the Vegetarian Buffet is praised for its plethora of plant-based offerings. Think Johor Laksa during their Tuesday buffet and on Sundays Black Rice Nasi Lemak.
Whether you are seated at the floral wall outside or underneath the murals on the ceilings on the first floor, there’s always a gorgeous corner to snap an Insta-worthy post. Keep an eye out for the antique plates picked from markets all over Europe and hand-carried back.
Operation Hours: Daily: 8 AM – 6 PM
Address: 8, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar, 59000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3. Botanica+Co at Bangsar South (or at Alila Bangsar)
As its name suggests, Botanica+Co is a café that allows you to be in sync with nature. With its minimalistic approach and greenhouse-themed interior, the Botanica+Co brand is one that promises a relaxing, zen experience as you indulge your taste buds with solid, high quality ingredients and the freshest of local produce.
Amidst its lush greenery, enjoy hearty food such as The Botanica Laksa, The Bo+Co Club, Halibut Fish and Chips, This Season’s Roast Chicken, and The Bo+Co Truffle fries. The restaurant is also famed for their home-made sauces, salad dressings, dips, and soup stocks, to its beverages. No matter which you try, every dish is a hit.
Operation Hours: Daily- 11 AM – 10 PM (Bangsar South) 8 AM – 10 PM (Alila)
Address: G5, 8, Jalan Kerinchi, Bangsar South, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Alila) 58, Jalan Ang Seng, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
4. Timothy Café
Nestled along Jalan Tun HS Lee fondly known as Highstreet, Timothy Café is housed in a building which once was a private residence in the 1930s and a kopitiam in the ‘60s to ‘70s. Standing the test of time, the vintage café draws many in with its old age charm, from its mosaic tiled floors to its rusty walls and hanging lightbulbs. The name of this contemporary café is inspired by a combination of initials from head chef, Tariq Iskandar Mohd Salleh and team.
The menu offers an eclectic mix of Southeast Asian flavours from across the region with influences of Melbourne. Opened daily for breakfast, lunch, teatime, and dinner, the following are must-haves upon visiting. First up is its revamped traditional menu which has various food elements from Malaysia’s different races: Traditional Hakka ‘Lei Cha’ Thunder Rice, Nasi Ulam with Ayam Percik, and Crispy Rendang Chicken to name a few. The beverage menu will have coffee lovers surprised as the caffeine fuelled drinks are paired with unusual ingredients in them. These include Roselle Ice Cube Long Black, Icy Minty Espresso Soda, Osmanthus Latte, and Banana Frappuccino.
At Timothy’s, their in-house baked cakes see a combination of classic French techniques infused with local flavours. You will also see a celebration of local fruits and popular Malaysian desserts such as the Durian Basque Burnt Cheesecake, Cempedak Burnt Cheesecake, Ondeh-Ondeh cake and Cendol cake. Pick a spot and reminisce with the family over a meal together at Timothy’s Café.
Operation Hours: Daily: 8 AM – 8 PM
Address: 24, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
5. Urban Daybreak
Hailing from Penang, Urban Daybreak came about in 2016 as an artisan breakfast place. The café was such a success which resulted in a new dawn — the opening of its second branch in 2019, Urban Daybreak in Jalan Telawi, Bangsar (an area that is populated with numerous eateries). This hipster café has its own unique charm to it and serves up not only delicious but well-plated meals. Priding itself as a café that offers some of the best porky brunch in KL and handcrafted coffees such as Mint Infused Ice Coffee and Iced Coconut Latte, Urban Daybreak has extended their menu to an after dark section starting from 5 PM onwards.
The menu boasts modern all-day Australian brunch classics that has a twist of Asian flavours, and Urban Daybreak has a string of loyal followers that come in for Urban’s Big Breakfast, Stout pulled pork with poached eggs and the continental croissant. After 5, items such as Crispy White Bait, Hot Chicken, BBQ Glazed Meatloaf, and Miso Glazed Salmon are highly recommended.
What draws many into Urban Daybreak aside from its delicious grub and beverages is its laidback vibe and minimalistic concept. The likes of its simple storefront name in yellow to lush potted plants outside and also inside in a hanging through to wooden tables and soothing music such as Jazz and Indie playing in the background. The wooden counter sees more potted plants around it as well as a shelf at the back with books and coffee beans displayed.
After enjoying a sumptuous meal, opt to people watch or sneak in a photo with Urban Daybreak’s recently decorated flowers outside.
Operations Hours: Daily: 8 AM – 7:30 PM
Address: 11, Jalan Telawi 5, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
6. If Only
Cast your doubts aside as you step into If Only, a café that serves comfort food and specialty coffee in Taman U-Thant’s Regal House. With a whopping 15 years of experience in the F&B industry in Melbourne, founder Keith Wong knows what customers want.
This charming café features an array of Asian fusion dishes and modern Australian cuisine with its signature dish being “Gohma (Grandma) Mee Hun Kuey” amongst the many other crowd pleasers. The Gohma dish is a family recipe passed down by Keith’s partner Jean Ng’s grandmother, which consists of a hearty bowl of hand-pulled duck egg noodles topped with chicken mince and mushrooms and other condiments. Other dishes to look out for would be their homemade laksa paste served with pesto fettuccine and salmon fish meat noodle soup.
Like many other cafés that pride themselves on local produce, If Only too are big on fresh farm harvest, specifically from their orchard at Hulu Langat. As for its interior, customers have Keith to thank for. Playing his role as an interior designer, he had sourced all furniture and decorative pieces from artisans in Bali. Items such as rattan chairs and hanging lamps contribute to the warm and homey atmosphere. From lush greenery hanging inside and outside the café to brick walls and marble furnishing, If Only is easy on the eyes and perfect to soothe any tensions you may have.
Operation Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Address: Ground floor, Regal House, 1, Jalan U Thant, Taman U Thant, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7. Merchant’s Lane
With a brief to make Merchant Lane an Instagram-able eatery back when the social site was at its infancy, the dream was brought to life by its founders, Ken Ho, Kenneth Tan, Yong Jun Ong, and Kyle E.
Occupying a former brothel in Chinatown, Merchant’s Lane is known for its beautiful interior that has been preserved with minimal restoration to it. Evoking that rustic vibe with modern hints from the vibrant colours seen and vintage paraphernalia, this shop lot is perfect to relive an era that once was.
An interior that transports you to a time where rattan chairs were prevalent to exposed ceilings and walls with old advertisements on it, and wooden floorings to name a few. Each section on the first floor of the shop lot makes a great spot for a photo-op. Upon coming up the stairs, the counter sees an illuminated sign with the words that read “This Must Be the Place” on a teal coloured shelf comprising of various odds and ends. The café’s décor ultimately sees Malaysian Chinese and Peranakan morphed together with its theme colours being teal and fuchsia.
Highlights across the room include a hanging rattan chair and stools, half a century old tree with its roots creeping against the wall, rattan food covers that function as lamp shades, and suspended Chinese incense. The patio features wooden tables with plants hanging above it and flower wreaths on its walls. Further ahead lies a floral motif themed room known as the “rainbow room” where beautiful floral murals can be seen on the walls such as chrysanthemums and peonies. Other items include china cups, tiffin carriers, abacus, and dim sum steamer baskets to name a few.
Easy on the eyes, Merchant’s Lane offers a relaxed atmosphere for both a catchup and a place to get work done and of course relive the glory days. Signature dishes comprise of Nasi Lemak Pancake, Hongkie Beef Stew, and Italian Chow Mein amongst a variety of fusion dishes. These delicious meals go well with a refreshing glass of Pandan Lemongrass and Ginger Cooler or an Iced Matcha Latte.
Operation hours: Weekdays: 11:30 AM – 10 PM and weekends: 9:30 AM – 10 PM
Address: 150, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
8. Kettlebell Café
The name Kettlebell is synonymous with KL’s elite boutique gym Firestation located in the affluent streets of Plaza Mont Kiara. The pretty in pink café in front of Firestation boasts some of the best healthy food options for health buffs in the vicinity. Think superfood, smoothies, coffee, acai bowls, and cookies.
Signature items include their beet latte, avocado toast, macadamia passionfruit cake, and Oreo bliss balls. Aside from serving up wholesome meals, the café prides itself on its eco-friendly products such as its 100% natural coconut shells. With pink walls with whimsical graphics on it, to pink sauces and lattes to pink cutlery, this café is not afraid to show off a little, while promoting a healthy lifestyle that is worth embracing.
Operation hours: Daily: 8 AM – 7 PM
Address: C-G-1 Plaza Mont Kiara, Ground Floor, 2 Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
An all-glass (and extremely popular) café, Pokok.KL is the Brickhouse group’s flagship café and is located on the grounds of MAHSA university. Founded by Datuk Sharon Haniffa and Datin Christine Bong in October 2018, this minimalistic brunch café is a perfect hideaway from the busy world.
With unhindered views thanks to its transparent ceiling, the floodlit café is extremely photogenic when it comes to picture snaps, and a delight when it comes to its food. The menu features fusion flavours such as Chili Padi Pesto Pasta that come in mild, spicy, and pedas giller, Aunty Aileen’s Nyonya Laksa, Smoked Salmon Benedict and Nasi Lemak Bomb to name a few. In addition to the main meals, there are a slew of desserts to opt from. The likes of ice cream from Waka-Waka Gelato to cake of the day such as Sirap Bandung and Apam Balik to brownies. Must try ice cream flavours include Pistachio, Cookies and Caramel, and Mr. White Rabbit. As for beverages, there is coffee and tea, fruit juices, blends, and fizzy drinks.
Choose to have your meals indoors or even outdoors where it is nice and shady thanks to the trees that surround the café. Rattan furnishings with floral cushions provide a homey rustic vibe. As for the exposed brick walls it lends an industrial touch to it. For those who want to immerse themselves in the outdoors can do so here effortlessly. The interior of the glasshouse café sees geometric lamps, to various plants suspended above the marble tables and wooden chairs, to more brick walls.
Pokok.KL is not just a café but also functions as a beautiful event space. This café prides itself on its cool interior and exterior, lush greenery and homey concept that easily draws customers in.
Operation Hours: Daily: 10 AM – 8 PM
Address: MAHSA Avenue, Block B, Jalan Elmu, off, Jalan Universiti, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
10. The Hungry Tapir
“A home of the herbivores” as owner Makissa Smeeton likes to call it. The Hungry Tapir is a whimsical vegan and vegetarian restaurant situated in Chinatown and is equipped with a full-service bar. (This automatically means one can enjoy an array of plant-based meals alongside some bubbly).
The Hungry Tapir was established in hopes to grow and spread the love for plant-based meals. And thus far they have succeeded with up to 70% of its customers being meat eaters. According to Makissa, the goal is to get customers to enjoy their meals without focusing on the fact that it is vegan — as non-meat dishes are just as delicious and healthier!
The menu comprises of all-day breakfast, which include Nangka pancakes, classic avo on toast, salads and bowls with mains being rainbow ulam and fried rice, jungle laksa, and pink bombshell burger; all of which are gluten-free. Sharing platters are an option for those wanting to have a variety together. End a meal on a sweet note with dessert as well as cocktails and house pours. Juices, kombuchas and teas are also available.
Paying tribute to the endangered tapir in Malaysia, the restaurant features black and white as its primary colour with hints of yellow, pinks, and teals that depicts a playful space. From brick walls to floral motifs on pink walls, this place really does evoke a fun vibe!
Operation hours: 11 AM – 10 PM
Address: 135, Jalan Petaling, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
© This article was first published online in Nov 2020 – World Travel Magazine.