If you're all about taking pretty photos for your Instagram feed, get your phones ready and head to KL's most photogenic, highly stylised cafés. From raw, rustic designs in heritage shophouses to clean, minimalist interiors, these places are perfect for all your #cafehop posts.
If you’ve always wondered what the Danish word ‘hygge’ means, you’ll get a sense of it at this cool new coffee shop which bills itself as ‘a little Scandinavia in Mont Kiara’. As with anything Scandinavian, you can expect a clean, minimal space – unfussed and uncluttered – with sunlight streaming in, and cosy corners filled with couches and (modern) Nordic print throw pillows. There’s an air of peace and easiness here that make for a quiet respite from the city; this is a space made for lingering. For drinks, there’s your standard espresso-based coffee (with beans from local roaster Sprezzatura), matcha latte and Gryphon tea – all served in blue and white patterned Royal Copenhagen cups and mugs, which are a thing of beauty.
Ru Di Fook is a Chinese-Japanese fusion noodle bar that specialises in wan tan noodles, creative desserts and good coffee. The interior is cool, taking on the air of a modern bistro with a nod to neo-Tokyo aesthetics – think contrasting white-tiled and bare brick walls, lots of natural light and manga-style graphics.
Before it was abandoned more than five years ago, the space was a brothel. Inside, the café uses a teal and pink colour scheme on their counter and display cases – a nice pop of colour from everything else in the shop that sports a rugged look. The back room is where you'll get the iconic shot of the beautifully painted, larger than life oriental flowers which take up an entire wall.
However, it’s the outdoor area that really shines with the building’s original design. Co-owner Kenneth Tan explains that they’ve tried conserving as much of the outdoor components as possible, like the window and railings, while most of the furniture are custom-made, including some of the benches which were fashioned out of old wooden staircases.
Adopting a minimalist look with its white walls and bare decor, the space feels bright and airy. This is well reflected on their menu. Everything is made to order – including their already famous soufflé, a Taiwanese recipe made with real vanilla beans and kampung eggs. Word of caution: Get your photos and #foodporn shots as quick as possible (and by possible, we mean five seconds) before the soufflé starts sinking.
Located a couple of doors away from Merchant’s Lane and PS150, Chocha Foodstore is one of the most visually stunning cafés we’ve seen this year: classic pastel tiles galore which vary from room to room, a sun-drenched central courtyard lined with potted herbs, clusters of vintage glass lamps dangling over a long wooden tables in a corner. Architect and owner Shin Chang of MentahMatter Design has transformed the space while keeping the structure (raw concrete walls and all) intact.
If you’re willing to drive all the way to Klang for bak kut teh, you can do the same for The Parque Café in Teluk Panglima Garang. Located a little further away from Kota Kemuning in Shah Alam, the roadtrip’s worth it for the pretty glasshouse café based on The Palladium Café in Johor Bahru (which in turn was inspired by the café in this Jay Chou music video).
The sunlight-filled café is smaller than it looks: the coffee brewing section and counter occupy half the space, and there are only three tables. Come early to nab the one with the floral upholstered chairs for your Instagram photo-ops, or just make do with using the mini-replica of the café that tops all the tables as a prop. If there aren’t any vacant seats left in the main glasshouse, head to the other glasshouse or park yourself outdoors under the gazebo. Here’s a tip: visit in the morning for good seats inside, the evening for a cool breeze outside, or at night for pretty lights all over the area.
Spend a chill afternoon taste-testing mountains of gourmet Japanese ices at Kakigōri, a shaved ice dessert bar at Taman Paramount. Set up like an ice factory with a skylight and a garden structure, Kakigōri has a cool interior that matches the selection of ices.
For now, they’re churning out ten varieties of kakigōri, all made with specially produced ice, up to three layers of homemade syrups and purées as well as unique additions such as rose espuma, Marukyu-Koyamaen matcha from Kyoto, ginger syrup made with Bentong ginger and more.
Located in the semi-industrial estate of Sunway, Whup Whup is a photogenic café housed in what used to be a yarn factory. Occupying 10,000 sq ft of space, the café ticks all the boxes: airy industrial interior with lots of natural light, tasteful decorations (a phonograph, a grand piano, factory machinery reworked into furniture), and a creative menu to boot.
By a congested corner of Jalan Sultan (opposite distinguished tailors Kwong Fook Wing) lies the newest café this side of KL – Leaf & Co. Formerly a mess hall built by Kwong Yik Bank’s co-founder Cheong Yoke Choy, the century-old colonial-era heritage building is now a boutique hostel (by the name of Mingle) and café, co-founded by engineer Ng Sin Leong.
With Ng’s experience in restoring and refurbishing old buildings, it’s evident that attention and care was paid to this particular building as well – old wooden beams are reinforced, pieces of original furniture from the building’s early days are scattered around, and the terrazzo tiles are cleaned and spruced up.
A pet project of Joey Mah, the co-founder and coffee roaster of the famed Artisan Roastery, Someplace Beautiful is what you’d expect of a modern tea bar. A sleek white space offset by pale wood furnishings, there’s a minimalist calm to the space. A wooden frame of a house dominates the seating area, where there’s only a scattering of tables. There’s a lot of quiet space here, and it’s almost Japanese in vibe.
After Pulp, APW adds another café to its premises, and it’s a very handsome one. Already attracting brunch hunters and Instagrammers in droves, Breakfast Thieves (yes, it’s the sister of the one based in an old chocolate factory in Fitzroy, Melbourne) is a stunner: a glasshouse-like space with lots of pale wood, white tiles, pastel railings and concrete, punctuated by the occasional plant and exposed light bulb.
Seraph Awaken is located on a quiet side street in Klang, a two-minute walk from the Klang KTM station. Guests familiar with their roadside days would recognise the small yellow stove used to boil water for meticulous hand brews. Old wooden chairs, tables printed with faded world maps and rattan recliners (inherited from the previous owner) all come together on the pretty grey-green floor tiles. Forget vintage, this is the real deal.
Fill your feed with more than just latte art at Rimba & Rusa; there are few cafés in KL as stunning as this sunlit space at Sunway Nexis, awash with accents of blue, grey and white, with its high ceilings and potted plants. A more well-rounded café than its sister shop Wondermilk, Rimba & Rusa doles out brunch bites, salads, pastas as well as local and Western mains: think grilled glazed ribs with pickled watermelon and cous cous. Round it up with a bottle of the famous Kopi Cap Rusa or the Kopi Cap Rimau Bintang, the newer brew.
Set in a pre-war house with all the trappings of the colonial era, VCR is retro cool. You’ll also appreciate the industrial touches inside, which provide even more photo-ops like the dangling bare light bulbs, wooden stairs and bright windows (because sunlight on your toasts looks tastier with the Mayfair filter).
Of course, Pudu’s slow-burning gentrification is better viewed with a side of sourdough bread and 63C free range egg from their sun-lit patio upstairs. Trivia: The space VCR is occupying on Jalan Galloway used to be a place for jail wardens to stay in. Come on, ‘gallow’- way?
For all its popularity (400 million active users at time of print), Instagram has a bad rep among food purists. We hear of acclaimed restaurants banning phone photography, citing bad manners, infringement of intellectual property and disturbance of other diners’ experience. No surprises there.