How twee is too twee? This is a question you might well ask yourself after stepping into Wondermilk. This café and cupcake emporium chain is the brainchild of a design collective, and it shows in every decorative detail. Kitsch bunting, animal motifs and giant Scrabble tiles grace the walls, carefully curated for maximum cuteness.
The third and latest outlet is located next to an MPH bookstore in the new Publika mall. It’s a fortuitous spot, because this is exactly the kind of café to appeal to the bookish at heart, as well as the hip of hearing: the soundtrack to my lunch included the Maccabees and Noah and the Whale. But the café’s cupcakes also draw families with young children, while the promise of good coffee pulls in nearby office workers. So it’s a surprisingly mixed crowd, given the niche appeal.
Like the décor, the menu is cleverly retro, channeling the spirit of the 1950’s American diner with its range of burgers and hotdogs. Breakfast dishes include the ‘Hello Elvis’ and the ‘Morning, Marilyn’. Sadly, there was no sassy, bespectacled waitress to take my order – instead, Wondermilk run a self-service operation where you order and pay upfront at the counter.
I ordered the Ultimate Super Burger, which was stacked with a beef patty, melting cheese, onions, turkey bacon, garlic mushrooms and creamy peppercorn sauce. It arrived with plastic cutlery in a dinky diner-style cardboard carton. This may have added to the nostalgic appeal, but probably also added to future landfill, so I wasn’t too impressed.
I instantly forgave the environmental oversight, however, after biting into the burger. It was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. Everything inside was perfectly cooked (there’s nothing I hate more than the acerbic crunch of undercooked onion), the bun to filling ratio was just right, and the textures were nicely melded together by the peppercorn sauce, with the turkey bacon grilled to a satisfying crisp.
To wash it all down, I ordered the house drink – which is, of course, milk. This comes in different flavours and I opted for the butterscotch. It was a comforting hit of syrupy goodness, which took me straight back to my childhood days.
I was already happily anticipating dessert when I went up to the counter to choose from the colourful range of cupcakes. On closer inspection, these were quite small, so this Time Out writer decided to have two (purely for the purposes of a fair review, you understand).
Dazzled by the choice, and unsure whether to decide based on abundance of sprinkles, familiar flavour combinations or the witty names (‘John Lemon’), I asked the attendant to recommend some to me. He pointed out the ‘Very Very Very Chocolate’ cupcake as one of their popular choices.
Back at my table, I felt I’d been misled. The cupcake wasn’t very, very, very chocolaty. It wasn’t even very chocolaty. It was just a bit chocolaty and, to be honest, quite dry. The ‘Foxy Red Velvet’ was not much better – more pink than red, and not moist enough to be velvety. Disappointing all round, especially at RM4.50 per tiny cake.
Wondermilk is very, very, very nearly there. They have a solid main menu, a unique aesthetic and an excellent song selection. It’s just a shame that their cupcakes don’t taste as good as they look. Design is all very well, but in the world of dining, looks aren’t everything. Ling Low