By Gary Barbour
If you’ve got a free Saturday, a great way to spend a day in Kuala Lumpur (whether expat or visitor) is to hole up in one of the city’s numerous cafes. Pack your laptop, order a cuppa and a slice of cake, and take in the city around you. Chain coffee shops are numerous, so you’ll have your Starbucks if you’ve got a hankering for sub-par coffee, but for a real taste of what Southeast Asia offers, find one of these places and make yourself at home.
1. Urbean, Avenue K near KLCC
I got my first glimpse of this place from a friend’s Instagram (She has become my go-to for delights in KL). Located in Avenue K next to H&M, this new café is tucked in an unexpected niche. I ordered a long black coffee just to see what was what. In a word, nearly perfect. Bitter with a hint of sour-sweetness that needs no sugary additives. This place also goes for the perfect coffee shop vibe that defines the business: hard seats with throw pillows. Make sure you park your tush on a throw if you plan to stay awhile. I didn’t order the cake, but I was tempted. Overall, I’ll go again, but I have to get used to my favourite coffee places being in the bottom of malls without windows.
2. Whisk, Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya
Whisk has two locations worth visiting. I usually frequent the branch in Empire Subang, but I’ve heard great things about the one in 1Utama. Same deal as so many other places, the one in Empire Subang is on the ground floor so your view is of shoppers coming and going from Jaya Grocer (which sells Rogue beer for those hailing from the Pacific Northwest). I don’t come for the view though. I come for the cake. Moist cake with thick, creamy frosting, this dish is vaguely sexual and might make you cream. It’s cake best shared between you and a few friends. Spread the self-loathing.
The service and the coffee are both exceptional and they serve the only cold-brewed coffee I’ve ever tried. The baristas here know their stuff and they love to help you make your decision. They also love to make you fat.
3. Cosan’s, Subang Jaya
A bit out of the way, Cosan’s is located in SS15 in Subang Jaya near INTI college. My office is a few blocks away so I have to include this place for its coffee, sandwiches and atmosphere. First, the coffee is practically perfect. You know you’re in the hands of masters when they pull a perfect shot with none of that pesky burnt bean scent or flavor. I felt like I was spoiling myself. Next, the sandwiches smell like God baked the bread in his own oven and the meat was sliced off angels. I regretted eating lunch before going to Cosan’s because they smell delectable. Finally, the environment is the right blend of brushed concrete floor and wooden furniture (with cushions this time) that it starts to feel like home. I became a bit mopey sipping my coffee that tasted faintly of Caffe Vita, a Seattle brand that I drank religiously. Well, more than religiously because I drink coffee more than I attend church.
4. Doi Chaang, Empire Damansara
Doi Chaang beans are roasted in the mountains of Northern Thailand. I used to drink this coffee in Thailand because the owner’s niece owned one of the local cafes. So you can imagine how I squeed at seeing the familiar logo pop up in Empire Damansara. This place holds a special place in my heart just for that, and it rests firmly in my “Must Try” box. I’m disappointed that I haven’t had the chance to get out there since they opened, but I will. Oh, I will.
5. Boardriders Café, Midvalley Megamall
Boardriders took me by surprise and was one of the few cases where I deviated from the normal Americano/Long Black drinks that I usually get. The almond latte on the menu, though, seemed to be calling my name, so I took a chance. And I was not disappointed. I’m a fan of nuts so the sweet, almondy smell and taste settled nicely on my tongue. The atmosphere leaves a little to be desired. It feels a bit strange to be sitting in a beach-themed café in the middle of something literally called a Megamall, so don’t expect a ton of charm.