We recently had a friend come over to visit and we had just 36 hours to show him the Kuala Lumpur that is often missed by tourists and travellers passing through the city. This is what we do best. Before you even read this – best to catch up on our 8 tips you should know before visiting Kuala Lumpur.
8 a.m. 1) ‘THIS MARKET IS LEGIT’
Asia is well known for it’s wet and dry markets and it’s worth heading to Pudu Market to get an in-your-face shot of exactly what a working wet market looks like in action. Offload your bags and get yourself down here. There’s a number of different markets in KL but Pudu is the country’s biggest wet market. Make sure you have your camera at the ready as there are scenes here that I have yet to see in many of the Asian countries I’ve visited so far. As our friend said when he made it half way through the market – “This Market is Legit!”.
To get here take the Ampang Line MRT to Pudu Station. It’s then a 5 minute walk to the market.
2) When in KL do as they do – Market Breakfast
Heading out of the market and getting to the end of the road closest towards Pudu MRT – turn right and right towards the amazing restaurant Sek Yuen. On the opposite side of the road on the corner you will find a street stall packed with locals selling Tai Bu Mee. This is a famous dry Malaysian noodle dish featuring pungent mince pork and slices of amazing honey-glazed roast pork. If you want extra of either it will just set you back fifty cents. Grab a seat, pick your size (I suggest a small we if you’re following this guide – more eating is in store shortly) and head to the next stall to grab a black coffee or Chinese tea. A small Tai Bu Mee costs rm5 (AU$1.60) and will set you straight.
3) Visit a legendary Kopitam for lunch
Take the MRT from Pudu to either Masjid Jamek (Little India) or Hang Tuah MRT stations and wader down towards this amazing 80 year old coffee shop cum restoran. Yut Kee is run by the now 3rd generation of family members and still going strong. This place is packed with locals at lunchtime and weekends so it is important to note what you need to do to score a table. Don’t just get in line behind everyone hoping to eventually get noticed – you need to head first to the guy manning the desk and put your name down with how many in your party before then hanging around outside waiting for your name to be called. You will probably have to share a table but it’s a great way to have conversation with the locals.
Yut Kee’s most popular dish is their Traditional Pork Chop which is deep fried and covered in gravy with roast potatoes and frozen vegetables, but their full menu is amazing so you’re in safe hands. Should you be lucky enough to visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 11am – 1.30pm/sold out, you will be able to order their roast pork. This is cooked to perfection with crispy cracking and apple sauce. Also keep your eye on their cakes cabinet as they’re also famous for their post meal treats – and if you see they’re getting low on cakes – grab a waiter to ensure you don’t miss out.
Due to high rent increases Yut Kee, which opened in 1928, has unfortunately been given their marching orders. They are currently at 35 Jalan Dang Wangi, Chow Kit. They will shut up shop at their current location on August 11, 2014 and reopen at their new address at 1 Jalan Kamunting (just up the road) on August 25, 2014. It’s a sad state of affairs and all that history from the original shop will be lost.
4) Join the KL Coffee Revolution
Coming to KL I was worried that I would have to give up coffee for good. Amazingly I have found the standard of coffee to be better than what I was getting in Melbourne. One of our favourite cafes in KL is Feeka Coffee – just off Jalan Nagasari on Jalan Mesui. The food that comes out of this kitchen looks amazing, there’s free wifi and the coffee is spot on. What I love about this cafe is its use of natural light in this old heritage shop lot. So grab a spot inside with air con or laze around in the deck/camping chairs under the trees out front. A flat white will set you back only rm10 (AU$3.50). Feeka Coffee.
5) Seek out a Speakeasy watering hole
It’s time for a drink and there’s no better place around the central hub of Bukit Bintang than Barlai. This was recently opened by one of KL’s most interesting restaurateurs from The Big Group. It’s an oasis in the madness that can be KL that used to be a residential house that’s been converted into a relaxed speakeasy (again with great use of natural light) with seating outside under the cool balcony or inside on picnic benches and couches. Theres a nondescript entrance so keep your eyes peeled.
You’re here for a cheeky tipple and they have them spot on the money. Kick things off with a Lemongrass G&T for rm16 (AU$5.30) and then move onto an Old Fashioned or Lychee Martini. All cocktails are all wallet-pleasingly under rm20 ($6.50). This place screams ‘hidden gem’ and it’s well worth a visit. BarLai.
6) Conquer your fear of heights with a beer in hand
Take a short ride in a taxi (you could walk but you’ve probably cooled down and the taxy will cost you less than $2) to Menara KH on Jalan Sultan Ismail. Exit said taxi, take the lift to level 34 and you will enter a bar. Said bar only opens at 6pm and you want to get there as close to that time to score what I consider to be one of the best seats in KL. There’s a process here that you need to adhere to. In reality the bar is shit. But this isn’t your final destination. To get access to Heli Lounge Bar you need to buy a drink first – so grab a table, quickly order a beer or wine, get the bill, pay up and then head through the curtains to the stairwell. Amazingly the drinks are super cheap when they could have stung you as much as what Traders Skybar does.
Walk up the 4 flights of stairs and arrive on an actual working Helicopter pad that gets tables and chairs put out on it from 6pm. You get uninterrupted views the Petronas Towers and the rest of the city and the only thing stopping you from walking off the edge is the warning from the security up there ‘Don’t step over the yellow lines’.
A word of warning – take a shirt/polo just in case they turn you back for just wearing tee, If you get there after 9pm on weekends you will be expected to buy a bottle of spirits to enjoy on the roof – and by this time it’s packed so go for sundown. Heli Lounge Bar.
7) Old school meets New School Foodies
Back on the MRT line and head to Tamand Paramount on the Kelana Jaya line. You know how Ferran Adria has always said that the journey to El Bulli was just as important as dining there? Well this is the KL equivalent for those looking for a low key affair. Get off at the station and take the exit to your right and you will hit a sleepy residential town, wondering if I have sent you on a wild goose chase. Facing the road, head left and start walking. Right up ahead you will see a KFC sign in the distance and you will know you are on the right route. Once you hit the KFC turn right and head into the shopping area full of old men selling newspapers on the side of the road and street food hawkers. You’re not here for them though…
At the end of the street turn right down Jalan Awan Hijau and wander down the hill. in this quiet little strip you will most probably spot a long line trailing out of a small shopfront. You have found myBurgerLab. This is where the KL burger craze started and this is where we have found the best burgers in town. The buns are black and that’s because they use charcoal powder in the mix which is good for your health and great for your digestion. An top notch burger, fries and unlimited refills drink will set you back around rm18 (AU$6). myBurgerLab.
8) Speakeasy in the truest sense of the word
Take the MRT to Masjid Jamek (Little India) and head towards a restaurant called Mulberry on Ampang Bangunan Ming, Jalan Ampang. This has nothing to do with the bar you’re searching for but where you do need to head is the steps underneath the restaurant which you get to from the roadside. I won’t spoil anymore – the rest of the hunt is up to you.
What you will find is Omakase + Appreciate -a speakeasy bar run by two young bartenders who like to experiment with cocktails. Depending on who is manning the bar on your visit, they have their specialty cocktails listed for you to try – or you can go ahead and order any cocktail you wish and get them to put a twist on it a la The Everleigh in Melbourne. The cocktails are amazing, the vibe is relaxed, the staff are first class. The best bit? Their cocktails are all around rm35 (AU$13). We had 6 cocktails all up and the bill only came to $80. Omakase + Appreciate.
1) Getting your hands dirty
Nothing starts your day better than a roti canai eaten with just your right hand and teh tarik. Little India (Masjid Jamek MRT) is the place to do it. We frequent ABC Corner which is on the corner of Lorong Bunus 2. Two freshly made rotia canai and two hot pulled teh tarik will set you back only rm4.60 (AU$1.50) so save your pennies.
2) Thirdwave coffee in Bangsar South
Head to our favourite suburb – Bangsar. The Fitzroy and Collingwood of KL is Bangsar and Petaling Jaya. We are still getting our heads around PJ but have hit Bangsar numerous times. For your coffee hit head to Pulp by Papa Palheta. It’s by the team/roasters who opened Chye Seng Huat Hardware & Loysel’s Toy cafes in Singapore which is fantastic pedigree. The set up inside is so different to their other venues or anything dreamed up in Melbourne so it’s worth dropping in. Their coffees are great – we had a filter coffee and a flat white which were both off the richter. Pulp.
2) New York has arrived in Kuala Lumpur
It’s time to eat again but only fill half your stomach as you will need it a little later. The brainchild of New Yorkers Michael Helfman and Andrew Balucci, Mikey’s Original New York Pizza is as good as any NY pizza I’ve had and 100x better than the ‘400 degrees wood fired pizza’ that is served in Australia. It’s great to see Mikey in the kitchen ensuring quality control on over slice of pie that leaves the kitchen. Get the original margarita or meatball and match them up with a deal for a drink and waffle fries. You will notice a difference in service standards here with Mikey teaching the locals a thing or two about American hospitality. And good on him – he’s setting up his team for bigger and better things once/if they ever move on from here. Mikey’s Original New York Pizza.
2) Plates no longer needed
After wandering around Bangsar Village (ensuring you go up as many unmarked stairwells as possible – there’s some great shops that you would otherwise just walk past) and giving yourself time to digest, it’s time to fill that second half of your stomach. Down towards the shopping centre end of Bangsar Village you will find one place heaving everyday at lunchtime called Sri Nerwana Maju (43, Jalan Telawi 3). Now you have to be on your toes for this because as soon as they sit you down they will be taking your order. No you don’t get to see the menu. I suggest getting the vegetarian banana leaf for rm8 (AU$2.60) and maybe ordering a curry to share. On your banana leaf they will bring out rice and 3 different sides plus a curry sauce to put onto your rice. Then it’s time to dig in with your hands.
2) Get the Inside Scoop
You’re now full, you’re hot, the heat has set in and you need to cool down. Lucky for you you’re just a short stroll away from Bangsar’s best little ice cream parlour. Inside Scoop (9, Jalan Telawi 3), uses gelato techniques to achieve amazing consistency in their ice cream without a hint of ice shard. They’re more than happy to have you try as many flavours as you like. Our hot tips are the Mango Lassi, Teh Tarik, Durian if you’re looking for something completely different and there’s always the Blood Orange or Valrhona that I fall back on. Inside Scoop.
2) Cheers to 36 hours of eating and drinking in KL
Craft beer enthusiasts rejoice. A craft beer bar has set up shop in central KL. There’s a mind-boggling selection of craft beers from around the world keep the spirits up at Taps Beer Bar. It has 14 rotating taps with kegs from around the globe and a bottle list to die for. Beers are around rm24 (AU$8) for a pint and their happy hours are 5pm – 9pm Monday to Saturday and all day Sunday from 12pm when their doors swing open.TAPS Beer Bar, One Residency, Jalan Nagasari, Off Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur.