While Kuala Lumpur might call to mind its array of mouthwatering local eats such as roti canai (flat bread), laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup) and nasi lemak (coconut milk flavoured rice), its café scene is certainly one to watch. A new crop of dining establishments promising everything from scrumptious brunch grub to ambitious fine-dining menus, all served in a beautiful Instagrammable setting, firmly makes it one of the most exciting restaurant capitals in Asia.
From a vibrant plant-based restaurant and bar in Chinatown to a charming greenhouse cafe, we’ve rounded up our top picks of new Instagram-worthy cafes and restaurants to try in the city when borders open up again. Bonus: most of them offer alfresco dining, perfect for anyone seeking fresh air, elbow space and good food.
Plant-based restaurant and bar The Hungry Tapir is Chinatown’s newest kid on the block, and well-worth a visit purely for its ultra-stylish decor. Its patio, decked in a vibrant hue of pink and adorned with plenty of Instagram-worthy tropical motifs, is a choice alfresco spot to enjoy its delicious fusion vegan eats, which run the gamut of the must-try masak lemak (a coconut and lemongrass fettucine served with zucchini and tomatoes), meat-free satay skewers and tasty tempeh sandwiches. It also comes with a full-service bar – the first herbivore dining spot in KL to feature one – where you can order Sabahan-inspired craft rice wine cocktails to accompany your meal.
Those missing the allure of springtime in Japan should make a trip to W Kuala Lumpur’s new restaurant Willow. Taking over the now-closed mod-French spot Saint Pierre, this fine-dining restaurant and bar boasts a dramatic floral ceiling piece (reminiscent of a beautiful sakura tree in full bloom) that’s bound to be a hit on the ‘gram. As for its menu, an ambitious contemporary spread of East-meets-West dishes such as heirloom tomato tarts served with a fusion anchovy mascarpone are sure to delight diners. At the bar, be sure to sip on the Sandakan Sling (a gin and sweet vermouth blend concocted with Sabah’s lihing rice wine, coffee and tonic); the head bartender is Bornean, so there’s plenty of Sabahan flavours introduced in his brilliant tipples. The stunning vistas you can enjoy of the Petronas Twin Towers from the restaurant are just the icing on the cake.
Tucked away on an otherwise nondescript residential street in Bangsar, Lisette’s Café and Bakery‘s is a beloved local haunt for its freshly baked breads. While it’s not exactly new, the café’s dreamy floral wall feature – its most recognisable and Instagrammable feature – certainly warrants a spot on this list. Made of hundreds of faux peonies, it’s a popular photo spot for diners as they tuck into their meals in the outdoor garden dining area. While they’ve momentarily put on a pause on their buffet, their pastries and a la carte menu are still available. For a more local meal, we recommend its signature black rice nasi lemak with organic black rice, chicken curry and prawn sambal; but if you’re dropping by for brunch, the creamy truffled scrambled kampung eggs with smoked salmon won’t disappoint.
One of the newest portfolio additions by the homegrown Serai Group, this charming greenhouse-inspired café is certainly deserving of a spot on this list. Its high-ceilinged interiors and vintage glass window panels, furnished with lush and leafy accents, bring a slice of the outdoors to your dining experience. Have the breakfast of champions, courtesy of dishes such as the aptly named Champion Brekkie (a sumptuous platter of rib-eye steak served with a sunny side-up, potato hash, tomato salsa and bread), Fluffy Bobsy (fluffy pancakes topped with a sweet banana brulee and vanilla bean ice cream) or the vegetarian-friendly Green Dream (a spinach crepe served with soft-boiled egg, cherry tomatoes, avocado, smoked salmon and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese).
5. Monroe KL
Located on the first floor of the relatively new and uber-trendy boutique hotel KLoé, Monroe KL is set to be one of KL’s most exciting new openings of 2020. Billed as a “California-style bistro”, this space oozes plenty of style with its geometric-patterned ceramic floor tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and neon wall signs. While it might outwardly resemble an American diner, its food menu features local favourites such as the beloved nasi lemak, which sits alongside the standard comfort food fare of burgers, sandwiches and pastas, each made with locally-sourced ingredients where possible.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.