Bars to try: The Pawn Room and Three X Co

Two speakeasy-style cocktail bars in KL that exude a chic, chinoiserie spirit.

The Pawn Room in TTDI. (Photo: The Pawn Room)

The speakeasy movement has taken off quite successfully in KL, testament to a generation who prefer their drinking to be done in relative privacy. A trend pioneered by Omakase & Appreciate when it opened in the heart of the city in 2013, many new cocktail bars have since adapted the pseudo-speakeasy concept. This has resulted in a number of personalised watering holes in various residential neighbourhoods across the Klang Valley, all serving a burgeoning population of truly discerning drinkers.


The Pawn Room

In the quiet, leafy suburb of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, The Pawn Room joins an already lengthy list of neighbourhood bars, and boasts a truly distinct personality. Drawing inspiration from old-fashioned pawnshops, it features a decadent 1920s Shanghai aesthetic. It can be overwhelming at first, but in a stunning way — from the bright red tones that permeate the space to the careful details that bring the theme to life. Suspended lanterns and upturned oil paper parasols, traditional medicine cabinets, vintage film posters and classic rattan chairs beautifully evoke the crimson-hued mystique and glamour of a bygone era.

The Pawn Room is very Instagram-friendly, but is also a welcoming space for anyone in search for a quiet moment to savour a drink or two. Because what is a bar if not for its wares? While I loved the décor, I was more interested in what the cocktail menu represented. And I must say, I was impressed with what I saw — unique twists on typically local flavours, served with sophistication and panache.

Bright red tones permeate the space

I have a particular proclivity for Kuih Talam, so the appeal of these flavours in a cocktail was hard to resist — the Liang Moi, served in a tiki mug, combines Captain Morgan rum with macaroon syrup, pineapple juice, lime juice, egg white and house-made pandan syrup and pandan cream. Rich and creamy with a sharp twist, I found it an interesting play on flavours and scents, and it was balanced enough that I could taste every ingredient.

For something more dramatic, the Chinese Cinderella makes for a great photograph — served warm in a teacup, the aromatic smokiness of black dates is gently tempered by liquorice, Tio Pepe Fino En Rama Sherry, Carpano Bianco Vermouth and a touch of elderflower liqueur. Although I enjoyed its hot toddy-like comfort, it’s not something I would order again. But the Bunga Kaseh? Oh yes. A refreshing blend of fragrant pandan syrup, chrysanthemum juice, elderflower liqueur and Tanqueray gin, this cocktail is topped with dried chrysanthemum petals and is a definite winner.

Cocktails are unique twists on typically local flavours

The Pawn Room doesn’t have much by way of food, so I would suggest you line your stomach adequately — perhaps, carbo load at German bakery Der Beckmeister just a few doors down — before paying this gorgeous bar a visit. Then again, who needs to eat when one can opt for a meal you can drink?


Three X Co

Occupying what once was Mr Brooks in upscale Bangsar Shopping Centre, Three X Co’s oriental inspirations are not especially ostentatious, but are evident nonetheless. The visual anchor that immediately alludes to its overriding theme is a breathtaking painting that covers an entire wall — a Chinese opera singer holding a cigar between her elegant fingers and a cocktail in the other hand. Where Mr Brooks subscribed to a dark and brooding aesthetic, the owners of Three X Co have opted for a decidedly lighter hand at decorating — emerald green walls, navy blue and gold accents and plush leather seating create a modern version of the speakeasy bar with a distinctly oriental touch.

Emerald green walls, navy blue and gold accents and plush leather seating create a modern version of the speakeasy bar

Three X Co has been an ambition of three friends for a long time, and it is only after fulfilling careers spent in other industries that Wong Wai Hung, Eugene Yeoh and Daniel Gunawan were finally able to open the bar of their dreams. A chance meeting with mixologist David Hans spurred their decision to open, and the award-winning bartender also signed on as a partner. Famous for infusing Asian elements and ingredients in his cocktails, Three X Co was the perfect platform for Hans to showcase his craftsmanship. “It has always been my dream to start and run a bar on my own but I never imagined it would be so soon. When Wai Hung and his partners proposed their concept of blending oriental and western cultures together, it was a perfect match because of the style of cocktails I bring to the bar,” he says.

There’s an impressive list of wines and whiskies on the menu, but it is Hans’ cocktails that you should try when you come. Three X Co’s cocktail of the month is a good way to start — the Blushing Melon is made with Jameson Irish Whiskey, wild elderflower syrup, winter melon tea, lemon juice, cucumber and rosemary. This drink goes down much too easily for my liking — it is light, refreshing and so very smooth.

(Left) The refreshing Blushing Melon; (right) A Chinese opera singer holding a cigar between her elegant fingers and a cocktail in the other hand

Because Hans is a winner of the Giffard West Cup 2017, many of his cocktails at Three X Co feature the French company’s best liqueurs. Ideal for more delicate palates is Fairy Tales — gin, melon liqueur, green apple, lemon juice and Calpis create a light drink that settles into a complex cocktail with a lingering citrus hit. But if you have a penchant for simple, strong and straightforward cocktails, I would recommend the Chocolat Fashioned, which is a cleverly local take on the classic Old Fashioned — Kraken spiced rum, gula Melaka and chocolate bitters.

Three X Co is hidden behind a gentlemen’s barbershop called OTHRS, a partnership that provides small start-ups and young entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote their enterprise. The brainchild of the owners, this decidedly feel-good initiative pays forward the opportunities they once benefited from, and is a heartwarming way to celebrate their own successes today.


The Pawn Room, 46 Persiaran Zaaba, TTDI. 013 483 8863. Mon-Sat, 5pm-1am.

Three X Co, Level 3, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Maarof, KL. 019 336 6031. Mon-Sat, 5pm-2am.


This article first appeared on Mar 19, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.


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