As Chinatown burgeons with new pubs and eateries, why not have an unforgettable night out exploring some of these hidden gems? We have mapped out a bar-hopping experience featuring some of the city’s best watering holes, including old favourites as well as brand new spots. Time to utilise all those days of annual leave left, we say!
1. Crane KL
The four-storey former Selangor Grocer’s Guild has been repurposed as fusion restaurant Crane KL. The upstairs bar, seamlessly hidden behind a wall of drawers, is drenched in scarlet — from the oversized lanterns and curtains of crimson fabric that function as dividers to the velvety furniture and accents of red in light blue works of art featuring cranes. Guests may customise their own gin and tonics, or if you prefer an original cocktail, try the Wrestless Monkey, which features curry leaf-infused vodka.
2. Her House
This bar is hidden upstairs behind an unassuming door that leads through a trippy neon-lit hallway before the actual main space. Sporting tattoo-esque murals and cream and bottle green furniture, Her House has a youthful, lounge-like energy. Try Most Wanted, a drink that features pork soaked in baijiu. Or if you prefer a lower ABV, there’s Her Cobbler, which contains suan mei tang, based on a centuries-old Chinese recipe for a sour plum drink.
Located on the seventh floor of Four Points by Sheraton, Jann’s balcony allows guests to enjoy KL’s historic cityscape. In fact, we would recommend heading up there early for a bird’s-eye view of this map. Inside, there is a stylish green tiled, U-shaped bar with plush bar chairs as well as chic rattan seating, all brought together by the black-and-white floor. A must-try cocktail is the fruity Dear Jann. For the adventurous, there is the herbal and umami-rich Bak Kwa concoction.
4. Botak Liquor
From Chocha Foodstore, a spiral staircase will transport you to the verdant setting that is Botak Liquor. It is resplendent with plants and a mishmash of furniture. Patrons may sit in the partially open-air area complete with rattan peacock chair or inside at the foliage-covered bar. This space is relaxing, made unforgettable by the menu of drinks that celebrates local flavours. Sample Daun Kari, clarified milk punch with curry leaves, or Cocoa, a Scotch-based cocktail with rich chocolate notes.
Nostalgic like its namesake Petaling Street, PS150 (the bar’s literal address) is a hidden but well-known watering hole. Housed in a pre-war shop next to an old-school stationery store, this bar is a labyrinth, with each section taking on a different rustic vibe. The main bar is manned by well-versed bartenders who can whip up a drink that suits your taste. We would recommend the Salty Chinaman, which is both refreshing and salty-sour, or the tropical Siam Siam.
6. Kapitan Haus
Located above Da Bao — known for its filling and creative bao — Kapitan Haus is decorated with neon lights and comfy seating. Soak up some of that alcohol with an order of the OG braised pork and fried chicken bao. In terms of tipples, this bar goes hard with local favourites. Options you can look forward to include a gin-based Tong Sui and Kopi Kaw. A more adventurous choice would be Jacky Kantan concocted with jackfruit infused pisco.
A cosy cave-like getaway from the hustle and bustle of Petaling Street, Penrose boasts a stylish space with quite an electric energy. It is definitely an outlet at which one could make new acquaintances, especially with the help of the friendly bartenders. While the menu teems with delicious tipples, we would recommend the Rum de Violette highball, which reveals a new flavour with every sip, or the Xoco Negro, which has a chocolatey Negroni-like flavour profile.
Named after the popular Chinese spirit, Baijiu is a cosy spot decorated with old-school oriental accents, including dark wood furniture and bright red lanterns. Along with a drink, guests may order from its menu of delicious dim sum. While it does have classics, the bar’s creative cocktails are not to be missed. Sample Spice Up Your Life, which is a twist on a whisky sour, the refreshing and fruity Lotus Pink with baijiu, or the decadent and creamy Biscoff Terracotta which tastes rather Christmassy.
9. Concubine KL
Another favourite from well before the pandemic, Concubine KL was listed on Malaysia’s Top 30 Bars of the Year 2022. The entrance is painted a bright yellow and blue, and the vibe inside, taking up two floors, continues to be vibrant and playful. Spot some of the bar’s iconic murals of women decked out in cheongsams. Since Covid-19, Concubine KL has served canned cocktails, which is perfect if you want to take a tipple home. Try classics such as the Paloma and whisky sour.
10. XO KL
Only a few months old, this pink and purple lit space keeps things simple with brick walls and high bar furniture. The edgy neon lights flow through the room taking on different shapes — a ladder in one corner and devil horns on artwork in another. This is a great spot to end your night, as XO KL often welcomes talented DJs on the weekend. There is even balcony seating should you wish to enjoy your drink while overlooking activity on Lorong Panggung. Here, it is best to sample classics like Pisco Peach Sour or Negroni.
This article first appeared on Dec 12, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.