Veteran bartender Angel Ng sets up Bar Triptyk to specialise in low-ABV and zero-proof cocktails

The F&B collective in Kampung Attap also houses a restaurant and intimate event space for supper clubs.

At Bar Triptyk, the team is wary of their carbon footprint and tries to carry out sustainable practices wherever possible (Photo: Triptyk)

When veteran bartender Angel Ng first set out to open a new establishment, she had three things in mind to achieve. First, it will be located in a building with history, preferably a place with soul and character. Second, it will employ sustainable practices. And third, be a platform where foodpreneurs could hone and showcase their craft while creating exciting experiences that engage the local community. Together with her partner, architect Ahmed Zareh, Ng launched Triptyk late last year, a food and beverage collective in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

It occupies one of only four pre-war shophouses left on Jalan Tuba at Kampung Attap and is a stone’s throw from the hip Zhongshan Building, where a mixed bag of patrons — from weekend brunchers and plant shoppers to art collectors and music artistes — frequently visit. The presence of Triptyk has certainly lent another layer of vibrancy to the old neighbourhood — if not for the young and eager team running the show, then for the offbeat concept that it operates on.

“I like to tell people that we’re an atas kopitiam,” says Ng. “I’m the si tao poh (proprietress) who’s in charge of the drinks and I rent out my space.”

Triptyk, a play on the word “triptych”, depicts the regeneration of a space through its life, death and rebirth. Ng’s long love for heritage buildings and playing a part in imbuing new life into them goes back to when she helped manage the dawn of REXKL. It implements a similar business model, where promising chefs can come and take up tenancy to experiment, grow and build their customer base, but Ng is more particular in ensuring refinement before she scales. Essentially, Triptyk is made out of three concepts: a bar, aptly named Bar Triptyk, which she personally helms; a restaurant and an intimate event space.


Ng crafted all the cocktails at Bar Triptyk

The restaurant, nicknamed Back Lane, has a seating capacity of 24 and is ideal for chefs looking to test out their menus. The tenancy is a minimum of three months and includes basic kitchen equipment as well as dining seatings and restaurant fixtures. Vietnamese- and Thai-inspired Corridor Grill and Tapas, run by the team behind Ampang’s Back Alley Pasta, very recently completed its residence. The event space, Front Door, also has its own kitchen and will host weekend kitchen takeovers and pop-ups from April onwards.

“I love the F&B and hospitality [industry] but I want it to expand to events and retail, because if I keep sticking to F&B, it’s not sustainable.” By playing host to a stream of different businesses, she is able to keep customers on their toes and welcome them back with new experiences.

Regular Chinatown barhoppers would have easily come across Ng at PS150, which she co-founded almost a decade ago. The hidden bar was the flint that sparked the electrifying new energy we see around the area today. It also became an inspiration for many watering holes that came after. But admittedly, Ng acknowledges that she is a different woman now and those in the mixology scene would attest to this.

“In PS150, I was a very wilful, ambitious, eager, super high-energy and intense person. And it comes through a lot in my drinks. They’re stronger, shorter and punchier. There are a lot of bold flavours. I wanted to be visible; I had a lot of things to prove.

“Now that the years have passed — talk about evolution, right? — I’ve had a couple of kids, the pandemic hit, I took a step back and thought about when I was younger and the things I loved. Now, all my drinks are lighter, more refreshing and have subtle complexities. If you really sip it, you’ll realise there are many levels and you can taste many different flavours. It’s not punch-you-in-the-face. That’s my style now.”


Bar Triptyk and Back Lane

Ng also developed an ardour for sustainability, not because it was her passion all along, but because it just makes sense. “The statistics have shown where the earth is going. If we don’t start changing, what’s going to happen? Would you destroy your own house? No, you protect it. Why are we not doing the same for the earth? It’s not even an environmental thing; it’s a common-sense kind of thing.”

At Bar Triptyk, the team is wary of their carbon footprint and tries to carry out sustainable practices wherever possible, including sourcing regional products, recycling and developing a closed-loop module to reduce waste.

“Our waste per week ranges from 300g to 1kg. Sometimes, it’s slightly more, but for a whole week, even 1kg is considered really good,” Ng shares.

The bar also works with TrashCycle to collect its recyclables and sends wet waste to Remedy KL next door to be turned into compost. Approximately 40% of its furniture is upcycled. When visiting, try to spot the missing rooftop panel overhead that has been converted into a table.

“We really try our very best, but being sustainable is so expensive. We’re not 100% there, but we’re learning every day.”

It may surprise some that Bar Triptyk specialises in low-ABV (alcohol by volume) and zero-proof cocktails, considering Ng’s reputation for creating knockout (literally) drinks in the past. But her decision to curate a more mature, healthier menu also reflects newfound priorities. “We started to do more low-ABV stuff because it costs less and I can reduce my price. All my cocktails before used mid- to premium-level stuff and costed RM40 and above. Now, I’m using higher-end but lower-ABV drinks like sake and can still charge less.” Producing their own liqueurs also helps to keep the drinks wallet-friendly.


Jacky Joseph, Ng’s favourite, was created as a gift to her unborn son in 2019

“We’re not Chinatown. We don’t want people to come and stay until 2am or 3am, you get what I mean? Our crowd is not the same. It’s more mature. They come, talk, have a drink and go home at a respectable time. They’re smart enough not to have hangovers and have some H2O between their drinks.”

The menu is categorised under appetisers, mains and desserts, which helps educate guests on flavours.

“The reason I split it like this is because I believe when you go out to drink, especially with cocktails, you should only have three maximum, then go back home,” Ng advises. “With sugar involved, you drink more and get drunk faster. It’s not good for your health and it’s a risk if you’re driving.”

Each drink is also crafted with a story in mind. Jacky Joseph, Ng’s favourite, was created as a gift to her unborn son in 2019.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I thought back to my favourite memory with my family, when we drove from Singapore to Seremban. My parents would visit the A&W near the highway. We never had it often, so eating the waffles, Coney Dogs and root beer with ice cream was one of the best memories I ever had. I wanted to have that flavour incorporated as a gift to my son. The drink is loosely based on the flavours of root beer and ice cream without using any of those ingredients.”

If anything, Ng has managed to demonstrate the importance of not staying stagnant and embracing new ideas.

“Everyone should progress. If you don’t, it’s a problem. So I’m hoping my cocktail menu tells people, ‘Let’s not be too comfortable; let’s move forward. We only have one life and that life is not very long. So, let’s try to do something that improves ourselves.’”


Triptyk, 88, Jalan Tuba, Kampung Attap, KL. Weds-Sun, 5pm till midnight. For reservations, call (014) 3208 050.

This article first appeared on Mar 20, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.

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