It doesn’t take long to realise that KL has its fair share of coffee shops, or shall I say kopitiams, tucked under buildings, down alleys and in shopping centres. These wonderful places not only offer a vast range of kopi but it’s also somewhere you can hang out and chow down on an array of delicious hawker fare or start your day with nasi lemak or kaya toast.
For those that are not keen on the traditional there are of course the American coffee chains such as The Coffee Bean and Starbucks where I think the only good thing going is the free wifi, and then there’s this place – Espressamente.
Five years ago we gave this caf a go when we were staying in one of the hotel towers across the road on Bukit Bintang and now any trip to KL doesn’t come without a few visits to this great little coffee shop. Espressamente is a chain of coffee shops extending from the illy coffee brand in Italy, a chain that can be found in many parts of the world.
Located by the western entrance of the high-end Pavilion shopping centre the guys at Espressamente know their stuff when it comes to espresso machines. As Mr K and I were on the prowl for somewhere to go for dinner on our first night in town we couldn’t help but stop in for a quick perk up and escape from the humidity to air-conditioned bliss.
Seeing it was typically hot and steamy outside I opted for the dolce segreto (12), a cooling concoction resembling an affogato except here the vanilla gelato and illy shot is topped with a splash of liqueur. What liqueur? Lordie knows, it’s a secret. All I can say is that it’s quite boozy and you’ll be feeling more than a caffeine high, especially at 10 in the morning.
Cakes, sandwiches and salads from the menu will fill the hole if you’re up to it but why not just grab another coffee and dope yourself up big-time before hitting the shops or foodie hang-outs? The cappuccino (10) here resembles our flat whites at home and the capo triestino (8) may just be another Italiano name for piccolo latte. All that matters is how it’s made and the grunt that sits behind it is what I’m loving.
To be honest I’m not sure what we did after dosing ourselves up on coffee, it was five weeks ago after all, but we did end up going back to the hotel to meet up with Mr K’s mum that wasn’t up for braving the heat. The two of them were happy just sitting around in the air-conditioned hotel room watching tv and reading but I went back out and got the monorail to Chinatown.
Getting off at Maharajalela station and passing that temple on the right, I had no plan. I wasn’t hungry but I could always eat, sound familiar? I did stick my head into The Old China Cafe, the original one that looks like it’s right out of the 1930’s but it was too busy. Just around the corner I noticed a brightly coloured sign for a tea house in one of the old delapidated Chinese shop houses that line the narrow streets in this neighbourhood.
The building is seriously run down and walking up the dim stairs to the third floor brought me to a noisy sliding door well-in-need of oiling and once inside, the shoe rack by the door indicated to me that the cheap Kmart jobbies I bought for this trip had to come off.
It was mid afternoon so apart from two tables of two the whole place was mine. The room by the windows is set up more traditionally, in a rustic kind of way, with squat tables and cushions on the floorboards so I parked myself on one of the old benches at a table separated from this by bamboo blinds. I’m loving the feel of this place.
The menu is all about the tea and to be honest I’m not much of a tea drinker. I chose the handcrafted flower tea which happened to be called snow raining (9). How quaint. This is where the ceremony began. The young guy subserviently comes out with a metal tea pot filled with water and places it on a stand over a candle. Once it’s done he then pours the water into a glass tea pot containing one of those tea balls that swell and unfold to reveal a flower constructed using tea leaves. I allow it to steep and then help myself to a hot drink that tastes of smokey dried grass. It’s all very good but give me coffee any day. Don’t worry, I was enjoying “the moment” and even chose a couple of nibbles from the menu.
The fried honey buns (2.5) sounded pretty good and came out as five French toast-like slices soaked in rosewater infused syrup. It came cold and I could have easily eaten two more serves but I knew my other choice of green tea salad (4.5) was on its way. Green tea salad … not. More like coleslaw with raisins on top.
I got all excited when I saw this on the menu, thinking it would be like the one I had at Kambozza in Sydney. Green tea or anything that resembled it didn’t quite make it from kitchen to me. All the small bowl contained was shredded cabbage, carrot, mayo and raisins. I want my $1.50 back.
On a separate occasion Mr K and I do a quick lunch at Pavilion Food Republic. Not too far from the doors of Dragon-i is a small place simply called Pan Mee. What do they specialise in? Pan mee and laksa. We were both hankering for a bit of noodle so as the boys in blue caps snigger at me taking a touristy photo of the fresh ingredients on the counter, Mr K orders the food. My pan mee dry (7.2) comes as just that, dry. The quick wok fry-up of noodles, sweet soy, chicken, crunchy dried anchovies and a few mushrooms is a little on the ordinary side even with a squelch of lime juice and chilli sambal. A side bowl of stock and herbs comes with.
The pan mee curry chicken (7.9) is a similar affair that has an additional bowl of tasty chicken curry and the same bowl of bland stock and herbs. Something tells me the stuff out on the streets would have tasted much better but at this point in time we were a little tired of walking. An air-conditioned food court was what we needed.