Bored with the same old modern hipster cafes? Why not dine in the old-school environment that takes you back in time for a change? After all, old becomes new again as evidently seen with the emergence (as well as existing) of vintage-looking establishments around Klang Valley. Here are 8 places you might want to check out.
1) Jao Tim (Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur)
Today’s era of Petaling Street may be populated by more foreigners than locals. But that doesn’t mean the once-thriving (though they still are, depending on who you ask) KL’s Chinatown lost its entire charm. Take Jao Tim, for instance. Jao Tim, which means “hotel” in Cantonese, was named as such since the building itself used to be a hotel back in 1910. The cafe smartly retains most of its original structures of the building, ranging from high ceilings and wooden flooring to raw brick walls and Colonial-style arch windows. The nostalgic charm of this old-school cafe is definitely a nice place to do your work or simply chill out with a cup of coffee and light bites.
2) Lim Kee Cafe @ Tian Jing Hotel (Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur)
Here is another old-school cafe worth checking out in Petaling Street. Located on the ground floor of the 15-room Tian Jing Hotel in Jalan Sultan, Lim Kee Cafe consists of two adjacent shop lots with well-designed interiors reminiscent of the bygone era. The cafe is primarily filled with wooden chairs and tables as well as retro tile flooring. The menu itself focuses more on beverages and light bites like coffee, tea and good old-fashioned roti bakar. They also serve homemade cakes and local ice cream selections like pandan and teh tarik.
3) Chocha Foodstore (Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur)
Can’t get enough of old-school cafes in Petaling Street? Well, here’s a third one for you. Located in the two-storey rundown shophouse, Chocha Foodstore evokes the old-timey charm with wooden furniture, aged walls and spiral staircase dominated the space. You can even sit in the outdoor courtyard, which has long tables and benches while the natural lighting and plant decor makes it an ideal spot for capturing well-lit Instagram moments. Food-wise, they serve interesting Asian fusion twists like “Curryflower” (cauliflower with shallot and curry leaves), “CFC” (cincalok-marinated chicken with homemade tomato chutney and pineapple salsa) and “Ulam Stew Barley Rice” (sauteed fresh squid with ulam pesto and crispy dried shrimp).
4) Merchant’s Lane (Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur)
Next up is Merchant’s Lane, which made its debut back in 2015. Long before the cafe was established here, it used to be a brothel in Petaling Street. But the owners of the cafe (Ken Ho, Kenneth Tan and Saujin Yong) did a great job revitalising the space into a chill-out oasis of a cafe. The cafe consists of both indoor and outdoor seating areas, with ample windows and a skylight that helps brighten up space during daytime. The use of bright colours like green and pink adds a touch of vibrancy that contrasted well with the otherwise neutral outlooks of the cafe. Their food menu is just as tempting, with main dishes like “Kai Fan” (literally “chicken rice” in Cantonese, which consists of ayam berempah, butter rice and fried egg) and “Kg. Sg. Tua” (grilled salmon with sweet potato mash, butter herbed vegetables and masak lemak chilli padi sauce).
5) Yut Kee Restaurant (Jalan Kamunting, Kuala Lumpur)
Hainanese chicken chop, speciality coffee, marble cake and… of course, their signature roti babi (pork sandwich) that made Yut Kee Restaurant a local favourite among many Malaysians. Despite moving to a new (and more spacious) location from their old Dang Wangi area to Jalan Kamunting a few years ago, this well-known establishment still retains its traditional kopitiam-style decor reminiscent of the good old days.
6) Lima Blas (Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur)
Stepping into Lima Blas (or “15”) is like stepping into an old Melaka shophouse. Their speciality here is Nyonya cuisine, serving the likes of pai tee, ayam ponteh (Nyonya chicken and potato stew) and cendol. But it was their nostalgia-tinged interior that caught the most attention. You will find old-school decor in every nook and cranny such as vintage Chinese signboards, rotary dial phones, old typewriters and retro table fan. Instagram-worthy? That’s a definite yes for everyone here besides enjoying their delectable dishes.
7) Capitol Cafe (Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur)
In the midst of an otherwise modern vibe of Bukit Bintang area lies a traditional kopitiam-like cafe that feels like an odd one out. But that’s the beauty of it, as Capitol Cafe allows the customers to step back in time the moment they set foot into the establishment. The cafe is filled with the likes of old-school kopitiam furniture, vintage art pieces and patterned tiles. As for the food, they serve quintessential Malaysian favourites like nasi lemak (apparently, this comes highly recommended!), mee goreng, roti bakar and hot coffee/tea.
8) Ayob’s Cafe (Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya)
Never mind the fact they only open from dinner time onwards till late night. One thing for sure, Ayob’s Cafe is known by many frequent patrons for their signature chicken chop and lamb shank. Their wood-tinged retro interior is just as classy, complete with wooden chairs & tables and various vintage ornaments.