CHINATOWN’s nostalgic charm has given birth to many hidden gems in the form of speakeasy and cocktail bars for nightlife seekers.
Taking inspiration from the area’s rich cultural heritage, these establishments invest thought in designing the interior and create drinks to toast to Chinatown’s nighttime allure even as the rest of Petaling Street, Jalan Sultan and Jalan Tun HS Lee sleep.
Here is an introduction to some of the not-to-be missed unique finds when visiting this old part of Kuala Lumpur.
Named after one of the hotel owner’s daughters, Jann as a cocktail bar draws inspiration from historical figures, traditional trades, local culture and legends that make Chinatown a heritage destination.
Its jade-coloured wraparound bar is a distinctive feature not to be missed while the bar patio offers a view of the city and Petaling Street.
Creative cocktails like Tau Foo Fah and Bak Kwa are reminiscent of popular Chinese delicacies popular found in Chinatown.
The Bak Hwa flavour is a combination of Montelobos Mezcal, dry Curacao, pandan and lime, topped with a piece of dried meat while another signature cocktail, Dear Jann, is made with Jann’s secret gin, apricot, elderflower, white wine and lemon.
Located in Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown, the bar opens from 4pm to midnight. For reservations, call 012-507 3327.
Designed as an exclusive private kitchen concept, Pixies is positioning itself as a speakeasy restaurant in the heart of Chinatown.
Helmed by chef Joeri Timmermans, the allure here is the ever-changing six course menu that features the best of local and seasonal ingredients cooked mainly on a Japanese konro (barbeque grill).
With an underground ambience, discover unique Modern Australian dishes with a Japanese touch such as gold band snapper with plum and yuzu kosho as well as the Hokkaido octopus, daikon and roasted herb oil that comes with beverage pairing.
Diners also get to savour lesser known wines and sake in the market such as the Moulin de Gassac Chardonnay, Chateau Le Puy Emilien and Chitosetsuru sake.
The reservation-only restaurant only discloses its full address once guests receive their reservation confirmation.
It opens on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations, call 011-1281 7681.
As the name suggests, G-string cocktail bar strives to create a sexy and intimate setting for its visitors.
“We always wanted a speakeasy cocktail bar where women can be comfortable in their own skin, hence the catchy name,” said co-owner Mandy Chin.
The alphabet “G” in the name also represents gin, a lighter liquor option that appeals to female visitors and is used in most of the cocktails here.
Established in November 2021 by 3PM Today Group, its bar owners wanted female patrons to feel at home.
Explore the interior with pinkish, neon coloured lighting, floral sofas and lacy decorations filling the ceiling while a splendid collection of vintage televisions, radio and lamps owned by co-owner Desvin Tew, flanks the bar.
The cocktails adopt suggestive names for fun sake such as Bubbles and Panties, Maria Ozawa and Zombie Porn Star.
One of their stronger cocktails, Johnny Sin uses gin, hazelnut, Campari, Vermouth and chocolate bitters while Fairy Nest has vodka, citrus and Aperol for those preferring lighter flavours.
Located on top of Asian Street Food Club, 147, Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, the bar opens from 3pm until late. For reservations, call 013-938 6322.
Stepping into Baijiu at Kwai Chai Hong is like being transported into an oriental setting filled with Chinese-inspired motives in its interior.
The unique thing here is the use of Baijiu (Chinese grain liquor) — a strong distinctive alcohol base that is often described as having a sweet fruity fragrance with a touch of nuttiness — in cocktails.
Twelve signature cocktails paired with equally strong-smelling tropical fruits like pink guava, jackfruit and pineapple as well as the popular Baijiu shots await the unsuspecting.
Baijiu-based cocktails such as Pisang and Lotus Pink tantalise with fruity flavours before the grain-liquor marks its dominance.
The hungry have dim sum options to go with their cocktails at Lot 4, Lorong Panggung, Kuala Lumpur.
It opens from 5pm until late daily. For reservations, call 010-2666093.
Inspired by Concubine Lane in Ipoh, Perak, this bar adopts a modern, feminine and sassy theme.
The bar owners wanted to break away from stereotyping of concubines and the negative depiction of a mistress in modern times.
“Based on the etymology of the Chinese character, the word “concubine” has two elements - the top part meaning independent while the bottom represents the idea of a woman,” said co-owner Nicolas Fraile.
Expect tropical ingredients in cocktails such as The Jackfruit which is concocted with dry gin, absinthe and sweet vermouth with jackfruit and clarified milk.
The Empress Negroni puts an Asian twist to the classic cocktail by adding Oolong tea to dry gin, Campari and Maraschino.
Located at Lot 2, Jalan Panggong, Kuala Lumpur, the bar opens at 1pm (weekends) and 3pm (weekdays) until midnight daily except Monday. For reservations, call 011-6090 2416.
The Attic Bar
Nestled on top of Travel Hub Guesthouse, the rooftop The Attic Bar is accessible through a spiral staircase.
Cocktails are named after characters of popular American fantasy drama Games of Thrones (GoT) and have been riding on the show’s popularity since opening in 2015.
One of the top-selling cocktails, Dragon Lady — a mix of vodka, dragon fruit passion fruit, lime and egg white — takes inspiration from the character Khaleesi or Daenerys Targaryen.
Tuak (locally brewed rice wine) based cocktails such as Gadis Tuak with tuak, lime, Calpis and pandan is interesting. There are tuak shots too.
Located at 15, Jalan Balai Polis, Kuala Lumpur, the bar opens at 4pm (Fridays and Saturday) and 5pm (Sunday to Thursday) until midnight.
Kapitan Haus pays homage to kapitans of the past who were largely credited for the development of Kuala Lumpur.
Haus, meaning “thirsty” in Malay and an alternative spelling for “house” and is used metaphorically to describe the relentless thirst of kapitans to develop the city, but also for the occasional drink or two.
The cocktails are divided into three sections namely the arrival of the Kapitan, the Kapitan’s pursuit of happiness and Kapitan’s ascension.
Each section features cocktails with distinct flavour profiles — refreshing (the arrival), sweet and sour (the journey), and strong or spirit-forward (the ascension).
Some interesting cocktails are Fresh Release (honeydew infused gin, dry vermouth, cucumber, chrysanthemum and carbon dioxide) while tong sui (herbal tea in Cantonese) uses jujube infused gin, pear, longan, lemon and snow fungus in this herbal citrusy drink.
It is located on top of its sister bar DaBao Restobar at 145, Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur and opens at 3pm (Friday to Sunday) and 4pm (Tuesday to Thursday) until midnight. For reservations, call 017-881-2268.