A former Petaling Street brothel, reincarnated as a crazy-atmospheric cafe that's set to launch a thousand Instagram photos.
A fierce contender for the title of KL's most beautiful cafe, this new venue is blessed with the kind of old-world charm that's long been monopolised by Malacca, Ipoh & Penang. The cafe's over-the-counter tagline - 'This Must Be The Place' - might prove prophetic in a sense, though it feels tantalisingly vague, potentially referencing a panoply of pop-culture possibilities.
We'd like to imagine this intricately crafted retreat (its designer has links to the Sekeping Retreats) might somehow remain an oasis of calm, but Merchant's Lane will more likely be an irresistible magnet for cafe enthusiasts for many weekends to come.
The menu is a work in progress: Merchant's Lane opened this past weekend with a small sampling of platters that should also make a social media splash - the 'South China Sea' (RM24) is our favourite, featuring two tender grilled salmon fillets partnered with runny poached eggs, house-made hash & mango-corn salsa - delicate dynamics, with enjoyable textures.
For Big Breakfast devotees, the natural option might be 'Eat Die Me' (RM26), a customisable serving of eggs (sunny-side-up, scrambled or poached) with two sausages (punchy-tasting beef, lamb or chicken), plus cheese-baked tomato, creamed corn & hash. In a week, there will be waffles, with a choice of ice cream (vanilla, Earl Grey, kaya toast, coconut pandan passionfruit).
We like the 'Hongkie Beef Stew' (RM18), with well-prepared meat (slow-cooked for 12 hours & labelled 'Cantonese-style' on the menu), mash, gravy & veggies - pretty much the textbook definition of comfort food. Merchant's Lane boasts a range of East-meets-West recipes - expect also 'Italian chow mein,' described as spaghetti aglio olio with prawns & 'Asian chilli flakes.'
Beverages are pleasing & reasonably distinctive too, from jasmine-infused black coffee (RM11) to hand-crafted charcoal roast oolong tea with cinnamon & chrysanthemum (RM15 for a serving for two), with imminent highlights to include organic matcha lattes (RM13), pomegranate coolers (RM14), rose honey milk (RM13) & 'cham' (RM16; it's espresso with Earl Grey ice cream).
Look for Merchant's Lane on a heritage shop-house's first floor, above a souvenir store near ATC (Advance Tertiary College). There's a story to be told about what caused this cafe to be created - ask one of its three founders, Yong, Ken, or the other Ken, who harbours an intimate connection to this street, since his father has long been operating a separate business here.
Merchant's Lane KL
First Floor, 150, Jalan Petaling, Off Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.
Currently open 12pm-8pm daily; will close for first three days of Raya.
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