THE OLD MERCHANT
From the founders of The Pawn Room and Private Room Wine Bar, The Old Merchant (@the_old_merchant) marks Noah Yap and Keith Chong’s first endeavour outside Klang Valley. Occupying a space that was once a Chinese private bank (piao hao) set up by the merchant (hence the name), The Old Merchant is said to be Malacca’s first speakeasy cocktail bar.
Noah Yap: The main reason why we set up our first speakeasy bar in Malacca and in the Jonker area, specifically, is because it is where the history of state started. Malacca has a rich and long historical background, and Jonker is one of the two UNESCO heritage reserve zone in Malaysia, thanks to its architecture.
How are local elements reflected in the drinks?
Keith Chong: Our cocktails are mainly inspired by the history of Malacca and some of the ingredients we use can only be found here such as gula melaka and Malacca rich wine. We try to use as many local ingredients as possible because we want our customers to know more about this historic state.
Manners maketh man. Cocktail connoisseurs, who are familiar with action spy film Kingsman: The Secret Service, are in for a gentlemanly treat. Veiled under the pretence of a tailor shop, Brixton 23 (@brixton23kl) is one of the most stylish watering holes in town today. Director Caesar Kok shares that the bar (and restaurant) is designed to give its patrons the feeling of being at a secret intelligence of officer’s hangout.
How does a person find your bar?
When the customer comes from the main entrance of the tailor shop, our hostess will bring them to our secret entrance guised as a shelf. They will then enter a space where our bar and restaurant are located. Our drinking or club area is located on the ground floor and our dining is located on the lower ground floor.
How did you get into this line of business?
It’s out of interest (in the F&B industry) and we were inspired by the Kingsman movie. Also, the speakeasy bar scene is trending now. As for the location, Bukit Bintang wasn’t our first choice but it’s a very strategic spot, smack dab in the middle of the Golden Triangle crowded with tourists and office buildings.
If you’re looking for a space that not only offers the intrigue of a speakeasy but also the capacity to inspire quality conversation over good drinks and lively music, give Circa Bar (@circabarkl) a try. Tucked in an alleyway at Plaza Batai, follow the ‘hole in the wall’ and climb up an old spiral staircase to find it. Once there, enter the passcode—available on the bar’s social media platforms—to unlock the door.
What is one aspect of the bar scene that’s lacking in which your bar makes up for?
Roen Cian Nagapan: I’d say creativity. Creativity in the concept, drinks, music, interior design and so on. We intended to create a beatnik house party and I think we successfully did.
How was the process of location scouting like?
Kesu Purusotman: The previous tenant of the spot was giving up space through one of my business partners SARO, Terence Conrad. It was challenging for us to come up with a concept that would get people up to the first floor but we brainstormed for days to finally come to what Circa is today.
Tired of the retail license restrictions that include the mandatory closing of the doors as early as 9 PM, Paul Ng opened a second shop in Petaling Jaya that comes with a hidden wine and cocktail bar on the second floor. Those who are new to Oenophilia Bar (@oenophilia.bar) should know that there are two entrances to the bar: one within the retail shop and the other is on the outside, each with its own operating hours.
What is the concept of your speakeasy and the inspiration behind it?
Our concept is a hidden bar in the garden and we focus more on wine instead of cocktails. We offer more than 500 labels of wines to customers. Our staff will request customers to write their names on their finished bottles—that we keep and display at our bar for memories.
How do you select your wines and cocktail ingredients?
Our main liqueur mixes are imported from various brands like Alize & De Kuyper. We also source our ingredients regularly, on a two to three-day basis.