Fascinating Kuala Lumpur
- article by Lily Guy-Vogel
Take a look inside the food, nightlife, arts and culture of Malaysia's capital city.
With a population of just over 1.5 million people, Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant and thriving multicultural city and this multiculturalism and varied population is very clearly reflected in the food, nightlife and art culture found here.
There is something to suit people of every taste and budget on a trip to this city, and a few days here will only whet your appetite and make you want to stay longer!
With the recognisable skyline of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower soaring above you whilst you explore hitherto unnoticed delightful back-street restaurants and bars, you will not be able to avoid the city's charms. You will never be stuck of something to do here: check out one of the many galleries or museums, try some delicious street foods, spend a night at one of its thumping nightclubs and there is so much more! Below are some suggestions of where you may want to begin your trip in Malaysia's capital city.
Kuala Lumpur's food culture mirrors its varied population as here you will find all manner of places to eat; restaurants to suit all budgets and serving food from all over the world. The city has some wonderful fine dining options with internationally renowned chefs in the kitchen. For example Cantaloupe is a French restaurant that sits on the 23rd floor of the Troika building whose menu includes foie gras satay, wagyu beef burgers and lobster. This restaurant has authentic mouth-watering French cuisine coupled with stunning views over-looking the city below. This is a great place for a romantic dinner but if you are looking for eateries on the other end of the spectrum, Kuala Lumpur also has many fantastic cheap and cheerful food markets and street food stalls where you will find lots of delectable snacks and local dishes.
The Petaling Street Market sits in the heart of the city's Chinatown, an area crammed with various restaurants and a truly flourishing “foodie” culture with food stalls lining the street during market hours (open daily from early till late). Must try's include deep-fried sweet potato balls, dim sum pork buns and apom-balik (sweet Malaysian pancakes). Another brilliant market is the Kampung Baru Sunday Market which, despite its name, is actually open from Saturday evening through to Sunday morning. Some of the delicacies here include satay skewers and a spicy salad of fruit and vegetables called rojak.
Finally we come to the unassuming and reasonably priced little cafes and restaurants where you might just stumble upon a food revelation. The best way to find these eateries is wandering through the city with an empty belly but if you want some direction, here are a couple of the top choices. Samet Thai is a teeny little Thai restaurant in the city, which serves up some incredible Thai food at very nominal prices, particularly good is the pad thai and the tom yum soup. Another top spot is Jalan Sentul Chinese Nasi Lemak which as you can imagine from the name is a Chinese Malaysian fusion restaurant serving up mouth-watering traditional dishes, try the nasi lemak (a typical Malaysian rice dish) and also the pork curry.
Bars and Nightlife
Kuala Lumpur has a thumping and varied nightlife to be explored. If you're looking for live music or perhaps for a cocktail sipped from a balcony overlooking the city's lights or somewhere to dance until dawn then you need not look any further! Kuala Lumpur is a city where you can find the inexpensive set right next to extreme decadence. Check out The Heli Lounge Bar for an opulent drinking experience. Here you can sip delicious (albeit pricy) cocktails on one of the city's five helicopter landing pads, which at night are transformed into a lively little bar with relaxing live music and stunning views. Located right across from the KL Tower and also close to the Petronas Towers, the bar has an unbeatable view of the city's iconic skyline. Try and get down for sunset if you can.
If you are looking for something a bit less pricey and a bit more informal, check out one of the city's top bars for live music. Kuala Lumpur has played host to many fantastic bands in all sort of venues: Alexis Bistro is a small super-chic restaurant, which has made its name as one of the best places in the city for live jazz. Every Friday and Saturday a different jazz artist takes to the stage and performs for the small crowds that gather here. If jazz isn't your thing check out Taps Beer Bar where you can sample a large selection of craft beer whilst enjoying a wide range of live music. Performances take place Thursday through to Saturday and can come from any genre; pop, r'n'b, reggae, it's a real music roulette!
The city is also home to lots of rather impressive cocktail bars, to name but a few PS150 serves cocktails in a vintage speak-easy environment, whilst Coley is a tiny cocktail bar famous for its saffron-infused-bourbon, and P&C Cocktail bar doesn't have a menu at all but has lists of flavours and alcoholic bases that allow you to custom create every cocktail you order! Finally if you're looking for something a bit more hardcore or even just somewhere to come when the cocktail places are closing for the night, there are some fantastic venues for all night dancing. Havana Club is host to international DJs and has an outdoor bar area as well as a thumping dance floor whilst Gravity Club and Play At The Roof are also worth a late-night look-in.
Art and Culture
Kuala Lumpur is a city with a rich range of cultural activities to engage in; visual arts, performing arts, museums, whatever your interest there is something to be seen here. Starting with museums there are plenty to choose from but two of the most influential - and perhaps most interesting - are the Islamic Arts Museum and the National Museum. The Islamic Arts Museum is really a gallery space, museum and architecturally stunning building all rolled into one. Not only is the museum home to a range of artefacts, decorative objects, textiles etc., it also runs workshops, seminars, children's activities and there is a library, restaurant and shop here. It is truly a cultural and creative hub. The National Museum is historically thorough and intriguing: through four spaces you can chart Malaysian history from thousands of years ago right up until the present day.
The city is also brimming with galleries and art spaces - traditional and modern, established and new sit side by side in the city's flourishing art scene. The National Visual Arts Gallery is well worth a visit: it showcases modern Malaysian art with plenty of permanent installations and regularly changing temporary exhibitions. It offers a comprehensive exploration of contemporary art in Malaysia. Perhaps the performing arts are more your bag? Then you are in luck! The city is abuzz with theatrical and comedy shows. The Crackhouse Comedy Club is a relatively new space, which showcases international and local comedic talent. There are four shows a week including open mic nights, improvisation sketches and shows by touring performers from all over the world. Another key venue is the KLPac (Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre), which is a seminal part of the city's performing arts culture, a place with seminars, workshops, plays, musicals and dance shows.
Some more tips
Below we've got a few extra specific suggestions of things not to be missed on your trip to Kuala Lumpur.
- If you're planning an evening out and want to do something quite unique go to The Ice Cream Bar. This is a bar that serves alcoholic ice creams - what more could you want than a smoked cognac cone? Or a vodka watermelon sorbet? Check out their Facebook page for a full menu: https://www.facebook.com/theicecreambar.my
- If nightlife is your interest perhaps you fancy tipping your hand at karaoke? There are many karaoke joints to choose from in this city but we would recommend Loudspeaker, a clean and quaint karaoke bar with a selection of songs and an excellent sound system as well as nice food and drink options. http://www.loudspeaker.my/
- Are you looking for an intimate theatre experience? Theatrethreesixty at Tommy Lee Baker is both a studio space and performance area; a very modest venue that seats only 50 but one that gives the audience a real sense of engagement and closeness to the performers, as well as offering budding actors and writers a chance to see their work on stage. https://theatrethreesixty.com/