KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 ― Gone are the days when the only places one could visit for an espresso or latte were Starbucks or The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. These days there must be hundreds of cafés in the capital offering specialty coffee, be it an antipodean concoction such as a flat white or Japanese-style single origin brews made using a siphon pot.
More often than not, you empty your cuppa without ever emptying a sachet of sugar in them. (It's sacrilege, apparently.) As such, everyone has their favourite café these days: some only visit coffee bars that roast their own beans; others are attracted by complicated latte art or Instagram-friendly décor.
This is a story about my favourite little café: Grizzly at The Intermark. That's right, a coffee shop in a slightly more corporate environment (smack in the city centre), instead of the usual artsy, hippie joint sequestered deep inside some little-known neighbourhood.
The bear-themed name aside (and there are plenty of ursine memorabilia from a human-sized statue of a grizzly near the entrance to a teddy bear in the tip box), there's nothing remotely furry about Grizzly.
This is a café where the baristas are likely to remember your name, and you're likely to know theirs too.
There is a quartet of friendly faces who pull shots of espresso, foam milk, and serve simple snacks: Jenny, Solar and Nay Blut are from Myanmar, while JP hails from the Philippines. Jenny is the one with most giggles; Solar is the Scott Summers of the team, overseeing and training with ease; Nay Blut the quiet one; and JP wears the Clark Kent glasses.
The comic references may be my subconscious rearing its head: weary of hipster baristas who act like superstars, it's refreshing to meet a bunch of baristas who work like superheroes to “save” everyone from caffeine deficiencies and mid-afternoon stupor, all the while wearing a smile that lights up the café.
Of course, smiles alone won't feed you if you're ravenous. Grizzly's menu makes for an easy read for the time-crunched office crowd looking for a quick lunch. Made-to-order toasties are popular, especially the chicken avocado toastie with grilled cheese. Other variations on the toastie motif include beef bolognese, lemongrass chicken banh mi, and a classic Reuben that would satisfy a hungry New Yorker.
Grizzly also offers pies with gravy (the chicken comes with a cream sauce; the beef with a brown sauce), and waffles adorned with blueberries or banana and chocolate syrup. Those looking for lighter bites can take a peek at the display case and glass jars on the counter: Anzac biscuits, shortbread bars, chocolate chip cookies, banana muffins, mini quiches and the crowd favourite, thick slices of carrot cake.
The reason for the latter is the way Jenny plates the slice, garnishing the creamy frosting with strips of orange-and-marmalade at the last possible moment so the cake doesn't get soggy. Small details like this make for a more delicious and heart-warming experience.
A cute illustration on the feature wall by local mural maestro Hsulynn Pang celebrates a quote by Scottish politician Sir James Mackintosh: “The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks.” No surprise then that nearly every patron at Grizzly is nursing a flat white or a long black.
What's my usual order? Ask the baristas at Grizzly; they'll tell you in a heartbeat because they often recite before I've even opened my mouth. Now that's more than service with a smile; this is a café where there's a “bear hug” in every cuppa.
C-12-02, The Intermark, 182 Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-7:30pm; Sat-Sun 10am-7:30pm
Tel: 03-2181 2188