KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Bangsar-based Pulp, an offshoot of Singaporean coffee company Papa Palheta, is well known for their dedication to specialty coffee.
For many regular customers, it’s the ultimate experience in coffee appreciation – a café that doesn’t offer WiFi and proudly focuses on serving the best coffee possible.
But even coffee snobs need to eat.
How does a café progress from coffee to introducing a full-fledged food menu? Pulp’s master coffee purveyor Marcus Foo says, “Coffee was, and still is, the heart of the business when we started Pulp in Malaysia a year ago. Back then the café was almost secondary – its original purpose was simply to showcase the coffee. Later we learned we could not serve customers drinks alone as food was expected, so we had to figure out how to pair our coffees with food.”
Despite having a kitchen at Pulp, Foo admits it was initially more like a pantry than a fully-operational kitchen. As the café became popular, regulars asked for more food options so they started developing a food menu around eight months after opening before finally launching the new menu this year.
“To be honest, we were coffee snobs before. But now we want to give our customers the whole experience. We want to be able to offer them what they want, which in this case meant more food choices. At the same time, we didn’t want to become a ‘me too’ café – we definitely had no intention of being the n-th café to offer Eggs Benedict!”
Thus began the lengthy research and development process for the new Pulp food menu. During a recent trip to San Francisco, Foo had dinner at a Korean-American shop. “It was the only place still open at 8pm. A dish that stood out was their rösti. They were shredding fresh potatotes and frying these with sausages and topping it with a fried egg. The service wasn’t the friendliest, but who cares when the food is so good?”
Inspired, Foo set out to recreate the same dish at Pulp, but to serve it with better service and ambience, of course. This became Balance Breakfast Version 1.0 – a hearty dish of rösti, smoked chicken sausages, a sunny side-up and greens. He adds, “The addition of the fried egg was very mamak-style; it’s something Malaysians readily recognise and appreciate rather than all the Western-style poached eggs and scrambled eggs.”
Foo also had sausages on his mind for another take on the rösti dish. As he found it hard to find good bratwursts in KL, he had merguez – a red, spicy lamb and beef sausage with North African origins – made to order locally. The result was Balance Breakfast Version 2.0: this time the rösti was paired with lamb and beef merguez, cranberry, sour cream, and a rocket salad.
In “engineering” Pulp’s version of the rösti, Foo told his chef how he wanted the rösti – crispy but not too oily. While version 2 was complemented with sour cream, Foo’s personal favourite remained version 1 because of the fried egg.
He shares, “Even to find the right egg, we went through four different types of eggs from omega-enriched to free-range – so that the yolk would stay whole while the white became crispy. Really, it’s one thing to have a good idea or concept. It’s an entirely different matter to execute your plan properly. That’s what separates the good from the bad.”
Another popular item on the new menu is their croissants, dressed up to be a filling meal on its own. Pulp gets the croissants and their breads from Bangsar-based TedBoy Bakery. “It’s part of our efforts to source from the businesses in our community,” says Foo. “Of course, it helps that TedBoy has a central kitchen. This means they are more professional than home bakers and can offer us the consistency and reliability we need to run our business.”
There are two renditions of the croissant meals. The “Mighty Croissant” is filled with a fry-up of lamb and beef merguez, capers, garlic and parsley, and served with a summer salad. Café supervisor Khoo Ya’tze had a hand in creating the recipe for the salad for their creamy egg and mayo croissant: its wakame (seaweed) side salad is dressed with goma (sesame seed) and peanut sauces, a refreshing twist to boring old greens.
For those with a sweet tooth, try their Nutty Toast. According to Foo, this is based on their existing Nutty Toast in Singapore. “In our third outlet on the island, Coast and Company – a collaboration between Papa Palheta and Coast Cycles, a Singaporean bicycle design firm – we have a menu specially crafted by Wild Rocket’s Willin Low.”
Pulp’s Nutty Toast showcases a thick slice of fluffy brioche by TedBoy Bakery smeared with a generous layer of homemade peanut butter with plenty of almonds for an added crunch, and drizzled with some runny honey.
“To make the peanut butter paste, we source raw peanuts and toast them in our kitchen daily,” says Foo. “The toasted peanuts are then blended with olive oil before being ground into a paste. The difference between making it fresh and buying ready-made is incredible!”
Perhaps the simplest yet most surprising of Pulp’s new food offerings is their OMG! Truffle Popcorn. Basically sweet popcorn heated with truffle oil, this unassuming snack for two to three people can draw the attention of the entire café. Foo explains, “Once someone orders it, we make it fresh. The aroma fills the café, and then everyone orders it!”
For food and coffee pairing, Foo has a few suggestions: “Brewed coffee goes really well with rich, buttery desserts such as cheesecake, scones, and carrot cake. For more chocolaty and dark sweets such as brownies and chocolate cake, a milk coffee like a cappuccino would work better.”
Truffle popcorn apparently brings out more of the flavour notes from black, brewed coffee while warm, savoury croissants are best paired with cold brew coffee. As Pulp plans to change their food menu every 3-4 months, do ask the barista for a food-and-coffee pairing recommendation the next time you visit the café.
Pulp by Papa Palheta
29-01, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Open Tue-Fri 9am-7pm; Sat-Sun 9am-10pm; Mon closed