KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — Weekends are made for brunch. No one enjoys getting up early when it’s the only time of the week when they can linger in bed. A slow, leisurely meal alone with a riveting read or with a couple of good friends for scintillating conversation — now that’s the life!
That is, unless you have to wait in hour-long queues to get into the latest, most-happening brunch café only to be greeted by tables crammed practically next to each other or a tired menu that offers yet another variation of eggs Benedict. (How many poached eggs doused in hollandaise sauce can one eat, honestly?)
No fear; here are a trio of brunch spots that aren’t overly crowded (yet) and have a decent blend of food and ambience. Weekends are too short; here’s to making the most of them!
Botanica+Co: Super salads for tree-huggers
Our capital is known for its sweltering weather, courtesy of a tropical climate. A lazy brunch is less relaxing when one is sweating bucket loads, which explains why most brunch cafés are indoors and air-conditioned. Fewer pesky flies too. One does miss the greenery and the trees though.
Leaf-lovers may rejoice as Botanica+Co in Bangsar South recaptures the ambience of al fresco dining amidst beautiful greenery while providing the cool and bug-free environment we are accustomed to. Designed like a greenhouse with plenty of glass walls and doors, Botanica+Co’s crowning glory has to be a pair of weeping fig trees (the official tree of Bangkok for trivia buffs) that seals the botanical theme.
The botanical philosophy extends to the menu, which is produce-driven. Singaporean chef Sam Neoh (formerly of PS. Cafe) sources for the best and freshest produce daily and transforms them into healthy, fuss-free brunch dishes, in particular the salads.
The Superfood Salad stays true to its name with an antioxidant-rich mix of quinoa, blueberries, roasted almonds, sunflower seeds, wolfberries, pumpkin and spinach, tossed in an orange and rosemary dressing. Need some meat with your greens? Try the Asian BBQ Chicken Salad with mandarin orange segments, cashew nuts and vermicelli in a fragrant lemongrass-chilli dressing, or the Crispy Soft Shell Crab Salad with apples, crunchy shredded coconut and spicy chilli jam.
The non-salad crowd can go for the Banana Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake. Shortcrust crumble, Chantilly whipped cream and candied turkey bacon transform the pancake into a flavourful work of art. Looking for a heartier brunch? The Spicy Shashouka — beef chorizo, beef bacon, feta, wilted spinach, chickpeas and poached egg in a spicy tomato sauce served with Turkish bread – will satisfy.
The use of plants and trees at Botanica+Co not only freshens up the space but helps purify the air (at least during the day when they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen). Spend some quality time in Nature — which relaxes us and reduces stress levels — while remaining blissfully indoors. As the trees mature, looking slightly different with every visit, this café is one that will truly grow on you.
Pâtissez Malaysia: Liquid brunch
Why gorge yourself silly on thick slices of bread, greasy fried eggs, fat-laden sausages and bacon? Brunch doesn’t have to be a platter of solid food; one can have a “liquid” brunch just as easily.
At Pâtissez Malaysia along Jalan Telawi in Bangsar, milkshakes are the main draw, specifically the Instagram-friendly, calorie bombs (we didn’t say a liquid brunch was easier on the waistline, did we?) known as FreakShakesTM. Yes, that is a trademark symbol but more on that later.
To be fair, milkshakes are hardly a new phenomenon. The term itself first appeared in print as early as 1885, though back then the beverage was more alcoholic in nature, being a creamy blend of eggs and whiskey. By the early 20th century, however, milkshakes became more wholesome drinks served at malt shops and soda fountains.
Favoured by students, these milkshakes were made with vanilla, chocolate or strawberry syrups. Later, ice-cream was incorporated in the recipe. Modern milkshakes really took off in Australian “milk bars” where unconventional flavours such as sea salt caramel, popcorn and Tim Tam became popular.
In Canberra, mother-and-daughter team Gina and Anna Petridis (who were contestants on the reality TV show My Kitchen Rules) introduced FreakShakesTM at their Pâtissez cafés. What are FreakShakesTM? Imagine over-the-top milkshakes, threatening to spill over with their toppings of cookies, brownies, marshmallows and even pieces of pecan pie!
Their creations went viral on social media, “inspiring” a slew of other gargantuan milkshakes (hence the need to trademark the original version). This phenomenon has reached our shores; the Bangsar outlet is the first branch outside of Canberra.
The café — all dressed in warm, earthy tones — does have a savoury brunch menu. The Freak Burger, a satisfying assemblage of juicy beef patties, chicken bacon, Cheddar cheese and chicken bacon jam served with shoestring fries, is worth a try as is the melt-in-your-mouth Slow Cooked Pâtissez Chicken Thigh Chick’d Kozani.
However, most customers appear to make a beeline for the FreakShakesTM. The most popular has to be the Pretzella, an homage to the famous hazelnut spread. Expect lashings of Nutella, salty pretzels, vanilla mousse and even “pretzel dust” for that extra bit of magic.
Like A Velvet is basically a red velvet cake in the form of a milkshake, with slabs of red velvet cake, cream cheese and raspberry gel. Chocolate lovers will swoon over the Muddy Pat, a chocolate fudge milkshake with a chocolate fudge brownie and toasted marshmallow that is made in-house.
Who says you can’t drink your brunch, eh?
GravyBaby: Old-school pies and mash
The thing with being a former British colony, there’s a bit of an Anglophile in most of us. Except for the food, if one is honest, though. Why hanker for fish and chips when you can have nasi lemak? A Sunday roast pales in comparison to a really good beef rendang.
But no one does pies and mash quite like the Brits, especially East Londoners who opened the first shops serving this quintessentially British dish in the 19th century.
Imagine a buttery crust made from suet, a rich filling made from chunks of beef and plenty of ale, creamy mash and a liberal ladle of green parsley liquor. (Authentic pie and mash shops never serve “gravy”, only “liquor” — which looks about the same for those of us who didn’t grow up in the East End.)
GravyBaby, located in the quiet neighbourhood of Taman Desa, is hoping to recreate this old-school nostalgia. Here, pies are baked by British chef Paul Elliot, formerly of London’s Army & Navy Club. There’s a bit of that West End musical pizazz, courtesy of bright stage lighting and seats that mimic director’s chairs.
The pies at GravyBaby are certainly hearty; all are accompanied by a generous dollop of mash. For something classic, you can’t go wrong with the braised steak and ale pie, accompanied with spicy Boston baked beans and meat gravy.
Seafood lovers would enjoy the fish pie with minted mushy peas and London East End parsley liquor. The filling is a mixture of smoked haddock, cod, salmon and prawn – a veritable taste of the ocean’s bounty. Other pies include a lamb and redcurrant hotpot pie; a blue cheese, potato and leek pie; and a vegetarian option of pumpkin apricot tagine pie, served with a non-meat gravy.
There’s nothing quite like digging into a hot, freshly-baked pie out of the oven. And here’s a tip if you like to dine like a true East-Ender, only use a spoon and fork, never a knife. That’s not unlike how we Malaysians eat, no?
Botanica+Co Restaurant & Bar
G5 Podium, The Vertical, Bangsar South City,
No. 8 Jalan Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur
Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm; Fri 11:30am-12am; Sat 9:30am-12am; Sun 9:30am-10pm
Tel: 016-965 642
42, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Open Mon-Thu 11am-12am; Fri 11am-1am; Sat 8am-1am; Sun 8am-12am
Tel: 03-2202 2999
5A Jalan Desa Jaya, Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily 7am-3:30pm
Tel: 03-7988 0383