Why is it that nice little bars are always hidden? No idea! Perhaps the alcohol in speakeasies tastes better after a wild goose chase through dark alleys and past forgotten corners?
Throw back to last century
During the infamous years of the Prohibition in the USA, all alcohol was banned between 1920 and 1933. However, people were still thirsty and a lot of illicit bars were secretly established in backrooms and behind dark curtains, outside the watchful eye of the authorities. Drinking didn’t stop, it just went underground.
These days, the hunt for a good beer or a cocktail is not a necessity anymore – or is it?- but has turned into an exciting game instead. And luckily, nowadays many so-called speakeasies can be accessed without having to fear of being arrested. Also in KL! Let’s have a look, shall we?
1. Reka:Bar – The Final Frontier
Just above the recently opened restaurant BaBulanKL at Jalan Setiabakti in Bukit Damansara you’ll find Reka:Bar. This speakeasy is open since October last year. The bar is trying hard to look like the interior of a spaceship.
Don’t feel threatened; it’s all about their cocktails and home brewed ingredients. The idea is to try their cocktails in a specific order: from nice to super nice? According to their chart, we had to start with the top one and slowly work our way clockwise around to the next one. But after number two we lost track and not being able to decide between the wonderful I Sho-Yu with gin, apricot and magic mushroom essence and the Bubble Trouble with kombucha and vermouth, we went for both.
We love their snacks! Our personal favourites are the Popcorn Chicken Wings and the Unstoppable Chips. Have a look at the lab as well where you can admire their concoctions and potions. If you’re lucky, you can find a spot outside on the small balcony to observe the Bukit Damansara folks.
(Reka:Bar, 67M Jalan Setiabakti, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur)
2. Suzie Wong – She’s glamourous and seductive
To say that Suzie Wong is a speakeasy is slightly exaggerated, because who doesn’t know this amazing place?! You can’t see the front door though from the main road and the venue is underground. If you feel hungry, just grab a bowl of noodles first at the hawker stall, positioned ideally next to the front door.
Upon entering one might feel confused: is this a medieval castle or a high-end Shanghai brothel from the 20st century? Either way, it works for me, and the life shows definitely add to the fun vibes at this speakeasy.
Ok, cocktails, shall we? It is challenging to pick one out of the long list of names! My favourite at Suzie Wong is the Butterfly Pea Sour. There is something about purple-blue hues that caresses the soul and fills the mind with sweet thoughts. Nothing wrong with that. Suzie Wong, do keep it up!
Reservations are recommendable, especially if you’re planning a night out with a larger group of people. Please contact them on 017-226 6480 for bookings. More info here. Attire: keep it stylish, fashionable and fresh.
(Suzie Wong KL, Wisma Lim Foo Yong, 86 Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur)
3. The Attic Bar – Where KL meets the world
If you’re into small winding staircases that just don’t seem to reach the top, this is your place. What if something eventful happens and everybody needs to get down alive and well? Perhaps sometimes better not to imagine. And after climbing all these stairs, the beer upstairs even tastes better right? Also not to be missed are the arak shots.
What makes this place so nice is the quaint little rooftop balcony overlooking KL. There might be places with better views, but for sure they do miss the coziness you’ll find here. The Attic Bar is reachable through the lobby of a hostel and the entrance is… oops am I saying too much? Best to find out for yourself!
(The Attic Bar, 3rd floor, 15 Jalan Balai Polis, Kuala Lumpur)
4. Crane KL – Pretty in Red
Like the bird, this bar is a highflyer amongst the KL speakeasies. Positioned just above the restaurant with the identical name, this place comes alive after 9pm. And I mean alive! If you’re not a fan of loud beats, make sure to finish your drink before this hour. Other than that, we were impressed not only by the beautiful red décor, but also by the comfortable round velvet seats, by the cozy balcony outdoors and the cocktails of course. All so very pretty… The Dragon Turns was a winner for me, for its fancy look and its tangy yet smooth finish.
The equally beautiful restaurant downstairs has got very tasty Asian-western fusion food on the menu and life music during weekend evenings.
Do book ahead on their FB page here, especially during weekends or if you’re with larger groups. The speakeasy is located at… no no no… we know you can do it: go for a hunt!
(Crane KL, 78 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, Kuala Lumpur)
5. The Deceased – Dare to enter?
Maybe it was the intoxication we endured at the previous speakeasies, but we really had trouble finding this particular place. Only after running through small and very dark alleys and chased by strange looking men, we bumped into one of the lady bartenders by luck. She kindly pointed us out in the right direction and happily we entered a door to what seemed a dark never-ending staircase. Yeeks.
The name of this place might turn you off, but cross my heart and hope to die I can say that the most interesting cocktails in town are served in this place. And by interesting, I mean well, ever had a baby sitting next to your drink? Or a voodoo twig figurine accompanying your cocktail?
Fear not, the speakeasy bar of The Deceased makes up for all your worries and their outdoor area is absolutely sublime, albeit rather casual. But hey we’re here for cocktails! I’ve got a new favourite that probably outdoes all others: the Tea of Oblivion. With so many flavours fighting for attention, the best way to enjoy this drink is simply close your eyes and focus on the burst of salty notes from the Himalaya, the spiciness of green chili padis and sweet gingerbread syrup. For breakfast lunch and dinner? That might be a bit too much! Wishing you all the best in finding this speakeasy…
(The Deceased, 55 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, Kuala Lumpur)