Hidden Bar KL: 3 Reviews of Hidden Bars in KL
Did you know during the 1920s, a nationwide ban of alcohol was implemented in the United States? This included production, importation, transportation and sale of ANY sort of alcoholic beverages. Yes, THAT United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave AND beer.
Thus, the “speakeasy” was born, a place named after the low tone one had to use while saying the “password” to get into these establishments that illegally served alcohol to patrons at that time.
Fortunately for us, that law has been banished and sent to the ends of the Earth and we don’t have to hide our alcoholic tendencies anymore (well, only some of us).
Nonetheless, speakeasies have become the newest bar trend but they’re typically referred to as hidden bars (in KL anyway) and with there being so many to choose from, how would anyone without an infinite amount of pocket money know which one to make a journey to?
Luckily for you (and us!), The Cool Bears went to three different bars one night to test each one for you readers. Yes, we swear we did it for the readers, NOT to drink on the job (Ok maybe a little of that too…)
1. The Deceased
Starting the night off with some frights and scares, we headed over to The Deceased, a bar two blocks away from the hustle & bustle of the Petaling Street market. Obviously being hidden, there’s no sign indicating its placement but the easiest way to find it is to head on over to Mingle Café and you’ll find a blue door next to it. There’s a keypad locking the door so ask the friendly staff at the café for the code.
As you walk through the door, you’ll be greeted by a The Grudge-inspired mannequin but fret not, she’s in a wheelchair and won’t be able to give chase as you Usain Bolt up the stairs in a hurry (Not saying that happened to me…)
We decided to sit outside and do note that the majority of seating is located outside so don’t wear too many layers but we personally didn’t feel like it was too hot or stuffy.
The Sinfully Good Drinks of The Deceased (that we would kill for)
i. Toyol (Thailand Mehkong spices, Rum infused Green Tea, Coconut syrup, Mango milk) – RM40
Comes with a baby (not a live one, fortunately. Sheesh, we all can barely support ourselves here) and served in a baby bottle (no teat included, sadly), Toyol is definitely well presented. We would describe it as an alcoholic milk green tea as it is cream-based. The taste of rum isn’t too overpowering which could be a good or bad thing (depending on your tendency to overdrink cocktails that don’t taste alcoholic).
ii. Spirits of Banana (Pandan infused White Rum, Banana liquer, Citrus juice, Coconut milk) – RM40
Wrapped around with a banana leaf, this cocktail is super sweet and creamy. However don’t be put off just yet, non- sweet tooth folks as it still has a sharpness to it that helps make it less overwhelming or “jelak”. If you enjoy Bailey’s, ice cream or any type of creamy liqueur really, this banana spirit is for you.
iii. Tea of Oblivion (Thai assam tea infused with Dry Gin, Tropical fruit, fresh Lime Juice) – RM40
Do you wish to forget the past and stop worrying about the future? Drink this alcohol infused fruit tea up then! But first you must cleanse your palate with a small cup of water first, almost like a tea ceremony. Consisting of five flavours, one of us said it tasted like Hacks but like “a sweet, zesty and citrusy Hacks.” And the tea really covers up the alcohol taste so do be careful with this sneaky one.
iv. Petty Person Beating (Dry Gin, Sarawak Tuak, Kumquat, Lime juice, Tonic Water) – RM45
The Deceased’s top selling drink, it was no surprise that we loved the combination of its sweet & sour taste with a slight bitter aftertaste. If you’re wondering what Tuak is, it’s actually a fermented rice wine, a very popular alcoholic drink among East Malaysians and the mixing of it with the gin was just nice. Also has a bit of that assam taste with the presence of the kumquat.
Overall, the bill came up to about RM165 for a total of 4 drinks which isn’t too bad for cocktails, especially with the bar going all out presentation-wise.
However for college students, it definitely equates to a pricey night out as it’s a minimum to order one drink per person so if your friends and you are aiming to save and share a drink or two, The Deceased isn’t a place for you. BUT with that said, we at The Cool Bears think it’s pretty damn cool to go at least and should definitely be on your hidden bar in KL list.
Address: 55, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday: 6:30pm – 2am
Telephone: 03-2742 6170
Stumbling slightly (just slightly, okay. We aren’t lightweights, we swear), we headed off to the second bar of the night:
2. Shuang Xi
Seeming like a renovated apartment space (explicitly an apartment from 1980s Hong Kong), Shuang Xi is decorated convolutedly with a bunch of vintage items like old Ultraman figurines, old movie posters and the seating varies from leather couches to just low-rise tables in which customers are meant to sit on the floor. But that’s the charm of Shuang Xi, it feels like a bunch of different groups in a house party and the only thing uniting us is the love of alcohol and the projector playing music videos (of pretty good genres, if we say so ourselves).
To find it is to find 7-Eleven (near the Pasar Seni MRT station) first and opposite it, you’ll find a row of shophouses, find a discreet black gate (don’t worry, we’ll include a picture to make it easy for you) and ta-da, you’ll find the entrance to Shuang Xi!
The Asian Influenced Drinks of Shuang Xi
i. See You Tomorrow (Pandan infused Gin, Lemongrass, Coconut Juice, Lime, Egg whites (optional)) – RM35
A mixture of savoury & sweet, we likened this cocktail to a Hari Raya drink with its strong pandan and also rendang (I know???) taste. This drink can be cream-based if you decide to add egg whites onto it (which we recommend) as it makes it taste like a meringue as well.
ii. Seven Babes (Soju, Cranberries, Citrus, Sour Plum) – RM28
Love eating asam boi? This is the drink for you then. With a very strong asam taste, it is a refreshing, sharp yet easy to down cocktail.
iii. Neither Do I (Rum, Passionfruit, Lime) – RM30
If you love your cocktails bitter and citrusy, this rum based drink combines the two taste palates while adding passionfruit & lime into the mix.
iv. California Dreaming (Gin, Apple, Lime, Jasmine) – RM35
The gin taste of the drink isn’t too strong, surprisingly. The sour lime helps balance it out.
The whole gist of Shuang Xi is for patrons to sit back and chill while sipping on a pretty good cocktail. We highly recommend this place for you and your friends who just want to hangout and have good conversations without any loud or jarring music blaring from the speakers.
Address: 177, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000, Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday closed. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday: 9pm – 1am, Friday & Saturday: 9pm – 2am
Telephone: 014-944 5130
Now, stumbling more than slightly, our designated driver brought us to our third destination, Pahit only 7 minutes away by car from Petaling Street.
And guess what? We managed to do a quick interview with owner Chye (not that inebriated, thankfully. We’re professionals here at The Cool Bears okay!) We got to know all about this little hidden gem (a description that would make Chye cringe and you’ll find out why later on in this article).
Before Pahit, there was another bar in place at the same location. Chye and his partner CK Kho were actually a part of that bar (which shall not be named) but eventually they left to do their own thing, as per usual in the F&B industry.
In the guise of that bar being shut down, Chye and CK decided to partner up to take over that now vacant lot. A 100 year old building, its heritage and historical characteristics made it an ideal lot for the pair to start a bar. But what kind of bar was the big question in their minds? Having a background in the bar industry, CK guessed that gin was gonna be the upcoming alcohol choice in 2017 (and rightly so) and then the creation of Pahit, a gin bar was agreed on.
Not only serving just gin, the bar is big on bitters (a type of alcoholic flavouring drop) hence the name Pahit, a Malay word translating into “bitter”. Also, back in the British Colonial days of Malaya, British soldiers were big on a gin-based cocktail called “Gin Pahit” (by the locals), a harsh concoction of gin and bitters to give them the needed Dutch courage to face the warzone.
And so why does Chye and CK want Pahit to stray away from the “hidden bar” label? It’s a pretty good reason which relates back to this article’s introductory paragraph, hidden bars seem more a gimmick or a fad to generate more hype than anything else.
With the end of Prohibition or in Malaysia’s case, no laws banning the sale of alcohol, there’s really no need for hidden bars or speakeasies anymore and Chye thinks bar owners should just keep it simple by just opening, normal bars. (And we at The Cool Bears admit it’s pretty easy to find Pahit, no unidentifiable doors or passwords needed).
Chye’s top drinks recommendations: Gin Pahit #2 (no, don’t worry it has been reinvented for normal civilian’s consumption), Southside and Coconut Clover Club.
The (Not-So Bitter) Drinks of Pahit
i. Gin Pahit #2
Weirdly enough, the first taste-tester’s reaction to this drink was “kuah pasta”, not sure how that conclusion came about but if you’ve tested this drink out before, do leave a comment below stating your agreement or disagreement! It’s a very tropical drink, perfect for those summer nights. With a very zesty kick to it, there’s still some sweetness to it albeit slightly muted. An acquired drink, we recommend it to readers, come on, and relive the (less) traumatic drink a solider had to consume before heading off to kill one of our ancestors.
ii. Coconut Clover Club
Also a recommendation from Chye, this drink is for you people with a sweet tooth. With hints of white chocolate and coconut, it’s like a milkshake but like, an alcoholic version so perfect, you get to relive childhood nostalgia but still with that added (needed) kick.
Gin cocktails aside, Pahit also serves up their own fruit infused Gin & Tonic which is great for those who just want to sip on something light. We tried their Pomelo & Elderflower and Pineapple & Basil which was refreshing as could be.
With the intimacy of the housing area Pahit was situated in and how well refurbished it was, it was one of the nicer bars we went to that night. Prices were as expected in a specialty bar but no minimum orders required so that didn’t burn that big of a hole in our pockets. Of course, we also wanna thank Chye for taking the time out of his night to answer our questions.
Do drop in on Pahit as their gin drinks are really well-crafted compared to a normal bar which serves just about anything. Also, they have hosted a Gin Festival before comprising of workshops, masterclasses, tastings and basically any activity to do with gin and they plan to do one next year due to an overwhelming positive reception so you gin-loving folk, keep an eye out either on their Facebook or Instagram.
Address: 3, Jalan Sin Chew Kee, Bukit Bintang, 50150 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday closed, Tuesday – Sunday: 5pm – 1am
Telephone: 03-2110 0776
That’s all the bars we dropped on by that night, any more and we would’ve had hangovers to last us the whole working week. We hope this post gives you an idea of where to spend your weekend night, do note these bars have limited seating and are usually packed so please make a reservation beforehand to avoid any disappointment!