Back portion of Merchant's Lane. Image by Lyn Ong.
Back portion of Merchant’s Lane. Image by Lyn Ong.

What is it?

Opened a few months ago, Merchant’s Lane is a café tucked quietly above an old stationery shop in a pre-war building near Chinatown. The café serves up a comforting mixed palette of East meets West flavours in their dishes, with meals like Italian Chow Mein and Hongkie Beef Stew.

There is no obvious signage, so look for ATC (Advance Tertiary College) and Merchant’s Lane will be next to it. Once you climb the stairs, you’ll find a cosy space with an unabashedly nostalgic look. The café balances vibrant accents of pink and teal with traditional rattan chairs and other old fashioned trinkets, many of which are sourced from Malacca. Outside, an open air bridge connects the front of the café to a more secluded area.

From left: Tommy, Danial and Kenneth. Tommy and Danial are part of the team working at Merchant's Lane.
From left: Tommy Lee, Danial Loong and Kenneth Tan. Tommy and Danial are part of the team working at Merchant’s Lane.

Who is it?

There are three of them: Kenneth Tan, Yong Sau Jin and Ken Ho Kok Hoong, though the face you’ll see around most often at Merchant’s Lane is mostly likely Kenneth’s. Yong and Ken also run the Butter + Beans franchise outlet in OUG. Kenneth used to work part time for them in between studies.

“I told them, I wanted to do something like this on my own as well. They they were like ‘why don’t we do it together?’” This idea eventually led them to search for a place to start up a new café along Jalan Petaling, because Ken’s father owns a wholesale business just down the road.

The shoplot used to be a brothel before it was abandoned, red lights and all. But the Merchants Lane team took a fancy to it and tasked young architects Kyle E and Jun Ong with designing the space. “We wanted to pay respect to the age of the building,” says Kyle, explaining how the building’s structure has been largely left in tact, while pieces found there were salvaged for reuse. A neon pink light in the stairwell nods to the shop’s past and adds a playful touch.

South China Sea.
South China Sea.

Go For

Hongkie Beef Stew. It is a flavoursome, hearty dish that feels indulgent but is not heavy. The beef is slow-cooked for 12 hours and served on house made mashed potato with lots of gravy. Other popular dishes include the South China Sea (poached eggs with grilled salmon fillet) and Italian Chow Mein (chicken rendang served on spaghetti).

Italian Chow Mein.
Italian Chow Mein.

Eat With

Friends from the Instagram crowd. This place is picture perfect with its old world style décor (the film In The Mood For Love was an inspiration) and different sections (smoking, non-smoking) stretching out to the back. It is quickly gaining traction among the cafe hopping crowd for both its food and décor. “One guy photographed his food for an hour before he ate it!” says Kyle.

Price

Meals average in around RM20 – RM 25. Coffees are about RM10.

Merchant’s Lane 美真林, 150, Jalan Petaling, 50000 Kuala Lumpur. Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 10.30am – 8pm. Find out more here.

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Cat in the Box cafe in Empire Damansara. Photo: Ling Low.