Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reggae Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang,Kuala Lumpur

Reggae Bar opened on Changkat Bukit Bintang just before Christmas.
Situated next door to Gypsy Bar,Reggae Bar is operated by the same guys who run the successful Reggae Bar in Chinatown.
In Chinatown,they have a virtual monopoly as there are no other bars in the vicinity but on Changkat Bukit Bintang,where there are over 30 F&B outlets chasing your cash they are going to have to work harder to make a success.
Opening night was busy,the next 3 nights when I walked past over Christmas,it was almost empty.
The only resemblance to Reggae Bar in Chinatown is the name.
The outside is covered in blue fairy lights so it's not easy to miss as it looks a bit tacky and stands out like a sore thumb.
There is a seating area outside with a few low tables and chairs whilst high tables and bar stools would have been better.Once inside,the bar-counter seems to take up 90% of the space.
It seems like a good idea,a big centre bar but it's so big that if you're sitting at the bar there is just enough space for people to walk behind you,so when it's busy and the bar was full as on opening night there was nowhere to stand without being in someones way.
There is an area at the back near the DJ console where you can stand but I'm guessing that's their intended dance floor.
Overall,it was a bit dark and the music was echoing from the bare walls.
The staff were friendly and welcoming.
Upstairs is slightly curious...
French cuisine in an almost fine-dining setting with round tables,white tablecloths and fish tanks on the wall and a small area given over to live music.
There is a large balcony that felt a bit too hot and sticky and in design belongs more to the downstairs atmosphere rather than the upstairs dining ambiance.
The beer price is disappointing with a dreaded Happy Hour system in operation.
A glass of Carlsberg is RM11.50 until 10pm and then RM 15.60 afterwards.

It seems that the concept of Reggae Bar is to compete with the more "clubby" places like The Social,Werner's,TwentyOne and the newly opened Elixir at Flams rather than to the back-packers and unpretentious pub going crowd of Reggae Bar in Chinatown.
It's always good to see new outlets open and I shall visit Reggae Bar in a few weeks once it has settled down and established itself to judge again but in all honesty it was not what I was expecting and I can't help feeling that the owners have missed an opportunity to do something a bit more adventurous.
Update 9th Feb-Reggae bar have introduced an interesting marketing strategy-during the week Monday to Thursday every night is Ladies Night which means drinks are free for women, it's probably a sickly-sweet cocktail that is barely drinkable but hey,it's free...and it seems to be working as the bar is getting busier and busier,especially later at night.
On the other hand,last weekend there were no free drinks and they had a RM40 entrance fee/cover charge-I think it was because of some special live music-so fair enough.
But if they decide on a permanent weekend cover charge just because it gets busy-well,that's another story.
Still not my cup of tea though....but I did actually hear them play some reggae music the other night......

Gypsy Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang,Kuala Lumpur

Christmas Eve 2009
A rather good,fun night in Gypsy Bar to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Things started a little slow but you need to be early if you want to lay claim to some bar-space.
The music being played early in the evening was pretty dreadful with slow and miserable xmas songs but that changed at around 10pm when the crowds came.
The staff were all dressed-up in Santa outfits and handed-out goody bags and door gifts to everyone who entered. Silly-string,snow spray and party-poppers soon filled the air.
The atmosphere was great and the crowd very friendly with a good mix of locals and expats.
The service was very good-and very prompt.The staff didn't seem to get an order wrong and the bill was correct.
Scotch drinkers who bought a bottle were able to enter a raffle-to win more scotch! quite a good ploy and even non-whisky drinkers like us were given a small bottle "on the house".
It's also worth noting that the quality of the Tiger beer has improved quite considerably.There have been times when I've had to send-back a beer because it was either flat or too warm but I understand from one of the barmen that they now store the kegs in a chilled environment so hopefully bad beer is a thing of the past.
Also noted was that after serious alcohol-fuelled experimentation that it's more cost-effective to drink mugs of Tiger for RM10 rather than pints of Tiger for RM 18.
The water supply gave-up sometime late at night so clean glasses and flushing toilets became somewhat of a problem but that didn't seem to spoil the party atmosphere.
A top night out! and only an average hangover on Christmas morning.

New Year's Eve was even better!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Only Bacon Sandwich in Kuala Lumpur ?

Lot 10 Shopping Mall, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

A rather strange topic to write about, but worthy of a mention....Lot 10 is the ugly, green eye-sore on Jalan Bukit Bintang. You can't miss it. The mall opened about 20 years ago and straight away became something of a disappointment having mediocre shops and zero atmosphere.
However,in view of increased competition from Pavillions and the soon to re-open KL Plaza,Lot 10 is going through quite a major refit.
Many new stores are planning to open next year such as Debenhams,National Geographic and some trendy celebrity named boutique clothing shops.

But of particular note are the new food and drink outlets in the basement and on the roof.
The roof now houses a gym,theatre-The Actors Studio,a nightclub, Rootz and bistro-Teeq and is billed as a "forest in the city"just because it has a little bit of turf.
The bistro,Teeq is a bit swanky and pretentious and has a rather limited and expensive menu.
Rootz is currently one of the hot places to go for the fickle club goers of KL, although who would name a nightclub on the roof of a building "Rootz"?
The place was raided in a much publicised raid late xmas eve with full TV coverage and I believe Rootz is closed at present.
You need to use the lifts at the front or back of Lot 10 to access the roof, the escalators inside the mall will eventually get you there but it's a bit tedious and involves going through the car-parking levels.
The basement,which now has street access via an escalator has a very interesting food court and is the only place in town I know where you can get a bacon sandwich.
The majority of the food stalls offer various types of Chinese and Taiwanese non-halal fare which may explain why it's so popular with the local Chinese as most food-courts in other malls are halal.
There is also a very good German food stall offering amongst other things real bacon sarnies. For RM12 you get a reasonably sized bread roll full of streaky-bacon,cheese, tomato,lettuce and dressing.
Definitely worth it!
Other dishes include various types of real German Sausages with either potato salad,sauerkraut,mash and mustard ranging in price from RM20-RM30 or you can go the whole hog! and order a pork-knuckle for two people for RM45,or a serving for one person at RM25.
And to wash it all down,amongst their beer selection they have a German beer that I've never heard of.
I was quite impressed with this place as it serves reasonably priced pork dishes in the middle of town.
What I wasn't impressed with however was the "dining ambiance" or lack of it-it's loud,echoes and has a constant loud drone of extractor fans and aircon units which keeps your clothes odour-free but makes conversation a bit of a challenge.
Apart from eating at the counter,the seating layout mixed with the hap-hazard layout of all the other food stalls is very confusing and easy to forget where you were sitting if you're in a group ordering different things from different stalls.
There is a (slightly) quieter area near the front escalators but it's not a place to linger,just eat and run.
Also worth a mention are two ground floor bars at street-level,one called Inner Circle the other BonTon. Although not destinations in themselves,they're OK if you're feeling thirsty and happen to be passing by....
Inner Circle Bar also sells non halal food and has Tiger at RM 10 a mug during the day,RM 14 after 9pm
It's a bit small and poky,has zero atmosphere but is OK for a couple of beers whilst you're watching the world go by.
BonTon is located at the back of Lot 10,has a large outside seating area and sells Carlsberg.
It's nothing special but more "open-plan" than inner Circle Bar.

There are very few places along Bukit Bintang where you can get a beer so these two establishments provide an oasis in a desert full of coffee bars, foot-massage places and tacky souvenir stalls.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beach Club,Jalan P.Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur

A sort of "institution" among the bars of Kuala Lumpur, Beach Club Cafe has been operating for about 10 years now and despite constant rumours that it's "about to close down at the end of the year" it seems to stand the test of time.
When first opened it became a venue for local office workers and party-people but these days it's almost exclusively full of working girls, guys looking for girls (locals and expats) and a few tourists (male and female).
Love it or hate it,it's a unique bar on the KL scene.
It gets a police/immigration raid maybe once every six months or so and the local authorities raid and confiscate the sound-system every now and then...all to do with "licensing problems".
At present,the overhead big screen isn't working and the sound system is of poor quality and only temporary and they don't have live bands anymore, all this courtesy of a raid back in October.
As some sort of compensation for this,Beach Club are running a Carlsberg Bottle Happy Hour promotion; 6 beers for RM55. This equates to just over RM9 per bottle and is very good value providing you order before 9pm. After 9pm a bottle costs RM26, so it pays to be a Happy Hour drinker in a place like this.
During the week it gets absolutely packed,the later the hour the more claustrophobic it can become but Sundays are a bit more relaxing.
I always feel sorry for the sharks in the tank above the bar as the vibrations must drive them crazy but I understand that when they get too big, they get transfered to the KL Aquarium.
The crowd are generally a fairly friendly bunch but it can get a bit intense when the ratio of guys to girls becomes higher and the guys feel like they have to compete for attention.
It's also not unusual to find people throwing-up in the bathrooms.
The working girls are usually very quick to take the hint that you're not interested,unless that is you're a single guy out on your own,then they can become a bit more difficult to move-on.
but by and large a night out here is trouble-free.
After 9pm or when the bouncers feel like it there is a cover charge of about RM30 including your first beer. I would avoid the draught beer as it always seems to be watered down and if you order anything from the bar staff expect to wait ages for your change as they can conveniently "forget" to hand it to you,on the other hand, the floor staff will always return with your change.
Surprisingly the food,especially the Burgers and Pisa's is pretty good whilst a taxi home will cost you a fortune,it's best to ignore the taxis parked out front and flag one down walking towards Hard Rock Cafe just around the corner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healey Mac's Irish Bar, Changkat Bukit Bintang

The latest Bar to open on Changkat Bukit Bintang, Healey Mac's is billed as an Irish Bar cum Sports Bar.
Situated right next door to the long-lasting Green Man, Healey Mac's looks exactly as you would expect, which I guess is the point.
The decor consists mainly of dark wood and sombre colours with a few trinkets and posters stuck on the walls. It's nicely done in a predictable sort of way.
The interior looks very, very similar to Finnegan's a few doors up the road. The front of the bar is light and airy, not too bright and gives a good "people-watching" view of Changkat Bukit Bintang whilst inside the aircon makes it a little too cold for comfort.I would prefer a few more high-tables and bar stools at the front,instead of tables and chairs.
There is a giant screen against the back wall and a big open space for standing room-only.
It boasts a nice long bar-counter, with TVs above for sports fans and should have a good atmosphere for watching live events,but this is a double-edged-sword as if they have the commentary switched on,and you're not interested in the game,you may want to drink-up and go elsewhere.
Upstairs has the kitchen,comfy,sofa-seating,yet another TV and a veranda/balcony giving a good view plus it's own bar,so the staff don't have to keep running up and down stairs with your order.
I guess that if the concept of an Irish Bar is good beer and good company/conversation then Healey Mac's should do OK for itself.
Beer prices are acceptable during Happy Hour (until 10pm) when a mug of Tiger is RM11, but rises to over RM15 after 10pm-I always have a problem with bars that have a two-tier pricing system but offer no extra benefit/entertainment to justify the price increase, after all, you're drinking the same beer-why charge more when it's busy?

So,at the moment you can drink in Finnegan's/Healey Mac's until 10pm and then head to Bar Ceylon, The Green Man or Gypsy Bar to enjoy their same-price-all-night approach.