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Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur

KL Old China Cafe
The Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur is one of the very interesting nostalgic eateries in Malaysia, which takes you back in time into the 1930s.

Opened in 1996 initially as an antique gallery cum restaurant, this Melaka Peranakan style restaurant evolved into a full restaurant serving authentic Peranakan Baba-Nyonya dishes.

This Old Cafe is also located in one of Kuala Lumpur's old pre-war utilitarian buildings which dates back to 1917 in the Chinatown area or Petaling Street as it is locally known.

KL Old China Cafe

Kuala Lumpur Old China CafeOld China Cafe swinging wooden bar doors

Old China Cafe has also managed to maintain almost all of the original fittings and trimmings of the former guild hall of the Laundry Association of Kuala Lumpur back in the day.

The wooden swinging bar doors on hinges take you back in time immediately as you step into this premises.

Interior of Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur1930s ambiance inside

This has been my 3rd visit over the span of 10 years to the Old China Cafe and everything remained the same.

As you walk in, you will be greeted by popular Chinese songs from the 1920s while the entire place looks like a movie set from the same era.

Authentic Peranakan marble table and chairs fill the cafe while memorabilia from eight decades back are tastefully laid throughout the place.

Old China Cafe Photo Kuala LumpurFilled with various interesting items

Having taken my seat a one of the larger marble tables, I could not help but gawk at the amazing decorations on the walls.

Large feng shui mirrors are placed on both sides of the seasoned sepia toned walls while various fading pictures from the early days are lined on top.

Even the poker table lamps were authentic porcelain antiques. Stained glass occupy the two windows that shed natural light into the cafe.

KL Old China Cafe BarClassic Wooden bar

Looking towards the back end of the shop lot, I see an old antique wooden bar accompanied by a wooden bar-back filled with bottles of wine and glasses juxtaposed by a draft beer tap, a modern telephone and the cash register which was computerized.

Even the walls looked like they have not been painted for the last 50 years, which gave this place a lot of character.

Kuala Lumpur Pai Tee Top HatOld China Cafe famous Pai Tee or Top Hat

Food At Old China Cafe

A paper menu was given to us by one of the workers there and without hesitation, I ordered the famous Nyonya Pai Tee (Top Hat), a Nyonya appetiser which has always been my favourite Melaka dish.

The Top Hat is actually deep fried wheat flour and the condiments are bean sprouts, shredded turnip, carrots and dried shrimp with a side dish of chili.

Honestly, this place serves one of the best Top Hats in the country. Eating this Baba-Nyonya delicacy is tricky as one needs to fill the top hat with the ingredients given and then down it in one go.

If you try to take small bites, it would probably fall all over the table. Details of the local dishes are at end of this posting.

Kuala Lumpur Peranakan Nasi LemakPeranakan Nasi Lemak

While the cafe is famous for their Melaka (Malacca) Style Assam Laksa, I am not a big fan of this so I went ahead with my usual order of the Peranakan Style *Nasi Lemak with Rendang Chicken.

What makes this dish special is the blue colour of the rice which is actually an extract of a flower which is used to dye the rice.

Photo of Jiu Hu CharNyonya Jiu Hu Char

Now, this is one for the famous Nyonya food dish called Jiu Hu Char which has no English name. The dish however is pretty fascinating to try as a first timer.

Jiu Hu Char is actually stir fried shredded turnip, carrots, cuttlefish, mushrooms and chicken served with a batch of fresh lettuce and a side dish of chili.

In order to enjoy this dish, you take a fresh piece of lettuce and fill it with the contents given. Chili to taste and then wrap it up anyway you like and pop it in your mouth.

Old China Cafe Coffee Kuala Lumpur Great coffee at Old China Cafe KL

My entourage had also ordered some other dishes like Nyonya fried vermicelli (Mee Hoon), Curry Mee (Noodle Curry) and I had to try the coffee once again which was pretty decent though I like my coffee with ice and milk.

The hot coffee is pretty nice while it is served in authentic coffee shop styled cups from the sixties.

Photo of Old China Cafe KLOverall view from the stairs

For the record, the washroom is located upstairs on the first floor of the old pre-war building. A wooden staircase at an angle of 60% leads you to the once antique gallery and washroom.

Getting up and down can be a little hard for those who have climbing problems or weak knees.

1st Floor Old China Cafe
The first floor multi purpose hall

In the former antique gallery, rows of classic chairs are arranged for what looks like a mini convention of some sort. I guess you could book the top floor for a mini gathering or a private function with a feel of the sixties.

What Malaysia Asia thinks about this place;
  • Worth a visit if you have not been here or if you are in the city of KL.
  • Ambiance is awesome, food is great and not too expensive.
  • Beers are served and the place is non-halal (pork served).
  • An interesting visit if you are an antique lover.
  • Interesting place to photograph, but sit down and have a drink at least.
  • If you exploring Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, just pop in for a cup of coffee and experience this hard-to-find nostalgia.
*Nasi Lemak is a coconut flavoured rice meal where the rice is cooked in coconut milk made aromatic with pandan leaves (Screwpine Leaves).

Served usually with Sambal Ikan Bilis which are fried dried small anchovies and cooked in a dry sambal chili sauce.

Garnishing include sliced cucumbers, a hard boil egg and roasted or fried peanuts. Malaysians eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper.

Meal for two - RM60+ (US$20+)
Coffee/Tea for two - RM10 (US$3.30)
Draft Beer - RM12 (US$4)

Old China Cafe Address;
11, Jalan Balai Polis,
50000 Kuala Lumpur
Telephone: +603-2072 5915
Opening Hours: 11.30 AM to 10.30 PM
Website of the Old China Cafe Kuala Lumpur

Map to Old China Cafe Kuala Lumpur

View Old China Cafe Kuala Lumpur in a larger map


For a nostalgic journey through time, one of the best known places of Kuala Lumpur can be found right here in the Chinatown district, also known as Petaling Street.

Walking in will definitely put you in awe as this is a replica of how the original old cafes of KL used to look like. 

Though it is not located in the main business core area, you can explore this area on foot until you find the Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur.


Nicholas Leong said...

Never knew about this place. Time to dust off the gPS and find it :)

Andrew Wong said...

Awesome pictures! I was there the day before I left to go home to Seattle earlier this year in February.

The Malaysian Explorer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Malaysian Explorer said...

Hi David, I must commend you on an excellent write up of this restaurant. You make it so interesting it really creates an urge for me to visit it soon. (I've to confess, I've not been there but know about it, being a KL resident).

I especially like the way the jue hu char is presented. Hope the sambal is as good as the one my mum makes ;).

David, I wonder if you would allow me to feature this write up on my website about Kuala Lumpur? I'd like to add it as the 29th place in the Kuala Lumpur Attractions page. Will credit you for the article of course.

shloke said...

The bardoors are UNIQUE! It reminds me of the cowboys movies :) The interior is STUNNING! Very Malaccan.

David! I'm HUNGRY NOW!

Thanks for sharing!

Robo said...

It's awesome!! Thanks for the recommendation David, I'm sure will visit it in the future! I just Love the Swinging Bar door, the antique decoration of the Cafe.
Do you have the coordinates?
The photos well captured by you! :)

Robo said...

Oh! It's ok, I got the GPS coordinates now...

Malaysia Asia said...

Nicholas, please visit this place if you like this sort of settings, no regrets.

Andrew, glad you had a taste of this before heading back home :) I wonder if there is anything close to this there?

About Malaysia, sure thing . Please do link it with your Attractions Page. Nice site you have there too.

Mylo, awesome eh? So hard to see outlets with these kind of doors nowadays. BTW, I have submitted this post for BlogfotFT...finally.

Robo, When you visit KL, do let me know and we can check it out together. BTW, can you give me the GPS coords too? I did not get it on my visit.


shloke said...

David! Your blog entry has been approved. VOTED 10 STARS :)

Remember to submit more entries to blog4FT - chances of winning will be higher!

Good Luck!

Victor said...

yum, Yum, YUm, YUM! David, I love Nyonya food. I have never thought of eating Jiu Hu Char as lettuce wrap. That is a great idea, and I will probably improvise by adding a bit of fresh cut chili.

Malaysia Asia said...

Mylo, thanks man. More entries? Hmm.... got to think hard too.

Victor, I didnt know Jiu Hu Char was eaten just like that? Interesting and thanks for the insight.


Robo said...

Hi David,
I just roughly point it in the Mapsource according from the map provided form their website. Might not 100% accurate, anyway...the coordinates : N3 08.483 E101 41.834

curryegg said...

Wow.. this is cool. I shall check this out. Make me mouth watering.. ;)
Btw, your blog has changed a lot and it looks more professional now. Bravo.. :D

Luray va accommodations said...

Wow!! Great post, the first 3 taken in Old China Cafe in Petaling Street its a very very nice place a muct go if you are in Petaling Street. I recommended many foreign friends to visit and they loved it so much...


Sydney Hotels said...

Great job David...such a lovely blog. keep it up

Malaysia Asia said...

Robo, thanks for the GPS Coordinates for the Old China Cafe. Appreciate it.

Curryegg, thank you Curry, yes, I put in a new template to give it a more professional look and you should check the Old China Cafe out when you can.

Luray, that is awesome! This is one of the places in Petaling Street that has great charm.

Sydney Hotels, thank you very much.


shloke said...

Congrats David for your winning entry!! You've beaten all other similar submissions on food review!

Great Job!

Malaysia Asia said...

Mylo, thank you so much. Came to me as a surprise too. Hope I can submit one more entry though.


yoon see said...

Congrats on blog4FT winning for the Public Catergory David Jr!

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello YoonSee, thank you so much.


Nick Matyas said...

Its really nice post....
I was searching this kind of posting .....
I just liked it....


Malaysia Asia said...

Nick, thank you very much and hope you follow my blog.


louisebah said...

What a gem!! thanks for the info!

Amie said...

Nice article, traveled to Malaysia twice, but didn't recognize this place. In the next trip will go to this restaurant....thanks for a gorgeous info....

Unknown said...

The place looks so quaint and the dishes are mouth watering. Are there other places like these? I have booked at hotels in Kuala Lumpur and as a foodie would want to visit them.

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