Brace yourself: Damansara Heights, the place where your posh Auntie and her friends like to go to split a tiramisu five ways, has been deemed one of the “10 world’s coolest neighborhoods to visit” by Lonely Planet.
Also on the list? Places like Lisbon (oh you know, where Madonna just moved) and New York City (oh you know, the epicenter of everything cool).
I think that means we’re in great company, guys!
Lonely Planet’s Kong Wai Yeng calls it “One of the richest addresses in Kuala Lumpur,” (TRUE DAT), that’s experienced a new revitalization, yet still retained its personality.
So … cool, but still RICH.
We here at Coconuts KL have a lot of love for Damansara Heights aka Bukit Damansara.
It’s where we have our offices (the best co-working space ever, Common Ground), and also where you can find great bars, food and probably the city’s most intense workout to sweat out all the aforementioned booze and food.
Without further ado, we give you a breakdown of the area’s best watering holes, eating depots and all the nooks and crannies you need to keep it real in Bukit D.
Batai Plaza, the shopping area taken over by the Ben’s group last year, is one of the most visible new licks of paint in the ‘hood. It’s got quite a few gems inside:
- Ben’s Independent Grocer, currently the best place in the neighborhood to find expensive cheese and miscellaneous salad greens. Spend a paycheck on incredibly hard to find Spanish anchovies, imported cherries, and live with no regrets. Also, maybe with no savings.
- Just next door is Sitka, one of KL’s hottest restaurants, taking locally sourced ingredients and making them dishes to weep over. Keep your eyes peeled for their monthly supper clubs, where they team up with local creatives, and take themes like “Wes Anderson,” and translate it to your plate.
Upstairs you’ll find Sitka Studio, where it gets a lot more experimental, and also plays host to some of the hottest chefs from around the region, doing pop-ups. Like that babe chef from Cure in Singapore. Swoon. Burp.
- Merchant & Sisters on the second level is probably the only place in the city where you can read David Sedaris, while getting a haircut, then a tattoo, drink a latte, and then buy some dope clothes. They call themselves “purveyors of good taste,” the kind of statement that leaves one open to snarky writers who love nothing more than to point out subjectivity and relativity, but … their stuff is actually nice, OK?
- Feeling a bit sluggish? Like those clothes you just bought at Merchant & Sisters aren’t hanging like they should? Welcome to FIRESTATION.fit, where Kuala Lumpur’s yummiest mummies and gym bunnies come to get whipped, and we mean whipped, into shape. Classes are bought in packages ranging from 5 to 50. First class starts at 6AM, and the small numbers mean you get extra attention from instructors who have no problem telling you to push harder. On the plus side, you’ll look and feel great after. On the downside? You need to book your class in advance, and a no-show means you lose that class, no refunds, no pain, no gain.
Go deeper into the residential areas and you’ll find new favorites and old classics.
A few of our honest to goodness, we are not paid to even suggest this, fav restaurants:
- Flour, a North Indian restaurant that will have you craving their briyani for weeks to come, and don’t get us started on the mutton. Honestly, some of the best in the city, but please don’t share that superlative with our mother. Their chef and staff are also lovely.
- Via Pre Kul, one of Penang’s most-beloved Italian eateries has come to Kuala Lumpur, and we’ve been ordering the burrata ever since. Their charcuterie platter is halal, and so incredible – I think we need to spend some time on this part – that you will not think twice about it being a lesser version to its porcine iteration. Flavorful, excellent quality. I’ll stop now. Just go.
- Huckleberry Food & Fare. Remember I mentioned that in Bukit Damansara you might run into your Auntie, having coffee with her friends, one dessert, 5 forks? It would probably be here. There’s a reason: amazing breads, brunch, great cakes especially for a larger-scale bakery, strong coffee, and at night you can get an entirely different menu that includes, and is not limited to, great wings.
If there is anything that Damansara Heights does great, it’s their bars and pubs. The kind of places you can go any night of the week and run into familiar faces, or make new friends. This is really where the neighborhood shines, and makes it such a great place to spend long, blurry days into nights.
- Sid’s Pub, where you will find the friendliest owner, and bon vivant patrons, ready to debate whatever sport is on TV. Fancy watching an odd-hours match or fight, live? Come to Sid’s – unofficially the best place to do just that. Patrons will be pouring out on to the patio, lager in hand, wondering whether or not it’s socially acceptable to eat fries at 7AM (yes, it is).
- Aria, and its sister location El Cuarto. Go to El Cuarto if you fancy opening a bottle of whiskey, and seeing where the night goes. Take yourself to the upstairs bit of Aria just down the road if you already know where the night is going, and that is GOING HARD. Staying open until the wee hours is not unheard of, and the soundtrack is whatever you fancy, as long as you can muscle in onto that YouTube playlist they have rolling.
- And if you know what’s good in life, like rum, and want to listen to the best music you can shake a stick at, and your bum to, you go to JungleBird. How to begin to describe it? You can read an earlier review here, from when they had just opened. Since then, they’ve grown into being one of KL’s best venues for a night out that will leave you with more friends than when you came. That’s saying something. Their bartenders have the best banter, and if you order the rum old fashioned OR daiquiri, you will be rewarded. Make sure you don’t drive because you’ll probably have more than two drinks, and it’s more fun when you don’t have to worry about that.
The newly opened DC mall has a lot to offer. We at Coconuts KL only recommend places that we have been, and so far, it’s been limited to Nero Nero and Locker Room, and that was just yesterday.
Full report: The quatro fromaggi pizza, and the fried calamari at Nero Nero are perfect for sharing with a friend. Bring your own chili flakes, like we did, because we didn’t find theirs strong enough. They offer a happy hour of Carlsberg.
We’re wine drinkers, so we went to Locker Room. CHILD. The place was packed, and we just about doubled over and died when they told us our happy-hour Chardonnay was RM15 a glass. Asahi? RM20 per pint. And its from 4pm-10pm EVERY DAY.
I can’t believe I am sharing this with the wider public, and risking never being able to get a chair there ever again, but so are the sacrifices that we writers sometimes make.
Go. Now. Also, Uber/Grab/ask you Mom to drive you home.
BONUS PART DEUX!
We live in the tropics, it’s hot but there’s not always sun. Or maybe you just know about how ageing UV damage can be and need a spray tan that will leave you golden ochre, and never oompa loompa. Tucked away in a quiet nook is The London Orchid salon. The owner’s calm voice, and impressive urban garden, will leave you totally relaxed while you get golden. She knows her stuff, and you will leave beautiful.