By Ili Aqilah & Tan Mei Kuan
Ipoh’s star was shining brightly when we became the only city in Malaysia to be listed 6th in the exclusive ‘Best Asian Destination to visit in 2016’ by Lonely Planet alongside with Hokkaido, Shanghai, Jeonju and more. Add to this recognition, Perak being named as the 9th top region to visit (in the world!) in 2017 shortly after, by the same extremely popular global advocate on travel, and next year’s ‘Visit Perak Year 2017’ is going to see Ipoh reaching a pinnacle in brightness not seen since its glory days of tin mining.
While Ipohites have always treasured Ipoh, it was the renewed vibrancy of ‘Old Town’ with a fresh buzz including new hotels, craft shops, museums, restaurants and cafes that produced the Lonely Planet listing, creating sudden fame for Ipoh – a fame that Ipoh Echo can proudly take credit for contributing towards. After all, Ipoh Echo has for the past years, been diligently scouring the city and reporting on all the happenings, and written hundreds of articles on the myriad of activities, sights and sounds of this awakening city as well as the larger Perak state. Not to mention discovering and exploring little known tourist sights, eateries, restaurants and cafes.
“The spark is finally returning to the time-worn neighbourhoods of Ipoh” – Lonely Planet
Contributing to the renaissance of Ipoh are the cafes, hotels, eateries making a visit to ‘Old Town’ an exciting exploration. Currently there are more than 50 local cafes with their own quirky vibes and specialties that are bringing both domestic and international tourists to the area. Although decisions were difficulty at first, the Ipoh Echo Team managed to track down the five hottest cafes in town that offered more than just good food and drinks but also a great ambiance.
Burps & Giggles
Pioneering the blooming café scene in Old Town is Burps & Giggles, a socially vibrant space that has always been more than just a coffee shop. “We began in September 2012. What has kept people coming back since we started were our burgers as tourists and locals love them. We still maintain our staple drinks of coffee and juices. From time to time, we’ll shake things up a bit by introducing pizzas and pastas,” Dexter Song, the owner told Ipoh Echo.
Rustic, eclectic and quirky, the café’s design came about from his family’s many travels where recyclable items were re-purposed with flair.
“Our focus these days is increasing the awareness of Old Town and of what we can contribute to the town. Together with Tourism Perak and Quest University, we are organising a massive recycling project called ‘Green for Ipoh’ where local artists are invited to use recyclables to create murals, art landscape and ornaments. The four-weekend affair begins Saturday, November 26. Free of charge, it features crafters, arts workshops for kids, green promoters to educate the public on the environmental movement, poetry reading and busking,” the amiable Dexter explained.
Prior to this, they have hosted flea markets and fundraisers. “With only cafes, it is not enough to kick-start Ipoh again. We need to kick it up with arts and go beyond retail. There needs to be an educational side to things. Hopefully, there will be other young entrepreneurs out there to continue the momentum,” he added.
The food style here has a Western lean with noteworthy mentions of Jammy (a sweet, juicy Angus cut burger – RM19); Poulet (grilled paprika chicken burger – RM19), Greeko (lamb burger with red pepper sauce – RM19) and Cheeky Mushy Pizza (baguette-style pizza with roasted chicken and trio mushrooms – RM17).
Burps & Giggles seats 50 comfortably with private sections available. Pork-free.
Operating days and hours: Every day except Tuesdays. (Weekdays 10am-6pm, weekends 9.30am-7pm)Address: (Behind Kong Heng) 93 & 95 Jalan Sultan Yussuf, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.Contact no: 05 242 6188 Instagram: @burps.and.giggles
The Happy Eight Retreat
Begun in August 2013, this one-of- a-kind boutique hotel offers accommodation upstairs and an Instagram-worthy café downstairs.
Brewed coffee beans are sourced from Taiwan and given the final touch in house, inspired by coffee culture of countries all over the world. The all-time favourites are Vietnamese Coffee (RM15.50 hot, RM16.50 cold), Iced Water Drip Coffee (RM23.50 cold) and Manual Drip Coffee (RM16.50).
“You cannot find these types of coffees in major coffee chains and other average cafes. Skills and mood determine the taste of our coffee. The most enjoyable moment for our guests is that first sip of coffee the moment they wake up,” Tan Kai Lek, the director, highlighted. For their juices and smoothies, they are made with freshly blended fruit with no sugar added.
The Ipoh Echo team absolutely adores their delicate Taiwanese Dumplings bursting with juicy chicken, prawn and vegetable filling (RM17.50 for 8 pieces). Their breakfast Flatbread Wrap (RM20.50), Spaghetti Chicken Chop Special set lunch (RM25.50) and Lemongrass Chicken Chop Rice (RM29.50) are equally worth a review. Pork free. If you’re one with a sweet tooth, the Black Forest (RM14.90 per slice) and Moist Chocolate (RM13.90) will have you weak at the knees.
Tan upcycles discarded materials like wood, stone, glass, plastic, straw, metal and others into beautiful art pieces which become the major highlights of the cafe. Among the pieces we spotted exuding old charm and character are the unique three-legged chairs, a creation of Tan’s.
Opening hours: Opens daily (Sunday to Thursday, 9am to 10pm, Fridays & Saturdays, 9am to 11pm)Address: No. 46, Market Street, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.Contact no: 05 2438388 / 241 8288Facebook: facebook.com/thehappy8cafe
Lim Ko Pi
Serving a real treat of Nanyang comfort food, the tall and red building Lim Ko Pi is located at Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street) next to Sarang Paloh Boutique Hotel.
What started as a restoration project, the idea for the cafe came out of the blue from Lee Yoke Chee, known to many as Mrs Lim.
“It was my eldest daughter, Betsy Lim Bay Sie who started it all. She asked me how are we going to let the public see the old buildings we have restored. A foodie myself, I suggested the idea to open up the first Lim Ko Pi,” said Mrs Lim.
Established in 2011, visitors who come to Lim Ko Pi definitely need to try their signature Triple Meat Curry Noodle; a combination of barbecue pork, roasted pork and shredded chicken meat, priced at RM6.80. Not a fan of Yellow Mee? Lim Ko Pi also provides a selection of different noodles to cater to your needs such as Bee Hoon, Hor Fun, Lai Fun, Thick Wantan Noodle, Glass Noodle and many more. There are also options for sauces to go with the noodles such as Curry, Dry Curry, Soup and Black Sauce. There are also options for vegetarians such as Vegetarian Mee Curry (RM8.80) that comes with tau fu, aubergine and long beans.
While sitting in the historical building that was built back in 1930, sipping on a cup of Lim Ko Pi’s Coffee 98 priced at RM3.50 (Hot), RM3.90 (Cold) while enjoying their wide selection of homemade pao such as Black Sesame ‘O’ Pao (RM2.50), Pumpkin Creamy Custard Pao (RM2.50), Plain Mantao (RM2.80), Wholemeal Savory Mantao (RM3.10) is a step into nostalgia.
Almost everything at Lim Ko Pi are homemade including roast pork, whole meal bread and curry. Another must try menu at Lim Ko Pi is their signature Ice Kacang (shaved ice served with sweet sides) priced at RM5 which comes together with home made jelly, cincau (grass jelly), corns, peanuts, cendol (green jelly) and gula melaka syrup.
Lim Ko Pi opens every Tuesday till Sunday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The restaurant also has lunch set menus and the air-well sections are available for booking to cater up to 60 to 80 people.
Lim Ko Pi is located at 10, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, 30000, Ipoh Perak and can be contacted at 05-2532898 (non-halal)
Feel at home in TWT, a tea café nestled away in Medan Ipoh Bistari that is perfect for family dining and friendly gatherings. Its homely touches include a faux fireplace, long flowing curtains filtering the sunlight, a shelf brimming with collectibles, hanging photo frames and warm neutral-hued walls.
Tea lovers will be spoilt for caffeine, caffeine-free and cold tea choices. The leaves are imported from England, Japan and China and blended in-house. TWT’s signature caffeine-free teapot is Serene Garden (RM13.80 per pot for 2 pax), a sweet blend to boost your day with its blend of premium roses, osmanthus flowers and lavender.
Due to the overwhelming response, Serene Garden, Soothing Chamomile (a rich blend of chamomile flowers, peppermint and rose petals), Elegant Lavender Forest (black tea with floral character) and Osmanthus Black Jasmine (finest black tea blend with sweet aroma) are now available prepacked at RM36 per box for 16 silken sachets. Plus, there is a tea time promotion where every order of two pieces of desserts will come with a complimentary pot of flower tea.
An interior designer, Stephanie Chai runs the pork-free café established in 2014 together with her husband. Also featuring fusion western food infused with Japanese, Korean and Malaysian elements, their homemade must-tries are Forest Mushroom Soup (RM13.50), Korean Chic (RM24.50), King Prawn Aglio Olio (RM29.50) and Classic Meat Lover Pizza (RM30.50). Their dessert selections change daily with preorders available for custom made ones. One should not give the all-time favourite, Greentea Lava with Milk Gelato (RM15), a miss. Did we mention that there will be daily fresh-baked homemade Christmas cookies this tinsel season?
Operating days and hours: Every day except Tuesdays, 12pm to 10pmAddress: 30 Jalan Medan Ipoh 1D, Medan Ipoh Bistari, 31400 Ipoh.Contact no: 05 541 7176Instagram: twt.teacafeFacebook: facebook.com/twt.teacafe
Everyday Life Shop
Shop while you dine every time you visit Everyday Life Shop; established on December 2014, the cafe offers each visitor a taste you won’t find elsewhere, “All the food and desserts are made based on our very own recipes. We make and bake our own cakes and other desserts including our signature scones set,” said owner Tan Boon Leong who partnered with Keatt Lee to open the cafe.
The concept in Everyday Life Shop definitely makes them different from other cafes. Not only does the cafe have food and drinks, customers can also check out their clothing, baby-wear, bags, home decorations and home fragrances; all under their brand.
Among must-try desserts at the cafe are their Lava Cake (RM16.80) that is served together with ice cream a warm dessert with gooey chocolate sauce hidden inside, Mix Berry Cheesecake (RM16.80) and scones (RM12.80) that come together with butter and special berry jam. Coffee lovers will definitely need to try their Affogato (RM16.80), vanilla ice cream served with two shots of espresso and their wide range of coffees available throughout the day.
“For our Water Drip Coffee, we have Tanzania Shiviwaka, Kenya Mugaga, Sumatra Mandheling, Ethiopia Misty Valley and Ethiopia Ammo Kacca beans that are guaranteed to blow minds,” added Tan. Among other drinks recommended by Tan are the Frozen Matcha Oreo (RM18) and Frozen Lady in Pink (RM16).
The cafe also provides a few savoury options such a Barbecue Chicken Burger (RM23.80), Smoked Duck Sandwich (RM16.80) and their all new breakfast sets, Grand Breakfast (RM25) that comes with 2 turkey hams, cheese sausage, jumbo sausage, scrambled egg, baked beans, hash browns, fruity salads and croissant.
The pork-free cafe has the capacity to fit up to 25 pax inside and 10 pax open air. Although there is no private room, the cafe is able to cater to more pax by special booking. Customers can also buy whole cheese cakes for birthdays or other events by ordering three days in advance.
Everyday Life Shop is located at No 29, Jalan Market, 30000, Ipoh Perak and can be contacted at 05 241 2197 or visit their instagram at www.instagram.com/everyday_lifeshop or their website at www.lifeshopatelier.com.
Food for Thought
The Ipoh Echo team is proud of how undeniably good and tasty the food is at these cafes. Not only are they instagram-able but the fact that it is made by locals and Ipohites made us realise that there is such a big potential in the food industry in Ipoh. From local cafes, to fine dining to community food trucks, Ipoh’s food is definitely a contributing factor to why tourists keep on coming!