Calanthe Art Cafe has been around for about 12 years now and is particularly known for serving coffee blends that represent the 13 states in Malaysia. When I stepped inside, I was greeted by its warm, woody and eclectic decor – think homey, with a hippie twist.
After contemplating the menu, I ended up choosing the Melaka Ice Blended, one of their recommended beverages (it also comes in the form of kopi and kopi o). In the menu, it’s described as ‘finely roasted and blended with less sugar content, giving you a bittersweet heritage coffee’. It came served with ice cream and coffee jelly cubes, which I really enjoyed! I’d say that this is one of their milder flavours, and would even appeal to those who aren’t fans of coffee. I’m proud to say that after having this drink, I’m an official #coffeeconvert now!
My sweet tooth had to be satisfied too, so I went for another one of the all-time favourites, the Gula Melaka on Toast (pan-grilled French toast drizzled with Gula Melaka syrup and served with banana slices, whipped cream and ice cream). This turned out to be a filling and super-delicious platter that should gratify any sugar cravings.
I also sampled another bestseller, the creamy curry butter chicken with rice–I could definitely taste the spices in this dish! There was a ‘coffee butter chicken’ variety too, which I’d definitely try if I was feeling a little more adventurous!
Creamy Curry Butter Chicken, RM13.20
3. Backlane Coffee
Where: 129 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Malacca
Opening hours: 9:00am to 12:00am (Sunday –Thursday), 9:00am to 1:00am (Friday and Saturday)
This café is located behind amongst the back lanes of Jonker Street, hence its name. It’s a little inconspicuous from the sidewalk of Jonker Street but with a little help from Google Maps and a helpful sign, you should be able to find it! Make your way past a few boutiques and kiosks and you’ll see the café, recognisable by its cosy, antique-modern interior… as well as the bright red, illuminated letter figures by the window spelling out BACKLANE COFFEE. It’s pleasantly air-conditioned, with light filtering in from the windows facing the back lane and comfortable couches; all in all, a perfect escape from the sweltering afternoon heat.
The cafe’s most famous beverage is the Mr Owl Iced Latte, named as such for its adorable owl-shaped coffee ice cubes. The coffee is served in three separate components: the coffee ice cubes, a small pitcher of cold milk and a glass jar of syrup sugar. It is up to the customer to ‘assemble’ the latte to their liking by pouring as much milk as they want at a time, and to add as much sugar as they’d like. I finished the drink in a few gulps; serving size is a little small, but definitely refreshing!
Mr Owl Iced Latte, RM13
Instead of the heavier meals on offer at Backlane, I ordered two small cakes to complement the coffee. The Chocolate Desire is essentially a chocolate mousse cake, soft and very sweet with a glazed chocolate coating. The Blackberry Mousse Cheese has a yoghurt topping, with a subtle berry flavour in the middle and a crunchy, buttery biscuit bottom layer. I’m not usually a fan of yoghurt or cheesecake, but I’d say the yummy biscuit base balanced out the more sour flavours of the cake.
L-R: Blackberry Mousse Cheese, RM12, and Chocolate Desire, RM13
If I lived in Malacca, Backlane would definitely be my go-to hangout spot with friends!
4. Straits Affair
Where: 1 Jalan Tukang Besi, 75200 Malacca
Opening hours: 11:00am to 6:00pm, closed on Wednesdays
Maybe I’m a little nostalgic but with several brand-new cafés serving experimental fusion recipes popping up all over Malaysia in recent years, there are times where I crave something simpler. From the outside, this place is fairly nondescript, especially in contrast to the colourful Kiehl’s Jonker Walk mural and brightly painted Orangutan House art and souvenir shop across the road. On the inside, it’s quite simple too, with a trickling Zen fountain, posters on the wall advertising the café’s history, lace doilies and porcelain tea sets. As the décor suggests, this café comes with a lot of history! It was opened by Isaac Tan, an eighth generation Baba and fourth generation Nyonya, whose ancestor Tan Hay Kwan arrived in Malacca from Fujian, China in 1771. Isaac’s aim is to give Malaccan locals and tourists a taste of traditional food that his Peranakan ancestors have savoured all those years ago.
I initially wanted to try the best-selling apom berkuah (Peranakan pancakes served with a special homemade sauce made up of premium Gula Melaka and banana) but as they were all sold out, Isaac advised us to go the with Pang Su Sie tea set instead. Pang Su Sie (pang which means bread used by the Kristang Portuguese-Malaccan community, and ‘Su Sie’ being the name of the original recipe developer) is a sweet potato bun with a glazed bread-like outer layer. Made out of Nyonya spiced chicken and potatoes, the flavour reminds me of a cross between a mince pie and a curry puff. Straits Affair is actually only one of two vendors selling this dish in Malacca today. The buns went well with my choice of hot peppermint tea!
Peranakan Pang Su Sie Tea Set, RM14.50
I also ordered an Ice Ball, crushed ice flavoured with sweet flavoured syrup. The options at Straits Affair are rose, Sarsi and grape; you can order either a combination of all three flavours, two flavours, or just one. As I don’t really like rose, I ordered a combination of Sarsi and grape. Reminiscent of the traditional desserts that I indulged in as a kid, its appeal lies in its simplicity, as there are no fancy toppings or complicated flavours!
Sarsi and Grape Ice Ball (small), RM3
5. Root Pâtisserie Café
Where: 57 Jalan KL 3/8, Taman Kota Laksamana, Seksyen 3, 75200 Malacca
Opening hours: 1:00pm to 6:00pm and 7:30pm to 11:30pm
Root Pâtisserie Cafe
Away from the bustling city centre, Root Pâtisserie is located amongst some fairly low-key shop lots opposite a housing area. They are well known for their desserts, which range from simple crowd-pleasers like chocolate cake, to cutesy concoctions like the rainbow layer cake with white frosting and rainbow sprinkles. They also specialise in customised creations for special occasions!
I went with a pretty Crème Caramel pudding, garnished with caramel sauce, biscuit sticks and strawberries. As caramel puddings go, this one did not disappoint but if you really don’t like sweet stuff then I’d suggest you pick something else.
Crème Caramel, RM9
Upon recommendation from the staff, I also selected the Tropical Tart to try out. Some might even say it looks unappetising, because of its green colour, but this dessert exemplifies the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ perfectly. Its pandan and pineapple filling and soft, crumbly texture reminds me of one of my favourite Chinese New Year treats, pineapple tarts. I really recommend ordering this with ice cream: every bite of the warm tart, contrasted with the cold ice cream, is just heavenly!
Tropical Tart, RM9.50, with additional ice cream scoop, RM3
One of their signature dishes is the Coco de Cocoa Churros with Salted Egg Yolk Dip (RM22). Unfortunately, when I arrived at the café, their kitchen was closing up, so I wasn’t able to try it out!
If I wanted a quiet getaway to read a book or finish up some work in peace whilst indulging in my guilty pleasure, cake, I’d come here for sure.