Written by Beverley Lennon
So you’ve been to the best bars and clubs around Robertson Quay, Boat Quay/Circular Road and Clarke Quay in Singapore or the ones along TREC and Changkat in KL; by now you surely must be so tired of them right? Always the same crowd and atmosphere, plus it’s costing you a lot to simply have some fun and booze with friends!
Now, what if we told you that you could drive to JB with your squad to uncover secret bars hidden behind easily-missed entrances? Time for a night out at the inside track – JB has been swimming in speakeasy bars tucked in darkness and it’s no surprise that you’ve easily walked past them on your multiple trips around the city (especially with Ah-Ma for grocery shopping😉)!
Some of them require a password to enter while others are shrouded behind curtains and wardrobes but one thing is for sure – they all guarantee a sneaky night out under the radar! Now, it’s time for us to reveal the top hidden speakeasy bars in JB with secret doors and most importantly, clues to find them!
Can you find all eight of them? You’ll have to read in between the lines to decipher all the clues we’re giving below and put your detective glasses on to spot some with real secret entrances! Your mission begins!
1. This is not your regular tailor shop – 90 Tailor Bar (90洋服.龟来bar)
Getting your wedding suit done in JB might be a good option to save some bucks, right? You can rent a suit for just RM 50 per day here (approximately SGD $16.50). But that isn’t all! Besides being deemed as Malaysia’s cheapest suit rental shop, 90 Tailor Bar might also be another good spot to chug down some booze! Pssst! Over here! Yes, this tailor shop hides a bar in its closet!
We simply adore its run-down look that quite reminds us of “The Kingsman” – interiors are shabby chic and hipster retro at the same time; plus you get some hot guy welcoming you before being transported to ancient times!
1. Once at the shop, suit up and “Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the most handsome of them all”? The answer’s often in the place you least expect it to be!2. This cafe by day turns into a bar by night! – Cabinet 8 by JWC
Coffee shops serving alcohol might be the new trend in JB as this cafe by day turns into a bar by night! And this one is hidden in a closet!
During the day, the place is commonly known as The Bear And Fish, so it takes a whole new label at night to become Cabinet 8 by JWC – it’s so hidden and secret, with few people in, that you might feel as though it is an almost-illegal place to hang out at. Yet, its atmosphere will get you trapped for hours as the magicians behind the bar serves up some unique concoctions. There’s no menu here, so you’ll have to order based on your taste and which flavour you prefer – some are topped with red chilli and other spices or come with a coffee base.
In here, they want you to escape to another world – be it after work on during the weekend. It is quite like stepping in wonderland as you open up the cabinet to enter a whole new dimension. To say the least – it is almost as if you’re coming to refresh yourself as you only step out of the bar/closet once feeling restored and ready to confront life all over again! A complete makeover for all your senses!
Oh and we’ve also heard that the bar changes its wine menu every three months so it’s never quite the same to visit again and again!
Clue: Come after 7 pm and don’t forget to touch up your makeup in the mirror – but make sure to look a little closer!
3. Get transported from childhood to adulthood – S.S.H.H.H at MERAH Kitchen and Bar
From the outside, MERAH Kitchen and Bar looks like an old provision shop (or commonly known as your ”kedai runcit”) selling everyone’s favourite childhood candies (like eye glass candies) along with toys – except that it’s not really a candy shop, but rather a top-secret cocktail bar serving up artisanal cocktails and real good authentic food as well!
During a chat with the owner, I was also told the story and meaning behind ‘MERAH’. The bar itself is known as “S.S.H.H.H.” which stands for “Secret Society of Hong Hua Hui (红花会)” paying homage to “The Red Flower Society” from the famous fictional wuxia novel “The Book and the Sword (书剑恩仇录)” which features underground secret societies back in the days. Intriguing, isn’t it?
Per an inside look, MERAH Kitchen and Bar has vintage interiors but if you wander deeper down the second floor, you will end up in a swanky space that calls for booze! The hidden bar is all #vibes, right down to the cocktails.
The venue also offers free walking tours around JB and brings you to locals’ top hidden gems as well as to their Merah Ais Store that sells local desserts.
So rather than just a bar, you can opt to drop by during the day for several other experiences here and stay till night to track down their biggest secret!
Clue: Just like the truth comes out of children’s mouth; the best places are very often the ones where your inner child screams (for haw flakes)!
4. When you’re in the mood for more than just ‘liang cha’ – T15
T15 is another bar that requires a little insider knowledge. Trust me; you’ve probably walked past it thinking it was another shop selling Ah Gong’s favourite liang cha (also known as cooling herbal tea) in Taman Pelangi but it is much more than this, or rather – it isn’t this at all!
The drink list here is short but makes the necessity of fulfilling Grandpa’s herbal tea craves more than worth it; truth be told – it isn’t liang cha that’s served at T15! 😉 You are also welcome to communicate with the on-site mixologist about your drinks wishlist while he takes care of the rest.
They’re constantly creating new and delicious takes on all manner of cocktails. We can’t guarantee they’ll be cheap, but they are certainly fantastic and of high quality. Take for example their “Chrysanthemum Tea” which is one of their signature concoctions served in a classic teapot or their “Beyond Luxury” which is a fragrant mixture of whiskey and cognac all in one glass!
But booze aside, they literally also serve you dim sum here. Yes friends, dim sum at a bar – I mean where have we been living all this time?
Clue: Ever questioned why would no one sit and sip some herbal tea here? Probably because there isn’t any…
5. Jump into the rabbit hole! – Haiiro Usagi
It’s useless to ask the locals nearby for this bar location as there’s barely any signage for it. From the outside, it looks like a poorly maintained shop lot – all part of the game though!
What’s exciting here is that you will have to try your luck pressing on doorbells until you finally find it. Walk in and find yourself a seat at Haiiro Usagi (which means ‘grey rabbit’ in Japanese) – a speakeasy-style bar pouring top-notch cocktails with contemporary Japanese vibes and feels!
The bar welcomes only 40 people and you’ll find Joe – the owner serving up drinks of excellent quality with years of experience from Switzerland, China and Singapore. There’s a lot to learn from him – in fact, he finds pleasure in teaching the art of cocktails to his guests too! And more than just cocktails, you’ll also get to learn about your future with their Tarot card reading!
Clue: Tonight, your lucky number is “75A”… We hope you press the correct doorbell!
6. This is why you should always look up to the sky – Cloud 94 (云酒肆)
Under the guise of a shop lot, Cloud 94 hides on the top floor of a 4-storey building. Chances are you’ll walk past it at least a dozen times throughout the day. We don’t blame you, as it is later during the evening that Cloud 94 invites you for drinks with a good bunch of friends!
No secret code or door here, but rather, it is an easily-missed venue with romantic vibes to it – it is draped in red curtains and is so underground (not literally but) that even locals don’t know about it. I mean, who wants to drop by a shop lot after usual working hours, right?
And when it comes to drinks, the mixologist here throws you into the clouds with unique creations that include dried fruits, flowers and more!
Clue: From 6pm onwards, look up at the sky to spot neon lights!
7. Will you unlock the secret code to this bar?! – Gin Bar by JWC (何日Gin再来)
Gin Bar by JWC isn’t unknown among locals but you sure won’t get in that easily as you have to press the correct keys on the typewriter for the door to open! Sesame, sesame. Open Sesame! No place is more hidden, right?
Once inside, you’ll surely notice the sleek Chinese retro style and decor with vinyl records scattered around.
And besides your usual drinks, they’ll wrap you up some extra special gin-based cocktails that come with a dose of Ginseng or coffee – if you’re looking for the unusual! For the record, they have over 16 different types of gin here!
Once you’re inside, the bustle of the outside world disappears instantly as you saddle up to the bar and settle in for the night with a good set of old-time music.
Clue: In here, the walls have ears but they also have answers!
8. You’ll love taking a drink with ‘Salt Bae’ – Aura Bar and Lounge
Are you someone who usually dares to walk through small alleys? If so, it might be a little easier for you to find this hidden speakeasy bar. But the challenge remains, as there’s obviously no signage at the entrance!
Aura Bar and Lounge sits smack bang in the heart of Taman Molek and aims at retaining the original spirit of speakeasy bars – a place that invites you to sneak out of reality to escape to good ambience, music and an amazing drinks’ menu.
In fact, the brand was founded very long ago in New York during the early 1920’s and many who visited the JB outlet mentioned about the strong American style reflected in the bar.
Clue: Look out for the cute long-necked beauty at the front door!
Ready to conquer JB’s best hidden bars? Know of any more underground gems that belong on this list? Let us know below!