Written by Denise Tan
Co-written and edited by Candice Neo
The weekend is coming up, and you’re in desperate need for a getaway. Personally, heading down to JB is one of my favourite pastimes. I mean, besides the current exchange rate, it just feels so different in JB. The feeling of roaming down the streets in the neighbourhood and spotting amazing restaurants (not to mention durian stalls by the roadside!) simply beats the mundane dining experience we usually get in restaurants in Singapore.
For starters, we’ve rounded up a list of unique themed cafes (you might not even have heard of some!) in the most popular shopping and dining hotspots in JB. If you’re unfamiliar with JB, here’s introducing some of the main areas, and the cafes we’ve found are mostly clustered around there!
Update: Due to the pandemic, some of these cafes may have changed their opening hours. Do give them a call before heading down just in case!
City Square Mall: Located directly beside Woodlands checkpoint, this shopping mall boasts plenty of stores and restaurants, with many more cool dining spots in its vicinity.
KSL Mall: The go-to place for those looking for affordable hair styling/cuts. This mall is also near foodie hangouts, including an outdoor night market on Mondays (a.k.a KSL Monday Night Market)!
Mount Austin / Austin Heights: This has to be every foodie’s (and bubble tea addict’s) favourite hotspot, with entire streets lined with bubble tea shops, cafes and restaurants!
Bukit Indah: Be it shopping at the Aeon mall or enjoying local vibes along the smaller streets and restaurants in the area, this place is definitely a local favourite during weekends.
Paradigm Mall: The largest mall in JB, Paradigm Mall is great for travellers who wants to shop endlessly or try out more special activities like indoor skating and climbing. If you want to explore the food scene after all that, the nearby Sutera Mall would make for a great next stop!
1. Dine under bouquets of floral blooms: bloom by Mokmok (near Mount Austin)
To all boyfriends/husbands out there, your girl definitely likes flowers even if she always tells you that they “are a waste of money” (unless she’s allergic to pollen :X).
So a floral themed cafe like bloom is perfect for a romantic date! Who would say no to dining under bouquets of colourful dried flowers, with a light floral fragrance in the air?
The menu serves up mains like the Grilled Chicken Burger or Salmon Rice Bowl, but they also offer some interesting dishes like the Gyutan Rice Bowl, which is actually beef’s tongue! Whatever you order, do give their flower teas a try – their specialties are blooms after all!
Oh, and did I mention that they have those jiggly cloud-like souffle pancakes here too? #boomerang inspiration, anyone?
Before you go, don’t forget that Instagrammable swing outside the cafe – a must for every trendy couple! The natural lighting and potted plants will give your photos a different spin! 😉2. Hidden bar-cafe in a mama shop: Merah Project (near City Square)
Remember those old Hong Kong movies you used to watch, where all the big stars like Chow Yun Fatt and Gigi Lai snooze around in a cool, dark setting with neon lights in the background? God, I can’t tell you how much I love those dai lou (‘big boss’ in Cantonese) vibes. And that’s exactly what you get at Merah Project!
Don’t be fooled by the mama-shop shopfront. Take your time to explore the area, but the second level is what you’re really looking for.
There, the spacious area transforms into an old school cafe and bar area where there are mahjong tables for dining, a cozy bean bag area, and tons of photo spots for taking old school hipster shots!
Here’s the catch – you would have to find the hidden bar upstairs with your friends. In return, you can get your favourite alcoholic drinks at approximately a third of its usual price in Singapore.
To spice things up a little, you could also get a personalised drink from RM18.90 onwards (approximately SGD 6.25), simply by telling the bartender about your day ;). Honestly, this can get so much fun! Once, I even overheard a woman asking the bartender to mix up a drink that tastes like her first love!
Now let’s talk food. The cafe serves many different types of cuisine, and the Smoked Duck Bowl that comes with lychee is one of the star dishes of the house! Think sweet, grilled lychees paired with aromatic duck slices – I bet you’re drooling!
TripCanvas Tip: This place is really popular and can get crowded at times, so do try to book a table via their Facebook or Instagram channels before heading down to avoid disappointment.
3. Cosy greenhouse cafe for a cuppa: Fika Farmhouse (near Bukit Indah)
Tucked away in a quiet area, Fika Farmhouse stands like a little piece of architecture from Hayao Miyazaki’s artwork with a giant Totoro greeting everyone who walks in.
At this child-friendly greenhouse cafe, organic greens line up in neat little rows, perfect for an artistic symmetrical shot with nature! Unlike many places in the city, this cafe is really spacious with a cosy ambience that can make you feel right at home~
And while you’re settling in comfortably, dig into your favourite brunch fare – quinoa bowls, egg benedict with smoked salmon, paired with a refreshing iced latte on a hot day!
If that still doesn’t cool you down, check out this newly opened ice cream cafe nearby called JoJo IceCream! Their homemade waffles and ice cream is bound to steal your heart (don’t tell the others, but their milk butterscotch is a real crowd favourite)!
Sunshine, coffee, good food and nature – what else do you need to get a breather from the city?
4. Throwback to old school Taiwanese dramas: High School Kopitiam (near Mount Austin)
Once you step in, you’ll find an old school chalkboard menu and wooden tabletops – furniture pieces that most schools in Singapore and Malaysia have done away with since a long time ago. Nostalgia strikes – could it be…?
Yes, a remake of Taiwanese high school settings from some of our favourite movies like ‘You Are the Apple of My Eye’ (also known as ‘那些年，我們一起追的女孩’)!
Here’s your chance to pose as the charming school belle who steals the heart of every boy in class, or transform into that classroom joker who used to prank everyone else!
And of course, you can expect a rendition of your school canteen fare… Not. 😉 We wish these were served when we were still in high school! Warm and fresh charcoal-grilled sandwiches that are baked in-house, Crispy Pork Belly sandwiches with oozing egg yolk… Besides, at RM 8.90 (SGD 2.95), this delicious chow is a steal!
Complement your trendy sandwiches with popular Taiwanese-nostalgia drinks – Sugarcane Milk or High School Milk Tea – there, you have your perfect match of Instagrammable after-school kopitiam food!
Here’s where you’ll never grow old (if you don’t wish to)! 😉
TripCanvas Tip: On the hunt for a full meal after your tea break here? Head on to Guo Ma Taiwanese Steamboat Buffet right next to the cafe for Malaysia’s affordable rendition of Hai Di Lao! However, do book beforehand, or you might get turned away at the doorstep like I was…
5. Escape into Mickey & Minnie’s world! – M2escape (near Mount Austin)
Update: This cafe is currently closed.
With so many cute trendy characters nowadays (we love Pusheen, Sumikko Gurashi, Gudetama, Hello Kitty, Moomin and all!), how often do we find those that are inspired by characters we used to love when we were kids (if you can relate to this, high five to fellow early 90s’ babies!)?
So it was a huge surprise to us when we stumbled upon this Mickey Mouse cafe, which is also part of a Mickey Mouse-themed homestay too! You can expect to find everything red-and-black and polka dotted here – from red-and-white polka dotted seats, giant Mickey and Minnie plushies as your Insta-companions, lattes served in Mickey mugs, to Mickey-shaped ice-cream, cakes… well you get the idea. Everything has a touch of that quintessential Disney mouse, and most utensils are Mickey-shaped.
They serve up mainly Western meals that both adults and kids generally love, such as the usual range of pastas (carbonara, tomato-based spaghetti, aglio olio), baked rice, chicken chop, Hawaiian chicken pizza and so on. Of course, don’t forget to order sides (French fries, potato wedges, chicken nuggets and more) for sharing!
And yes there is even Mickey-themed bubble tea with golden bubbles (because how can they miss out on the BBT craze in Singapore and Malaysia, right?)! 😉
You can also purchase Mickey and Minnie items at their cafe’s store, and for huge Mickey fans, you might even want to consider a night at their themed two-bedroom homestay, which stays up to 8-10 people, is very kids-friendly with Mickey beds and matching bed frames, play area for kids, Karaoke system, Xbox360 and balcony which overlooks the streets of Taman Mount Austin. If you’re here for special occasion, they do party catering too!
6. Hop on board the plane to first class cafe fare: Dreamliner Airways Cafe (near Mount Austin)
You’re in for a thrill of a ride. Once you step into Dreamliner Airways Cafe, you will be welcomed into a spacious airplane cabin by waitresses donned in crew uniforms.
Now we mean what we say when it comes to your ride meal – you get your own private table with cushy seats (no more squeezing with the next person in the same aisle, yikes!) and a window overlooking “blue skies and fluffy clouds”, perfect for capturing the attention of the active little ones!
Did you know that food tastes worse on airplanes simply because of the effect of air pressure on our tastebuds? Well over here, you can enjoy delicious Western delights like pizzas, burgers, and chicken chops as they are while enjoying your comfy ‘plane ride’. What’s more, the huge portions are great for sharing so go ahead and order a few more dishes to try out!
Celebrating a special occasion for the day? Be it birthdays or proposals, the kind staff can help you arrange and decorate the cafe for the perfect celebration you desire!
With this quality of food and entertainment on board the Dreamliner Airways, the expectations for your next airplane ride is bound to soar!
7. Romantic glasshouse cafe surrounded by blooms: ROWAN & PARSLEY food atelier (near Mount Austin)
Stepping into ROWAN & PARSLEY food atelier is like entering a secret garden of your own. The former factory is housed in a quiet industrial area, but it’s teeming with romantic greenery and flowers.
The place has a strong Korean minimalist vibe, with full ceiling-to-floor glass windows so you can enjoy the view outside while enjoying a cuppa (and air conditioning!).
If you love the outdoors, take a seat in the garden, where you can get closer to nature! Don’t forget to request for latte art (the baristas here know their craft really well, so be it squirrels, monkeys or some other funky ideas you want on your coffee, let them know! ;))
We highly recommend dropping by for brunch to catch all the good natural lighting for the best photos, and also to taste their signature brunch item – Pulled Pork Benedict!
8. Sip coffee in a former factory: Just Want Coffee JWC, The Factory 30 (near Mount Austin)
If you’re braving the possibly horrendous custom queue to get into JB, you will probably want a nice quiet place to savour your food in peace without having to deal with the crowd. This 2-storey modern industrial themed cafe is perfect for that comfy afternoon ambience.
Think coffee aroma and a cool metal shutter interior with gurney sacks hanging from the ceiling, while you dig into a delicious meal of your choice – it’s simply the perfect weekend after a hectic work week!
This former factory is located in the industrial area so it might get a little confusing amidst all the workshops and industrial containers while on your way to the cafe. Just look out for the big red building!
Once you’re settled in at your table, take a look at the retro “customer manual” (yes, that’s the menu!). Choose from pastas, pizzas, bagels, cakes, and even bottled Oreo cheesecakes!
However, the real highlight is their coffee (no surprises here given the cafe’s name!) – you can find a good variety here from the classic cappuccino to hand brews like the Ethiopia Limmu. Yes coffee fanatics, it’s time to go crazy with a cuppa you can’t usually find in Singapore (especially with that affordable price tag)!
9. Step back into the medieval era: George and Dragon Cafe (near KSL)
Rustic brick walls, red wood dining tables and impeccable service – George and Dragon Cafe will send you back to old England where you can wine and dine among genuine English antiques!
You’ll never run out of photo ops here – medieval armours, shields and kingdom banners. Who’s next to be knighted? 😉
And when your tummy starts rumbling, get ready to be treated like a true blue royal with classic Western delights like the Chargrilled Steak and Traditional English Scones – food fit for a king indeed!
The portions are really generous, but of course there will always be space for dessert! Their cheesecake is not only homemade, but burnt too (yes intentionally!). Just imagine – moist cheesecake with a burnt caramelised crust!
10. Thai milk tea in a grunge container cafe: Chaiwalla & Co. Container Cafe (near City Square)
As much as I love my Thai milk teas, they are often too sweet and don’t come with pearls – which is why I often turn to really overpriced bubble teas nowards…
Targeting this problem, Chaiwalla & Co. Container Cafe hits the sweet spot (ironically) by allowing you to customize your own drinks in terms of the base, sugar level, flavour, and toppings! Say hello to the perfect cup of Thai milk tea with quirky additions like basil seeds and coffee jelly toppings – almost like how you can customize your BBT!
If you and your squad looking for a mini break from your foodie adventures, this place is perfect to hang out and chill at with board games (yes, including the popular ones such as Cards Against Humanity).
With an industrialised black metallic interior complemented by vibrant greens, great lighting and decor, you sure can create more memories for your IG feed!
TripCanvas Tip: There’s a small night market in the area called Bazar Karat, where you can find some vintage knick knacks and clothes. If you’re heading to the cafe after 7 pm, you might want to check it out for some affordable loot!
11. Get a stylo milo haircut right after your meal: Big Daddy’s Family Cafe and Barber Shop (near Paradigm Mall)
My guy friends are always complaining about how haircuts in Singapore are really expensive – so all you gents out there, this one’s for you.
As the name implies, at Big Daddy’s Family Cafe and Barber Shop, you get to enjoy food, barber and hair styling services at this special little joint. At RM15 (approximately SGD4.97) for a regular cut, it certainly is tempting to just get your monthly snip here, eh?
While the concept is really fun, I can’t really vouch for their barber’s skills since I haven’t tried it personally. From what I see, a little trim here and there might be okay but then again – cut at your own risk, gentlemen!
Food here comes in giant platters, with Western classics like Chicken Chop and fries, and Malay cuisine like Nasi Goreng Seafood and Ayam Penyet. Regardless of what you order, the portions are big so you should either come reaaaally hungry, or with more friends to share everything!
Also, how about refreshing ice-cold drinks in a giant tower? Yup, they serve up tower-sized beverages as well so you can chill with your friends all night long downing cup after cup of Sirap Bandung!
12. Modern minimalist garden themed cafe: Flowers in the Window (near City Square)
You can probably tell by now that we’re sort of in love with garden themed cafes! But we have to say – each of them brings a different rendition of nature that makes it unique. Flowers in the Window goes for a laid back modern minimalist approach to flora.
With an inviting blanket of lush greenery at the entrance, you will feel a sense of peace once you enter. Above the open kitchen hangs a sophisticated array of plants and books, with French classical music wafting softly within.
Upstairs, there are comfy sofa seats by the window – perfect reading nooks for us bibliophiles who just want to snuggle into a cosy corner with our favourite book and a mug of hot chocolate with the sunlight streaming in.
Don’t miss the chance for those must-have IG snaps in the vintage garden with a bathtub filled with potted greens! This unpretentious little coffee spot has an open garden balcony as well for those who want some fresh air~
Even the food here won’t disappoint. Savour classic brunch delights such as Eggs on Toast and homemade cakes baked fresh daily! The Superfood Avocado is a well-loved – and for good reason too! With poached eggs, smoked salmon, pomegranate and more power-packed nutritious foods, it doesn’t only tastes good, but is also a healthy choice!
Time to sit back, relax, and just enjoy!
Special Mention: Dreamy haven by the sea: Yard & Co.
This quiet little seaside cafe is your holiday treat by the sea.
If you don’t mind venturing out a little further from the central city areas and staying for a night instead of your usual cafe-hopping day trips, here’s where you can get your much-needed dose of Vitamin Sea while on your weekend getaway.
The best way to savour the views would be at the al fresco seating area, where you can dig into ice cream while overlooking the sea and skies with a light breeze – paradise on Earth!
Clean white walls and beach-perfect cane chairs may make for great photo props, but the best background is of course the view!
The menu offers a range of mains, but their desserts steal the show. Take your pick from fresh bakes including burnt cheesecakes, black sesame cakes, mango mousse cakes and more!
TripCanvas Tip: Head to the cafe during sunset for the best seaview!
Have we inspired you to go on a different sort of cafe-hopping? Skip the usual run-of-the-mill cafes you hang out at every JB trip! Which is your favourite? Tag your JB weekend squad now!