Vintage Vibes: Explore These 12 Retro Cafes In Downtown Kuala Lumpur & Beyond

Looking for a retro-inspired cafe for your next brunch? These 12 hotspots in KL serve both Malaysian and international cuisines. (Left: Image by @maniwarar, Right: Image by @dahliarshd)

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KL’s food scene is being revitalised by a new breed of retro-inspired cafes, many of which offer reinterpreted Malaysian and international cuisine. Often tucked away in the bustling city centre of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and in fashionable suburbs like Bangsar and Taman Melawati, consider checking out these vintage-inspired cafes if you’re looking for Instagram-worthy food and drinks in an eclectic ambience — ideal for brunches, anniversaries, business meetings, or lunch dates with the girls.

1. Vintage 1988 Cafe & Accessories Store

Located along the historic Jalan Sultan, Vintage 1988 is a cafe and a vintage accessories store. Coffee shop lovers will appreciate its vintage-inspired decor that includes antique typewriters, exposed brick walls, vintage pendant lights, and classroom maps. The food is equally remarkable, and house specialities include beetroot bun burgers (the buns are bright pink and are made from beetroot), truffle fries, and fried vegan portobellos. They’re also known for their lattes, brewed coffees, and matcha drinks.

Address: 34 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6011 5982 7882

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2. Luckin Kopi

Nestled along Jalan Panggong, Luckin Kopi is a contemporary kopitiam (local coffee shop) that offers reinterpretations of the classics like nasi lemak ayam goreng, traditional toast sets, mee sedap (fried noodles), and their signature salted egg chicken rice. Other menu notables include Luckin’s signature sambal paste, rojak paste, and salted egg sauce.

Address: 14 Jalan Panggong, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2856 2811

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3. Old China Cafe

Renowned for its tasty Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine, which includes Peranakan dishes (Straits-born Chinese), Old China Cafe is equally famous for its antique interiors that wouldn’t look out of place in a Wong Kar-wai film. House specialities include fried spring rolls, Nyonya laksa, deep-fried chicken with lemon sauce, and fish head curry. Yummy!

Address: 11 Jalan Balai Polis, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2072 5915

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4. Kafe Old Market Square

Located near Merdeka Square along Medan Pasar, Kafe Old Market Square is about as authentic as it gets, thanks to its high ceilings and wooden doors. Diners can feast on a traditional breakfast of egg, toast, and beans; nasi lemak ayam goreng, rojak besar (salad of fruits and vegetables served dressing), mee rebus telur (noodle soup with egg), and fried rice.

Address: 2 Medan Pasar, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6017 335 5703

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5. Timothy Cafe

Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, Timothy Cafe offers western and Malaysian cuisine in a renovated kopitiam setting. Diners can enjoy their meals overlooking the picturesque courtyard pool while taking in the cool breeze. Tip: Patrons who wish to enjoy the Balcony by the Pool set dinner need to make a reservation.

Regular diners can sample some of the restaurant’s delectable fusion cuisine, including salted egg chicken spaghetti, nasi ulam (steamed rice with herbs), rainbow ayam percik (roasted spiced chicken), assorted pies, and the signature burnt cheesecake. If you don’t feel like heading out but still want to try their menu, order online!

Address: 24 Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6017 699 3422

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6. Merchant’s Lane

Famous for its hand-crafted teas and coffees, as well as its fusion-style desserts and main courses, Merchant’s Lane has become one of Jalan Petaling’s most well-loved cafes. Its picturesque interior boasts custom-made rattan furnishings, lush potted plants, textured walls, and charming bric-a-brac. Notable dishes include the full English breakfast, butter chicken pasta, grilled salmon, and Aussie beef burger.

Address: 150 Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2022 1736

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7. Lim Kee Cafe

Located in Tian Jing Hotel in the middle of Chinatown, Lim Kee Cafe blends very well with the rest of the hotel’s traditional oriental architecture. The unpretentious menu includes typical kopitiam dishes like kaya (jam made of coconut milk) toast, soft-boiled eggs, vegetable dumplings, freshly-baked cakes and pastries, freshly brewed coffee, and savoury kuih (bite-sized traditional cakes).

Address: 66-68 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2022 1131

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8. Mingle Cafe

Another unique gem in Chinatown, Mingle Cafe, offers an array of desserts, main courses, teas, and coffees. Well-plated dishes include nasi ulam rainbow with ayam percik, classic carbonara with onsen egg, and creamy smoked salmon pasta. The bakery offers many freshly-baked cakes, including burnt cheesecake, chocolate walnut cake, and salted caramel cake. You can even order from the comfort of your own home!

Address: 55 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6010 915 2432

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9. Jao Tim

Housed in a building constructed in the early 20th century, Jao Tim’s distinct architectural features include Art Deco windows, brass fixtures, and wooden floorings. Once a hotel, Jao Tim is an event space, art gallery, and cafe all rolled into one. Jazz performances are frequently held here, and patrons are encouraged to sip lattes and sample dishes from the menu while listening to vinyl records or contemplating the latest art installations.

Address: 61 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2022 3897

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10. Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (ARCH Cafe)

Situated inside the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, ARCH Cafe offers a fine selection of coffees, teas, and western and traditional Malaysian delicacies. Local favourites include Hainanese chicken chop, nasi lemak with chicken curry, Hainanese coffee and tea, and lemon chicken rice. Famous pastries include pandan layer cake and durian mille crepes.

Address: Dataran Merdeka, 27, Jalan Raja, City Centre, 50050
Contact: +603 2698 3333

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11. ADU Sugar Restaurant

Serving traditional Malaysian dishes with Indonesian touches, ADU Sugar is the brainchild of head chef Adu Amran Hassan — a man who’s equally at home in the artist’s studio as he is in the kitchen. The restaurant is replete with oil paintings, lively murals, potted plants, and other decorative elements that would look awesome in your Instagram feed.

Consider trying out the salmon botok botok (shredded coconut flesh often mixed with fish and vegetables), grilled duck breast, heirloom tomato and red palm oil caprese (salad often served with mozzarella), and rendang ayam kampung (rich chicken stew cooked with a variety of spices). Click here for the full menu!

Address: 10A First Floor, Lorog Ara Kiri 2, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2201 1441

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12. Chi Fan KL Cafe

Run by a former lawyer-turned-chef, Chi Fan (‘eat’ in Chinese) serves traditional Malaysian cuisine adapted from family recipes. House specialities include soft shell crab salted egg spaghetti, mee calong (soupy noodles served with various condiments), salted egg butter chicken with rice, and sizzling Hainanese chicken chop. Other things you can enjoy here are their freshly-brewed coffee, delectable cakes, and pastries!

Address: No 9 Jalan H 3, Taman Melawati, 53100 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6017 569 8522

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Michelle is a Manila-based content editor. As a journalist, she's covered the property investment and mortgage markets in Australia and Canada. Her freelance writing focuses primarily on lifestyle, travel, and skincare. When she’s not working, she likes to visit museums and take Instagram photos of well-plated food.