13 November 2016


Getting lost is part of traveling, and lost was exactly what I was in Petaling Street. One of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatowns, Petaling Street is lined with a myriad of shops and stands seolling souvenirs, clothing, bags, and everything in between. Despite the temptation of buying a couple trinkets and baubles, I wasn’t looking for a good bargain or a haggle, but a popular brunch spot that so often appeared on my radar.

This particular café’s address was a little misleading; follow it precisely and you’d end up in a jewelry shop.Instead, look for Kiat Leong Stationary and Trading next to the hotel opposite to the written address where you’ll see a small, turquoise door. After climbing up their red staircase, you’ll find confirmation that this is indeed the spot in the form of a quirky neon sign that read ‘THIS MUST BE THE PLACE’. And it was indeed, Merchant’s Lane

Here’s a fun fact: visit this same spot some 35 years ago, and you would’ve found a very different kind of establishment, one offering services relating to mankind’s oldest profession. Today, the building houses a more comely business in the form of a bright and fresh café. I got the chance to talk to Ken, Merchant’s Lane’s co-founder, who told me he grew up on Petaling Street as his father owned a shoe repair shop down the road. After opening a café elsewhere, he dreamed of opening a café in his childhood neighborhood.

When news came that the top floor of shophouse on the street was available for lease, Ken jumped at the opportunity to fulfill his dream. Of course, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. When he and his business partners first took on the project of revamping the space, the roof was leaking and the floorboards were completely swamped and unusable. The space was dark, dank, but above all, full of potential. The high ceilings, once repaired, gave the space a light and airy feel, and along with the peeling walls that came from years of painting over, made for a unique canvas upon which to layer upon more modern elements.

Ken remarked that he didn’t want to give in to the industrial trend that had taken over cafés all over Asia; Merchant’s Lane was to be different. The baristas’ counter was painted in a bright teal and fuchsia, the pillows covered in colorful prints, and the wall adorned with a long piece of bright blue metalwork. Merchant’s Lane had a bespoke style they could call their own. Fresh and modern as it was, the shop held true to the heritage of the building by adopting a combination of Malay and Chinese influences with rattan chairs, and various old school Chinese knick-knacks such as vintage thermoses, books, and bamboo dim sum steamers.

To the back of the shop was a suspended walkway that led to another room that, at the time, was being used for a photo shoot. The room had a couple flower paintings made by local art students, paying homage to the flowers of the night that once worked in the shophouse. Also to the back of the shop was a tree that crept up the walls and towards the sky. “The shopkeepers below thank the tree whenever something good happens. It’s a very special tree.” Ken remarked. The tree has been a silent observer of everything that’s taken place over the years. If only it could talk.

Like their décor, Merchant Lane’s menu was also a mix of influences featuring East meets West dishes like Italian chow mein (a pasta dish with chicken rendang sauce), and Hongkie beef stew (an Asian twist on gravy and mash). The café also had a great selection of teas, as well as coffee that they switched up every now and then. If you’re like me and are always looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, not to worry, they had a mouthwatering selection of cakes and bakes on display. We ordered an Americano, a hot latte, a lovely rose tea, and a slice of caramel cake. Later, we couldn’t resist ordering their chow mein. Everything was superb.

Nearing the end of our chat, Ken remarked that if we stuck around for long enough, we’d see the café transform. In decorating the space, Ken and his colleagues wanted the café to look completely different at night. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay until the sun set, though I’m sure it is as beautiful at night as it is in daylight. When visiting Merchant’s Lane, take a cue from the person having a photo shoot and bring your camera with you to snap a couple pictures while enjoying a delicious brunch. With a place like this, you’re bound to go garner a couple likes.


Thank you to lovely Ken for taking the time to chat. Merchant's Lane is amazing and your hospitality is much appreciated. See you soon!


Address: 150, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone: +60 3-2022 1736
Opening hours: Mon, Thu-Fri 11.30AM-10PM; Tue 11.20AM-7PM; Sat-Sun 9.30AM-10PM, Wednesday closed
Instagram: @merchantslane
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/merchantslane/