It’s been over a year since my cafe-hopping adventure started across the causeway. Remember my 1st Johor Bahru (JB) cafe-hopping post last August?😉 Since then, it’s a “road of no return”, with an average of 1 day trip per month to JB.😀 With 1 year of experience, a pile of fading receipts and photos waiting for me to compile, I think it’s high time to write another post to share what I know.
Just some simple walking directions to the cafes within 10-15 min walking distance from the JB customs. As the Jalan Wong Ah Fook overhead bridge linked to City Square Shopping Mall has been demolished, exit from the ground floor instead, at the door beside J.Co Donuts. Cross the short but busy road (currently undergoing some big construction) & you will see a bank. On the right side, there’s a flight of stairs which you should take to head to Jalan Trus.
Here’s the handy list of cafes you can hop to, particularly for those who do not drive (like me) in JB. A least we know we can still cafe-hop conveniently & comfortably without the need to drive or worry about the trouble of haggling over taxi fares.😉
1. Faculty of Caffeine (F.O.C.)
As the 1st cafe you will reach if you are walking to Jalan Trus / Jalan Dhoby area from JB Customs/ City Square, Faculty of Caffeine is hard to miss. Furthermore, it is also the nearest & earliest cafe open from 9 am in the morning. So if you get in early to beat the jam, this is THE cafe for you while you wait for the others to open.😉
Late last year till March 2016, F.O.C., one of the pioneers to the happening cafe scene in JB, was closed for renovations. It took me about a year to revisit the industrial concept cafe earlier this month. I must say it’s a wonderful renovation they did. The cafe looks brighter and more spacious now, & the menu has also been revamped to include more exciting dishes.🙂
There aren’t any all-day breakfast items after the revamp. The closest brunch items you can find should be the pancakes above, albeit served creatively with fried chicken, soft shell crab etc. However, since July 2016, Italian spaghetti and Japanese ramen dishes have also been introduced to the new menu. I have yet to try them, but they do look appetizing (& wallet friendly).
Just to share what I had tried so far since the revamp:
Hazelnut Latte (MYR 11+/ S$3.70+) – richly flavoured with a nice coffee aroma;
Maple & Butter Pancake (MYR 13.90+/ S$4.60+) – simple dish, but I was blown away by its fluffy texture, & the maple syrup + butter enhanced the taste.
Salted Egg Soft Shell Crab Pancake (MYR 28.90+/ S$9.60+) – Aesthetically pleasing dish. I didn’t try due to allergy, but my friend gave it a thumbs up.
Address: 106 Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru
Open: 9 am to 6 pm daily except Tuesday.
Official website: Facebook
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 8 – 12+; Food: MYR 13.90 – 28.90+
2. The Replacement – Lodge & Kitchen
Opened by the same folks behind F.O.C., The Replacement – Lodge & Kitchen stands out amidst other cafes in JB old town with its clean white facade. The cafe adopts a minimalist pure white concept throughout. It is also a lodge (hence the name), being the only hostel in the area offering bed & breakfast for budget travellers.
The Replacement is a very popular cafe, with queues commonly seen on weekends. Even on weekdays, it is often filled especially during meal times. Customers can be drawn to the cafe with a pleasant & cosy ambience for the 1st time, but to keep people coming in, of course the F&B has to be of certain quality too.
I visited the cafe twice. Both visits left me positive impression of The Replacement with its all-day brunch and coffee.
Rose Latte, hot (MYR 11+/ S$3.70+) & iced (MYR 12+/ S$4+) – quality of its coffee beverages is the same as F.O.C.
Original Chocolate Churros (5 sticks, MYR 14+/ S$4.70+) – love the rich dark chocolatey sauce that came with the “crispy on the outside, soft on the inside” churros.
B&B French Toast (MYR 18.90+/ S$6.3+) – really caught us by surprise after sinking our teeth into the homemade brioche bread pan-fried with egg & butter, as we didn’t expect french toast to be that nice.😛 The toast was crispy yet fluffy. This dish has a perfect balance of sweet & savoury taste with the scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramelised banana & bacon slices complementing one another.
Address: 33-34 Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru
Open: 9 am to 9 pm daily.
Official website: Facebook
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 8 – 12+; Churros: MYR 14 – 19.90+; All-day brunch: MYR 16.90 – 26.90+
3. Flowers In The Window (F.I.T.W.)
Located opposite The Replacement, Flowers In The Window is a beautiful garden-concept cafe just a few stores away from its big brother Roost Cafe. Enter its entrance with green ferns hung on the ceiling, & you will find yourself surrounded by floral decorations everywhere in the 2-storey cafe. From level 2, you can look down at the chic open-concept kitchen, amidst the greenery. Open only in the beginning of the year, F.I.T.W.’s quaint carpentry-cum-verdant theme & incorporation of edible flowers & fresh ingredients into its menu has earned the cafe quite a following.
I only visited the cafe once so far, but F.I.T.W. has become my favourite cafe in this area. The 2nd level was almost full house when I visited on a Thursday afternoon. Pardon my poor memory for not remembering the exact names of my drink & cake. but they were really great recommendations by the staff.
The special drink (based on what receipt said), think it was Green Apple Lemonade (MYR 14.90++/ S$5++) – just a word of caution: the sourness took some getting used to. Nonetheless, it was really refreshing, good for quenching thirst on a scorching hot day.
Purple Carrot cake (MYR 11++/ S$3.70++, sorry receipt simply listed as “cake”, so I don’t remember actual name -_-) – it was 1 of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten! I’m kind of surprised why such a delightful slice of cake was cheaper than the drink? Perfect density & moisture, & there were shredded carrot bits in the cake for the crunchiness. Oh, I must thank F.I.T.W. for letting me know that purple carrot exists too, just that they are seasonal.😛
The prices here maybe a bit higher than other cafes in the area, but don’t let that deter you from trying its wholesome offerings!
Address: 9 Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru
Open: 10 am to 9 pm daily except Tuesday.
Official website: Instagram
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 9 – 16.90++; Mains: MYR 18 – 29++; Cakes/ Sides: from MYR 6++
4. Bev C’afe
Bev C’afe is another hip cafe in JB, known as a 2-in-1 cafe cum fashion boutique along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. All these while, I only passed by but never checked out the cafe, despite seeing people rave about it often online. There was once my friend & I went in to the cafe, but walked out quickly after scanning through the menu. Its offerings look pretty standard like the others, with coffee and cakes, but at a higher price. It was until recently that I finally decided to check it out, so that I understand what the hype is all about.😉
The fashion boutique is on level 1 & you have to climb up 2 flights of steep stairs to the retro-looking cafe. There’s a small indoor seating area (8 table seats + 4 or 5 bar seats) as well as an outdoor seating area. I chose the indoors because it was too hot outside.😦 I came here after lunch for some cake/ dessert & tried the following:
Iced Peach Tea (MYR 12.24/ S$4.08) – sweet & refreshing, though nothing really wow about it😛
Gula Melaka Banana Cake (MYR 19/ S$6.30) – wholesome with real banana bits in between the layers. Fortunately it wasn’t overly sweet although gula melaka was used. Now I know why this is their signature cake & sells out quickly!
On the downside, Bev C is 1 of the priciest cafe in the area. But I guess Singaporeans should still find the price acceptable compared to our own cafes back home.
Address: 54 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru
Open: 12 to 8 pm on Sundays, Tuesdays to Thursdays, 12 to 10 pm on Fridays & Saturdays. Closed on Monday.
Official website: Facebook
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 5.20 – 17.90; Pastries: from MYR 10.60
5. 节令鼓 Drums Cafe
Drums Cafe is the latest addition to the cafe list in the old town, opened only on 4 April 2016. The cafe is uniquely themed around the Malaysian 24 Festive Drums (24 节令鼓), with its 2nd floor catered for drum classes. Although the number of drums hung up in the cafe is less than 24, it’s interesting to read about the origins of this cultural heritage in Malaysia, while you enjoy the Asian main courses, coffee & pastries here.
I was the only customer during lunch on my day of visit, while some other more popular cafes were quite packed. I wonder is it due to the inconspicuous corner location or the food? But I’m glad I decided to stay on.
Originally, I had set my mind to order its Ampang Yong Tau Foo, as I wanted something different from the usual cafe fare. Sadly, the staff told me they have recently removed this main course from their menu due to change in partner.😦 I took her recommendation to try their new fusion main course, as she claimed it was a Johor special.
Laksa Spaghetti (MYR 15.90/ S$ 5.30) – when the spaghetti was served, it didn’t look too delicious to me. In fact it looked too raw, plate full of raw onions, cucumbers, bean sprouts etc. But once I mixed them altogether, I realised the thick laksa gravy was at the bottom. This was a drier laksa version compared to the laksa we are familiar with. I fell in love with the flavourful & spicy dish the moment I took a bite. Shiok! Btw, please let the staff know if you can’t take seafood like me. Otherwise the Laksa Spaghetti will be served with prawns. I had yummy crisp chicken wings to replace the prawns.
Tropical Mixed Fruit Tea (MYR 11/ S$3.70) – a tad too sweet for me.
I didn’t order Latte or the likes as I thought it would be too potent to have milk & spicy food together haha. There’s quite a range of hot & cold beverages, in addition to local ice desserts & pastries. I shall try them another time. Keep fingers crossed their business will pick up so they don’t disappear too fast!😛
Address: 39 Jalan Ibrahim, Johor Bahru
Open: 11 am to 8 pm Mondays to Thursdays, 11 am to 10 pm on Fridays, 10 am to 10 pm on Saturdays, & 10 am to 8 pm on Sunday.
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 4.50 – 15; Main courses: MYR 9.90 – 19.90; Snacks: MYR 7.90 – 29; Desserts & pastries: MYR 6.90 – 14.90
6. Maco Vintage cafe
Head to your right as you leave Drums Cafe & walk down this street for 1 min to Maco Vintage cafe. The signature here is its Mille Crepe Cake selection, but it does offer a full-course menu from drinks, appetisers to main courses like spaghetti & pizza. The owner – Maco, graduated from SHATEC & worked in Singapore for close to 10 years as a pastry chef, before returning to JB to set up Maco Vintage.
There is a wide selection of mille crepe cakes in different flavours. I was a bit lost which to order but eventually I decided to try the following:
Chestnut Mille Crepe (MYR 9.50/ S$3.20) – well done piece of cake, baked to the right moisture & density. Better than the mille crepe I tried before at Humble Beginnings.
Roasted Almond Milk (MYR 10.90/ S$3.60) – almond lovers will love the strong almond flavour in this beverage.
FYI, Maco Vintage doesn’t serve free iced or warm water.
Address: 18 Jalan Ibrahim, Johor Bahru
Open: 9.15 am to 6.30 pm daily except Saturdays: 9.15 am to 9.30 pm.
Official website: Facebook
Expected damage: Beverages: MYR 7 – 15; Main courses: MYR 16 – 20; Mille Crepe: around MYR 9.50
*SPECIAL* Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory
I was in dilemma whether to write about Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory, next to Maco Vintage cafe for the longest time. Why? Because so many Singaporeans have flocked to the traditional bakery, creating long queues outside the small cramped shophouse so often.😦 In addition, strictly speaking, it’s not a cafe per se. But well… you just have to buy some delish cakes & buns from Hiap Joo when you are already so nearby!😉
Established since 1919, Hiap Joo has stuck to its tradition of baking its cakes and buns using wood fire oven for generations. Guess it was the locals’ best kept secret until social media got wind of it. Good to know that everything here is baked without the use of preservatives. So we can all eat the yummy pastries here with peace of mind.🙂
Hiap Joo’s most famous offering is none other than the legendary Banana Cake (5 pcs small: MYR 4.80/ S$1.60; 10 pcs large: MYR 9.60/ S$3.20). In fact, I wasn’t a fan of banana cakes till I took a bite of this moist & aromatic pastry, thanks to my sis.🙂 Because of this legendary cake, long queues form in front of the shop often, as the cakes are baked in batches so you may have to wait outside if it’s not ready. Even after a few days, the Banana Cake still tastes as moist & delicious. But it’s probably safer to keep them in the fridge if you can’t finish within 2 days.
The other popular item is the Coconut bun (5 buns for MYR 3.70/ S$1.20). I love the generous brown shredded coconut filling which isn’t too sweet. As everything is baked using wood fire oven here, all the buns & pastries are fragrant with a charred smell. If you can, do eat the buns on the day of purchase. If they are left overnight, the buns become somewhat tough with chow-dar (burnt) skin. Other nice buns that I’ve tried before include the Ikan Bilis bun (4 pcs for MYR 4.80/ S$1.60), Otah bun (2 pcs for MYR 3.70/ S$1.20) & Curry Potato bun (4 pcs for MYR 4.80/ S$1.60). Not all buns are available all day, so good luck to you.😉
Address: 13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru
Open: 7 am to 6 pm Mondays to Saturdays (cakes only from late morning, buns are usually sold out by lunchtime), 9 am to 1 pm Sundays (Banana cakes only). May close early once items are sold out.
Official website: Facebook
NB: "+" for prices = additional 10% service charge. "++" for prices = additional 10% service charge + 6% GST.
Some of the cafes I’ve visited have shut their doors within this period. For example, Table For Two² which I visited last July has made way to other cafes/eateries since Nov 2015. Last check this week, the unit is now vacant. Another small cafe that only opened in Sep 2015 called Coffee Time, also vanished even before I could write about them.😦
I didn’t include cafes that I’ve visited but not worth mentioning, as well as those I’ve blogged about previously (Coffee Valley, Restoran Hua Mui & IT Roo Cafe). With fierce competition everywhere, naturally only the fittest will survive.
To help you with navigating your way around, I have created a Google map for your reference:
With the SGD still going strong against MYR (about S$ 1 to MYR 3), it’s not an uphill task to cafe-hop comfortably while on a shoestring budget in JB! So far, even when we hop to 3 or more cafes for a feast, the damage per pax is only around MYR 100 (S$33.30). You probably only can afford to go to 1, at most 2 cafes in Singapore with such budget!
Enjoy the budget cafe-hopping in JB old town!🙂