Budget Café-hop Series: Visit These Cool Cafes Only 20 Min Away From JB Customs

As I become more familiar with Johor Bahru (JB) through my frequent day trips over the past 1.5 years, I have ventured further into the city for more unique cafes to hop to. Café-hopping trips are no longer limited to those within 10 to 15 min walk from JB customs because I think I have been to almost all of them now. 😝 So in this article, I shall share about the cafes I have visited, within 20 min drive from JB city centre. 😉

Taman Abad area

This area is unlikely to ring a bell to most people, even if you go to JB often. But mention KSL City Mall, and I believe many Singaporeans are familiar with. The shopping mall cum resort hotel is a popular hangout for many, given it is just a quick drive from the customs with a Tesco hypermarket & many small shops in the mall. If you do not drive, take a public bus from JB Sentral bus terminal to KSL directly for about half an hour, at an affordable 1.50 MYR (S$0.50) each. Here are 2 cafes you can find in KSL & its vicinity where you can relax and have a cuppa after all the shopping.

1. Oh Ice Cream (O.I.C.)

Located on the lower ground floor (or basement) of KSL City Mall next to Tesco, O.I.C. is an ice cream parlour opened since 17 July 2015. The first outlet is at Austin Heights & it has since branched out to KSL because its smoky ice cream desserts have gained quite a following on social media.

I only visited the café once early last year. We shared the Hotpot (28 MYR, S$9.30) which comprised of 3 scoops of gelato and 2 toppings of our choice with a mini waffle by the side. The gelato tasted normal, & a bit too sweet for our liking. The waffle was too soft as well. Nonetheless the presentation was quite cool with the hotpot placed on a wooden board, the quarter waffle served in a pan and 3 sets of bright plastic cutlery by the side.

Hotpot gelato ice cream

Address: LG-010 KSL City Mall, Jalan Seladang, Taman Abad, 80250 Johor Bahru

Open: 9.30 am to 10 pm daily.

Official website: Facebook

2. Café Teavana

Located about a 15-min walk away from KSL City Mall, Café Teavana is a cosy café nestled in the stretch of private houses along Jalan Dato Sulaiman. Just walk towards Holiday Plaza from KSL (but you do not need to cross the road to the old shopping centre) and continue leftwards down Jalan Dato Sulaiman.

I discovered the pretty café by chance during the bus journey from KSL towards JB Sentral. Thereafter, I googled online about Café Teavana and realised it is a café chain known for its extensive gourmet tea selection. That was what attracted me to check out the café, because there are so many cafes nowadays brewing fine coffee, but not many specialise in tea.

European cottage style Cafe Teavana

So one fine day, I deliberately made my way to Café Teavana for lunch. The ironical part was, while it was the pretty décor and gourmet tea selection that brought me there, I didn’t try any tea in the end. 😝 Instead, I had a Fruity Peach Latte (10.90+ MYR, S$3.50+) to go with my Grilled Chicken Thigh (23.90+ MYR, S$7.70+).

Great tasty food & beverage with pleasing presentation in a lovely ambience. The menu was quite extensive too, 7 pages with a variety of options ranging from appetisers, snacks, mains, beverages & desserts! If you are visiting with a friend or 2, try the popular high tea set that comes in single or couple set, or the signature pasta sampler set. In that way you won’t have a headache deciding what to eat since you get to sample & taste different types of pastries & pasta at one go economically. I didn’t regret walking all the way to Cafe Teavana, because I get to enjoy good food in a cosy pretty setting. Makes a wonderful spot for some cam-whoring as well… 😉

Address: 128, Jalan Dato Sulaiman, Taman Abad, 80250 Johor Bahru

Open: 12 pm to 10 pm daily.

Official website: Facebook

Taman Pelangi area

3. The Metallic Kitchen

The Metallic Kitchen is a bright & cheery container café just behind Pelangi Plaza. This was an accidental find as we wanted to check out a café recommended by a local – Sugar On Top along Jalan Kuning. We were walking towards Jalan Kuning from KSL City Mall & were already hungry when we saw Metallic Kitchen. So we thought why not give it a try, although the menu didn’t look too tantalising haha.

The Metallic Kitchen

Top image: Spaghetti Bolognese w/ Chicken Meatballs, bottom right image: Norwegian Baked Salmon w/ Herbs

Well, glad we didn’t just dismiss the café by its seemingly normal menu offerings. The Spaghetti Bolognese with Chicken Meatballs (13.90++ MYR, S$4.80++) was flavourful & spaghetti cooked to perfection. While the Norwegian Baked Salmon with Herbs (29.90++ MYR, S$9.65++) could be better if the portion had been more generous, taste-wise it was quite good as well. Drink selection was interesting, with refreshing concoctions such as Passionfruit Ice Smoothie (9.90++ MYR, S$3.20++), Yakult Passionfruit & Lemon with Sea Salt (8.90++ MYR, S$2.90++ each).

Address: PTD 76831, Jalan Kuning, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: 11 am to 2 am daily.

Official website: Facebook

4. Sugar On Top (S.O.T.)

After a filling meal at Metallic Kitchen, we walked down along Jalan Kuning to get to S.O.T. The café opened last January & has quickly become one of the hip cafes to visit in JB, according to a friendly local who told me about it when queuing for Hiap Joo’s famous banana cake one afternoon. The café doesn’t look very impressive from the outside, in fact quite plain with its simple white-washed façade. But the slogan at its entrance greeting customers as they enter the café is quite funny: “We Are Not Crazy Just SOT.” 😉

Clean & simple cafe furnishing with a touch of humor at its entrance 😉

Simple but cosy interiors + great Charcoal Waffles & Truffle Mushroom Soup

Being a desserts lover, I didn’t have to ponder too much on what to order as the menu said its Charcoal Waffles (14.90++ MYR, S$4.80++, add 3++ MYR / S$0.95++ for 1 scoop of ice cream topping) are its signature item. Indeed, it was a delightful plate of waffles, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with an aromatic eggy flavour. I didn’t have stomach space to try other items. I only managed to taste a little of the Truffle Mushroom Soup (14.90++ MYR, S$3.80++) my friend ordered which I believe would be a delight for truffle lovers with its strong aroma. I will certainly be back to try its pasta dishes & signature Hokkaido Matcha Hotcakes which seem to be quite popular too! It’s good that they have expanded quite fast & there are outlets at Austin Heights & Taman Sutera so it’s easily to satisfy my craving for them.

Address: 1, Jalan Kuning 1, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: 11 am to 12 am daily.

Official website: Facebook

5. Foodie Wedding

Along Jalan Serampang in Taman Pelangi area, there are several cafes you can hop to as well. Foodie Wedding is a bridal studio cum café you can find here. We were hesitant at first to visit as the décor looks more like a bridal studio than a place for a cuppa & food. But a closer look & you will see the words “Restoran” + “Awesome European Breakfast, waffles, espresso”.

Foodie Wedding makes a pretty place for some beauty shots with a small wedding car & stained glass interiors that evoke the feel of a church. The food was surprisingly good – delicious Smoked Duck with Sweet Potato (27.90++ MYR, $9++) & rich Belgium Chocolate Lava (22.90++ MYR, S$7.40++). Don’t expect creative drinks here though, just the basics like coffee, tea and soda.

Address: 43, Jalan Serampang, Taman Sri Tebrau, 80050 Johor Bahru

Open: 8.30 am to 9.30 pm daily except Thursday.

Official website: Facebook

6. Coffee Signature/ Container Cafe

I had read a lot about Coffee Signature since last year, but somehow never had the chance to visit until last month. This is another container café like Metallic Kitchen, located nearby Foodie Wedding, sitting beside a beauty centre called Annie Culture. Unlike Metallic Kitchen’s bright coloured containers, Coffee Signature is a plain black container café, making its white signage stand out even more.

Probably because of the dark colour, it’s hard to chill in this café at all. You have been warned, it was very warm despite having the aircon turned on. In fact, we felt like we were in a greenhouse! That aside, Coffee Signature is known for its coffee (of course), & the really photogenic Sweet Rain. Naturally we had to order that as well, although we opted for the tea version as we didn’t feel like having coffee that afternoon. There was not much we could choose from the limited menu offering of cakes & coffee. So we also ordered the Original Waffle (15+ MYR, S$4.80+) to share.

Photogenic Sweet Rain (Tea) & Original Waffles

Verdict: The waffle was soggy, certainly not something worth shouting about. We thought it was more economical to buy simple waffles from any neighbourhood bakery at a much cheaper price. Sweet Rain (Tea) was very pretty & Instagram-worthy, but too pricey at 16.90+ MYR (S$5.45+) for a normal cup of jasmine green tea. Well, the saving grace was probably the addictive cotton candy haha. Would we go back again? Don’t think so! ☹

Address: 52, Jalan Serampang, Taman Tebrau Jaya, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: 12 pm to 11 pm daily.

Official website: Facebook

7. Passionfood Café & Bakery

Located further away from the main row of shops along Jalan Serampang, Passionfood Café & Bakery is a homely café in a terrace house like Café Teavana. We were their first customers on a Saturday morning so could take nice shots of the lovely café (without any obstructions).

Welcome to Passionfood Cafe & Bakery

Sweet cafe interiors

We thought the café evoke a cute girly ambience throughout, from its décor to its colourful menu with drawings instead of food pictures to illustrate their offerings. It was not easy deciding what to eat here as there were too many interesting items to try!

Finally we decided on the Nasi Lemak Wrap (17.90++ MYR, S$5.80++) & topped up 5.50++ MYR (S$1.80++) for the soup of the day (mushroom soup) & iced honey lemon drink. I also ordered a Hazelnut Latte (10.90++ MYR, S$3.50++). Of course, we couldn’t resist ordering the Chocolate Lava (19.90++ MYR, S$6.40++) with a cool presentation like you see below.

From top left (anti-clockwise direction): Iced Honey Lemon, Hazelnut Latte, Nasi Lemak Wrap & Chocolate Lava

Frankly speaking, we didn’t feel the wrap tasted like nasi lemak. Nonetheless it was a very yummy & creative dish: tortilla wrapped with a piece of boneless fried chicken, sambal, peanuts, shredded vegetables & egg.  We also loved the lava dessert, especially the dramatic effect of letting the chocolate lava flow down & “drown” the bear biscuit. 😝 The only grouse we probably had was of the mushroom soup. It was salty beyond words! Wished we had bigger stomachs to take in some more desserts, because there were so many tempting cakes & cute cartoon macarons… We’ll be back! 😉

Address: 71, Jalan Serampang, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: Tuesday to Friday – 12 pm to 10 pm; Saturdays & Sundays – 10.30 am to 10 pm.

Official website: Facebook

8. Seven Oaks Bakery Café

As you leave Passionfood, you can see a traffic junction shortly down the street on your right. Seven Oaks Bakery Café is just diagonally across the traffic junction, housed in a grand 3-storey building. I first got to know about this café through a taxi driver’s recommendation last year, he said it was the “in” place for locals then. Indeed, it was crowded on our first visit last May. The first floor of the building is a spacious bakery & café is on the second floor. FYI Seven Oaks’ salted egg croissants caused quite a stir with foodies when it was first introduced last Jan (but I have never tried it).

Grand Seven Oaks Cafe building with posh interiors

During that visit, we ordered a main dish (pasta) & 2 pastries to share. The Smoked Salmon with Cream Spaghetti (25.90++ MYR, S$8.40++) was tasty, but it left a salty aftertaste. I would think the sweet treats (Heart of Colombia & Passionfruit Cheese Cake, 14.90++ MYR, S$4.80++ each) are more worthy to mention, not only looked pleasing but also yummy without being overly sweet.

Smoked Salmon w/ Cream Spaghetti (centre image), Heart of Colombia (left) & Passionfruit Cheese Cake (right)

The second time I merely passed by the posh building after a satisfying brunch at Passionfood last month, & it was so quiet. I wonder if it is because the hype over its salted egg croissants is already over? 😛

Address: 134, Jalan Serampang, Taman Tebrau Jaya, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: 9 am to 11 pm daily.

Official website: Facebook

9. Café Racer by Grillbar

Last but not least, Café Racer by Grillbar is a little off the main café trails in Taman Pelangi. I wouldn’t have known about this place if not for a friend who frequents JB like his second home haha. Unlike other cafes with cutesy or simple/ industrial décor, Café Racer stands out with its biker theme décor.

Cafe Racer by Grillbar biker themed interiors

As we already had dinner at a small night market in the vicinity, we only ordered small bites. Apparently my friend had been there a few times & were satisfied with what he had tried so far. We had the Jalapeno Chicken Pop Cubes (15.95+ MYR, S$5.15+) & the Signature Chocolate Lava dessert (18.95+ MYR, S$6.10+). I have to agree that the café serves good food & desserts, reasonably priced & in a unique ambience. No wonder it has been around since 2015 & still going strong. 😊

Address: 72 Jalan Pingai, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru

Open: 12 pm to 12 am daily.

Official website: Facebook

 

NB:

"+" for prices = additional 10% service charge.

"++" for prices = additional 10% service charge + 6% GST.

To help you with navigating your way around, I have created a Google map for your reference:

If you have already tried most of the cafes within walking distance from JB customs, why not venture a little further to the above 2 areas? Even if you do not drive, it’s not difficult to find your way to the above cafes. You can either take a public bus conveniently from JB Sentral Bus Terminal (directly connected to JB customs), or make use of the frequent Grabcar promotions in Malaysia to café-hop around with ease & comfort.

Hope you enjoy reading the café-hopping on a shoestring budget series!

You may also like: 
[UPDATED FEBRUARY’17]: Complete Your Café-Hop Adventure Near The JB Customs At These Cool Dessert Places
MORE Cafe-Hopping On A Shoestring Budget Near The JB Customs
[UPDATED JULY’16]: The KTM Shuttle Tebrau To & Fro Johor Bahru
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