Last May, I wrote about venturing further up north of JB customs to the food haven of Taman Mount Austin (click here to read the post). Surprisingly, despite sharing my limited experience – only 7 food establishments in the area, it was among my top 3 most popular new posts created in 2017. Encouraged by the support shown, I am motivated to share more about my subsequent trips to the food haven in this first cafe-hop series post of 2018. So read on for MORE of my cafe-hop & makan experience, with a combination of young & old cafes (based on their opening dates) in Taman Mount Austin!
1. **NEW** Cafes/ Restaurant Open in 2nd Half of 2017
a. People & Places Cafe
People & Places Cafe is located in the industrial area near Taman Mount Austin, in a fading grey-coloured warehouse named “Team Furniture”, as shown on map above (I couldn’t embed the cafe map successfully after many attempts, hence have to embed map showing the building name instead). Serving up delectable Melbourne brunch, coffee & brew, the 2-storey industrial warehouse cafe has garnered a lot of attention with the locals since its soft opening in June 2017. I’m not sure of the exact date of its official opening but it should be some time in July 2017. The place is considered quite ulu (remote), as even the Grab driver (FYI the exact location is not available in Grab when we went in a few weeks ago) had some trouble finding it. In fact when he reached the entrance, we were still unsure that this was it, as there was no visible signage at the gate. Instead we could only see the name – “Team Furniture”. 😅
Past through the glass doors of the plain-looking office building & we were greeted with this sight of a stylish cafe, decorated with potted plants dangling on the grilles as well as clean-cut wood furnishings. With a 2-storey high ceiling, it was bright & airy, & the furniture were not placed too close to one another. Although it was a very sunny day when we visited, it helped that the staff initiated drawing down the blinds once we sat down at the window seats he brought us to. So thoughtful of them. 😉
In case you are wondering if we got ourselves the above cool sofa seats, nope we didn’t, since it was only 2 of us. But never mind, the window seat we got was also very comfortable by the corner. Anyway, we managed to take photos of the above before we left, so no issue. 😛 Shortly after we were ushered to our seats & given the menu, a friendly staff member came over & asked if we would like some recommendations as she thought we were troubled over what to order. Haha I didn’t know we look so “troubled”, but it was a very nice gesture! We didn’t get her name (neither did she wear a name tag), but she seemed to be very knowledgeable as she went through each dish on the menu with us. This certainly added some brownie points for the cafe! 😉
What we ordered: Matcha Latte (13.80++ MYR, ~S$4.60++), Iced Latte (12.80++, ~S$4.25++) and Quesadilla Brekkie (26.50++ MYR, ~S$8.85++).
Verdict: We loved everything we ordered here, from the beverages to the signature brunch item. In fact, out of all the cafes & restaurants I’m writing in this post, People & Places Cafe is the first I write on, not only because it’s one of the most highly raved about newer cafes in Mount Austin, but also because it is my personal favourite. 🙂
My Iced Latte had a strong coffee aroma with the right blend of milk, just like the original Melbournian coffee, which I believe will be well-liked by coffee drinkers. I tried a bit of my friend’s Matcha Latte & it was equally rich & aromatic. Thanks to the friendly staff recommendation, we were wow-ed by the Quesadilla Brekkie which is a perfect fusion dish that marries the best of Thai & Mexican culinary traditions. It was a fantastic dish of fluffy tomyam scrambled eggs, chicken ham, sliced tomatoes, Sriracha aioli, coriander & cheddar cheese sandwiched between tortilla sheets, then topped with grated parmesan, pomegranate & a drizzle of pesto oil. According to the staff, the Melbourne Signature Hotcake (24.50++ MYR, ~S$8.15++) is also a crowd favourite. However, we didn’t order that as we wanted to save our stomach for more cafe-hopping thereafter. Never mind, there will be a next time! 😉
Address: 6, Jalan Kencana Emas 2/3, Perindustrian Tebrau lll, Johor Bahru
NB: The cafe is housed in a silverish office building tucked in a small lane parallel to the more well-known BMS Mall in the area. So if you are taking Grab there, BMS Mall (where 365 Cafe is located) may be a good landmark to use.
Open: 10 am to 6 pm (Mon – Thu); 10 am to 9 pm (Fri – Sun).
Social media: Facebook
b. Omaya Korean Spiced Chicken
Situated about 10 minutes by car from People & Places Cafe, Omaya Korean Spiced Chicken is one of the hottest Korean restaurants opened in Mount Austin recently. The Korean restaurant is the chain’s third outlet in Malaysia, following the success of its earlier outlets in Subang Jaya and Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. The Mount Austin outlet was officially open on 17 July 2017 to great fanfare, & queues were spotted on weekends even before it opened its doors at 11.30 am. So of course we had to check it out. 😛 Fortunately, because we visited on a weekday & the restaurant has been in operations for about 6 months, there was hardly any customer when we visited at 2+ pm that day.
The restaurant is quite spacious with an industrial decor, complete with safety “hazard signs” & bright orange helmets on the walls, as well as metal chairs painted in blue. Although the famous dishes here are its 1200mm Korean BBQ Skewer & Shimson Stew, we did not dare to take up the challenge as both were huge servings & we doubt our ability to finish the food. 😛
What we ordered: Orange Mango Cotton Candy Fizzy Drink (12.90++ MYR, ~S$4.30++) and Honey Mustard Boneless Chicken Cubes (32.90++ MYR, ~S$10.95++).
Verdict: The fizzy drink was a pretty & cute drink to order, instagram worthy, but I guess, that’s about it. Nothing too special about its taste, just a sweet soft drink haha. As for the Honey Mustard Boneless Chicken Cubes that came in a pan over a hot stove, we were somewhat disappointed with the lack of cheese to create that stretchy effect. Because we didn’t capture the cheese bubbling moment fast enough, we asked the waitress to turn on the stove again for a short while to shoot the moment. Thereafter the cheese became a bit too sticky to the pan & it didn’t taste as nice as we had hoped for. 😦 The chicken cubes were also not as tender as we thought.
Luckily we didn’t follow the waitress’ advice to order another dish as she commented that it was a “very small portion only fit for 1 pax”. We still felt quite full after the meal!
Address: No.49 & 51, Jalan Mutiara Emas 2A, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 11.30 am to 11.30 pm daily.
Social media: Facebook
c. Waku Waku 日式烈日松饼
Waku Waku 日式烈日松饼 is a simple cafe that you may easily pass by & miss if you never take note of its location, because there is no obvious signage outside or inside the cafe. It is just next door to Omaya, i.e. on its left side as you leave the Korean restaurant. As the first cafe specialising in waffles in Johor Bahru, Waku Waku’s waffles are made using quality ingredients imported from Japan. Being a Japanese dessert lover, Waku Waku was another must-visit cafe, despite already feeling full by the time we stepped in.
We hesitated for a while before entering the cafe as it looked so quiet without any customer from the outside. But fortunately we took the leap of faith to enter. Its Japan inspired minimalist design gave a very pleasant & cosy feel, & the best part was there was no other customer except us! My friend joked that I was so kind to make a block booking so we could enjoy the nice cafe to ourselves. 😛
What we ordered: Raspberry & Peach fizzy drink (13.90+ MYR, ~S$4.65+), Blooming Oriental Beauty flower tea (10+ MYR, ~S$3.35+), and Original Mochi Waffle (coated with peanut powder) with a scoop of Roasted Oolong Gelato, topped with Matcha Chia Seeds & Wolfberry Cookies, with Honey Maple sauce (14.90+ MYR, ~S$4.95++).
Verdict: So glad we made it here in the end, despite the initial hesitation because we were full + the cafe was too empty to be true. Lol… The single slice of waffle was very chewy because of the soft & fluffy mochi added in. We were pleased with our gelato choice too with a fragrant yet not overpowering oolong tea taste, dispelling our worries because oolong tea is usually stronger & more bitter. In addition, the toppings added crunch to the entire dessert. The waffle was not just a pretty sight to behold, but also a yummy one to eat! My fizzy drink was refreshing for a hot day & my friend’s blooming flower tea a healthy & beautiful drink to enjoy.
Address: 53, Jalan Mutiara Emas 2A, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 10 am to 6 pm (Tue-Fri); 10 am to 10 pm (Sat-Sun); closed on Tue.
Social media: Facebook
2. Cafes/ Restaurant That Have Opened Before 2017
a. JWC – Just Want Coffee, The Factory 30
JWC – Just Want Coffee, The Factory 30 can be considered one of the pioneer cafes in Austin Heights, having set foot in the area since 2014 around March/April. Known to be one of the best coffee spots in JB, JWC started as a small coffee shop in Permas Jaya in 2009, expanding into several outlets later on, & subsequently moved the flagship store to this former factory in Austin Heights. I had wanted to visit for the longest time, but because of its relative inconvenient location in an industrial area (just like People & Places Cafe recommended above) with nothing else to hop to, there was no kaki to go with until a few months back.
The building pictured above certainly looks like a boring warehouse, more than what one may expect from a leading “big brother” cafe for the hip & trendy. Luckily it was still pretty easy to spot the cafe because of its conspicuous sign at the entrance, which stands out amidst the jungle of large containers & car workshops. Past through a small dark glass door beyond the gate, & it’s an entirely different world altogether. 😉
As you can see from the collage above, the 2-storey cafe is very roomy, & its decor evoked a hip industrial feel. On the ground floor was the bar counter where the baristas worked + a few long tables (to house big groups I guess). We opted for a table on level 2 on the right side of the stairs (as seen in bottom right pic of collage). Too bad the seats by the eye-catching large logo was taken. 🤔 Gunny sacks hanging from the high ceiling, nostalgic machines scattered around the huge cafe, the rhythmic “thud, thud, thud” sounds as customers move up & down the metal stairway – all these & more just add to the modish vibes at JWC. 😉
What we ordered: Party Platter (18.90++ MYR, ~S$6.30++), Classic Cold Brew (16++ MYR, ~S$5.35++), and Salted Iced Rose Tea (16++ MYR, ~S$5.35++).
Verdict: The cafe menu wasn’t exceptionally extensive, & we were neither in the mood nor had the stomach for hearty main courses that afternoon. Thus we only ordered a Party Platter to share, which comprised of some chunky cut fries, popcorn chicken & nachos in a bucket. The platter came with 3 different sauces, which I don’t have much impression of. Frankly, it wasn’t a particularly outstanding party platter, taste was just average & it felt a bit overpriced for the quality & quantity (the bucket was not very deep). But the beverages were better. I liked the little surprise my Salted Iced Rose Tea brought, as the tinge of salt enhanced the aroma of the rose tea. My friend was an avid coffee drinker & she enjoyed the cold brew too. So probably JWC is still worth coming back, if you love coffee. Can give its main courses a chance next time (if I can find kakis to specially come here). 😉
Address: 30, Jalan Mutiara Emas 5/3, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 12 pm to 12 am daily.
Social media: Facebook
b. Just Want Coffee, Homies Aeon
Located on the ground floor of Aeon Tebrau City, Just Want Coffee, Homies (or JWC, Homies for short), is one of the spin-offs of JWC The Factory 30 mentioned above following the success of its flagship outlet. There is another Homies series cafe at Taman Molek in its own shophouse but I have never been there. This outlet is probably more accessible for Singaporeans who frequent JB for grocery shopping etc because there is a large Aeon hypermarket in the mall.
I recently visited this cafe together with a bunch of colleagues for afternoon tea. Although Christmas was already over, the cute little Santa Claus was still guarding the cafe with a bicycle behind it. 😛 Unlike the huge cafe space at Austin Heights industrial area, JWC Homies here was a small one, nonetheless it appeared cosy & stylish. Just like its flagship outlet, the brightly lit blue logo at its entrance assured diners “you are at the right place – JWC!” 😄
What we ordered: Desserts – Tiramisu & Brownie with a big scoop of ice cream; Beverages – Matcha Latte, Mocha, Rose Latte, Yuzu Iced Blended, Iced Mocha & hand-brewed coffee (not in pic).
Verdict: Because this cafe treat was on company account, I forgot to note down the prices hehe. But I think the price was around 12++ MYR (~S$4++) for a beverage. Price of the desserts was between 15++ & 20++ MYR if I remember correctly. I enjoyed my Rose Latte very much, because it was not just a visual feast with the beautiful rose petals surrounding the latte, but also a palatable beverage with the right blend of rose & coffee taste. I also tasted a bit of the Matcha Latte which was rich & fragrant too. As for the desserts, we preferred the Tiramisu as it was not as sweet as the Brownie. But 1 weird thing about the Tiramisu was, the texture was a little too icy for comfort. We had the feeling that it came straight to our table after getting the cake out from the fridge. 😑
You may be wondering why I didn’t include the hand-brewed coffee in the photo? It was because the barista took such a long time to “hand brew” the coffee, think half an hour or more, that my colleague had to ask him to pack in a takeaway cup, for fear of being late for our transport back to Singapore. When it finally came, it looked like the usual black coffee we buy at the local coffee shop, & taste wise, my colleague said it was just “normal black coffee”. 😅 So seems like we had expected too much of a hand-brewed coffee haha. Comparing between the cafe in the factory vs this in a mall, I would personally think it is more worthwhile making your way to the former, as there’s better service & ambience. Visit the latter, only if you are in the mall & want some cafe time at a convenience. 😉
Address: 118, Jln Harmonium 24/2, Taman Desa Tebrau, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 10 am to 10 pm daily.
Social media: Facebook
c. The Hare by SOT
The Hare by SOT is another themed cafe opened in September 2016 in the food haven of Taman Mount Austin, by the same team behind the popular Sugar On Top (SOT) cafe at Jalan Kuning. I visited its big sister with a friend more than a year ago (read more about the visit here) but didn’t know that its signature was the matcha lava cake then. Thereafter I passed by The Hare by SOT a few times when it was still new, featuring a similar white-washed facade with minimalist design like its big sister at Jalan Kuning. I was tempted to pop by because of the big rabbit (OK, I know it should be called as a hare…) outside, but didn’t visit because the timing was always not right, either too crowded or we were too bloated for sweet desserts. Finally, last September, I visited the popular themed cafe, for a taste of its highly raved about lava cake.
Happy that there were just a handful of customers when we visited The Hare that afternoon, probably because it was a weekday & the cafe has already been opened for a year by then (=hype gone). 😊 Inside the cafe, it was decorated with drawings of little rabbits, beautiful plants & flowers against the clean white walls. Very pretty & pleasant decor for great photos. 😀
What we ordered: Matcha Hotcake (16.90+ MYR, ~S$5.65+), Flat White (9.90+ MYR, ~S$3.30+), and Mint Choco Ice Blended (18.90+ MYR, ~S$6.30+).
Verdict: I think there were a few mains available on the menu, but we didn’t bother checking out as our eyes were fixed on the dessert section. While the coffee was average & nothing fantastic to shout about, my Mint Choco Ice Blended was quite yummy, & too filling! Should have asked them not to put whip cream, as I wasn’t aware in the first place. No wonder the price of my drink was more costly than the hotcake haha. Of course, the highlight of this visit was the Matcha Hotcake, & we must say it didn’t disappoint us! The hotcake was fluffy with a rich matcha taste. Plenty of “green lava” oozed out from the cake once we made a cut. The accompanying matcha ice cream & small serving of strawberries & blueberries were great too, adding a tinge of sourness to the sweet delight. This is the must-have when you visit The Hare, not just because it is Instagram-worthy, but also because it is a delicious treat.
Address: 55, Jln Austin Height 8/8, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 12 pm to 12 am daily.
Social media: Facebook (NB: This is the official Facebook page of its big sister SOT, no separate official page for The Hare)
d. Cafe de Flore
Most of the time, I hang around the area nearby Austin Heights Water Adventure Park, as there are many cafe choices to hop to within a 10-min walk, including The Hare, Creamery Boutique Ice Creams & The Workshop. But since I had covered most of the places in the area, we decided to walk a little further down the main road (Jalan Jaya Putra) to the cluster of shophouses known as “Little Paris”. Opened in July 2015, Cafe de Flore features a design inspired by Café De Flore in Paris, with soothing green plants & lovely flowers lining the patio. Stepping into the cafe felt like chilling in a lovely little garden.
Because the sky was overcast when we visited with a bit of drizzle, the cafe looked a bit pathetic with the lack of lighting. Or maybe because its owners didn’t do a good job in maintaining the garden, haha. Anyway, there was no one else except us in the big house, so the staff looked like their eyes were glistening with joy when we walked in. 😛 Sadly, I don’t remember much of the menu, likely because they served the usual (boring) cafe staples. So we decided to check out the pastries on display.
What we ordered: Rainbow Cake (13.90 MYR, ~S$4.65), and 2 cups of hot Honey Lemon drink (7.90 MYR, ~S$2.65 each).
Verdict: I echo the views of the online reviews I read about Cafe de Flore. It is a picturesque cafe to be in (on a clear sunny day) where you can take lots of pretty shots, but that’s about it. The Rainbow Cake looked very appealing to the eye, but it was not well done, with a coarse texture & overdose of sugar. 😦 Honey Lemon drink is just your normal cup of hot drink that can’t go wrong, so no plus points to entice us to go back in future.
Address: Jalan Jaya Putra 1/1, Taman JP Perdana, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 11 am to 11 pm daily.
Social media: Facebook
e. Vege Coffee
Last but not least, if all those sinful sweet desserts, protein-filled meats & carbo-rich mains are weighing too much on you, why not try something different, which is healthier, meat-less yet equally, or perhaps, even more delicious? There is Vege Coffee, in between Creamery Boutique Ice Creams & The Hare. Opened in November 2014, the low-key homely cafe tucked in a small alley of Austin Heights serves wholesome vegetarian fare, something unique unlike the typical Western brunches served elsewhere.
Don’t expect any fanciful decor at this vegetarian cafe, in fact some may have comments about its odd Chinese-style lanterns hanging high near the entrance. But hey, Vege Coffee is in JB, Malaysia owned by Chinese, so an Asian decor isn’t all that bizarre right? To a certain extent, this makes it stand out from the other industrial theme that we have seen far too often. 😉
What we ordered: Stone Pot Rice Noodle Soup and Spinach Soup Noodle (9.90+ MYR, ~S$3.30+ each), mock Curry Fish Head (13.90+ MYR, ~S$4.65+), hot Chrysanthemum tea and hot Luo Han Guo (4.50+ MYR, ~S$1.50+ each).
Verdict: If you think vegetarian food is boring & always in deep fried options (think the vegetarian food stalls in our kopitiams have spoiled the market), Vege Coffee will surprise you. It was a delightful lunch for us as we tucked into the hearty soup noodles. Thanks to the recommendation of the amiable boss (I think), we had a pleasant surprise when the mock Curry Fish Head arrived. Shaped exactly like a fish, you may really think it’s the real fish at first glance! The curry gravy was yummy & there was no fishy (of course :P) or weird mock meat flavour. Very tasty dish worth recommending to everyone, but best if the curry gravy could be a little more generous. 🤣 Overall, it was a wonderful discovery of this vegetarian cafe & I wish I had found out about this gem earlier. But better late than never, like what the boss said. 😉
Address: 56 Jalan Austin Heights 8/2, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru
Open: 11 am to 10 pm daily except Thu.
Legend: "+" = either additional 6% GST or 10% service charge. "++" = additional 6% GST & 10% service charge.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this second instalment of the cafe-hop & makan series in Taman Mount Austin as much as my first post written in May 2017. It is best to travel to the area by car or share a Grab with your buddies as Austin Heights is further away from JB customs & not so accessible by public transport. Enjoy your feast in the Taman Mount Austin food haven with the increasing number of noteworthy cafes & restaurants there!