7 Hipster Cafés in JB Worth Crossing the Border For

7 Hipster Cafés in JB Worth Crossing the Border For

On your next weekend getaway, join in the café hopping trend to experience some of the best cafés in Johor Bahru!

Despite the long queues at customs, the proximity and affordability of Johor Bahru (“JB”) have attracted many of us across the causeway. Coupled with delectable food options, JB is THE perfect weekend getaway location for Singaporeans!

Making my umpteenth entry into JB, I dedicated last weekend to scouting and shortlisting some of the best cafés in the Malaysian state. Great news – all of them (except one) are conveniently located walking distance away from the customs and within the same area! This one is for all you foodies and café lovers out there!

1. Flowers in the Window

Flowers in the Window is a garden café brimming with plants and, you guessed it, flowers! Adopting metal and glass furnishings, this quiet haven almost resembles a greenhouse. Yet, even with the plethora of plants all around, the café did not feel cluttered. As I sipped on my latte, it felt like I was sitting on a veranda of a garden, enjoying a late afternoon tea. The clever use of yellow lights around the counter also created an illusion of a setting sun over the garden café, enhancing its quaint and tranquil atmosphere.

Purple Carrot Cake (left); Pear, Ginger, Thyme & Sunflower Seed Cake (right)

The beautifully plated cakes here were yummylicious! The Purple Carrot Cake was moist and flavourful. Coupled with the crunchy walnuts, there were different dimensions to the texture and taste of the cake. As a HUGE fan of carrot cakes, I really enjoyed this and will definitely come back again for more!

For our second cake, we decided to go with something less conventional and picked the Pear, Ginger, Thyme & Sunflower Seed Cake (what a mouthful, I know). It was an interesting experience tasting the myriad of flavours in this cake. As I bit into the ginger warily, expecting a “spicy cake”, I was surprised to taste only a slight tinge of spiciness. In fact, its tartness cuts into the sweetness of the buttery cake, producing a rush of fragrance I’d never imagine in a cake. The sunflower seeds and thyme also went hand in hand to create a cake that reminded me of nature and home.

If you adore cakes and have a thing for quirky cafés, then you have to check out Flowers in the WIndow on your next JB trip!

8 Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru 80000
Wifi Password: talktoyourfriends
Opening Hours: 10am – 9pm

2. Roost Café

A quirky café that utilises oil barrels and cardboard to build its furniture, Roost Café is more than just an ordinary establishment. Parading its mission to repurpose and recycle through its dishes, the interior of the café screams creative sustainability. From cupboard chairs to old trolleys, the delightful use of antique items also creates an excellent backdrop for instagram-worthy pictures.

Since Roost Café is famous for its healthy food bowls, we knew we had to try one! After much consideration (there were simply too many options!), we settled for the Mash Potato Sausage Bowl, a hearty mixture of mash potato, onsen egg, mushroom sauce, chicken sausage and sourdough. What we loved most was the french onion in the mushroom gravy that elevated the taste of the creamy and smooth mash potato. In addition, the smart usage of pepper in the mushroom sauce ensured that one will not be too ‘jelak’ from eating the mash potato. Oh, and did we mention how good the onsen egg went with the mash potato?!

Fans of hipster cafés will find this Roost Café endearing with its wide range of food options and its thought-provoking theme of environmental conservation. This is one not to be missed!

9 Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru 80000
Wifi Password: youarenotlost
Opening Hours: 10am – 12am

3. Chaiwalla & Co. Container Café

Branding themselves as Malaysia’s first container café, Chaiwalla & Co. is an outdoor café built with ship containers and reclaimed wood. Beautifully furnished with greenery and modern decor, the two-storey café is a popular location for photo shoots (we saw two in just one hour there!). It is also ingeniously located a stone’s throw away from the famous Hiap Joo Bakery, so those queuing for their favourite banana cake can seek a respite from the cold, slurpy-licious drinks at Chaiwalla & Co.

Chaiwalla & Co. allows its patrons to customise their drinks entirely according to their preference (think: just like Gong Cha!). Personally, I like the Thai Green Milk Tea with 20% sugar level best because the sweetness of the drink is not overpowering, unlike most Thai milk tea. The drink is also particularly suitable for JB’s hot weather, and the size of the drink can last you for a good half an hour as you explore the iconic streets of Jalan Wong Ah Fook. Plus, if the ice melts too quickly, you can always ask for a refill from the café’s friendly staffs!

Unfortunately, I made a mistake of opting for Thai Green Milk Tea with Nata De Coco instead of my usual pearl toppings that fateful day. The Nata De Coco (and its juice, I suspect) became a flavouring instead of a topping and completely overwhelmed the milky green tea. It’s a shame, really, because I had been looking forward to my usual fix at Chaiwalla & Co.

Nevertheless, Chaiwalla & Co Container Café is a one-of-a-kind café you want to check out in JB! Living up to its slogan “Honest Tea by Honest People”, the café’s interesting concept and hospitality definitely deserve some attention from café hoppers.

Lot 2810, Tan Hiok Nee Street, Johor Bahru 80000
Opening Hours: 9.30am – 10.30pm

4. Shakespeare

Image credit: Shakespeare Facebook

We stumbled upon this hidden gem while looking for a restroom. Sometimes, the best things are those most unexpected and unplanned! With light brown hues blended into simple white decor, the café’s interior is bright and welcoming.

Apart from its signature milkshakes and ice creams, the café also serves croffles – croissant prepared in a waffle-maker. We opted for the Beef Pastramai & Cheese Croffle and my, was it tasty! The nicely toasted croissant was crispy and the savoury cheese and ham complemented the buttery croissant perfectly.

However, the true star of the show was the Japanese Genmaicha which came in this exquisite pot. Genmaicha is the mixture of roasted brown rice with green tea and is one of our favourite Japanese tea. As we tasted it excitedly, we weren’t disappointed! The subtle taste of roasted rice lingered on our tongues as the green tea’s fragrance faded gradually. Not only did it brought back fond memories of our time in Uji, Kyoto, it also cleared our palate and left us wanting more.

9 Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru 80000
Wifi Password: SHAKESPEARE
Opening hours: 1pm – 11pm
*Closed on Wednesday

5. Faculty of Caffeine

Stepping away from the bustling streets of JB and into a dim room with jazz music faintly playing in the background, it was like we had entered into another world. Founded by a medical doctor and an interior designer who are both passionate in coffee, food and design, it’s no wonder that the Faculty of Caffeine is so chic and stylish.

Craving for some dessert, we ordered Madam Lim’s Brownies. Moist, sweet and rich, the brownie was delicious! Accompanying the brownie was the perfect combination of the peanut butter drizzle, chocolate sauce and nuts, which created a multitude of taste and texture. In fact, we thought that the brownie had completely stolen the show from the vanilla ice cream! It was a shame, though, that the brownie was not warm enough, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.

We noticed some other interesting dishes in Faculty of Caffeine’s menu, including the Signature Tendon Unagi and Fried Chicken Maze Ramen. These fusion dishes sure sound finger-licking good! I was also told that the café continues to reinvent its menu to retain novelty for its patrons, so we can expect new dishes constantly. Well, this is one café that I would surely return to try out their new food creations!

106 Jalan Trus, Johor Bahru 80000
Wifi Password: foc1234567890
Opening Hours: 9am – 5.30pm

6. Sangkaya

If you are looking for a dessert place to rest your feet, Sangkaya is your to-go! A brightly lited, down to earth café, Sangkaya serves tasty ice cream with authentic flavours. This café started from humble beginnings in a push cart and its popularity grew so quickly that it eventually relocated to an actual shop. Today, it has over 15 outlets in Malaysia!

We tried the signature ice cream with four different flavours – Gula Melaka, Teh Tarik, Teh Ijo and Coconut. Our favourite flavour was the Gula Melaka! On the first bite, its sweetness rushes into your mouth but does not overwhelm. More importantly, it was fragrant and authentic, unlike artificial sweeteners that are typically used in ice cream.

Close in second place was Coconut, which tasted like fresh coconut flesh shavings. Refreshing and delicious, it didn’t take too long before we finished the entire thing. If not that we had more food places to go, we would surely have ordered seconds!

14 Jalan Dhoby, Johor Bahru 80000
Wifi Password: aboutcoconut
Opening Hours: 12pm – 11pm

7. Ink and Water

“We are more of a “咖啡馆” (coffeehouse) and less of a café.”, Ink and Water’s owner, William told us. Unlike most cafés which emphasise on food, Ink and Water strives to create the best coffee to complement its artistic interior. Turning his hobby into passion, William literally engineered every single piece of furniture and designed every detail in Ink and Water. Every cup of coffee is also handmade and every slice of cake is home-baked. As he introduced the intriguing café to us, we could not help but marvel in awe at his brilliance and persistence.

As we approached, we weren’t sure if this was the right place. We couldn’t even figure out how to enter the café! Later, we found out from William that the anonymity is intentional. He wanted Ink and Water to accentuate humility and simplicity, like that of a kampung.

Ink and Water tells a story of restoration from ruins and rainbow after a storm. This very brick wall is the actual wall of the building it sits in and was intentionally left untouched to create a rustic feel. The rusty metal plates and old water pipes are also symbolic of reconstruction, and wooden planks used for flooring were recycled from old Malaysian kampungs.

Lotus table (left); Spinning round seat (right)

We were introduced to various fascinating furniture that William (an engineer by training) had designed and made. One of which was the lotus table. Made from bamboo and glass, it represented purity and modesty that William envisioned for Ink and Water.

Another fascinating piece of furniture was the round seat that spins on marbles along the bench. William’s intention was to allow children to “slide” along on the bench as they dined with their families, creating an intimate and interactive setting. Instead of using usual ball bearings, William chose marbles as the rolling element to reminisce his childhood memories from the kampung days. How creative is that!

This beautiful artwork caught my eye the moment we entered. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that these flowers were made from used coffee filters, and their earthly brown colour is in fact coffee stain! Indeed, every single decor alluded to William’s passion for crafting the perfect coffee and his desire to create a strong personality for this café.

Soaking in the ambience of Ink and Water, we sipped on our Cold Brew Uji Matcha and a hot cup of Latte. Despite its powdery texture, the Cold Brew Uji Matcha was surprisingly well mixed. There were no sediments and the bitter-sweet taste of the Cold Brew was constant throughout. As for the latte, it was fantastic. My friend, who usually dislikes coffee, told me he really liked it. The flavour was consistent top-down and the subtle bitterness melded so well with its fragrance. It was one smooth cup of coffee!

Although Ink and Water is slightly further away from the customs (about 10 minutes drive), it is hands-down our favourite café in JB. A perfect amalgamation of good coffee, incredible café design and a wonderful story-telling experience, Ink and Water is definitely a must-go on your next JB trip!

46 Jalan Pingai, Taman Pelangi, Johor Bahru 80250
Wifi Password: inw52020
Opening Hours: 1pm – 1am
*Closed on Tuesdays

About Author

Sim Yi Zhen
Sim Yi Zhen

Adventurer and athlete, Yi Zhen has a penchant for planning travel itineraries that are off the beaten path. She also daydreams about travelling to Liverpool for the 2019 Netball World Cup.


Related Posts