Suburban Rooftop Bar
Rooftop bars are a staple in the city centre – not just in malls, mind you, a high-riser that seemingly houses only offices could very well feature a bar atop it all as well. Usually, despite what the décor would suggest, these bars would have an air of pretension to it by appealing to the upper middle-class crowd; the high-rollers trying to impress girls with a view of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from a decaying building’s unused helipad. Not so much with this new player in town – Mantra, situated on the rooftop of Bangsar Village II (BVII) and having a similarly panoramic view of the city’s skyline (albeit from a distance, with the unfortunate addition of the Nasi Lemak Famous food court below), is decidedly meant for the after office hours crowd. Or just BVII’s casual patrons who probably live a few blocks away in the surrounding neighbourhood, even.
One-half of its founders, Jing Ng, had spent years abroad in Miami, Florida and had referenced the city as an inspiration – namely for their specialty cocktails – but the lax vibe of the bar can be attributed to the beachside city too. Don’t misconstrue that fact as a signifier of ‘tropical’ bar clichés though, unlike another KL rooftop bar, Mantra is distinctly lacking in faux-palm trees, tiki totems, and unfortunately costumed barkeeps. Instead, it’s in the ambience of the venue and their choice of furniture; aside from the bar stools and tall tables, queen-size daybeds and plush sofas (one hanging on a swing) are placed both in its indoor lounge and the outdoor alfresco deck, whose long island bar is interconnected with the indoor section as well.
Then, there are the aforementioned craft cocktails. The classics are all present – their Old Fashioned and Pisco Sour are top choices – but their specialties, oftentimes a localised variation of an existing concoction, make for some inspired drinks as well. Their version of Long Island Tea – named Pulau Panjang – is essentially the same Teh O Ais Limau you could order at the neighbourhood mamak, right down to its presentation (served in a translucent plastic bag, tied at its ends, in a steel cup). It’s as easy to drink too, despite the high alcohol content implied in the menu – yes, the menu comes with a handy one-sentence description of each drink. Their gin and tonic doesn’t embellish the recipe, however, Mantra does brew their own tonic water and bentong ginger ale, which adds to the whole ‘craft’ aspect of their drinks.
The bites available really make Mantra something special though – like their drinks menu, a good chunk of it is a selection of tapas inspired by Asian and Western cuisines. The crispy whitebait topped with 63° Onsen egg and potato foam, soaked in sambal, is especially ace – and ostensibly inspired by the much less refined Sloppy Joe Fries one would imagine having by Miami’s beachside. Alongside that, soft-shell crabs and sliders the likes of their mantau with lobster tartare make for great bar snacks as well.
While it does have a DJ deck, Mantra isn’t interested in turning their space into yet another club night bar – it’s closed by 1.30am daily, anyway. What the proprietors really hope to accomplish here is in direct contrast to the bars below on Jalan Telawi 3; Mantra is really meant for you to have a good, cold drink and escape the din of the city centre, just as well the cacophony of yuppies and expats below it.
BANGSAR VILLAGE II,
JALAN TELAWI 1, BANGSAR BARU,
59100 KUALA LUMPUR.
T: 016 215 9886
OPEN: 4.30PM – 1.30AM (CLOSED ON MONDAYS)