Hidden cocktail bar is the flag-bearer of Chinatown’s revival.
If there’s any part of Kuala Lumpur that has changed by leaps and bounds and yet has managed to retain its character, without a doubt Chinatown comes to mind. What originally began as a bustling commercial centre commanded by Chinese traders had taken a different turn not long ago, the name it retains not exactly fitting of what it had become. However, as of recent, exciting new projects have cropped up in this old section of town, blowing in a much-needed breath of fresh air in its direction.
One such establishment that plays a pivotal role in the new wave of development in Chinatown is PS150, arguably the most popular hidden cocktail bar in the area. As popular as it is, finding the site may not be the easiest part of one’s visit. The streets in the vicinity do get quite dark during the night but they remain bustling with a different set of activities compared to the day. Passing by quickly you may miss the inconspicuous signboard of the bar, but what would surely catch your attention is a well-lit antiquated toy store, with a wide range of retro figurines and other playthings. Stop right there – you have arrived.
In case you’re still wondering about the reason behind the bar’s unique name, it stands for ‘Petaling Street 150’ – the building’s unit number along the street. Pay close attention and you will spot the name on a simple cardboard signage hanging on the toy store’s wall. Now no matter what your friends say or what your favourite lifestyle platform writes, here’s the fact: PS150 is not a speakeasy. Angel Ng, the co-founder of the hotspot, explains why in her Instagram post:
So… what is a speakeasy then? How to differentiate a speakeasy and a hidden cocktail bar? First of all, a real speakeasy wouldn’t post up the full address especially the unit number. Secondly, there shouldn’t be any sign stating the name of the bar at the front and lastly no one is able to look into the bar. Now my dear One-fiftians, does anyone knows where the real speakeasies are in KL since we have broken all rules of being one? #ps150kl #sneakybar #chinatownkl #petalingstreet150 #barandbeverage #MYcocktailbars #klcocktailscene #Regrann
As customary with most hidden cocktail bars, a rickety door at the back of the store provides entrance. Push through and be instantly ‘transported’ to elegant old Shanghai right at Kuala Lumpur’s backyard, as you walk into a collection of spaces done up in minimalistic Oriental fashion. Fully optimising the pre-war shophouse it’s located in, the cocktail bar is separated into three different areas – starting with the intimate booths up front, followed by an open-air terrace and ending with a dramatic bar space. Observe the furnishings as you wind through the labyrinth, for each section pays homage to distinct periods in Indochine history and cocktails.
Chinatown is a beautiful misunderstood place. Give yourself some time to discover the hidden beauty. ° ° Full video available on youtube – link at @fujinliow bio or PS150’s Facebook ° ° #ps150kl #sneakybar #cocktailbar #chinatownkl #mybhasia #MYcocktailbars #barandbeverage #mybartendershandshake#ASEANCocktail
The main highlight of PS150 – which truly draws the crowd to this speakeasy-inspired establishment – is undeniably the masterpiece of a bar counter situated in its heart. It is the monument that first-timers come to pay their respects to, where priests in the form of bartenders act as conduits between patrons and the deities of cocktails. In other words, where you can order an amazing drink while ogling over a hundred bottles of liquor, some with labels you may have never seen before. A striking red neon sign on the bar is also responsible for drawing visitors like moths to a flame, bearing the Chinese words “Chi Chueng Kai”, the local Chinese name for Jalan Petaling.
Not one to shy away from anything Asian, the bar presents its cocktail and snack menu in a brown notebook similar to the ones used locally in schools. The drink menu itself is one-off – they comprise original Southeast Asian-inspired concoctions or classics done with a unique local twist. Go bold with your choices, for each drink mixed for you at this establishment is an art form. You could also request to get something made especially for you but be sure to tell the bartender your preferred spirit base and flavour.
PS150 is an immersive experience; the naturally peeling plaster walls and exposed bricks with attached tree roots of the former brothel provide a bygone ambience no other hidden cocktail bars or speakeasies located in shopping centres or modern shophouses ever could. The clever choice of décor and use of space, from the beaded curtains in the Opium Den by the entrance to the smoking area with a vast standing space at the Post-War courtyard, allow patrons to be whisked away to either a golden age or a movie set by Wong Kar Wai with Maggie Cheung. Even the music sets the scene wonderfully, only at the cost of you drawing out your phones to Shazam the songs. Thankfully the PS150 team have graciously made their playlists public for your listening pleasure anywhere you are. Feel free to click on the one below to get a taste, as well as visit Angel’s Spotify here for more PS150 music.
Drinks at the joint start at RM40 and it is best to make a reservation before heading there on weekends. Apart from cocktails, they also offer a wide range of regional drinks, such as the Oolong Tea Liquer from Taiwan and tuak from Sarawak. PS150 is open Tuesday to Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. From Sunday to Thursday, you can come dressed as you wish but on Fridays and Saturdays, you will need to “dress to impress.”