For this edition of the series I chatted with Bakh and Zainah of Malaysian cafe KL Canolog. The cafe has been open for just over a year, ...


March 05, 2014 Anonymous 0 Comments

For this edition of the series I chatted with Bakh and Zainah of Malaysian cafe KL Canolog. The cafe has been open for just over a year, and I wanted to find out a bit more about their ideas for bringing a taste of Kuala Lumpur to Cardiff.

On what makes KL Canolog unique:
"We are a truly independent cafe and deli, from idea, funding, inception and the current running of the cafe. We offer food that isn't the well-known 'mainstream' such as Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern or Thai. Being a Malaysian cafe makes us unique. Having lived in Roath and Penylan for more than a decade makes us understand the street and neighbourhood. All these years of being customers of cafes and shops on Wellfield Road ourselves have made us understand what people want and expect on the street. Now, we are on the other side of the counter serving the people of the neighbourhood instead of being served. It is a surreal kind of feeling, even now after more than a year of running the cafe day in day out. Lots of people say they love our Nasi Lemak, Rending and Laksa. It is amazing to hear such great feedback. We are not trained chefs, just a husband and wife team; an architect and an ex-banker, who have decided to cook their family's favourite dishes for other people. It's a fantastic feeling really.

Our cafe interior and atmosphere is also unlike any other cafe. Come in and you'll see chairs and tables that don't quite match, some of which are brought over from our home. Blinds that were definitely not put up by professionals for sure (but actually look alright), and photography from friends and family hung up on the wall. We have two clocks on the wall, one showing the time in Cardiff, and one showing KL time 8 hours forward, very useful to remind us when it's too late to call our mums and mother-in-laws. We also sell chocolates that are made in Wales, made by a chocolatier friend. We currently have a selection of nine different chocolate bars with special flavours such as cardamom, star anise, coffee and cinnamon, habatus sauda, pandan and lemongrass.

Our name is also quite unique. When we were going through names and came up with the name KL Canolog more than a year ago, it was instantly agreed between the two of us. It was a eureka moment! It just seemed so right. Canolog in Welsh means central and we named our shop after the main train station in Kuala Lumpur called KL Sentral, a place that is always buzzing and full of energy."

The inspiration behind the menu:
"We created the menu from our own personal favourties, mostly what we had on a daily basis when we were living in Kuala Lumpur, some dishes more commonly had at home and some others more usually eaten in the local corner cafes, or typically referred to as Mamak shops in KL. We've kept it as simple as possible as we know quite a number of people will already have some difficulties being unfamiliar with Malaysian food. As far as the food goes, to put it simply, we have three main rice dishes, three noodle dishes, five Malaysian inspired wraps, four starters, three desserts, a selection of homemade cakes, soft drinks, Malaysian teas and coffees, etc. Sounds too simple? We think not really. Come over for a visit and you'll see that there are ample options within each dish and also contrasting characters of the different dishes to make the menu interesting and varied. We will be introducing specials from time to time on weekends as well so that we can offer food that's not on the menu.

Nasi Lemak (coconut infused rice) with Chicken Rendang we would say is the most popular dish on our menu right now. A quarter of our customers who walk in order this. Not only can Nasi Lemak be considered the Malaysian national dish, but Nasi Lemak has always been our number one Malaysian dish of all time, and since we've had children, it's now become a family favourite. Dad's Nasi Lemak our children would say, but what we tell our friends is, whoever invented the Nasi Lemak, perhaps hundreds of years ago, is an absolute genius. A dish so simple yet all the many contrasting different elements in it are perfect together. There is no Malaysian we know that does not love Nasi Lemak!"

KL Canolog one year from now:
"In a years time, we hope we will be serving our food to more Cardiffians with a menu that is maybe slightly more evolved but still staying true to the idea of non-fussy, quite simple and value for money Malaysian food. The family 'feel' of the cafe has always come quite naturally for us, and even if we expand further as a business, we'll always form a central character to our cafe. It is still early days now as we have been running as a business for just over a year. To develop as a business and expand successfully if the situation permits is the obvious objective, if the opportunities are there.

The second year of business will define what we will be in the near future as we go through our evolution process as a food business. We feel strongly about our Malaysian roots and proud of our Malay heritage, but without a doubt also feel an intimate and strong emotional relationships with Cardiff and Wales. We hope the merging of these two countries and cultures is and always will be genuinely reflected in the personality of our cafe."

You can follow KL Canolog on Twitter here.

KL Canolog has now closed.