As you approach the facade of the building where the restaurant is situated, one would immediately apprehend an intimation of its lasting history in the grand sweep of Kuala Lumpur’s history, steadfastly resistant and impervious to urbanisation. Owned by the Selangor Grocer’s Guild, the building houses one of the latest and prominent restaurant, bar and events space in Chinatown- Crane KL.
Although the building is 100-years old, the restaurant’s ambiance is anything but. At night, the restaurant is filled with soft, but warm lightning illuminated by white lanterns that crown each dining table. Every corner is adorned by a tasteful selection of palm trees that invites a sense of tropical prestige and feelings of being in nature. Towards the back, an opium bed leads the way to the washroom echoing the building’s darker past.
The restaurant is a tasteful and elegant mixture of a duality and their dishes reflect this mandate for the fusion of old and new, east and west. It boasts a menu of western Asian fusion with dishes such as ‘Udon Masak Lemak’ and ‘Ribeye Steaks’ with kai lan with green pea mash. Catering to the more discerning crowd, Crane KL serves the higher end meat like wagyu cheeseburgers and steaks, they also have interesting snacks/small bites such as ‘Nasi Lemak Wonton’, where all the condiments are packed into a wonton ball and served with homemade sambal on the side.
A set of double doors at the back of the restaurant lead to the alter ego of the restaurant- the bar. As you walk upstairs, you will see a magnificent chandelier and old photographs of a long-forgotten era. The journey upwards is a walk back in time; one can’t help but imagine what the world would have been like for our grand- and great grandparents.
The rear area, towards the floor above, was used by the Selangor’s Grocer’s Guild for storage during the 40s and 50s and was also used as an opium den. In the 90s, it was then turned into a backpacker’s hotel. The grocer’s guild was established by seven Chinese grocers to create an association representing the interests of grocers, retail traders, and sundry shop owners back in the 1920s, during the inception of the building. To this day, the association still owns it.
The surrounding of the bar is draped with red veils and furnished with uniquely-designed lanterns and red furniture, credits to the Crane KL’s internal design team. The bar features the award-winning ‘The Dragon Turns’ cocktail gin infused with chrysanthemum flower, infused peppercorn syrup, fresh red dragon fruit juice, fresh lemon juice, pandan leaf. This is served in a glass milk carton and straw.
Another noteworthy cocktail unique to the bar is ‘The Wrestless Monkey’, a smoking chinese pot with curry leaves infused vodka, honey lemon syrup, infused chilli, honey syrup, fresh ginger juice, fresh curry leaves, fresh lemon juice and dry ice.Today, the mere mention of Chinatown calls into mind a place with a unique symphony of sights and sounds, from foreigners selling counterfeit sneakers to a teasing selection of food choices to be found among the many street food stalls. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, Chinatown is but a pale shadow of its former self and it is spaces like Crane KL that keep hopes alive.
With the Selangor Grocers Guild standing tall, it is a beacon of hope that the best is still yet to come to the city of Kuala Lumpur.