Words: Louise Miller Photos: Monica Tindall
By the time I crossed the threshold of this speakeasy-style bar, I’d already broken into a bit of a sweat: as you would expect from somewhere aiming for that sense of clandestinity, the lack of signage had me wandering up and down the road a few times and then, even after having correctly identified the building, completely missing the entrance, cleverly disguised by the eponymous locker doors. Finding this watering hole was thirsty work but I was finally in the right place for a well-earned liquid reward.
Before embarking on our consumption of a cocktail cornucopia, we drank in The Locker & Loft’s design: ingeniously conceived by the bar’s owners, the style of the place achieves a super cool look of a distillery with an array of upcycled industrial features; a burnished copper bar overhung by a network of exposed gleaming copper pipes; seats fashioned from cement and railway sleepers, expanses of exposed brick peeping through the cement lined walls all contrasting with the cosiness of the soft lighting, touches of red leather upholstery and artwork ranging from a huge black and white photographic New York scene to mozaics crafted from bottle tops – the bar provides a feast for the eyes in addition to the palate.
The Locker & Loft’s owners are certainly well-placed to achieve something special on the F&B scene: originally trained as a lawyer, Deepak Gill took a circuitous route to bar ownership via journalism and marketing, however his passion for booze has been evident for many years through his lifestyle blog ‘Thirstyblogger’. Partner, Paul Dass on the other hand, started out as a barman when only a teenager and has been in the industry ever since. And so with this information, we already felt confident that the depth of knowledge and creativity that comes from the collective years of research and experience would be a firm foundation from which to launch this establishment and we awaited the arrival of the first round of cocktails with very high expectations.
Kelapa Rock (RM22), also the house special seemed like a good choice to start with as it promised (according to the menu) to ‘rehydrate while you dehydrate’ and with its refreshing blend of coconut water and vodka, seemed to do just that. What a great way to ward off potential hangovers! Kg Pandon Don (RM30), also a top seller, combined rum, tequila, lime, pandan syrup and coconut milk to create a medley of flavours and lingering finish. But for me, the standout highlight of these openers was the Southern Quack (RM32). With its base of black truffle infused vodka, the sweet earthiness was beautifully balanced with spiced syrup and the citrusy notes from the lemon juice and orange bitters. This had serious ‘wow’ factor!
The Yellow Sub (RM25), presented like a thick and frothy milkshake, saw vanilla ice-cream blended with fresh nangka (jack fruit) topped with a shot of Cuban rum and Baileys. The option to boost this with an extra shot of rum will set you back a mere RM10. Peppa (RM30) was created with mezcal, red pepper juice, lime and orange bitters and egg whites which formed the foamy top adorned by a pretty slither of dried red pepper. This was another hit with all of us and Caning’s favourite cocktail of the evening.
Another cocktail to maximise local flavour influences is the Brown Brown (RM30) – this one is for Milo fans as the drink is a very simple sweet and chocolatey blend of Milo ais with two shots of vodka. We highly recommend slurping it through the chocolate wafer straw to max out on chocolate-ness.
El Guapo! (RM45) was as smooth and sophisticated as the name suggests. Composed of El Dorado (a delicious Guyana rum aged for 12 years), The Locker & Loft’s house-made falernum liqueur and aromatic bitters, this was mellow with notes of the spice and hints of clove and instantly became Monica’s favourite.
In addition to the fantastic choice of cocktails of which those listed are merely a sample, The Locker & Loft offers some great wines. The wine list is in the pipeline but the house pour (RM22 a glass, RM100 a bottle) is the South African Tormentosa, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Also on offer are a range of craft beers and a Spirits Of The Harvest, Tuak Sarawak (a Bornean rice wine at RM18 glass, RM88 bottle).
The Locker & Loft’s home brewed liqueurs are also well worth a taste. We tried the Falernum (RM18) made with vodka, almond and cinnamon and the Mangosteen which had been made with both the fruit and the skin to create its deep purple hew and fruity flavour. Both were truly excellent.
The Mutton Varuval Quesadilla (RM17) were little tortilla envelopes stuffed with gently spiced goat (not mutton!) and were so toothsome and moreish – they get a big thumbs up from all of us. The Breaded Catfish Fingers (RM17) were generous and juicy goujons of the succulent fish coated with crispy breadcrumbs and were accompanied by Creole plantain chips and ginger torch tartare. Minced Pork and Sweet Potato Leaf Queso with toast (RM17) had us all oohing and ahhing with its scrumptious creamy, subtle curry flavours. We scooped heaps of this onto the doorstop toast slices and mopped up all remaining traces until the bowl was clean.
Before embarking on the main dishes, we cleansed our palates with a super refreshing Grilled Watermelon Salad (RM20) with lychee, feta, tomato chips and kesum leaves and dressed with a tangy soy vinaigrette.
Slow-Cooked Char Siew Baby Back Ribs (6 ribs RM55, 12 ribs RM98) were succulent and tender under the glistening dark char siew sauce. This is a great sharing dish for lovers of rich Chinese flavours. The Baked Tilapia (RM32) was topped with super spicy assam pedas sambal and accompanying sautéed spinach. I have to admit to having scraped off some of the sambal, as tasty as it was, just to experience the delicate flavour of this fish on its own. With or without the sambal, it was a winner!
The Grilled Mutton Rack With Percik Sauce (RM55) were incredibly juicy ribs of goat (commonly referred to as mutton in Malaysia) and were drenched in a wonderfully flavourful sauce not unlike satay. Ours came with pretty little coils of cucumber, red onions and tender chunks of buttery sweet potato.
Last but not least of the mains was Smoked Duck Aglio Olio (RM28) – a tangled mound of linguine tossed with smoked duck breast, tomatoes, szechuan peppers, garlic, coriander and cashew nuts. Yum!
We concluded our visit with Sago Gula Melaka (RM15) and Crispy Pain Perdu (RM16). The former was the classic Malaysian sweet coconutty dish topped with chunks of refreshing mango and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and the latter, indulgent bricks of pain perdu coated in crispy cornflakes and almonds drizzled with a yummy homemade butterscotch sauce and served up with caramelised bananas and coconut ice-cream.
Everything about this new bar impressed us: the food, service, the incredible cocktails and even the play list that Deep had compiled over many months. Locker & Loft may be hidden away but once the word has spread, we feel sure that it will be one of the top ‘go to’ places for those in the know.
Reasons to visit: Cocktail highlights (if only short listing three) are Southern Quack, Peppa and El Guapo! Food highlights were the Mutton Quesadillas, Minced Pork and Grilled Mutton Rack With Percik Sauce. In addition to this, The Locker & Loft gives excellent value for money particularly compared to neighbouring TTDI and Mont Kiara.
The Locker & Loft is open 5:00pm until late from Tuesday to Saturday and from 12:30pm until late on Sunday. Fridays are busy so be sure to book.
The Locker & Loft
40A, Jalan SS 20/10,
47400 Petaling Jaya,
+6 03 7496 7222