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Review: Knowhere reinterprets pub grub with Malaysian flavours

Bangsar continues to be the epicentre of food with the recent opening of Frozen by Ken, which is currently one of the best places for artisanal ice cream desserts, as well as Upperhouse Kitchen & Dessert Bar for its delicious burnt cheesecake. On top of that, both places also serve hearty brunches for the demanding crowd in the bustling Jalan Telawi area. The night scene, on the other hand, continues to excite with the new gastropub, Knowhere.

Its late night opening hours are a pulling factor for many looking for a good midnight meal that’s not McDonalds or from the nearby mamak. And what better way than to dig in to comfort food that blends Malaysian flavours that we know and love.

“At Knowhere, we pull in elements of comfort with flavours that feel like home. We want to make this neighbourhood bar joint where customers can come and meet with family and friends in the name of great food,” shares Shalini Surian, owner of Knowhere.

Surian’s strong sustainable values and knowledge for the bar scene also shine evidently in each aspect of the restaurant-slash-bar. The team encourages a more environmentally responsible lifestyle with the Tak Nak Straw campaign, which supports the use of metal straws in the premise. Knowhere collaborates with The Usuk Initiative to source for handmade bamboo straws by the locals in East Malaysia. On top of that, the kitchen donates all food waste to Kebun-Kebun Bangsar to be used as compost as part of its zero-waste efforts.

Set for the night owls, the interiors are decked with fairy lights to create a magical setting. The feature wall is artfully designed with murals in the shape of a keyhole, each depicting the feeling of being ‘Knowhere’ — a portmanteau of knowledge and nowhere, which represents the idea of searching for wisdom and soul in a place unknown. Each mural is painted by local painters and artists commissioned by the owners to add a personalised touch to the space.

Knowhere’s head Chef Mohammad Razis trained under a French chef for many years. When he was given the taste to create a menu for a gastropub, his challenge was to make the usual ‘bar food’ sexy and refined with some sort of finesse – but not the fine-dining way. On top of that, the brief includes bringing in familiar Malaysian flavours into the dishes.

He takes his cue from his own home kitchen – blending the art of making sambal and rempah with the usual bar dishes like pizzas, grilled calamari, mussels and chicken wings.

Highly recommended for first-time customers is the Sharing Platter (RM48.80), which is great for sharing and to sample the various tapas in the menu. The dish comes with Flightless Wings (deep-fried chicken wings a ginger and chilli sauce), Grilled Calamari, crispy Baby Shrimps and spiced wedges. What makes this dish special is the sambal belachan salsa that makes for the best dipping sauce for almost everything on the platter.

Knowhere’s version of the Mutton Kari (we dare to say) beats all other mutton curries in Bangsar.

Thin-crust pizzas are also well made here. Seafood Malaya (RM35.80) reminds you of the classic sambal sotong in our quintessential nasi lemak. Another notable rendition is the Duck Confit Pizza (RM36.80) that comes with a well balanced savoury flavour with the sweetness of caramelised onions. If you like to have ‘extra’ toppings on your pizza, order the Lime Cured Beef Tongue (RM26.80) or the Mutton Kari (RM22.80) — just slap some extra meat on the pizza for a burst of flavours in one mouthful.

One take from the restaurant is that everything rempah-based or doused in sauces are absolutely delicious and well-prepared. The sambals are perfectly spiced, complex in flavours and cooked to perfection — go well with fresh seafood and poultry, as well as Knowhere Nachos (RM26.80). And since you’re at it, sample the smooth and decadent Chicken Liver Pate (RM15.80) which is served with crackers and sweet jams.

Spirits and Cocktails
There are 25 cocktails in total on the drinks menu. Classic cocktails are rejigged to feature a more local take as the bartenders creatively infuse perennial herbs and spices into the new recipes. All you find on the menu are new reinterpretations except for the original Jungle Bird (RM32.00), which is a Malaysian recipe created at the old Kuala Lumpur Hilton in 1978.

It’s Nangka Thyme is served with a tuft of curry fragrance.

Start off with Kebaya Nyonya (RM40.00), a butterfly pea infused gin with ginger torch flower and homemade thyme-infused grapefruit soda or the Gibson (RM38.00), which is a concoction of gin and vermouth with pickled onion. Some interesting locally-inspired cocktails include Lepat Pisang Daiquiri (RM30.00), Kopi Negroni (RM32.00) and It’s Nangka Thyme (RM30.00) – all of which are equivalently refreshing and pleasant on the palate.

If you’re all about the whisky, you’d find the Whisky Marmalade Sour (RM36.00) something right up your alley. Ask for an extra-strong mix if you may, but first, take a sniff off the orange and lavender aromatics that come with the drink. Then, order the Smoked Popcorn Old Fashioned (RM36.00) that comes in a lit canister for extra theatrics. The first sip brings you straight into the cinemas, but as you savour the drink (slowly), the initial caramel taste then comes with a touch of smokiness. Get your cameras ready this is truly a drink that is made for Instagram.

Enjoy the theatrics of the Smoked Popcorn Old Fashioned when seated at the bar.

The bar also opens until wee hours of the morning depending on the crowd. Surian shares that sometimes, they operate until 3am or 4am in the morning. If you’re up late and fancy something fulfilling, yet spiked with some good old alcohol, go ahead and order the Bacon Milo (RM30.00) which is a beef bacon-infused vodka with lots of malt chocolate.

Otherwise, there’s also the non-alcoholic section with a variety of juices by True Juices as well as house-mixed mocktails including the refreshing Grapefruit Thyme Spritz (RM12.00) that carries a beautiful balance of citrus and fresh greens.

Take a sip on the fiery concoction of The Erik that carries the taste of assam pedas.

Knowhere offers the flavours of familiar comfort food, perfect for large group dining. The dishes aren’t excessive – just simple home-cooked flavours that are truly unpretentious and easily enjoyable. This is a place where it is okay to just get your hands dirty eating chicken wings and slices pizzas. The menu also includes vegetarian options (Surian is a vegetarian herself) including the beautifully charred Grilled Crudites (RM15.80) served with homemade baba ghanoush and cucumber raita.

And if you want to spice things up, go on and slather a generous dollop of the sambal belachan – the ultimate condiment that goes well with almost everything on the menu. If you like your ‘hot and spicy’, wash down your meal with The Erik (RM30.00), a vodka concoction with birds eye chilli, passionfruit and lime. Balance the fiery flavours with the sweetness from the Smoked Popcorn Old Fashioned or Kebaya Nyonya. Caution; go easy on your orders, as the portions are large — truly good value for money.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 4pm to 1am

Recommended Dishes: Duck Confit Pizza, Grilled Calamari, and Lime Cured Beef Tongue

Recommended Drinks: Smoked Popcorn Old Fashioned, The Erik, and Kebaya Nyonya

Price: RM100 – RM150++ per person with cocktails

Noise Level: Vibrant and upbeat

Service: Warm and friendly

Martin Teo
Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. He's now on a lookout for the elusive Philodendron Florida Beauty to add to his urban garden.
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