Kuala Lumpur – Coley is a renowned cocktail bar located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With its sophisticated and inviting atmosphere, Coley has quickly become a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike. The bar is known for its exceptional cocktails, which are crafted using only the finest ingredients and techniques. Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail enthusiast or just looking for a memorable night out, Coley is the perfect destination to indulge in some of the most inventive and delicious drinks in the city.
While Coley has always been known for its exceptional cocktail menu, CK Khoo and his team recognized the need to reinvigorate its food menu and also raise the bar to provide a more complete dining experience for their guests.
In comes Joel Kirk, previously from Sitka who currently spearheads Coley tiny kitchen space alongside Brandon Tan to develop bold, vibrant, innovative dishes and reflective of local Malaysian cuisine. Looking for the overdone truffle fries or greasy mac and cheese usually found in the bar food menu? Not in Coley. Joel works alongside the team in Coley to launch an all-new food menu that features a range of small plates, mains and sharing dishes. Standout, worthy eats include Swiss Dreams are made of Cheese, Dill with the Devil, Pulpo Fiction and Coley’s version of Steak Frites, Steak Freaks.
The launch of Coley’s food menu with playful dish names certainly solidify the bar’s reputation as one of the best spots in Kuala Lumpur for an unforgettable dining and drinking experience.
Here, we get to know more about Joel and his new menu collaboration with Coley.
How did you get started in the industry?
The value of service was instilled in me at a young age. I spent a significant portion of my childhood working with communities that promoted a culture of hospitality and encouraged us to seek to understand one another. I take pleasure in facilitating the joyful experience of discovery through food, the interconnectedness felt through the act of hospitality, and the humble act of sharing, which leads us to the next question…
For those that haven’t visited, tell us a bit more about Coley in your own words?
CK (Coley’s founder) and the Coley team have been the embodiment of hospitality for me. It’s not just a bar. They practise a form of service that is fluid: ask for any classic cocktail, tell them your preferred flavours, or request a recommendation from the thoughtful menu; they are welcoming and collaborative, as evidenced by the numerous collaborations with producers, operators, brand names, and industry friends. They encourage and foster the desire to be explorative and inquisitive by trade, making it an incredible place to work while honing your craft.
What is the inspiration behind your new food menu?
While many people are aiming to sourcing the best ingredients, I am dedicated to elevating what I have. Every ingredient has a place on the plate, and no grain is too small to take centre stage. When you dine with me, you are looking for that surprise that I bring, having grown up in a small town in Klang called Kampung Raja Uda, finding my place in the city, and ideating the world as my playground.
Any personal favourites from your menu? Can you tell us more about the stories behind these dishes?
More than happy to share! This new menu is a collective and collaborative effort of many minds that are dedicated to the craft.
Throughout multiple R&D sessions, many iterations were brought forward to bridge the gap between comforting and familiar, novel and exciting flavors, without straying away from the essence of conviviality, in the given setting. Sounds easy enough right?
Swiss Dreams are made of cheese
Kudos to Brandon Tan, our chef on this dish. We found ourselves questioning every aspect of the dish and their significance. A chance purchase from a market vendor pushed us to make black garlic ketchup, which, combined with the few slices of cheese we had lying around and the fact that it looked (and tasted) like a Welsh rarebit; and the SWISS DREAMS was born.
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Dill with the Devil
A passing remark from Loco on the other hand gave us DILL WITH THE DEVIL. Dill with the Devil was supposed to be a slice of scagliozzi at first, but he said it tasted like fish and chips! So we experimented with the flavours, adding tofu for texture, curried the batter, and added jalapenos to spice things up, with dill playing an important role in keeping things refreshing.
More stories await you, but you’ll have to stop by for a drink or two to hear them all.
What’s the best thing about working in the kitchen?
Coley’s kitchen is approximately 200 sq ft, with one of each of these equipments: 4 burner gas stove, deep fryer, two-doors chiller, chest freezer and microwave. That is altogether challenging and thrilling!
For me, it will be the challenge of cooking staff meals using whatever is readily available within constraints. The thrill comes from successfully putting things together and applying that to dish out food in a short period of time, with the very limited space you have, while prepping for service and simultaneously planning your mise for the next few days because you want to keep food costs low and not waste. Oooof.
What needs to happen to ensure that the industry is better supported moving forward?
Several things. First, the old guard’s willingness to share knowledge and ideas, as well as their ongoing collaborative efforts both within and outside the organisation. We must always keep an open mind in order to germinate ideas, create a constructive and conducive environment in which to develop and act on those ideas, and strive for excellence.
Next, all related parties involved must accept that change is unavoidable and that sometimes sacrifice is required to move forward.
Always insist on upholding and instilling positive values, show reverence for the essence of the chosen craft, and, most importantly, choose to be kind when all else fails.
Book a table with Coley here. Coley is open from 5pm to 1am daily except Sundays.