It’s always exciting to see old iconic buildings brought back to life, and one notable icon is REXKL. Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, this seventy-year-old building survived two fires, and was subsequently abandoned for more than twenty years before local architects Shin Chang and Shin Tseng breathed new life into its structures. REXKL now houses a collective of social enterprises, and urban food and retail merchants.
This is a series highlighting the people behind The Back Ground, the urban food hall located in REXKL.
First things first, can you sum up PURO in a few sentences for those who haven’t visited, what can customers expect? How is PURO not your usual wine bar?
PURO, for all intents and purposes, is a natural wine bar that wishes to redefine wine. Rather than serving wines that are rich, flawless, and correct, we seek out wines that are expressive, earthy, funky, and comes with visible sediments — that taste alive! If you are looking for a classy, refined wine experience with 90 pointers big, polished wines, we will disappoint you. However, if you are game for a unique trajectory of organoleptic experience, PURO KL is here to enthuse you.
We are not mainstream; we are revolutionary.
Open your mind, and we will open your senses.
Where and how did you get started in hospitality?
I started in Legend of Pasta @Klang 15 years ago. I was very lucky to meet Chef Danny Liew who opened up my window to the Wine World and led me to where I am today.
What are your 3 key learnings in launching a wine bar?
Create an Identity
Like the objective of any new businesses, we wanted to create something unique. We need to identify what is lacking in the wine scene as we do not wish PURO to be just ‘another’ wine bar in Malaysia.
Before PURO, we do not have a wine bar that specialized in ‘natural’ wines. We think it will be an interesting ‘category’ of wines to introduce to the wine drinkers in Malaysia. Thus for PURO, this becomes our niche, our identity.
Speak to our guests before we sell
Selling wine in PURO is not just selling a product. As aforesaid, what makes PURO different from other wine bars is that we offer ‘environment-friendly’ wines that are either organic, biodynamic, sustainable or ‘natural’ wines. Many consumers are still unfamiliar with these terminologies. When they visit PURO and look at our wine menu, they are often undecided on what to drink. This is when education comes in as we will need to enlighten our guests about our wines. As much as we are selling wines, we learnt to interact at a more personal level with our customers and establish a relationship with them. This also helps us to learn about their expectations and how we can close that gap.
Work within a Community
If our wine bar is in any other brick-and-mortar shop, there could hardly be any business interactions with our neighbours. PURO is nestled within REXKL where all its tenants enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Each and every tenant in REXKL specializes a service or product, and like the sum is greater than the parts, REXKL as a whole provides a holistic offering to its guests.
We learnt to co-exist and collaborate with the landlord and tenants of REXKL more actively for the good of the entire ecosystem.
PURO is founded by you and another partner, Gerald. Any advice on how to make a business partnership work?
Find the right partner that would grow together, enhance each other advantage, and cover each other a** at the same time.
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Any wine myths you wish to dispel
For natural wines, a minuscule amount of sulphur is only added during bottling to stabilise the wine and prevent microbial spoilage.
However, the wine remains highly sensitive to adverse transportation and storage conditions. Stability of these natural wines can be enhanced with higher acidity as it creates an environment unwelcome to microbes. The provenance of the grapes is also a very important determinant of the wine’s ageing potential.
While many of these natural wines are destined to be enjoyed young, natural wines from seasoned producers such as Radikon, La Stoppa, Domaine du Pech can be aged for years.
Natural wine cannot be aged
What needs to happen to ensure that the industry is better supported moving forward?
I think Government and City hall shall loosen up the stringent regulations for HORECA to apply for business licenses especially alcohol. Every year the hotels, restaurants and bars are facing difficulty to renew or apply new licenses.
Where is your favourite place in the world to eat?
There are too many places to list down. I think every place has its own identity and uniqueness. Every time I travel and eat, I am more amazed by the idea, the ambience, and whole dining experience.
Last memory was in Barcelona, Brutal Wine Bar, Bar Cañete, Hoja Santa by Chef Albert Adria, Gresca and a special shout out to my buddy – Tony Comas’ restaurant-bar – Boodiou Ibiza.
Image credit: PURO KL