Psst! Peek at poignant PS150

PS150 is the flag-bearer of Chinatown’s revival.

If there’s any part of Kuala Lumpur that has changed by leaps and bounds and yet has managed to retain its character, Chinatown comes to mind.

What originally began as a bustling commercial centre of Chinese traders has taken a different turn, where exciting new projects have cropped up bringing in a much-needed breath of fresh air.

One establishment that plays a pivotal role in the new wave of development in Chinatown is PS150, arguably the most popular hidden cocktail bar in the area.

As popular as it is, finding it is not easy. The streets here do get quite dark during the night but they remain bustling with a different set of activities compared to the day.

Pass by too quickly and you are bound to miss the inconspicuous signboard of the bar. What will surely catch your attention is a well-lit antiquated toy store, with a wide range of retro figurines and other playthings. Stop right there as you have arrived.

This is where you start looking for PS150.

In case you’re still wondering about the bar’s unique name, it stands for ‘Petaling Street 150’ – the building’s unit number along the street.

Pay close attention and you will spot the name on a simple cardboard signage hanging on the toy store’s wall.

Now here’s a fact: PS150 is not a speakeasy. As is customary with most hidden cocktail bars, a rickety door at the back of the store serves as the entrance.

Push through and be instantly transported to elegant old Shanghai as you walk into a collection of spaces done up in minimalistic oriental fashion.

Fully optimising the pre-war shop house, PS150 is separated into three different areas – starting with the intimate booths up front, followed by an open-air terrace and ending with a dramatic bar space.

Do observe the furnishings as you wind through the labyrinth, for each section pays homage to distinct periods in Indochine history and cocktails.

The highlight which draws the crowd here is undeniably the masterpiece of a bar counter situated in its heart.

It is the monument that first-timers come to pay their respects to, where the bartenders act as conduits between patrons and the cocktails.

In other words, you can order an amazing drink while ogling over a hundred bottles of liquor, some with labels you may have never seen before.

A striking red neon sign on the bar is also responsible for drawing visitors like moths to a flame, bearing the Chinese words “Chi Chueng Kai”, the local Chinese name for Jalan Petaling.

Order a cocktail while eyeballing the endless bottles of liquor.

The bar presents its cocktail and snack menu in a brown school notebook. The drink menu is unique as it comprises original Southeast Asian-inspired concoctions done with a unique local twist.

Go bold with your choices, for each drink mixed for you is a work of art. You can also request something made especially for you but be sure to tell the bartender your preferred spirit base and flavour.

PS150 is an immersive experience; the naturally peeling plaster walls and exposed bricks with extruding tree roots of this former brothel provide a bygone ambience no other hidden cocktail bar or speakeasy located in shopping centres or modern shop houses can ever emulate.

The clever choice of décor and use of space, from the beaded curtains in the Opium Den by the entrance to the smoking area with a vast standing space at the post-war courtyard, allow patrons to be whisked away to a golden age or even an ancient movie set.

Even the music suits the setting wonderfully. The PS150 team have graciously made their playlists public for your listening pleasure anywhere you are via spotify.

Drinks start at RM40.00 and it is best to make a reservation before heading here on weekends.

Apart from cocktails, they also offer a wide range of regional drinks, such as oolong tea liquer from Taiwan and tuak from Sarawak.

PS150 is open Tuesday to Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. From Sunday to Thursday, you can come dressed as you wish but on Fridays and Saturdays, you will need to “dress to impress.”

This article first appeared in uppre.com