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Unit 49, Second Floor
Haji Munchit & Hajah Dayang Rapiah Complex
Kg Jaya Setia, Berakas, BD2713
Brunei Darussalam

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by Jia Ying Chia

With cafes mushrooming all over the islan, building a space that makes people’s jaws drop or creating an ambiance that calms or inspires visitors, can make all the difference in the café experience. We’ve scoured the island for places serving coffee with vibes and hope you enjoy the visual feast across Borneo!

 Brunei : Hidden Cultural

Distinctly inspired by the Balinese style of western coffee shops, the café is certainly setting the bar high in the interiors and ambiance department. Minimalist yet carefully considered in its approach, the white walls of Hidden are punctuated by a smattering of Instagram-worthy vintage photographs and art pieces personally curated by the owner; the central coffee and mocktail bar area, concrete bleachers and retro styled furniture make for excellent props or backgrounds in your photos. In the centre, you’ll find a little jungle oasis that is perfect for enjoying your drinks and feeling like you are somewhere exotic! Good vibes, good pizza and great views to be had all round.

Simpang 284, Jalan Pasir Berakas, Bandar Seri Begawan BB1714, Brunei Darussalam     |     Tel: 673-8177734     |     IG: @hiddencultural

Brunei : Kitani Artisan Coffee

Japanophiles will savour the sleek yet homey nature of Kitani, which is located on the first floor of a shophouse in Jerudong. The café is actually split into a barbershop and café by a full wall window that makes you feel like you’re in a fishbowl, but isn’t intrusive of you want to sit down awhile and enjoy a cuppa. Down to the small details like their Japanese ceramics originally designed for serving sake, that their pourover coffee comes in, or the Japanese fabrics hanging in the corridor, you will feel like a nihonjin here.

Unit 9, 1st Floor, Simpang 508, Block D, Jerudong Complex, Jerudong BG3122, Brunei Darussalam          Tel: 673-7125665     |    IG: @kitani_bn

Brunei : One Sip

Fans of minimalism and industrialist styles will have a field day at this wonderful vision of grey, black and concrete. The setting is far from boring though — you’ll have fun noticing the clever way that they’ve applied design accents like the mottled specks in the polished concrete and hexagonal tile combination flooring or the clean alignment of exposed black wiring and fittings on the ceiling. Their outdoor balcony with a high ceiling directly facing the Kota Batu River makes for a great spot to slowly sip your coffee and relax, or indulge in a tasty pastry.

Unit 1, Simpang 492, Lot No. 12492, Kampong Pelambayan, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam     |     Tel: 673-2787788     |     IG:

Brunei : Evoke

You could sit for hours soaking up the light and local art on display at this funky café-clothing-store-gallery situation at The Promenade. There is plenty of cozy seating if you want to hang out on your own or with a friend, but we do love the large sofa directly parked in front of the full floor to ceiling window, with a view into the heart of the shopping complex. It’s an interesting play on dark and light spaces, with the full force of Brunei’s sunlight bouncing off the dark walls and colourful canvases by various local artists and photographers (which you can purchase). Plenty of drink options, packed bagels and probably the best falafels in town by Ralpho’s Falafels.

Unit 1F, 1st Floor, Block C, The Promenade Samakaya, Jalan Sungai Hanching Baru, Bandar Seri Begawan BC1515, Brunei Darussalam     |     Tel: 673-7269305     |     IG:

Sabah : Brown Fox

Bathed in a calm palette of light wood, concrete grey and white, this café oozes the ‘Japandi’ (Japanese-Scandinavian) design trend to perfection. Brown Fox makes use of the open space on both floor of this large café to create a busy, bit not crowded, flow of seating and visual features including an entry seat area that pays homage to their Japanese influence. The simple but refined approach extends to their flawless French pastries and Japanese inspired food.

Block B, Lot B-G-06, Sutera Avenue, Lorong Lebuh Raya, Off Coastal Highway, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia     |     Tel: 6016-2315866     |     IG: @brownfoxcafekk

Sabah : Makarios Book Cafe

Although Makarios Book Café has a namesake church in Sandakan, this quaint English-countryside inspired spot feels more like a movie set than a place for Sunday service. Their theme of tranquility certainly comes across in their perfectly spaced window bar seating and bay areas, which look like the ideal place to spend a few house on your own book or one of the café’s that are neatly stacked on the emerald green and gold bookshelves. Lots of large sun-letting windows and soft tie cushions bring together the cozy, gentle atmosphere of Makarios.

Lot 20, First Floor (Corner Unit of Lorong Damai Point), Jalan Damai, Luyang Commercial Centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia     |     Tel: 6010-2695119     |     IG: @makarioscafe.kk

Sabah : October Coffee House

Owned by a Korean couple who came to Kota Kinabalu in 2013 to help expand the coffee industry, this is the original branch of October Coffee, and it looks remarkably similar to a mountain lodge on the inside. Natural and stained wood structures instantly transport you to somewhere cold and wintery, with the smell of coffee being roasted filling the air. The room is filled with bits and bobs, all related to coffee, there is a cute feature wall of hanging coffee cups, a random farmer’s hat hanging off the side of a rail, large coffee sacks gracefully draped on the upper balcony, that first catch the eye. Then you see all the coffee paraphernalia and gadgets that the owners have collected over time and it’s clear that They. Love. Coffee.

13, Lorong Dewan, Pusat Bandar, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia     |     Tel: 6088-277396     |     IG: @octobercoffeegaya

Sarawak : Moongrind Kingdom

Warm, is how this café feels. They’ve created a great little nest that reminds me of the Central Perk space in the F.R.I.E.N.D.S series; it’s easily the spot that would be your favourite local where the baristas know your name and spell it right. The clever use of street lamps and grand candelabra literally give this place a soft yellow glow, and paired with lots of hanging plants around the shop, you almost feel like you’re outside somewhere by a park or garden.

Ground Floor, Lot 273, Jalan Brighton, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia     |     Tel: 60-85681739     |     IG: @moon.kingdom_

Sarawak : The Round Tower 1886 Café & Restaurant

A stone’s throw from Ewe Hai Street leads you to the heritage building known as the Round Tower. The fort-like building now houses a café and restaurant where you can dine in style and history. Original interior detailing and the structure of the tower have been maintained, complemented by the elegant and simple décor featuring lots of dark local wood. The historical photos along the walls give you a glimpse into the life of this former Public Dispensary and current headquarters of the Sarawak Craft Council. The restaurant and café are both recommended for their food as well.

Lot 32, Section 25 KTLD, Jalan Tun Abang Hj. Openg, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia     |     Tel: 6013-8118577     |     IG: @theroundertower1886

Kalimantan : Toko Soedimampir

The folks at Toko are way ahead of the game on coffee, serving zero proof cocktails with from-scratch mixes that encapsulate the bar experience for Muslim customers. The double story building admittedly sits in an area that is currently being revitalised, but they’ve embraced its ruggedness by creating a full rock and roll dive bar vibe on the ground floor with plenty of moody fluorescent lighting and a 50’s theatre marquee on the building that says ‘Let’s rock!’. If you need a break, the first floor with its retro outlook and a massive windowless balcony with a direct view out on the street makes for a great quiet-ish spot to chill out.

Jl. Hasanuddin HM No.82, Kertak Baru Ulu, Kec. Banjarmasin Tengah, Kota Banjarmasin, Kalimantan Selatan     |     Tel: 62-82158765106     |     IG: @soedimampircoffee.lab

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