VCR Bakehouse: Seven secrets behind KL's most popular new bakery this year
October 26, 2021
If food is your favourite focus on Instagram, you've probably sighted VCR Bakehouse several times every week on your feed since August - its pastry counter, pick-up window and open kitchen have become instantly recognisable by now.
Even on a working Wednesday morning, crowds start coming by 8:30 a.m., eager to entertain their cravings for croissants, coffee and much more.
VCR Bakehouse might seem like an overnight success, but the path to pastry pleasure took many twists and turns.
Here are seven behind-the-scenes secrets, revealed for the first time, about KL's most popular new bakery of 2021, courtesy of an interview with VCR's Food Director, Ivan Koh.
1. The seeds for VCR Bakehouse were planted on a trip to Copenhagen.
Ivan Koh, VCR Bakehouse's Food Director
Ivan with VCR Bakehouse's senior crew - head baker Yong Lun, sous chef Jo Wong and manager Furzann.
In 2019, Ivan led an exploratory team from VCR to Copenhagen, London and Berlin to taste the best baked temptations in those European cities.
Ivan specifically recalls the Danish capital as the spark that lit the fuse - his encounters with the crackling loaves and laminated treats of Copenhagen's Hart Bageri, Juno The Bakery and other carb-loving hotspots convinced him that a European-inspired bakehouse could be VCR's next gambit.
Ivan himself is no stranger to the oven. He has been responsible for food in VCR's cafes since 2014, but his roots in baking stretch back further - his parents have worked in wholesale Western pastry production for decades. Ivan recalls learning how to frost cakes when he was eight years old.
His vision for VCR's new baking venture is founded on the future of contemporary artisanal bakeries, stepping forward from the French boulangeries that have influenced traditional bakeries - how to make something classic taste different and become even better.
2. VCR Bakehouse opened almost by chance, after a Chinese restaurant in Mont Kiara closed.
When the pandemic began, plans for VCR Bakehouse were postponed. But VCR still succeeded in launching a grab-and-go sandwich bar, VCR Stacks, in October 2020, serving up scrumptious sourdough egg sandos, pastrami Reubens and nut butter jelly sandwiches in Mont Kiara's Shoplex.
Scarcely a month later, one of VCR Stacks' neighbours - a Chinese restaurant - closed permanently, a casualty of 2020's commercial headwinds.
VCR Stacks was then set to use the vacant space for storage. But its team realised they could nurture a full-fledged bakery-cafe there, using the interior for baking and its adjacent alfresco area for seating.
3. VCR Bakehouse's look is meticulously Danish-inspired, conceived by Wünderwall Design.
Malaysian collective Wünderwall Design was tasked with creating VCR Bakehouse's beautiful look, to showcase its processes and people, crafting a welcoming setting for customers to experience a Danish-inspired way of life.
VCR's black facade, familiar in its cafes in Pudu and Bangsar, laid the foundation for a lighter palette unveiled in off-white, lime-painted walls and natural patinated material.
Nearly everything inside is reserved for baking, with a narrow walkway connecting to pastry displays orchestrated in a slant, punctuated with a cobbled flooring finish. Windows intimately peek into various work, from pastry baking to coffee brewing.
Outdoor tables are spread under a geometric ceiling, its roof with circular perforations for natural light. Matured trees such as willows flank the seats, evoking a Copenhagen-style streetscape of community.
4. VCR Bakehouse's eight bakers start their morning's labour at 5 a.m. everyday.
VCR Bakehouse's small team of eight bakers are early birds, starting work at 5 a.m. to ensure the pastries start emerging when the bakery opens at 8 a.m.
The workload is substantial. VCR Bakehouse produces 500 pieces of pastries on weekends, with about 30 different varieties available. It bakes bread not only for its own patrons but other sandwich establishments.
From fermentation to baking, everything takes time - up to three days to get from dough to pastries and bread. This results in Scandinavian-inspired fragrances and flavours that prove rich but not cloying, courtesy of top ingredients like French flour and butter (VCR experimented with various butters before settling on its final choice).
The pastry selection - golden, fresh and flaky - is irresistible, from almond croissants to cardamom buns, kouign-amann to mushroom feta danishes and tomato olive focaccia.
Sourdough bread tilts toward a thinner, more tender crust, with a not-too-tangy crumb. Pair with house-blended maple butter, Szechuan garlic butter, poppy pink peppercorn butter, chicken pate and marmalade.
5. VCR Bakehouse isn't just about bread and pastries - you can have a complete meal here.
Start your morning right with the lovely, layered Omelette, warm and comforting, showered with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, draped over a toasted sourdough slice of the day (possibly Japanese rye on one day, seeded on another), alongside a lime-dressed salad.
The Bakehouse French Toast takes a Southeast Asian risk - the chunky, hunky brioche turns savoury not only with whipped cream cheese and streaky bacon but kaffir lime leaves and fried shallots. It works!
Even if you're staying away from carbs, there's no reason to stay away from VCR Bakehouse: Order the wonderfully wholesome Beetroot and Market Greens - crisp, lively leaves, tossed with snap peas, pickled beetroot, hummus and za'atar dressing for a salad that straddles the line between the Mediterranean and the Middle East. VCR Bakehouse's vegetables are from Klang's Cultiveat farm, which promises sustainable, pesticide-free produce grown with organic material.
6. VCR Bakehouse and Jaslyn Cakes nearby aren't rivals - they appreciate and respect each other.
VCR's show-runners are community-spirited, striving to play a positive role in every neighbourhood they venture into. They've been thankful for the support shown to them in Mont Kiara, from customers as well as other businesses.
That includes F&B outlets only a few steps from VCR Bakehouse - incredibly, they have an affectionate relationship with Jaslyn Cakes nearby, with their teams sending each other baked goodies back and forth. They consider each other friends, not bitter rivals.
If there are pastries left over at the end of the evening, VCR Bakehouse might offer them to neighbours, some of whom reciprocate - the VCR team recently received more than a dozen bento sets from Doma Korean Restaurant next door.
7. Ampang, get ready. VCR's next venue will be coming to you.
VCR Bakehouse has become a swift smash, but it took years to build VCR's now-respected brand.
When VCR Bangsar opened in 2016, the cafe spent a year finding its following with customers there.
VCR Bakehouse is a natural, genuinely organic expansion - VCR had already been baking bread and cakes at its original cafe, which opened in Pudu in 2013.
Its founders are consistently seeking fresh ideas to remain relevant.
After Pudu, Bangsar and Mont Kiara, VCR is setting its sights on Ampang, where its next establishment is expected to unfold in 2022.
Watch out: The VCR team promises to challenge itself with a new concept there to excite VCR loyalists.
Unit 2B & 2C, Shoplex, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Daily, 8am-4pm. Tel: 03-2011-8226
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