The Enclave Gastrobars, Bangsar & Ampang

February 5, 2020

It's 5pm on a weekday evening, on what seems like the calmest street in Bangsar. A tinkling piano accompanies Norah Jones' unmistakable voice, wafting gently out of The Enclave Gastrobar's speakers. Two women enjoy early drinks at their table, seated beside vintage local advertisement artwork from half a century ago.

Step inside The Enclave and it feels both reassuringly familiar and reinvigoratingly fresh. Founded by a Malaysian former banker who spent nearly two decades in London, The Enclave is meant to evoke the British neighbourhood pubs that populate Hampstead and Islington, representing the heart and soul of those suburbs.

The Enclave nonetheless carves out its own distinctive identity that seamlessly brings together Blighty and Bangsar. Its location is meaningfully considered; The Enclave's owner lives a stroll away, and he loves Lorong Kurau for its leafy, family-friendly composure, reminiscent of a soothing getaway to Ipoh or another place that's less hectic than KL.

Inside, the brick walls are lined with black-and-white photos sourced from a personal collection, offering an authentic glimpse into long-vanished eras - for a feel of what Brickfields looked like in 1888 or Petaling Street in 1930s, or Malayan-period Malacca and Cameron Highlands, The Enclave is an eye-opening saunter through history.

The Enclave was born more than three years ago and still thrives with regulars seeking a reliable sanctuary from the cosmopolitan chaos; it has since expanded to Ampang as well. When we last visited, the restaurant was decked in decorations for Christmas 2016; this time, it was cosy in crimson for Lunar New Year 2020. But its continued presence remained comforting, bearing the hallmarks of a place where people make happy memories.

The Enclave's food menu is both compact and extensive - it's only one page long, but you could easily eat here every evening for two weeks and still have more to explore. For merry munching, the Asian-inflected chicken makes for a crowd-rousing starter or side dish to share, bone-free for convenient enjoyment; have it in Korean garlic sauce for that lip-smacking Seoul effect or with Malaysian sambal serai for aromatic KL notes (RM20 each), moist and tender, rich and robust, sweet and savoury and spiced, best served with beer.

Many of The Enclave's main courses clock in scarcely north of RM20, even for the hearty fish and chips (RM22), featuring dory fillets, beautifully batter-fried for an appealingly golden, lightly crunchy bite, with flaky, clean-tasting fish for a juicy chew, complete with addictive fries and a textured house-made tartar sauce. For more British pub grub, the bangers and mash are another can't-fail classic, with thick, densely creamy potatoes to satiate carb cravings, plus some sauteed vegetables to make it a balanced dinner (RM22).

Other temptations here hopscotch across the globe, taking inspiration from Italian shores for the savoury-briny pasta aglio olio, tossed with a choice of prawns or clams with sauteed garlic in olive oil, red chilli flakes and parmesan (RM22), to the Middle East for mouthwatering shawarma, plumply packed with a choice of chicken, lamb or sardines (RM22 for the chicken), to back home in Malaysia, for a creation that's genuinely cooked with love, South Indian-influenced mutton fried rice that's potently punchy (RM24).

Speaking of potent, the bar component of The Enclave Gastrobars is equally enticing - classic cocktails span Margaritas to Sangrias, meeting the mark for Texan and Spanish traditions (RM30 each), with everything else from whisky and bourbon to gin, vodka and rum also accounted for.

All-night-long draft beer packages are also an attraction, with unlimited parking for 10 mugs of Tiger at RM125 nett or five pints at RM100, 10 mugs of Heineken or Guinness at RM170 and five pints at RM125.

Our visit was to The Enclave in Bangsar, but the Enclave in Ampang has similarly inviting vibes (additional photos courtesy of The Enclave). The Enclave in Bangsar also often hosts themed trivia quiz nights - past events have revolved around Quentin Tarantino, Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, The Avengers and more; February's quiz night (Saturday, 8 February, 6pm) will focus on Harry Potter.

Many thanks to The Enclave Gastrobars for having us.

The Enclave

1, Lorong Kurau, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. 

30, Persiaran Ampang, Desa Pahlawan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur.

Daily, 5pm-1am. Tel: 011-3126-2643

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