Timothy, Tun H. S. Lee Road

March 17, 2019

Timothy isn't timid; Timothy might be timely - Chinatown's latest cafe transfuses a classic kopitiam with a contemporary lifeblood, bringing a distinctive culinary edge to a street best known for ayam kampung goreng, beef noodle soup and chapati with chickpea masala.

Taking its name from a combination of letters from the names of its head chef Tariq and his team, Timothy is eclectic as far as its kitchen is concerned - Southeast Asian inspirations run deep, but there's as much of Malaysia as there is Melbourne in its influences, with strains of Bangkok, Jakarta and other regional capitals also echoing across the menu.

You'll find a diverse range of themes coursing through these concoctions - many are meant to be wholesome, most are produce-driven, but every one is intriguing, with an imaginative wit that's illustrated by the moniker of each recipe.

Which other cafe would call its signature dish 'Gayithri Feels Nauseated'? Named for one of Timothy's founding team members, it features mushroom risotto spilling out with chunks of paneer cheese, baby spinach and toasted seeds from a grilled pumpkin wedge (RM30). 

While the name might not be appetising, the ensemble is, absolutely - if you love risotto, this hits the spot, with firm, creamy arborio rice made tasty and textured with plenty of richly nuanced, irreproachably prepared accompaniments. Comfort food that, thankfully, won't make you throw up.

If you favour grains of a comparatively Asian nature, the lei cha-inflected Signature Thunder Rice (currently part of a weekday set lunch) comprises brown rice with a vegan ensemble of (deep breath!) tofu, tempeh, long leans, pickled radish, lotus roots, cucumber, carrot slaw, choy sum, ulam salad and vegetable crackers, poured over with a 'revitalising Hakka herb tea broth' with a thick, coarse consistency reminiscent of Italian-style pesto - for RM18, this could be shared by two light eaters craving a guilt-free platter (add RM8 for flaky salmon or RM6 for chipotle grilled chicken if you need fleshy protein).

Some of Timothy's temptations require a leap of faith - Brown Fece# (RM25) might not sound like something to order at a restaurant, especially if you hear its unlikely medley of ingredients: peanut butter and jelly with chicken ham in a sourdough toast, topped with poached eggs, bearnaise sauce and breadcrumbs - still, it works, blending the sweet with the savoury, the creamy with the crisp, in perfect proportions of pleasure. The first bite might be tentative, but the final chew to wipe the plate clean is inevitable.

Other offerings here convey notes and nuances that sprint from Delhi to Indochina and Java - Gayithri makes a comeback in the eponymous Gayithri Pasta, heaped with stirringly spicy, bone-free butter chicken atop a hearty bowl of penne (RM20) ...

... while Thai-Lamb (RM34) tackles not only Thai dynamics but Indonesian ones too, featuring a four-hour-roasted butcher's cut of lamb flap meat, layered with rib flesh and fat, glazed with a Thai-style sweet-salty sauce, partnered with peas prepared with Indonesian ABC kecap manis, balanced out with a side of fondant potatoes and pickled onions. A creation that proves Timothy's painstaking attention to detail.

For now, the kitchen closes by 6pm and on Saturdays but will operate at night too and all week long once its affiliated hostel opens next door within the next two months. Fun fact: Timothy is spearheaded by the same folks behind the nearby Leaf & Co and Mingle Cafe, all under Chinatown's Mingle Hostel's umbrella.

True to the spirit of a modern-day cafe, Timothy's beverages exhibit a playful sense of cool too, from a Cold Drip Coffee that's buoyantly reviving in its chilled smoothness, served on ice (RM18) ...

... to the Coffee Ice Cube Latte (RM13), with its DIY-attitude of espresso ice cubes assembled at the table with a pouring of cold fresh milk and drips of sugar syrup ...

... to an affogato-like synthesis of two shots of espresso showered over three scoops of vanilla ice cream, made extra-engaging with the aromatic sparkle of tonic water infused with fresh rosemary, with a pinch of sea salt and spoonful of caramel syrup for lovely complexities, all laid over a banana leaf.

Other refreshing experiments include a citrus-rich blend of mamak-style teh mixed up with fresh orange slices as well as oranges dunked in syrup for a week, presented with icy elegance, plus a soda that stands tall and proud with pure pandan extract, house-made pandan syrup and butterfly pea dye.

All in all, Timothy is enough of a triumph that we'd be happy to see it breed a few more sibling cafes. Tiffany, Thaddeus and Theresa next?

Thanks to TImothy for having us.


24, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Currently open 10am-6pm, closed Saturdays; will start opening for dinner and all week long soon. Tel: 018-200-0262

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