Amidst the whirr of cars, motorcycles and foot traffic along Jalan Kemuja, in a rather hidden pocket of Bangsar, is Dr.Inc. It’s pronounced drink, although owner Lisette Scheers says she doesn’t mind people calling it “Doctor Inc” – but not to be confused with Dr Ink, a tattoo bar, although art lurks in every corner of Dr.Inc.
The tiny little eatery has a soul far removed from its pedestrian surroundings. To begin with, there are trees smack dab in front of the restaurant.
“I planted the trees, which is different because most people would prefer to keep the parking space. But where else can you sit like this?” says Scheers, motioning to the chairs and tables placed strategically under the shade of the trees.
And she’s right too. There aren’t many places in Kuala Lumpur where you can sit like this, with trees acting as natural awnings, where there is no air-conditioning (by choice) and where a narrow eating area leads to an equally narrow but much-welcome courtyard patch, where sunlight streams in and dreamers can gaze at the sky all day long if they want to.
There are also kitschy features that add to the eatery’s cutesy charm – from the sprawling painting opposite the bar area (which Scheers did herself) to the unique constellation of old-fashioned mirrors forming a delightful feature wall near the entrance.
And while most restaurants try and get rid of meandering patrons who stay for hours, sipping the last dregs of the same cup of coffee they ordered three hours ago, Scheers loves having people sit in the cafe for ages, doing their work or just reading a book.
Scheers’ carefree nature is in keeping with her creative personality. She grew up in Kuala Lumpur but spent years working in Amsterdam as a creative director for a large advertising agency. When she came back, she did branding work for the BIG Group under her own agency L.Inc. Scheers also heads Nala Designs (which does Malaysian-inspired designs for everything from totes to pillow cases and stationery), which used to be in the shoplot that now houses Dr.Inc.
When Scheers decided to take a sabbatical in Sri Lanka, she left the shoplot in the hands of coffee consultant Jeremy Chin. Chin had a coffee machine and asked Scheers if he could open a coffee shop there, while she was away. She said “Okay” and by the time she returned from her trip abroad a few months later, the tiny little shoplot’s coffees had earned rave reviews.
“It happened by accident. But within two-and-a-half years, we went from coffee and cakes to full-fledged restaurant,” she says, laughing.
Chin has left and so has the eatery’s previous Portuguese chef, so Scheers has enlisted a consultant chef to redefine the menu coming up soon.
If you’re new to the eatery, trying the multitude of coffees on offer is absolutely imperative. Dr.Inc takes its coffees very seriously and there are some interesting options on offer – things you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, for sure.
Like the Milo Dinobomb (RM14), which combines that quintessential Malaysian beverage – Milo – with a shot of espresso. Stir it all together and you’ll get an idea of what the local version of heaven tastes like – the tugging sweetness and familiarity of Milo set against a strong omnipotent shot of espresso – the perfect balance of softness and strength.
Then there is the Presso Bomb (RM14) which combines a shot of espresso with a tall glass of ice cream soda (sourced from Melaka). The ice cream soda is first poured into a glass, before the shot of espresso is plunged in, like a swimmer diving into a pool feet-first. It’s interesting to watch and even more interesting to taste – refreshingly cold with strong espresso flavours cut through by undercurrents of pleasantly sweet ice-cream soda.
The Gingerbread Latte (RM14) is something I imagine would be immensely popular come Christmas time (or just anytime you’re in need of some holiday cheer). The latte is made using a gingerbread powder, which has lots of gingery, spicy undertones and perfectly immortalises the holiday spirit – in a cup.
The Masala Chai Tea (RM10) is also a must-try. Made with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and fresh ginger, the latte is slightly sweet with a good balance of flavours that bring to mind the wonders and spicy nuances of the Indian sub-continent.
“People come all the way here to order this to-go – it’s very, very popular,” says Scheers.
Although the drinks more than live up to expectations, don’t leave quite yet until you’ve had some of the food. The Eggs Cumberbatch (RM28) is a breakfast staple that will prove instantly rewarding.
Composed of two poached eggs plonked atop a bed of spinach, potato rosti, hollandaise sauce and toasted brioche, this is quite the ideal brunch. The spinach and potatoes form the perfect accoutrements to the soft plank of brioche which soaks up all the flavours in the dish, including the rich hollandaise.
If you’re after pancakes with a twist, try the Fresh of the Oat Pancakes (RM22) which are gluten- and lactose-free. Topped with strawberries, honey and homemade granola, these are not fluffy pancakes but mealy and a bit dry – a little more honey would have helped.
From the lunch menu, the Warm-Up Salad (RM18) is a vegetarian offering of grilled and pan-seared vegetables like mushrooms, cauliflower and pumpkin, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic and topped with feta cheese. The simple, fresh salad is great for a light lunch, the feta cheese offering salty bursts to liven things up.
For dinner, Dr.Inc transforms a little. Tables are decked out with table cloths and the menu imbibes more brasserie-style fare, like the Abra-Cod-a-Bras (RM36), a Portuguese-influenced dish that combines cod fish, black olives, potatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and eggs with extra virgin olive oil.
This is a seriously good fry-up that mixes a whole bunch of things together and looks like a hot mess but tastes really delicious, like only the best sort of comfort food can.
For something more sumptuous, tuck into Clamped by Cataplana (RM86 for two people). The seafood stew is stocked full of prawns, fish, squid, clams and mussels couched in a hearty tomato-imbued broth reminiscent of the flavours of the sea. It is so deliciously good, you’ll want to savour every last drop.
Dr.Inc recently opened a space upstairs for private events. The space is air-conditioned and comfortably seats 40, with Scheers’ charming touches in evidence everwhere, from the cardboard lamps to the paintings on display.
Ultimately, Scheers says Dr.Inc represents an extension of herself. The eatery now has no straws, in an effort to reduce both its paper and plastic usage, and Scheers says she will continue to implement small ecological changes as things go along.
“My idea is that it’s a soul cafe. It’s an opinionated place and ecology is part of it, that’s why I took the straws out. But it’s also about honest, clean, good food – that’s really important to me,” she says.
So you can watch this space for more wholesome, vegetarian options to come soon.
8, Jalan Kemuja
Off Jalan Bangsar
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2633 5059
Open daily 9am to 10pm; closed for dinner on Mondays