Tucked away from the main entrance of The Sphere, a lifestyle mall in the densely populated Bangsar South, is Forty Hands KL. If you think the restaurant sounds familiar, that’s probably because you might have heard of the original Singaporean outlet in Yong Saik Street, which opened eight years ago and is widely considered one of the pioneers of third wave coffee in the island state.
Nearly a decade later, the outlet finally has an outpost in KL. The cosiness of the Singapore outlet is reflected in its Malaysian cousin, which is warm and welcoming with large glass windows that draw in sunlight. On weekends, the restaurant gets especially busy and queues are a recurring theme, so you have three options: go on a weekday, go very early or go very late.
The menu at Forty Hands is ably guided by head chef Juay Ng, a Singaporean who has worked with many Singaporean hotels and cafes (including the famed PS. Cafe) and was involved in menu creation for the Spa Esprit Group (which owns Forty Hands). Ng also did the kitchen set-up at sister company Common Man Coffee Roasters, which opened more than a year ago in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
At Forty Hands KL, Ng is once again knee-deep in the kitchen operations, supervising everything that comes out with a practised eye. “I even drew up the floor plan for the kitchen!” she says.
From the menu options, try the smashed avo on toast (RM22) which alludes to the current zeitgeist for avocado toast, although Ng’s version makes use of spices like coriander and cumin to liven things up. Served with dill feta on homemade sunflower seed toast, you can add two poached eggs to the concoction for an additional RM6 (and I would highly recommend that you do). The avocado spread is creamy and luscious, while the feta cheese adds salty bursts to the concoction. The poached eggs – once speared through – enrobe the whole ensemble in silken eggy goodness. So yummy!
As Ng is a big fan of vegetables, she came up with the idea for a warm veggie salad (RM25) which sees a multi-dimensional line-up of vegetables like chopped kale sauteed in garlic, grilled local pumpkin with nutmeg, broccoli, seasoned brown rice balls, parmesan, tempeh and fried tofu puffs.
“I love eating vegetables but I feel like there aren’t many vegetable options in Malaysia. So this is healthy but has that satisfying feeling,” she says.
The salad is truly delightful, probably one of the best things on Forty Hands’ menu at the moment as it is light and refreshing but also filling. There’s lots to enjoy in the crunch of the vegetables, softness of the delicate rice balls and satisfying crispiness of the tofu, all interpersed with parmesan cheese, which bedecks this offering with a tinge of hedonism.
The salmon hash (RM26) is composed of poached salmon in a creamy bath of potatoes, mustard sauce and pan-fried onions, with accoutrements in the form of sunflower bread and fries. The hash is gratifyingly rich and sumptuous but also very fishy, although it is cut a little by the sharp taste of the capers. Basically if you like very fishy flavours, you’ll love this; otherwise, perhaps not.
The banana bacon french toast (RM20) will no doubt be a favourite of many. It features two pillowy soft brioche breads with caramelised bananas, streaky pork bacon and maple syrup drizzled all over. This is one of those creatures of pure delight – the bread is so soft, it’s almost silken, and combined with the sweetness of the bananas and maple syrup and saltiness of the bacon, this makes for a truly delicious dish.
The 40 Hands Cubanos (RM28), meanwhile, is a sure-fire winner that features mojo pork, honey-smoked ham, mayonnaise, English mustard, jalapenos, gherkins and parmesan cheese on a crusty baguette. Stuffed full of rich ingredients, the confluence of flavours in this sandwich is nothing short of explosive, and you’ll find yourself polishing it off with gusto.
Forty Hands has also introduced a new dinner menu, which features new additions to the menu, like the pork & apple burger (RM28). The burger is made up of pork belly with a green apple and cabbage slaw and apple relish. This is a really delectable concoction, which features slightly crisp, meltingly tender pork belly juxtaposed against the crunch and freshness of apples and cabbage. It’s a yin-yang mixture that offers balance in each mouthful.
The drinks at Forty Hands are also well worth looking at, as they are provided by sister Common Man Coffee Roasters and curated by barista-trainer and all-round interesting personality Pablo Hoong Wei Bialaszynski, who cut his teeth at The Red Beanbag with famed coffee maestro Jason Loo.
“Bangsar South has a lot of corporate customers, while TTDI has more residents so we have to cater slightly differently in how we serve the coffee and how the coffee tastes. Here, our coffee menu is very easygoing, it’s meant to be everyone’s everyday poisons,” he says.
Bialaszynski adds that the outlet serves two varieties of coffees, depending on the order.
“We serve a coffee blend for milk drinks and single origin coffee for black coffee. This is interchangeable, it does depend on what coffee we have available and what the barista finds tastes best. But they will never stray too far. We are going for the same type of drinking experience every time,” he says.
Some of the drinks on offer include the cappucino (RM10) a rich, creamy operator with mellow, soothing caffeine notes. If you’re after something stronger, the piccolo latte (RM10) offers bolder coffee flavours and a smooth finish.
Then there is the mocha (RM12) which comes in a massive cup and is rich, decadent and satisfyingly good to the end.
As Forty Hands is relatively new, the eatery as of yet does not offer house-made desserts (although dessert options are available on the menu). Ng says this is bound to change once they find their footing.
“We don’t make our own desserts here because we don’t have the facilities to do it, but we will in the future. Think things like pandan crème brulee – very local desserts with a twist,” she says.
Forty Hands KL
Unit G-6, The Sphere
No 1, Avenue 1
No 8, Jalan Kerinchi
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2732 0855
Open daily: 8am to 10pm