Uncle Martin was very excited to show us Eh HE, his new discovery in JB old town, 10 minutes walk from the JB CIQ. EH HE is a brand new cafe sporting the theme of old JB cultural history.
In all honesty, I just tagged along with Uncle Martin with no great expectations of new cafes as they try to outdo each other with more of the same old creative decor - "same old creative", is an oxymoron I know.
But, a visit to EH HE changed my mind. It is still possible to have interesting concept cafes in an industry which once gave me the impression that it was already saturated and squeezed dry of ideas.
This is the entrance to EH HE at the historic Jalan Tan Hiok Nee side. EH HE is just beside Hiap Joo 协裕 Bakery and right opposite Kin Wah 锦华餐室 kopitiam.
EH HE is made up of 7 (seven) pre-War shop lots, so it's a huge space.
The quaint name EH HE is derived from the phrase EartH HEart. The word art is highlighted by it's absence (yeah, that's a bit beyond my old wooden head ;-p ).
Two large papier-mâché figures stood at the entrance from the Jalan Tan Hiok Nee side. As I gingerly skirted around the delicate looking figures while being led up the stairs by Uncle Martin, the first thought that came to my mind was "This is a cafe?".
Stepping into the first space upstairs, and greeted by these ancient China opera costumes in loud colours, a specialty coffee cafe was the furthest thing from my mind.
This is EH HE's Classic Accents Art House.
The Classic Accents Art House is a space for showcasing Chinese heritage artifacts. Many of the artifacts are on loan from other galleries in Malaysia and regularly rotated, so that there are always new old artifacts to behold at EH HE's Classic Accents Art House.
The theme during our visit was Chinese operatic arts.
Pauline, one of the artist-owner of EH HE sharing with us the fascinating stories behind Classic Accents Art House and the artifacts.
We next stepped into the large adjacent room (from the Art House).
The space is very bright as the roof is elevated to allow natural light to flood the interior. As much as possible, the original red brick walls of the heritage building are preserved, giving the space a rustic charm.
This is a very comfortable, open space to chill out with friends.
Pauline was full of passion and enthusiasm as she explained the inspirations behind EH HE Gallery | Ink Brew Cafe.
In yet another room upstairs, there is a giant fantasy mural on the wall of a little long haired girl in a red dress, giant ducks, ducklings, whales and forests.
Pauline, the artist who created this mural which she named "Temptation" explains the inspirations behind her hand drawn masterpiece which took 2 weeks to complete.
We can also chill in this comfortable fantasy room.
Next, we stepped down these steep ancient stairs with creaky old wooden floor boards and hand railing.
The space at the bottom of the stairs is in sharp contrast with the spaces upstairs. Ink Brew is a contemporary hipster cafe by Just Want Coffee (JWC), one of the leading coffee roasters and brewers in Johor Bahru.
Even the music here switched from Chinese opera upstairs to easy listening Spanish pop music down here at Ink Brew.
This reflects the modern youth in Johor Bahru who are comfortable with their heritage and are open to the modern world at the same time - switching comfortably, effortlessly, almost unconsciously between the two different Worlds.
This trait is an asset in our very small global village.
Ink Brew serves the full range of specialty coffees from espresso, syphon to hand brews. The food and beverages at Ink Brew are specially created by JWC as tributes honouring the rich heritage of old Johor Bahru.
Barista Windy is a picture of concentration and focus.
The food and coffee are generally good as one would expect from Just One Coffee (JWC).
Garden Pizza RM15.90+. A thin pizza crust topped with fresh greens and dressed with tofu sauce.
The Forest Waffle RM16.50+. Savoury waffle, not really appealing to my taste buds.
Balloon Waffle RM17.90+. Waffle with traditional ice cream topping was more to my taste ;-D
Tan Hiok Nee Coffee 陈旭年咖啡 RM16.80+.
This coffee commemorates Tan Hiok Nee 陳旭年, the Major China of Johor in the 1870s. There is a ritual to drinking this coffee to appreciate it's meaning which the friendly staff will gladly explain to you ;-D
When you drink the coffee you would first taste a blend of citrusy bitterness, then tartness from the caramelised orange before sweetness from the icing sugar. This taste profile represents 苦尽甘来, a Chinese saying that when one swallows bitterness to the end, one will be rewarded with sweetness. This represents the spirit of the ancestors of Johor Bahru in building the city.
Irish Coffee RM26+
Chingay Coffee 游神 - 五帮共和 RM16.50+.
The idea behind this coffee is interesting. It is a blend of 5 Arabica beans representing the 5 Chinese clans (Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka, Hainanese and Cantonese) at the annual Chingay in Johor Bahru. I must admit that my tongue is not well tuned enough to discern the five beans. Still the cold brew is likable and the idea of celebrating the harmony among the five, once warring Chinese clans has already won me over.
View of EH HE | Ink Brew Cafe from along Jalan Ibrahim.
I am touched by the sincerity of Classic Accents Art House and Just Want Coffee towards preserving and showcasing the Chinese heritage of Johor Bahru.
Now we have one more nice, comfortable place to cool our heels as we explore the dusty JB old town on foot. Actually, I can stay here happily the whole day ;-D
Restaurant name: EH HE Gallery | Ink Brew by JWC Cafe 墨跡手沖館
Address: No. 1, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia. Junction of Jalan Trus and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee (just beside Hiap Joo Bakery)
GPS: 1.456477, 103.764608
Hours: 12:00 noon to 11:00 pm daily
Date visited: 5 May 2015
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