Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai

Desire Speakeasy – Plaza Batai Cocktail Bar

Desire Speakeasy – Plaza Batai Cocktail Bar

Words: Jacob Weber
Photos: Peter Tan

“Where Style and Sensuality Intertwine” beckons the neon sign at the entrance.

Well, I say. This sounds … intriguing.

As soon as we enter Desire Speakeasy — once we’ve managed to find the second-floor entrance, up the staircase tucked away to the side of Ben’s Grocer — we see exactly what they mean.

It is indeed a stylish space, cosy and elegant, with a black-red-gold colour scheme that’s very tastefully done. As for sensuality — well, the plush furnishings and boudoir lighting (especially in the toilets) certainly made our sunny Sunday afternoon feel rather more intimate. 

(Note: we were there early for the review. Desire actually opens at 6 pm with an outstanding buy-one-free-one Happy Hour on signature cocktails, wine and beer until 9 pm — at which point you’ll be very grateful for the soft lighting and softer chairs.)

In fact, it manages to be intimate and expansive at the same time, equally good for date nights or large groups. There’s plenty of seating, either in a quiet corner, by the bar or on the main floor, so no one has to cram around tables — and plenty of room to get more raucous when the DJ arrives at 10 pm.

Speaking of raucous, it’s time to sink — sorry, sample — some cocktails.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Hidden Cocktail Bar KL

Desire Speakeasy Cocktail Menu

The excellent bar team at Desire are getting pretty creative with the cocktail menu here, and we’re pleased to see that many recipes include one or two unique homemade ingredients. 

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Let’s Get Shaking – Desire Speakeasy

We recommend that, like us, you start with The Big Apple (RM38). It’s a fresh, light and crispy combination of Grey Goose, green apple liqueur, green apple juice and lemon—a zesty little something to perk you up and open the palate.

Hidden Cocktail Bar KL
The Big Apple

The Jack Cur Le (RM38) is also fresh and light but much sweeter — without being too sweet at all. It’s a well-balanced blend of Grey Goose-infused jackfruit, lime, pink guava juice and vanilla syrup, finished with a curry leaf.

Hidden Cocktail Bar KL
Jack Cur Le

Next up, a cocktail with serious character: Sloe Down McKay (RM42). Sloe gin-infused black truffle, strawberry liquor, homemade raspberry purée, apple juice, and lemon, topped with egg white foam. It’s delicious, it’s fascinating, it’s complex. The earthiness from the truffle is balanced by the sharp, tangy apple juice, and there’s lots of texture going through every sip—a must-try.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Pepper My Lips

Lipa Tea (RM35) is another must-try, if only because this is the only cocktail on the menu with wine-cask-aged rum. Inspired by jamu, a traditional Indonesian medicinal drink, Lipa Tea blends this special rum with in-house cold brew passion fruit tea with turmeric, more passion fruit juice and lime. It’s beautiful, rich and full-bodied. 

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Desire Speakeasy – Lipa Tea

I have to laugh out loud when I learn that The Average Male (RM35) is so-called because it’s Desire’s take on a Pornstar Martini. This Grey Goose-based cocktail is very sweet but has some interesting layers, thanks to the Prosecco bubbling through the passion fruit purée and vanilla syrup.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
The Average Male

The Five Berry Delight (RM40) combines Bacardi Blanc with an in-house five-berry mix and syrup to create the fruitiest daiquiri you have ever sipped. It’s pretty punchy and a little sweet for us — but still delicious, and recommended if you like your cocktails on the sweeter side.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Five Berry Delight

Miss Geraldine (RM38) is bittersweet in the best way possible. Hendricks gin, Aperol, lemon, blackcurrant liqueur, Grenadine and grapefruit juice are expertly mixed into a sweet, sour, and citrusy combination that works wonders with the gin base.

Hidden Cocktail Bar KL
Adding the Final Touch

Pink Panther (RM42) comes in a goblet-sized cocktail, which I am not complaining about. It leans towards the bitter and sour side of the spectrum, with Tanqueray No. 10, tonic and dry vermouth to the fore. Still, the Sauvignon Blanc and homemade raspberry reduction give it some sweetness, acidity and colour. 

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Pink Panther – Desire Speakeasy

The Empress (RM40) is a funky little number and definitely the only time I’ve encountered a gin-based cocktail topped with sweet sprinkles. It’s fun, colourful and sweet, although the Empress gin does bring some balance to the tanginess of the lemon, elderflower liqueur, simple syrup and homemade blackberry foam.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
The Empress

Monica’s eyes light up when we’re told that Figment (RM40) is Desire’s take on a Negroni — although her excitement is tempered ever so slightly when she learns it’s on the sweet side. (She really does like ’em bitter.) Still, this is very interesting: gin-infused fig leaf, sweet vermouth and Campari combine with grapefruit juice, Amaretto and vanilla extract, with half-and-half (cream and milk mix) to give it some body—a curious and not-at-all-unpleasant combination.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai

We’re swaying on our stools slightly by this point, but we still have a job to do: try the seasonal cocktails, which are only available until the end of February.

The Lucky Lychee Martini (RM38) is a sharp and punchy number. Vodka, lemon, and elderflower liqueur mix well with lychee syrup and juice to create an eye-opening, eyebrow-raising tang in every sip.

We finish on a high note with the Dragon’s Elixir (RM40), which is very good indeed. It features Tanqueray gin, lime peach liqueur, cranberry and dragon fruit purée; it’s juicy, rich and balanced with a solid texture and beautifully presented with a dehydrated dragon fruit garnish.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai
Desire Speakeasy – Lunar New Year Special

The only reason we’re still standing at this point is because Desire has an excellent selection of bar snacks that we’ve been grazing on to soak up the booze. Tacos, nachos, dips and so on; this is high-quality comfort food.

Food Menu

The Pulled Beef Tacos (RM35) might be a little risky for a bar snack, but these are well worth that risk. They’re outstanding. Six-hour slow-cooked smoked and braised beef lovingly wrapped in soft tortillas and finished with a squeeze of lime; full marks all round. These would pair very nicely with a smokey whiskey (or, at the very least, a cold beer).

The recipe for Peruvian Chicken Tacos (RM32) is inspired by Peruvian green sauce, or aji verde. Desire’s version combines homemade yoghurt with local jalapeños on top of grilled chicken thigh, finished with yellow onions and pickled cabbage for some acidity. We recommend trying these too.

If you’re of a vegetarian persuasion, you’ll be more than satisfied with the Smoked Mushroom Tacos (RM30). There’s a smokiness and spiciness to give the earthiness a little edge, and the texture is pretty close to the pulled beef.

Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai

Lighter finger food arrives in the form of the PopNut Mix (RM11), which we love: an indulgent mix of almonds, popcorn and peanuts roasted in-house with a secret sauce.

Hidden Cocktail Bar KL
PopNut Mix – Desire Speakeasy

Unlike the usual’ pile of chips with a loaded topping’, the Beef Chilli Nachos (RM38) are thoughtfully layered like a lasagna. It’s a subtle but welcome touch that means more of the group get to enjoy the beefy, cheesy, crispy combo in all its glory.

We’re also lucky enough to sample some preview items that aren’t on the menu yet — but we’re sure will be a big hit when they arrive. The Chicken Wings (TBC) are marinated in a simple salt-and-sugar mix and then Tabasco for a fiery finish that will suit spice lovers. I can confirm they go very well with a cold Carlsberg.

The Popcorn Chicken (TBC) is exactly as popcorn chicken should be; there’s no messing around with a classic bar snack here. Still, no one’s taking any shortcuts; the chicken is juicy, the batter is crisp and just the right texture.

Bar Snack Menu
Bar Bites

As tempting as the rest of the food menu (quesadillas!) and drinks menu (loads of spirits, wines and shooters!) is, it’s probably time for us to wrap up. But we won’t forget those tacos any time soon …

Food Menu

Reasons to visit Desire Speakeasy: spacious lounge bar with comfortable seating, suitable for small or large groups; creative and reasonably priced cocktail menu with homemade ingredients and a broad spectrum of flavours without being at all pretentious; generous Happy Hour deal; excellent bar food; extensive drinks menu with lots of deals on bottles for special occasions; good service.

Cocktail Menu
Desire Speakeasy Plaza Batai Cocktail Menu

Desire Speakeasy
Lot 6-A & 6-1A, Plaza Batai, Jalan Batai, Bukit Damansara
50490 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
+6018 960 1871

Desire Speakeasy Opening Hours
Wednesday – Sunday: 6 pm – 12 am
(Closed Monday & Tuesday)

Find more KL bar recommendations here, and stay up-to-date on the latest gourmet and travel happenings around Malaysia here and here.

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