Kota Kinabalu – An Insider’s Guide

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Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is known for beaches, Mount Kinabalu and nearby jungles. It’s been booming recently, and so has its dining scene – here are some insider tips!

I made the 7 hour trip from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu to enjoy my days off. It was a tiring ride, because you travel through the mountains,  but also  because there are countless construction projects along the way. The views made up for it though.  I saw Mount Kinabalu and beautiful Borneo greenery as far as eye can see. I decided to check out some of the popular cafes in town for this article.

Nook cafe

Located in Australia Place, it’s a bit out of the way, and you could get lost trying to find it. But it was worth the trip. The first thing I noticed after I walked in was the open concept. You can see the chef preparing your food in the kitchen. How cool is that? I went to the counter and ordered my coffee (of course) and something that not all cafés have, a yoghurt bowl.  Oh, and a piece of their devil chocolate cake! While looking for place to sit, the second floor nook (I guess that’s how they came up with the name) caught my eye. Luckily, someone was just about to leave and so I found a seat. It’s overlooking a huge window that faces the road. You can observe life happening all around you.

Nook Café placed second on Trip Advisor’s list of cafés in Kota Kinabalu, with most reviewers saying this café is worth a visit. After a while my order arrived, with lovely presentation. The yogurt bowl fruits is perfectly arranged and the quantities are enough to cut the tanginess of the yoghurt. Granola is added for some texture. In the cake, I can see the layers and the balance between cream and cake is excellent. The only thing I was disappointed by was the size of the coffee, it was on the small size. Despite the size, the coffee was really good. The acidity is good, and the taste was cacao-ish.

Kota Kinabalu

Print Cafe

The next stop was supposed to be the October Coffee House, but along the way to the café, I found  this café in a corner near Nook Café, opposite October Coffee House.

From the name itself we could predict what it would look like, and yes, it’s a printing company and a café at the same time. What a cool idea! The café is a collaboration between the printing company and a coffee company called Santola, mixing Sabah local coffee beans with Columbia beans. This produces one of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. The taste of the coffee is smooth, cacao-ish and has berry flavours. This medium-roast bean gave me a warm sensation once the coffee entered my mouth, and the level of acidity was excellent. The art in the café left an impression, with simple photos that have a lot of messages and meaning. Not yet listed on TripAdvisor as it is relatively new, this café is worth to visit and I highly recommend Print Café to all coffee lovers out there.

October Coffee House

This café is the perfect example of “don’t judge the book by its cover”. The outside simplicity doesn’t reflect what is inside. The moment I stepped in, I was transported to another place. All the Christmas decoration was just icing on the cake, even without it the café looks cosy. The wooden wall gives it a homey atmosphere. The tables are well spaced, giving you more privacy. The café also has a second floor, with a huge window, a perfect place for those who want to study.  I went to the counter and ordered a latte and a home-made kimchi sandwich. The kimchi and the charcoal bamboo loaf are all made from scratch.  As you may know, kimchi is a healthy salad from Korea. This cabbage-radish salad can lower the risk of stomache cancer, prevent flu and colds and has many more potential benefits. The sandwich was excellent. Exceptional bread, tasty kimchi, and the beef patty was superb. And on top of that,  it was very affordable. The latte was also exceptional, which is not surprising from a well-trained barista. Most of the cafes baristas are certified coffee-maker from SCAE, The Speciality Coffee Association. Definitely worth a visit!

Don’t miss: Most Instagram-Worthy Dining Venues in Dubai

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