It was already past twilight when my family and I checked into Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel, and for the sake of convenience, we decided to try one of the restaurants located a short walk's distance from the hotel reception. Cafe BLD is just one of their dining options, the others being the Wan Li Chinese Restaurant and the Chocolate Cake Company, a small bakery. Cafe BLD appears to be the main dining hub of the hotel, being where breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served; in fact, the acronym 'BLD' stands for 'Breakfast Lunch Dinner'. The discovery put a smile on my face.
What's interesting is that the cafe's kitchen is located right in the middle of the restaurant, where chefs can be seen hard at work on their culinary projects. The restaurant is very spacious with a warm ambience and floor to ceiling windows at the far side of the cafe. We arrived at the restaurant in the midst of the dinner buffet spread, though we decided to order from the ala-carte menu. Other than local specialties such as rice and noodles, there were also Western dishes such as pastas, pizzas and steaks.
My grandparents both ordered the chicken rice, a dish my grandfather is most fond of. The one pictured above is served with steamed chicken while my grandmother decided to go with a roast chicken option. Both of them were well pleased with the food, and after tasting the roast chicken, I had to agree. The chicken was deliciously flavourful, the reddish-brown skin crisp alongside the tenderness of the meat. Coupled with the dark dipping sauce, it was truly a savoury food experience.
For myself, I chose the fish and chips as I haven't had some in a while. Here at Cafe BLD, the dish comes with three pieces of battered, deep-fried fish, a helping of chips and sides of salad, vinegar and tartar sauce. The fish was nice and flaky, while the batter was crispy. I was suitably stuffed by the time I cleared my plate. For more than RM30, the price is pretty steep but the helping reasonably generous, and it's not surprising considering the cafe's standing in a 5-star luxury hotel.
My sister ordered the spaghetti carbonara, which came with beef bacon strips. The pasta dishes offered are pretty basic, and you have the liberty of choosing the type of pasta (e.g. spaghetti, fettucini) and the base you would like it in, such as marinara or carbonara. The dish pictured above was lovely and creamy, not too overwhelming or heavy for the stomach.
My younger siblings didn't follow us down to the restaurant but stayed in the room upstairs, where they ordered room service. While I didn't get to taste their kampung style fried rice, both of them had good things to say about their dinner. We usually order fried rice without vegetables for the kids, so that's why the dish pictured above is lacking in greens.
The restaurant manager was very friendly throughout dinner, even stopping by to help take a photo of our group. It was the eve of my grandfather's birthday, so we were very shutter-friendly that night. After dinner was cleared, my grandfather whom we call Atuk, decided that he wanted some coffee before going back up to the room. We moved to the R Bar, which is just opposite Cafe BLD, where a live musician was playing instrumental music in the lounge. Once we were seated, the staff came and asked Atuk if there was any music he would like to listen to, and we settled comfortably into our seats as the musician started playing some jazz tunes.
To Atuk's great surprise, the musician suddenly started playing the 'Happy Birthday' tune, and we chanted along to the song as the restaurant manager and staff came to our table bearing a birthday cake, complete with a single lit candle.
We were all very excited, as the manager had planned this on the quiet upon learning from us that Atuk's birthday would be the next day. The smile on Atuk's face was one of sincere joy as he blew out the candle, and we happily devoured the chocolate mousse cake. Following that, the musician stopped playing and left his music player with a playlist of oldies, to which Atuk cheerfully sang to as we finished the cake. I think I speak for all of us that night when I say that we were very grateful for the hospitality and service of the restaurant staff. In Atuk's words as we made our way up our rooms, "They really know how to make you feel very grand."