Stepping into the Happy Mansion neighbourhood of Section 17 in Petaling Jaya (PJ) feels like walking into an ageing photograph. It is a quiet residential area of nondescript, low-cost flats where life seems to move at a languid pace. Ironically, within these three blocks of housing is a buzzing café scene that has drawn ardent foodies and coffee-lovers.
Happy Mansion was built in the 1970s, and for many decades, the neighbourhood spaces on the ground floors were occupied mainly by a laundromat, a hair salon, a book-binding and photocopy shop, Chinese coffee shops and sundry shops. These businesses are still run by old-time residents of Happy Mansion, but since the turn of the millennium, the tranquil residential area has grown into a thriving food haven of hip eateries and Instagram-worthy cafes, offering a delicious variety of food.
“After moving from Ipoh to PJ for work, I was very surprised to come across Happy Mansion!” remarks Michelle Ang, a fresh graduate in graphic design.
“It’s pretty cool to see hipster cafés located side-by-side with a laundromat and old shops,” she adds.
One of the pioneers of this foodie invasion was Food Foundry, which introduced freshly-baked mille crêpe cake to residents nearby. This neighbourhood café has since expanded into a two-store establishment with a full menu, and remains a firm favourite, drawing a consistent flow of Section 17 regulars and fans from further afield.
Muse Eatery, which is easily identified by its dark green façade, attracts most people for its Instagram-worthy interiors of jade green and yellow. Apart from taking lots of pictures for the ‘gram, diners get to choose from a delectable and extensive brunch menu, on top of pasta dishes, burgers, roast chicken, lamb rack, steak and more.
Joining the trendy eateries are some of the best cosy cafés like Hideaway, a homey cafe serving top-notch coffee and traditional home-baked cakes.
“I’m a coffee person and I enjoy checking out new cafes every now and then,” says Kiran Sidhu, a yoga teacher who lives in Kerinchi.
The latest wave of F&B, mostly western and Asian-fusion, at Happy Mansion is just the latest in a long line of stellar food offerings here. Classic Malaysian treats such as ais kacang, cendol, Nyonya kuih, nasi lemak, mee siam, homemade buns and cakes, are available at Kwong Wah Ice Kacang, which is said to have started in 1939 and offers one of the best cendol in PJ.
Other older restaurants include Ban Huat and Choon Yien which are popular with office workers during lunch hours. These Chinese kopitiams serve a variety of affordable food such as mixed economy rice, chicken rice and noodles.
With the recent Conditional Movement Control Order in view of COVID-19, the cafes and restaurants have adopted strict SOPs to ensure social distancing and safe handling to ensure their patrons are safe. Be sure to check out their social media pages for opening times and delivery options.