by Shameera Nair Lin

Cantina’s minimalist layout provides a soothing café atmosphere.

I am on my second cup of coffee; an ice-cold latte carefully brewed with a Brazilian blend, one of Cantina’s regular offerings. Time is nothing but a painful blur at this point, and I am sketching out my Hari Kebangsaan plans on Google Docs. However, I am sitting in front of VCR’s operations manager, Alwin Yu, about to press him on all things Cantina-related. Perhaps you’ve come across this quiet hub away from the office cubicle: located on the 8 th floor of Menara YTL, they are an extension to the VCR cafes seen around KL. From that second cup of coffee, I think you can guess that I am – indeed – a bit of a fan. Alwin certainly sees that too: ‘How many cups have you had today?’

At this point, I’m fairly certain about half my salary goes toward Alwin’s salary. It’s time to turn the tenor of the conversation. So, how did a project such as Cantina come to fruition? It all started in Sentul, when VCR was shortlisted for the Sentul Park project. After a meeting with Yeoh Pei Teeng from YTL Land and Development, Alwin was asked if he would be interested in developing a café for Menara YTL.

This did not occur without its set of challenges; Cantina, as Alwin informs me, is customised to the needs of the YTL community itself. From every item on the menu to the layout, a hands-on approach was employed by all parties involved. For the Cantina team, this meant altering the minimalist layout that furnishes the VCR cafes. The biggest shift from VCR to Cantina was, by far, changing the types of meals offered. Cantina’s menu is, by and large, moulded on the humble roots of Kopitiam-style Malaysian food, including rich offerings such as the classic nasi lemak and eggs and toast at an affordable rate. Moreover, full quality control is conducted on all meals going out of Cantina and into our bellies; you’re bound to get a good meal. One of Alwin’s personal favourites is the beef gyudon; I am personally a nasi lemak kind of person.

Some of Cantina’s offerings (from top, right to left, clockwise): beef gyudon; chicken stir-fry with Thai basil; granola; superbowl.

Having had warm conversations with the individuals involved in making my cherished latte, however, I wanted to know more about the people behind Cantina. After a while, we get into the heart of the matter: ‘Cantina is a neighbourhood kind of business.’ What this means is that visiting the eighth floor is not merely about getting a cup of coffee, or a comforting plate of Malaysian food – it’s about forging ‘up close and personal’ friendships, new connections percolating and brewing constantly.

Meet Rex and Hanah, some of the friendly faces you will come to know as you frequent the cafe.

Inversely, you are also welcome to sit there without external interruptions – it is, simply, anything you want it to be. If you need a friendly smile, it is the place to go. And if you need some solitude, it functions as such. Admittedly, I sometimes visit Cantina to start the workday on the right tone – one of encouragement. Unlike any other café, Alwin observes, Cantina is a space where everyone who visits becomes a regular presence – you get to know the people you’re around. Amidst the flurried frenzy of the workday, it is rather soothing to know that you can find a space for yourself.

Apart from the people-oriented spirit of the café, Cantina also offers personalised meeting room deliveries and are planning on restarting their floor delivery service. To order, go to https://cantina.storehub.me/ and select anything from the day’s offerings. Personally, however, I recommend paying the café a visit for the full experience. Once, a colleague of mine spotted Cantina baristas measuring freshly-baked cakes. If eating cakes is not your thing, perhaps a bit of a chuckle at watching people measuring cake sizes is what you need for a pick-me-up. I, for one, will be doing that.