Being highly adverse to long bus rides, and not wanting to repeat the same journey I had done tens of times before between KL and Penang, I decided on a slow and steady route, taking in both Ipoh and Taiping. Having not been to Ipoh in just shy of 20 years (yes, i'm old), and remembering that I had some amazing food there, the passion stirred deep within and I hastily booked my way out of the smog of KL.
I spent 5 days in Ipoh and 3 in Taiping, trying a couple of local spots, finding a few decent cups of coffee, but avoiding bars entirely. Therefore the following short guide will only focus on food and drugs. Drugs being caffeine in this case.
Ipoh's Restaurants & Cafes
Yi Pin Ramen ($$)
Smoked duck ramen in a bowl of soba noodles? Yes please! Slightly outside the main drag of Ipoh downtown, hurry your little legs and get up here to try this.
Greentown Dim Sum Cafe ($$)
With hankerings for Dim Sum becoming a daily annoyance, thankfully Ipoh had me covered. Expect a line of revellers eyeing your table before you're even done, this place is insanely popular. Not what you'd call exceptional Dim Sum, but completely acceptable.
Mad Ramen ($$)
Solid tonkotsu ramen with well cooked eggs, tender chashu and all the other absolutes. It's amazing how a small town in Malaysia can have 2 world-class Ramen spots and most European cities struggle to have one half-decent one.
Yee Fatt Curry Noodles ($)
Sweet pork, decent noodles, and rich deep curry soup! Whats not to love at this legendary spot thats been banging out bowls for decades.
Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiao ($$)
Blogged about to within an inch of its life, I still had to track it down and give it a go. On the way there my taxi driver grinned in delight that a tourist was heading to his favourite spot.
To be honest, the chicken and bean sprouts were delicious (if salty). Get yourself a plate, pronto!
Pakeeza Restaurant ($$)
Yet another feverously popular place that I found quite by accident. I struggled to get a table in the labyrinth restaurant where congregations of gastronauts popped handfulls of nosh in their mouths and spoke loudly causing debris to fly in gravity defying patterns.
That being said, the curry was spectacular, the complimentary fish curry had real oomph, and the naan was good but too bready/doughy for my liking.
Burps & Giggles ($$)
Slightly ripping off the hipster hard-on mecca of Shoreditch with it's Cereal Killer Cafe, this place has a huge array of imported cereals to tempt you to relapse. I, however, came here for the coffee which is as solid as a bet on Anthony Joshua (doh!).
Taiping Restaurants & Cafes
Yut Sun ($$)
Pining for a British roast? Shepherds pie? Bangers & Mash? Well, not quite... but as close as you'll get in this colonial town where the Brits mined tin and fled to the nearby hills when the sun was too intense. Yut Sun's famous chicken chop is tastier than it looks, and you'd be hard pressed to not order a piece of bread to mop up all that delicious brown gravy. A week later you'll start having cravings for it again, trust me...
7 Village Noodle House ($$)
With a backdrop of incessant rain ploughing down on the resisting tarmac, there was nothing better to do than watch it's refreshing delight from the safety of shelter, and a steaming bowl of kuay teow soup. Everything in this bowl is perfect, and the ginger-chilli sauce just kicks it up another notch!
Locs & Thyme ($$)
A neighbourhood cafe run by two boisterous women who prepare a few dishes a day, thats it! Choose between whats left by the time you stumble over, and bet your bottom Ringgit it's going to be tasty.
Decidely western in their approach, i'd heard good things about the lamb burger, but chose pork since non-halal places can be tricky to find. For those who pine for tastes more commonly threaded through their psyche, not for weekend travellers who want to explore Malaysian foods endless bounty.
Triple Shot ($$)
Lucky for me I didn't have to wander far in the mornings to get my first cup. 100 meters from my hotel, opposite each other, are two of the best cafe's in Taiping.
Double Tap Cafe ($$)
Both cafe's seem to favour Ethiopian beans, which is totally fine with me. Double Tap is slightly bigger for socializing, Triple Shot has a back room with art-exhibitions on the wall. Just visit both
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively