Featured Eatery: If Only
“Which is your favourite dish on the menu?”
Jean (not pictured), co-founder, and officer of “all things pretty” doesn’t hesitate, “my grandma’s mee hun kueh”.
If Only’s kitchen team recreated the beloved recipe with chicken mince. It now has all of the depth of flavour and warmth of nostalgia, but none of the pork.
Jean’s humble description of her role at the cafe belies her contributions. She manages the menu, marketing, interior design, and more. And so the cosy, rattan-clad cafe stands as a gleaming portfolio. Wooden blinds, intricate lamps, and non-matching, matching chairs specially imported from Bali create a comfy ambience.
It’s clear that the co-founders have put their passions into the cafe. So much so that Keith, partner (in both senses of the word), has trouble naming his favourite dish. “Every dish is important to me, every component in every dish, and I think they can all stand to evolve”. The Big Breakfast, for example, is now on its 5th iteration.
The Big Breakfast is a faithful representation of what Keith brings to the table: a little bit of everything, i.e. 18 years in the hospitality industry. The well-balanced, colourful platter serves up a whopping 8 components to make a hearty meal that is probably best shared.
If Only got its name because the couple dreamt of a place they could go to for a good cup of coffee, scrumptious local fare, and wholesome brunch commonly found in Australia where Keith grew up, and Bali, the duo’s preferred vacation destination.
If Only wishes big, and so delivers. A wide-ranging menu to pique the interest of everyone at the table. Western and local brunch dishes, smoothie bowls, salads, burgers, pasta, noodles, and more. Then there’s coffee, local tea blends, and juices to wash them down.
With all this said, Keith believes that people return to a restaurant for the quality of service, and ambience. The team is meticulously trained, and empowered to create good experiences for everyone who walks in. And that is, by the founders’ standards, making people feel at home.
“My mom wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor, not work in hospitality. I flunked out of 2 schools before I started studying hospitality. Then my grades improved”. Keith goes on to study culinary arts, but evidently most of the learning happened outside the classroom.
“At one point, I was doing 3 restaurant jobs, 2 of which was unpaid as they were a part of my course. The third one was to earn an allowance. I got 15 hours of sleep a week”. Keith reminisces on those times with a little smile.
While the co-founders have earned their stripes with solid F&B backgrounds, there’s much to conquer in their ultimate goal of a community space that reaches far beyond an eatery. A giant space that encompasses a farm, resort, event hall, and farmers market.
“It takes a lot of work to maintain consistency in this industry. Sourcing good ingredients is tough.”
“We use Cultiveat veggies in almost every dish, and for all our tomato-based sauces, like our Marinara pasta. People love it.”
Keith, Co-Founder of If Only
“When we switched to Cultiveat, customers asked us what we did, for example to our grilled chicken wrap. It may seem subtle, but using fresh veggies changes the flavour of a dish, it gives a different dimension to that bite.”
The couple’s respect for quality ingredients and sustainability is evident in their menu sporting little write-ups about local kampung eggs and coffee that supports farmers, for instance; why they use their products, and even the social or environmental impact they make.
“I want my businesses to be environmentally friendly in all ways. We’re looking into packaging-free milk and composting. We’d like to give back to the community. I love working with people towards a common goal. It’s awesome to work with Cultiveat; our values are the same and we can help grow each other’s businesses.”
We’re happy to report that Keith’s mom is very happy with how things turned out. She is, at this very moment during the interview, texting about a glass of mom-made barley that’s waiting for him at home.
Find If Only here:
Address: Ground floor, Regal House, 1, Jalan U Thant, Taman U Thant, 55000 Kuala Lumpur.
Contact Number: 017-2882243 (Whatsapp)
Opening Hours: Daily, 9am – 10pm