After having explored most of the cafes nearer to Johor Bahru (JB) customs for a while, plus walking several rounds around City Square Mall, we decided to venture further out to Taman Mount Austin. This is one up and coming neighbourhood to check out while in JB, with several cafes and restaurants springing up. A Malaysian friend had also recommended me to check out Austin Heights, but I didn’t have the time until now. In order to get to Austin Heights, you can just flag down a taxi in front of City Square mall or at the CIQ immigration complex. Alternatively, if you have mobile data in Malaysia, you can use the car sharing apps such as Uber or Grab to get to Austin Heights. I took a Grab car and paid RM16 for the 20 minute ride (depending on traffic conditions).
Alternatively, for the budget backpacker, you can take BET6 from JB Sentral (the bus terminal 1 level down as you get out of the CIQ complex). The ride takes about 30-40 min & you can alert driver to prompt you where to alight. You have to look out for the bus stop after the bus passes Aeon Tebrau City (a big shopping mall with a hypermarket) & Austin Heights Water Adventure Park. The bus fare is about RM3.50.
There are too many cafes and restaurants around Austin Heights, so I will only be listing those that caught my eye.
1. Coffee Garden
We had tea break here. It is a great place to have a conversati
Address: 16, Jalan Austin Heights 8/6, Taman JP Perdana, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
2. 22 Korean Fried Chicken Factory
22 (pronounced as “Dul Dul” in Korean) Korean Fried Chicken Factory is a small restaurant which also doubles up as a minimart. The fast food restaurant is self-service where you order & pay at the cashier then wait to pick up your food at the collection counter. I saw interesting items at the minimart such as Toblerone and Daim dessert pies. Recommended food items would be the Kimchi fried rice (RM9.90) and of course the fried chicken wings set (4 pieces for RM10.90) which is available in different flavours (garlic, hot BBQ, Gangjeong, crispy and Bulduk).
Address: 51 Jalan Austin Heights 8/1, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
3. Diagon Alley 斜角巷
Just next door from 22 Korean fried chicken, we have the Harry Potter themed Diagon Alley. It is actually a brand from Taiwan that sells bubble tea and drinks. The cafe is currently trending their special edition drinks- Northern Lights and Morning Sunshine drink. The Northern Lights drink includes butterfly pea flower, apple vinegar and grape juice. It may sound like a weird concoction but it actually tastes good! As for the Morning Sunshine drink, it has mango and butterfly pea flower in it, an interesting mix of flavours and ingredients indeed! It is popular among young people till late at night.
Address: 49 Jalan Austin Heights 1/8, Taman Austin Heights, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
4. The Hare by Sugar on Top
With the recent opening at Taman Sutera, they expanded their cafe to Mount Austin with The Hare concept. With a large hare painting on the exterior of the cafe, it is hard not to be notice when you walk/drive past. They are known for their chilli crab pasta (RM21.90) and for the sweet tooth lovers, the matcha lava cake (RM16.90) oozing with green tea goodness.
Address: 46, Jln Austin Heights 8/2, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
5. Moscato Kitchen & Bar
Located next to Midori Concept Hotel, Moscato has a good range of imported wines. According to reviews from others, this fusion cuisine restaurant whips up great pasta dishes and delectable tapas. I guess people come here mainly for the drinks as they had several drinks promotion going on and the black horses outside look kinda welcoming.
Address: 53, Jalan Austin Heights 8/1, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
6. Warakuya Japanese Garden
Seeing many families having dinner inside this Japanese restaurant, we also decided to follow suit. The food turned out to be great, with fresh sashimi and filling bento sets. The staff were friendly, shouting “Irrashaimase”, “kongbanwa” and “arigato gozaimasu” whenever people entered or left the restaurant, typical of Japanese service staff. We ordered the Buta Shoga Gozen (RM39), a generous set meal which came with tempura platter, hot plate spicy pork, two pieces of tuna sushi, steamed rice, miso soup and chawanmushi (steamed egg). We also had the Kani Karaage Maki (RM23.90) which is a long sushi with stuffed soft shell crab. The chefs were busy slicing raw seafood, from fatty tuna belly to salmon sashimi, so it was freshly served.
Beside the restaurant is a Japanese thrift shop named Wagaya and the other side is Super Star KTV, a Japanese karaoke lounge. All three are under the same owner.
Address: No. 9 BahruI’mI, Jln Austin Heights 8/2, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
After dinner, we decided to have some craft beer. It is a nice place to chill and wind down where good food and a relaxing environment are being provided. We were too full to order any food, so we only had a bottle of beer each. The Safe stout and Innovation IPA (Indian Pale Ale). The stout had a tinge of berries taste and was smooth despite its slightly high alcohol content at 7% while the Innovation IPA was fruity and light. There was a full menu of over 30 beer labels with description and classification (e.g. Amber, Pilsner, Stout, IPA etc) for the amateur drinker. They also provided useful pairings of which type of beer to go with which kind of food, which simplified the decision process of the customer. The interior of the restaurant was simple and sleek. The price range of each bottle of beer at 330ml is around RM25-35, which is considered pricey for Malaysia standards. However, since the beer is imported from countries such as Australia, UK, USA and not mass produced in the factory, I think the price is justified.
Address: 39, Jalan Austin Heights 8/1, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
There are many other food outlets which I would slowly add on to this post as I explore more of Austin Heights the subsequent time.
Overall, the Austin Heights neighbourhood will definitely grow in popularity in the upcoming months in part due to its wide offerings of food and entertainment venues. Another reason would be when Singaporeans start to get bored with the city square area and start to venture further out. With several private housing and apartments in this area, Austin Heights will soon become more liveable and would attract Johoreans or Singaporeans to go over to explore the cafes in the vicinity, made all the more popular by food blogs and Instagram. There is even a water & adventure park in the area, which was unfortunately closed for maintenance during our visit. It actually reminded me of Adventure Cove water park in Singapore, albeit built on a smaller scale. The large tree trunks outside the adventure park are also home to some high elements activity, definitely not for those who have acrophobia.
One can also take an exciting go-Kart ride outside the water theme park while waiting for it to reopen.