[Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia] Caffé Diem & Diem Bakery

One cannot talk about Alor Setar’s dining scene without mentioning Caffé Diem, and its sister-outlet, Diem Bakery around the corner from it.

Caffé Diem was founded in 2015 by a well-connected local personality: property developer Rick Cheng Wooi Seng, who also happens to be a bon vivant & foodie. Situated in a row of buildings collectively called Keow Hin & Co Building in the middle of Alor Setar’s Chinatown, the café occupies what was once the town’s gaol back in 1896. At one point, when the prison was moved out, the-then owners turned part of it into an opium den.

Today, nothing remains of the building’s notorious past. The stylish China Room on the second floor now occupies what was then the old opium den.

On the first floor, two 90-year-old perahu Kedah (traditional Malay fishing boats) hung from the rafters above, reminding me somewhat of the old Trader Vic’s in Singapore, with its Polynesian outrigger canoes looming above you as you supped on Bongo-bongo soup or Cosmo salad.

The food we had was typical café fare:

  1. Fish fingers is known as “Mr Hu Chew Chai” on the menu here - this is a cheeky use of local Hokkien parlance, as “hu” refers to “fish” in the Kedah-Hokkien dialect, and “chew chai” is “fingers”.
    Very generous amount of perfect, batter-fried fish fillets, served with tartar dipping sauce on the side.

  2. Nasi Lemak Cream Cheese Bun - pandan-flavoured bun with sambal ikan bilis filling, topped with sweet cream cheese - it worked surprisingly well: slightly sweet cream cheese topping vs spicy-savoury anchovy & sambal relish.

  1. Cinema Croissant Sandwich - with sausage, egg & cheese filling - so-named perhaps as a throwback to hot dogs sold in the old cinemas in Alor Setar in the days of yore.

  2. Mi Goreng Orang Putih - Spaghetti Aglio Olio, with chicken ham, shrimps & black olives - another play on words from different languages here: “mi goreng” references the Malay fried noodles, whereas “orang putih” refers to white people, i.e. the Britishers during the old colonial days. So, the pasta aglio olio was regarded as the white man’s equivalent of Malay fried noodles.

  3. Sea salt-chocolate croissant sandwich

  1. Lemon poppy-seed tart

Both the dessert items were as good as any one can find anywhere in the region - a testament to the quality of baking in this small town’s cafe.

Very good quality coffee and chilled juice drinks here as well.

Although operated as two separate entities - food & drinks can be cross-ordered between the two cafes, which are located cheek-by-jowl with one another. Caffé Diem & Diem Bakery are simply must-visits if one ever comes to Alor Setar. Nothing else in this town comes close.

Caffé Diem
44-53, Jalan Penjara Lama, Bandar Alor Setar, 05000 Alor Setar, Kedah
Tel: +604-730 8895
Opening hours: 12 noon to 12 midnight daily

Diem Bakery
39, Jalan Tunku Yaakub, Pekan Cina, 05000 Alor Setar, Kedah
Tel: +604-731 9199
Opening hours: 9am to 7pm daily


Back to Caffé Diem for an afternoon coffee break last Sunday, as we drove back to Penang from Perlis, the northernmost state in Malaysia, bordering Thailand.

The friendly manager, Jackie Loo, who’s also one half of the couple who founded the cafe back in 2015.


Blueberry cruffin

Chocolate ganache torte

Strawberry burnt cheesecake

Lemon poppyseed cake

A good selection of cakes and pastries, definitely the best in Alor Setar. Taste-wise, it still lagged behind George Town, Penang.