It’s not simply a cafe or a restaurant, but a food atelier. That is how Rowan & Parsley positions itself, because what you get on your plate is the refined creations of the kitchen’s experiments with ingredients from its own garden.

The F&B studio in Johor Bahru is not just popular for its fusion cuisine and beverages, but also its stylish building, made all the more prominent among its industrial neighbours. With a vintage-style interior design complemented by a vibrant garden of vegetation, trees and flowers, it is hard to imagine it was once a rundown factory that had been unoccupied for almost a year.

The eye-pleasing and gastronomically gratifying meal workshop is the creation of founder and owner Sam Soon, together with a few friends. Founded in March 2015, it took them more than a year to transform the “beast” into a beauty.

He recalls the scepticism from his elder brother when they conducted their first reconnaissance of the future home of Rowan & Parsley at the Kota Puteri Industrial Park. His brother had called him crazy after hearing about his vision for the F&B establishment in this unlikeliest of venues.

“The building was very run down, and the weeds on the site was taller than a person, but I was very excited as I could already picture what it would become in the future,” he says.

Despite the unpromising appearance of the site and doubt from his brother, Soon stayed committed to his dream. He engaged contractors and interior designers to transform the warehouse into the food atelier that it is today — a comfortable, casual dining place that boasts an industrial and vintage style surrounded by the soothing greenery of its well-kept garden.

The interior of the premises is awash with shades of grey, largely from the liberal use of concrete — especially at its bar counters and floor — and brown, from its unfussy wooden furniture, with splashes of colour from its retro furniture and ornaments, creating an ambience that is cosy and familiar yet modern.

Rowan & Parsley’s weathered yet elegant aesthetics is accentuated by its cuisine, a hearty fusion of East and West created by 25-year-old Shawn Shum, an award-winning chef.

“It was very simple. When I wanted to start doing this business, I just wanted to create a place for me and my friends to hang out and enjoy good, quality food that is made by us using homegrown ingredients without adding any food flavouring or MSG. In other words, we wanted to make real food here,” he says.

One of the baits that keep Rowan & Parsley customers coming back is the fried mackerel with beurre blanc and Cajun spice, served with roasted potato, barley truffle, leek and dry tomatoes. Another must-try is its grilled chicken chop, supplemented with sweet potato leaves, mashed potatoes and mushrooms. Grilled with honey, the meat is a delightful blend of sweetness, tenderness and juiciness, greatly enhanced by the flavourful side dishes.

Like a number of other dining spaces, Rowan & Parsley is looking beyond F&B in its future. At present, the establishment hosts a florist at the back of the restaurant. Upstairs is where an art gallery used to be. Soon intends for the currently-unoccupied area to be inhabited by other unconventional tenants such as a ceramic workshop or mini library, and is looking to capitalise on any opportunity that arises.

Rowan & Parsley:
17, Jalan Cenderai 20, Taman Perindustrian Kota Puteri, Masai, Johor
Opening hours: 11.30am to 11pm, closed on Mondays
Contact: (07) 382 1760

This story first appeared in live! magazine. Download a FREE copy of live! magazine here.

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