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Pokok KL’s founders just opened a poolside café and it says a lot about their resilience

Since the establishment of The Glasshouse Café in 2014, Brick House Group has been quickly solidifying their reputation in Malaysia’s F&B scene.

With Pokok and Daun being recognisable cafés known for their Instagram-worthy interiors and food, Brick House Group has a new undertaking—Popsicola.

It’s not easy to open a new café, especially right now. Like every other industry, the world of F&B took quite a hit during the pandemic. On top of cafes, Brick House also organises events, which obviously became stifled during the past two years.

The last time Vulcan Post spoke to Datin Christine Bong, co-founder of Brick House Group, we talked extensively about the team’s ability to pivot and adapt through hiccups. Little did we know that the pandemic would continue for another year, leading to even more pivots.

Pivoting in the pandemic

To accommodate the shift in customer demands, Brick House Group came up with a simple yet effective package called Express Weddings. A one-stop solution, this package offered the venue, catering, décor, and more, to clients.

Express Weddings were a one-stop package solution offered by the company / Image Credit: Brick House Group

Virtual events were also introduced. Through this, the team at Brick House Group were able to acquire skills such as coordinating live stream events.

“We did a live stream for a Chinese tea ceremony,” Datin Christine recalled. “We live streamed the wedding ceremony of a Filipino couple for their relatives back in the Phillipines. We also did wedding live streams in churches, temples, and mosques.”

On top of that, Brick House even ventured into grocery deliveries. During the first lockdown, large batches of fresh produce were delivered to them for their events and cafes, which ended up being affected by the MCO.

Brick House Group often uses the #bhsexyfood to define their dishes / Image Credit: Brick House Group

Instead of tossing away the produce, the team decided to sell them online. While it didn’t cover the losses, it prevented a huge amount of wastage. Brick House decided to keep it going, happy to help deliver goods to people during difficult times.  

“The quantity of events has certainly returned, but the quantum per event is lesser than before due to current SOPs,” Datin Christine explained. “Our event requests on a daily basis have also gone up, and we’re hosting at least two to three events per week.”

Popping into Popsicola

After making it through the pandemic, Popsicola seems like a bright and refreshing change of pace, bringing the company back to what it does best: fun events and good food.

The poolside cafe invites patrons to take a splash / Image Credit: Brick House Group

It just officially launched on February 26, 2022. “The whole idea of Popsicola is it’s a casual day-poolside café with a lot of summer-loving vibes and playful pescatarian food,” Datin Christine shared.  

It was difficult to set aside funds during the pandemic, but the Popsicola project wasn’t overly expensive, according to Datin Christine.

Popsicola supposedly focuses on pescatarian food, but they also sell chicken and beef dishes / Image Credit: Brick House Group

“There was already a pool vacant in MAHSA Avenue and all we had to do was refurbish it, and handle our cost control well on renovations and equipment,” she said.

Brick House already knew how they wanted the place to look and what they needed to make it happen. They were able to navigate budget constraints by sourcing certain things from China.

In the end, the group took things week by week, and within a month, Popsicola was born. With careful budgeting and planning, they ended up spending less than RM200K.

Poolside party

Unlike some other pool cafes such as Kleptokrat, for example, this casual day-pool bar welcomes the public to dine in and dive in (though actually diving might be dangerous).

For those who want to host private events though, Popsicola has full-day or half-day party packages available. The minimum spend for a full-day party is RM6K on the weekdays, while rental goes for RM1K. The weekends are pricier with an RM8K minimum spend and RM2K rental price.

Bright, vivid colours shape a distinctive beachy vibe at Popsicola / Image Credit: Brick House Group

For the half-day package, customers can opt for two timeslots (10AM – 3PM / 4PM – 9PM). The minimum spend for weekdays is RM4K, and rental is RM1K. For weekends, it’s RM6K and RM2K respectively.

“We’ve hosted eight events so far, from birthday parties to corporate parties and even a Sangeet,” Datin Christine said.

Popsicola’s menu includes tacos, bowls, sliders, sharing plates, and toast. There are various proteins offered for each of these dishes such as shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, and more.

The prices are relatively average for a spot in the city, with tacos going for RM15 to RM19, bowls from RM19 to RM32, sliders from RM29 to RM49, and sharing options for around RM20 (though the Popsicola Burrata Board is a platter that costs RM55). All drinks, which include juices, milkshakes, and sodas, go for RM15, though fresh coconuts are RM10.

While there may be lots of other poolside cafes and bars in KL, what Popsicola has going for it is its strong backing by Brick House, as well as the spillover traffic from the group’s other popular spots. We can’t imagine that our urban population would turn down an opportunity to hit up the latest cool spot for the ‘Gram, anyway.

On the horizon

By the end of 2022, Brick House Group hopes to double Popsicola’s events and triple its revenue. They also want to cement the day-poolside café as both a party venue as well as a chill space for weekend wind-downs.

Popsicola hopes to target anyone who wants to have a pleasant day by the pool / Image Credit: Brick House Group

“For our long-term goals, we want to expand beyond our comfort zone in terms of food and our repertoire,” Datin Christine explained. “We want to get Popsicola to achieve a level of popularity and demand like what we’ve done with Pokok KL.”

According to her, Popsicola is just the beginning of a new chapter for Brick House. The “Director of Awesome” at the group hinted to Vulcan Post that more exciting updates will be coming in the next quarter.

In our previous interview a year ago with Datin Christine, we were already told about a poolside cafe being in their expansion plans. The fact that they stuck to it, even through another unpredictable year of the pandemic, is evidence of the group’s resilience and careful planning.

  • Learn more about Brick House Group here.
  • Read more articles about Malaysian startups we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Brick House Group

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