In picture: Allison (left) and Alicia (right), the founders of Harper Comfort Food.
In a quaint corner of the city, where the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the nostalgic scent of home-cooked meals, Harper's Comfort Food stands as a testament to the enduring power of family, tradition, and the pursuit of passion. Founded by two sisters, Allison and Alicia, this charming cafe has breathed new life into a cherished legacy, carrying forward the nourishing and nurturing cooking that once graced the plates of Tray Cafe.
As we sit down with Allison and Alicia, the founders, they take us on a journey that led to the creation of Harper Comfort Food. It all began with Tray Cafe, the predecessor to this beloved establishment. Allison, formerly in the marketing department at Citibank, found herself yearning for something more fulfilling than her corporate job. Inspired by a desire to create a haven where people could savor comfort and find solace in a bustling world, she took a leap of faith and opened Tray Cafe with her friends as partners.
For ten remarkable years, Tray Cafe flourished, weaving its way into the hearts of locals and becoming a cherished neighborhood institution. However, fate dealt a difficult blow when the COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges forced Tray Cafe to close its doors. As the closure date loomed, Allison experienced a mix of hesitation and passion, ultimately realizing that running a cafe was her true calling. Determined to continue the legacy and honor the memories forged within those walls, she embarked on a new chapter in her culinary journey, this time alongside her sister Alicia, who has quit her job as a teacher.
Credit: Harper Comfort Food
At Harper Comfort Food, the inspiration behind the menu is deeply rooted in the sisters' childhood experiences and the dishes their mother lovingly prepared for them. Allison explains, "Our mom is a great cook," with a fondness in her voice that captures the essence of the cafe. The menu reflects this sentiment, offering comforting dishes like the classic French toast with a delightful twist. Guests can savor the traditional sweet French toast served with Kaya or opt for a savory option featuring chicken sausage and chili jam. Each bite transports diners back to a time of warmth and familiarity.
What sets Harper Comfort Food apart from other cafes in the area is its steadfast commitment to being a family-oriented establishment. While other cafes may focus on the trendy and Instagrammable, Harper remains unassuming, prioritizing a homey ambiance where families can gather on weekends and enjoy wholesome meals together. It's a place where the clinking of cutlery harmonizes with the sounds of laughter, creating an atmosphere that envelops visitors in a warm embrace.
Credit: Harper Comfort Food
Signature dishes like the roast beef and chicken pesto sandwiches have earned a dedicated following, while the pasta dishes captivate with their timeless flavors. However, it's the slow-cooked lamb ragu that truly steals the show, a testament to the sisters' devotion to their mother's recipes and techniques. With every plate served, the spirit of their upbringing permeates the space, as they delicately infuse their own touches into each dish.
Harper Comfort Food ensures a satisfying and flavorful start to the day with their breakfast options. From the masala-spiced scrambled kampung eggs to the savory French toast, the secret lies in the freshness of the ingredients. There are no shortcuts or secret recipes—just a commitment to using the finest and most wholesome ingredients available. The result is a breakfast experience that leaves guests feeling nourished and ready to face the day ahead.
When it comes to lunch specials, Harper Comfort Food tantalizes taste buds with a diverse range of options. There is always a comforting soup for those seeking a lighter meal, along with vegan and vegetarian choices. With 2-3 meat options such as chicken, beef, lamb, and fish, guests are spoiled for choice. And let's not forget the beloved quiche— a staple that never fails to delight. With a different variety available each day, the sisters have discovered that quiche, with its endless flavor possibilities, truly embodies the essence of comfort food.
The irresistible bakes at Harper Comfort Food are the epitome of homemade goodness. From the moment you peruse the menu, it becomes evident that everything—from sandwiches to cakes—is made in-house using the sisters' own recipes. Their bestsellers, the butter cake, banana cake, and cheesecake, have become favorites among patrons. Drawing from their Eurasian heritage, they have also introduced the suji cake, a delightful treat passed down from their mother's kitchen.
The transition from Tray Cafe to Harper Comfort Food was a seamless one, thanks to Allison's determination to retain the spirit of the original establishment. Although minor changes were made, such as new paint on the walls, a revamped counter, and updated lighting, the essence of the cafe remained intact. Allison and Alicia explains, "It didn't take very long because everything is already here. I didn't want people to forget that there's a cafe here." With a focus on continuity, the sisters swiftly ensured that loyal customers could find solace and comfort once more within the familiar space.
As a family-run cafe, Harper Comfort Food takes great pride in cultivating a welcoming and cozy atmosphere. The dedicated staff greets guests with warm smiles, even behind masks during the challenging times of COVID-19. They are always on hand to assist with menus and offer suggestions, striving to make each visitor feel like a cherished member of their extended family.
Starting and running Harper Comfort Food has not been without its challenges. The initial journey with Tray Cafe was a learning experience for Allison and her partners, as they delved into the world of running a cafe without any prior knowledge. Taking over the setup of Harper's Comfort Food proved equally daunting, especially with a limited budget. With the passage of time, the cafe industry has undergone transformations, and emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic presented a whole new set of obstacles. Nonetheless, Allison's resilience shines through as she introduces fresh elements into the menu, aiming to captivate the interest of new customers while remaining true to the cafe's roots.
Looking to the future, Harper Comfort Food has exciting plans on the horizon. Drawing from their Eurasian heritage, the sisters intend to introduce dishes like devil curry and Nyonya laksa, which will undoubtedly add an intriguing twist to the menu. Moreover, they aspire to expand to different locations, with Kajang being a potential site for a smaller, yet equally inviting, Harper's Comfort Food experience. Additionally, Allison and Alicia's goal to supply cakes and baked goods to other coffee chains reflects their unwavering entrepreneurial spirit and passion for sharing the joy of comfort food far and wide.
Finally, the significance behind the cafe's name, Harper Comfort Food, unveils a touching aspect of Allison's personal life. With a smile, she reveals, "I have twin boys. If I had a daughter, I would name her Harper." Thus, in a tender and symbolic gesture, Harper Comfort Food became a manifestation of the daughter she never had—a testament to the love, warmth, and connection that permeate every aspect of the cafe.
As the aroma of freshly brewed coffee lingers in the air, enveloping patrons in a comforting embrace, Harper Comfort Food remains steadfast in its commitment to nourish both body and soul. Through the dedication and passion of two sisters, Allison and Alicia, a timeless tradition lives on, inviting guests to savor the simple joys of home-cooked meals and embrace the unbreakable bonds of family.