Daniel Hackenberg of The Social Group

Daniel Hackenberg | The Social Group | Food For Thought

Many who are from Kuala Lumpur would be quite familiar with The Social, an iconic chain of restaurant bars. With so many brands under the group, we sit down with Daniel Hackenberg, General Manager of The Social Group to educate us about the different restaurants they run such as The Social, Ekkamai, El Mesón, Lisette and the newly founded The Social Wine Shop, which is said to be where you can purchase premium wines at supermarket prices.

Please tell us a bit about The Social Group.

The Social Group are are collection of restaurants and bars that embrace the culture of dining and drinking amongst great company in a relaxed ambiance. We’ve been around since 2001 and now with 12 outlets, people often ask how we sustain as a brand. I think it’s because we are a place for everyone and we evolve with the times as the demands of customers change. It is challenging, but is always fun and rewarding. Our founders Mei and Ek used to lived abroad which helped contribute to new ideas for our new menus, so a lot of what we develop into our brand is usually hand-picked inspirations from different parts of the world.

Apart from The Social, what other brands do you have under The Social Group?

The Social serves a wide variety of contemporary cuisine, ranging from our signature Aromatic Crispy Duck to our Linguine Seafood Aglio Olio. We have 6 locations including Bangsar, Publika, Empire Subang, Desa ParkCity, TREC and 163 Retail Park, Mont Kiara. We also have three other eateries, El Mesón, which is our Spanish and only non-halal restaurant that serves Spanish cuisine; Ekkamai, our Thai Kitchen and Bar; Forno, our Italian pizza ovens which is available at selected The Social outlets and Lisette, our one and only café.

El Meson | The Social Group | Food For Thought

El Mesón serves Modern Spanish cuisine, can you elaborate?

Although branded in its respective own style, we understand the Malaysia palate. For example, we have Iberico char siu and “siu yoke” on El Mesón’s menu which is an intertwining of Spanish and local flavours. We also offer cheeses, Iberico ham and cold cuts which can be purchased at supermarket prices. El Mesón is currently available in Bangsar and Desa ParkCity.

Ekkamai | The Social Group | Food For Thought

How would you describe the food at Ekkamai?

Ekkamai is a contemporary Thai kitchen that incorporates authentic Thai dishes cooked by our Thai chefs with the help of modern cooking styles. For example, we have a Japanese-inspired Salmon Tataki Salad and Josper-grilled dishes. Ekkamai has also recently launched its new menu with many more plant-based options plus a locally influenced dessert. You must give the new vegan pumpkin curry a try, we highly recommend that. You can find Ekkamai at Plaza Batai and Publika.

Forno Kitchen | The Social Group | Food For Thought

Tell us more about the speciality Italian pizza kitchen that is Forno.

Forno is our pizza concept kitchen where a specially fabricated wood fired oven is retrofit into a part of the place to make hand-rolled pizzas. What’s unique about our pizzas is that since it is oven baked with a sourdough base, the result is an authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas with a thin, crepe-like centre and puffy edges. Again, we’ve incorporated local and international flavours into the pizza selection, including Nasi Lemak, Aromatic Crispy Duck, Seafood, and Tandoori chicken, just to name a few. Forno is only available in Desa ParkCity, Publika and Empire Subang.

Lisette | The Social Group | Food For Thought

As one of Kuala Lumpur’s best kept secrets, many do not know that Lisette belongs to The Social Group. What makes it special?

Lisette’s Cafe & Bakery is a quirky eatery which is a re-brand of Dr.Inc of Nala Designs. We call this place our “secret garden in the city”. It’s small but vibrant and attracts many young people due to its Instagrammable decor. The “go green” trend has also seen an influx of veggie eaters, both expat and local, dine at our café.

The Social Wine Shop | The Social Wine Shop | Food For Thought

Tell us more about the affordable premium wines at The Social Wine Shop.

Being a bar we have always had decent selection of wines on our repertoire. We wanted to take this a step further by creating a wine retail shop, which is simply an extension on our premises to include a more refined selection. We currently house more than 240 labels spanning 12 regions. Bottles are available at supermarket prices, while not actually being available for purchase at the supermarket. We conduct regular tastings with speakers and brand ambassadors of the wine companies who supply to us, which caters to the expanding tastes of wine aficionados today. The Social Wine Shop is exclusively available at 4 locations currently which are Bangsar, Publika, Desa ParkCity and 163 Mont Kiara.

What’s next for The Social Group?

I feel privileged to represent this homegrown brand called The Social. In a sea of establishments in what I feel is a highly saturated market, we have gone from strength to strength in good and bad times. Many times we have weathered the storm but have always come up stronger. For the immediate future, I see us growing and developing, and providing excellence in the eyes of the discerning consumer.

For our previous review, see The Social Wine Shop.


Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.


  1. Ekkamai is one of my favourite restaurants in KL. LOVE the food! 😀

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