THE name ‘Old Town’ may be familiar to Malaysians as a spruced-up franchise of the traditional Chinese kopitiam (breakfast and coffee shop).
But while QV’s newest eatery, the Old Town Kopitiam Mamak, isn’t affiliated with the famed chain, it certainly hasn’t dampened the appeal to those hungry for a taste of home.
The eatery has been doing a rip-roaring trade since it opened early this year, the combination of an extensive menu serving favourite dishes and location, location, location.
The restaurant has an open-air area and air-conditioned indoors with long communal tables. Decor is typical of the British Colonial era – timber chairs, round marble table tops, and porcelain tea cups adorned with blue flowers. You’ll find chefs flipping rotis in the background, and shiny rows of milo and condensed milk tins fill the shelves.
Opening the tri-fold menu, you are greeted with a sizeable selection of favourite Malaysian dishes and prices are typical for Melbourne ethnic fare of this sort.
Offerings include nasi kandar, satay, ikan bakar (grilled fish), rojak (cut fruit in sticky sauce) and the trademark mamak rotis. There’s roti canai, roti telur, roti bawang and even roti tissue – impressive paper-thin cone hats served on silver platters, drizzled with sweet condensed milk and pink zigzags of rose syrup.
No place modelled after an Ipoh-style coffee shop would be complete without soup noodles, from har mee (prawn noodles) and assam laksa, to hainanese chicken rice and hor fun.
The beverage and sweets selection is more extensive than many other similar eateries. Pick from iced milo, teh tarik (literally, “pulled tea”) and teh-C peng – a three-layered tea with ice. Some of our favourite desserts were ais kacang and cendol.
We wanted to try everything when we arrived. The food came out promptly, keeping with mamak standards, and Old Town is well serviced for its size. We settled on maggi mee goreng which was garnished with lime and chilli to whet your appetite, but the noodles weren’t as crispy as they could have been.
The roti telur bawang was crispy and springy, but slightly doughy, though we liked the fact that it was not oily. Very affordable at $4, accompanied by curry gravy and anchovy sambal.
The chicken chop scored points for its crisp crumbed coating yet moist and tender insides, but we were slightly disappointed not to find the usual peas in the tomato and worcestershire sauce-based gravy.
For an asian-style breakfast or to satisfy hankerings for a sweet snack in the arvo (particularly if you’re sick of the cupcake craze) Old Town offers kaya toast and half-boiled egg. It’s no ordinary toast – the slices are toasted over a charcoal grill, filled with a generous spread of coconut jam and butter. Old Town Kopitiam also offers ‘fried bites’ including “ham cheem peng” (a type of fried dough cake) and “yu tiao”.
Our verdict: Getting together with friends is the centre of the kopitiam experience, and it’s well worth dropping by the next time you’re looking for a feed and catch up.
Old Town Kopitiam Mamak
Level 2, Shop 11, QV Square
QV Building, Melbourne 3000, Victoria
Tel: 03 9654 2682
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am till late