I love Malaysian food, and usually indulge my cravings at Blue Chillies on Brunswick St, which I think is utterly fabulous even though another reviewer does not include it in their top 5 Malaysian restaurants in Melbourne (maybe they don’t know about it). But Old Town Kopitiam in Little Bourke St is included, and I have a problem with that because, as Jeroxie has so accurately explained, Old Town Kopitiam is a disappointment.
Having walked in one Friday night months ago when I first saw it, but unable to get a table because it was full to bursting, I had gained the impression that it could be good (it also smelled amazing). Time went by, and I eventually made a booking for dinner for two before my friend and I saw Jarvis Cocker at the Forum theatre. Reviews have been mixed, from positive to good to qualified to average, but I wanted to find out for myself. Curiosity is a dangerous thing.
I say come for the food, but don’t come back because of the service. We ordered salt and pepper squid to share for entree, and pork belly, kangkung belachan and rice to share for main. Shortly after we ordered, things started to go wrong. First, we asked for water, but it did not arrive. We ordered drinks too, and my Tiger beer arrived in a glass, which was not full, without the bottle (I later saw the table next to me receive their Tiger beers in the bottle with glasses on the side). I don’t think I got a complete beer.
Then we were told there was no more squid, so we selected the loh bak (deep fried bean curd skin with pork) instead. But our other dishes were not held to compensate, so the first thing to arrive was the pork belly (above). Except it had bones in it and when it was delivered we were told it was ribs. Bellies don’t have bones. It seemed like a mixture of ribs and belly and we were hungry, so we started eating it, and it was delicious but I suspect it was not what we actually ordered.
While we had only the pork, we had no plates, so my friend asked for some. She got a plate, but I didn’t. We asked again for water, and eventually got two glasses. The service throughout was lethargic, indifferent, myopic and pathetic. Care factor zero. We were made to feel like an inconvenience to the staff, who seemed animated only when talking to each other, which they did a lot more of than talking to us.
Next to arrive was the rice. My friend ordered a bowl of jasmine rice, while I chose coconut rice. I could vaguely smell the coconut, but could not taste it. The belachan eventually arrived (above), then finally our supposed entree loh bak (below). By then we were in disbelief at the poor service, which continued to get worse. We were interrupted by one of the staff, who leaned over us without excusing himself to refiill the cutlery in the container on the far side of the table. We were invisible to him.
I enjoyed the main dishes, though my coconut rice was a disappointment, while my friend thought the pork was excellent but she said the belachan was all chilli and lacked sufficient shrimp paste. It was definitely less shrimpy than the same dish at Blue Chillies. We’ll never go back. The food was adequate but the service was the worst I have experienced for a long time.