IPOH (Feb 28): It was an icon in the Perak capital city. FMS or the Federated Malay States, that is.
Some say it is “possibly” the oldest bar/restaurant in Malaysia with records stating that it was founded by a Hainanese immigrant back in 1906.
During colonial times, it was a popular place for European miners and planters, and later was frequented by locals who needed refreshments after exerting themselves over cricket, rugby or football at the Ipoh Padang next door.
The FMS met some hard times in the latter part of the last century and shuttered more than a decade ago.
But it is now back as Durbar At FMS and run by architect Seow Wee Liam. And it seems to have retained most of the old world charm and food.
In a report by the Malay Mail, Seow said: “It’s kind of satisfaction for me to see something being restored to its old glory. We have couples coming in at the age of 60s and 70s with smiley faces as they were able to revive their memory here. It’s altogether a different feeling.”
It was no easy task breathing new life to this Ipoh’s landmark but it was also a labour of love.
“I like to collect antique cars and restore it. It took me a lot of time and effort doing it, but seeing the end result is what motivates me. So that’s how the idea to restore this place came about,” Seow told the news portal.
Visitor and diners can view photographs of pre-WWII and colonial Ipoh and “some rare copies of newspaper articles” published during Merdeka.
Seow also told the Malay Mail that Durbar is Persian for “a great ceremonial hall” where VIPs held “reception and gatherings during the days of the British Raj”.
“The whole bar and restaurant truly reflects the image of the historical Ipoh Old Town,” wrote the news portal.
And what about the food? Durbar At FMS still dishes out the old favourites: Hainanese Chicken Chop, Baked Stuffed Crab, Classic Chicken Mornay, Classic Oxtail Soup and Enche Kabin.
In fact, the restaurant now calls its food “Where Hainanese & Western Cuisine Meets”. An apt description of what Malaya’s colonial masters used to eat.
So, if you are ever at Ipoh, step back in time to a simpler age and enjoy the ambience and food in Durbar At FMS, the used to be FMS.