Saturday, March 12, 2011

What I was doing two weeks ago today (7)

Stumbling upon the Coliseum Café & Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and gambling on it as a quick dinner option.

There is a curious shortage (complete absence?!) of Indian restaurants in the city's Little India district. I could have made do with the snack options in the teeming street market along Jln. Masjid India, but my companion wasn't keen on that because of the sultry early evening heat. We searched for some air-conditioned respite, and the Coliseum seemed to be our only option.

What a serendipitous find! I would have liked to spend more time there (but we had a gig to go to that evening)... because it was the only proper bar I came upon in Malaysia: dark wood, frosted windows, a trio of 'regulars' propped on stools at the bar. It felt like a remnant of the bygone colonial era - but somewhat down-at-heel, more of a working class hangout than a genteel club for the administrators and rubber planters; it had that combination of spaciousness and tattiness that you tend to find in railway station bars back home. (The following day, I found an in many ways uncannily similar - though far swankier - bar on Merdeka Square, the centre of the old colonial administration [next to the cricket square - ah, British imperialism!]. That place - resolutely nameless - was, unsurprisingly, a top-dollar members-only club, and I wasn't able to blag my way in. Though the view over the veranda on to the cricket pitch was quite captivating, I think, on the whole, that the seedy charm of joints like the Coliseum is really more my kind of thing.)

Time, alas, was very tight, so we weren't able to soak up the musty ambience of this improbable bar. I didn't even get a chance to check out the prices. Instead, we repaired to the restaurant section next door in hopes of getting a quick meal. In general, you shouldn't expect the slickest of service at a place that greets you with a 'Help Wanted' sign (crudely hand-written, sun-faded) on the door. And we found that the 'head waiter' (the only waiter) here was an elderly Chinese man with a bad hip. Fortunately, only three other tables in the large dining room were occupied (and one of these had already finished eating), but it did seem rather unlikely that this poor chap was going to be able to make it all the way from the kitchen to our table to take our order, return to the kitchen with it, and bring us our food - in the 30 or 40 minutes we had available. Inefficient side-trips to find us another menu and fetch a pitcher of beer from the bar (we had tried to get one ourselves at the bar, but the barman was insistent that the waiter would handle all orders for the restaurant) appeared to be jeopardising our schedule still further. It was quite painful to watch the old man shuffling up and down the length of the room in ultra-slow motion: it made the distance of 20 yds or so to the kitchen door seem far more. (And it was an exquisite torture for my friend - über-groupie Ruby, obsessively anxious that she was going to be late for the 'Battle of the Bands' show and miss her beloved AIS playing.) Service out of the kitchen, however, was extremely quick. And even the doddering old waiter seemed to have an uncanny power of occasional briskness (his progress was only creakily slow when you were watching him; if you switched your attention elsewhere, he could materialise at your tableside in seconds - I really don't know how he did that!). So, we were able to make the gig in plenty of time.

I was sorry to leave the Coliseum Café so soon, though. Odd how my tastes work - but the Coliseum was the one thing in KL that I would go back for.

[I have attempted to add a couple of photos to this post; but they won't display, because Blogger's picture upload tool has been screwed all week. Bloody Blogger!

A problem I finally 'fixed' by reverting to the old 'compose' interface. Grrrrr.]

No comments: