Old-timers might recall FMS, possibly the oldest bar in Malaysia, with an air of nostalgia. Short for the Federal Malay States, it was first opened at Market Street in 1906 by a Hainanese immigrant, before taking up residence in a corner unit along a row of pre-war shoplots in 1923. The bar has served patrons for over a century, and was a popular haunt for British and European officers, miners and planters during the colonial era. Over the years, the bar fell into disrepair, and shuttered its doors 11 years ago. Until it was refurbished and reopened again earlier this year, as the Durbar @ FMS.
A passion project by the new owner who is an architect, Durbar @ FMS has tried its best to retain the old-world charm of its historic predecessor. Stepping into its interiors is like taking a step back into colonial Ipoh, and its almost easy to ignore the sounds of modern traffic when you’re within the restaurant’s walls. Timber furniture and counters, sleek marble tabletops, and elegant lighting are paired with whitewashed walls, adorned with old newspaper clippings and even a large portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II.
The large bar cabinet at the back is made from chengal and balau timber wood.
The old FMS was known for its signature dishes such as Hainanese Chicken Chop, Baked Stuffed Crab, Classic Chicken Mornay, Classic Oxtail Soup and Enche Kabin – which Durbar has kept. The food is, in fact, prepared by two experienced Hainanese chefs. The Hainanese were renowned for their excellent food, and many served as chefs for the British during the days of British Malaya. The result is a unique fusion of Chinese-style cooking tweaked to Western taste buds.
Had the Classic Oxtail Soup, and it did not disappoint. Could have been better with an additional piece of garlic bread, but otherwise the soup was hearty, warm and full of delicious meaty flavour, with generous chunks of oxtail to nibble on swimming within.
The Crab fried rice had a simple presentation but surprised everyone with its astonishing depth of flavour and wok hei (breath of the wok) – something that can only be achieved by cooking the ingredients over high heat, sealing in all the flavours. It boasted just the right amount of seasoning – not too bland nor salty – and the sambal chilli sauce gave it a spicy kick.
Pops had the Mee Hailam, which was one of the more affordably priced items on the menu. It was tasty but since wet noodles aren’t my thing, it was not my favourite.
DURBAR @ FMS
2, Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak
Business hours: 11AM – 10PM (Closed Wednesdays)