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The 5 oldest pubs in Malaysia that are amazingly still open!

Some of us here at CILISOS are not spring chicken anymore. We got two writers above 30 – one with white hair, and the other with creaky knees. So it’s kinda comforting to know that there are things older than us here in Malaysia. Unsurprisingly for a former British colony, we have some REALLY old drinking holes. But what was surprising was that many of them are still open!

So we thought we’d pop by for a pint of Guinness, sit them down for a chat, laugh at some old photos, and chat a bit about how the culture of grabbing a pint has evolved in the last 50 years.

Why 50 years?

50 years guinness

Wah dem fast 50 years adi. To commemorate their 50 years, they got three limited edition super colour-colour bottles too!

WAH SO NGAM! Guinness has been brewing for exactly 50 years this month! #omgnoway. Here’s what KL looked like when Guinness first set up its distillery here.

Jalan PUDU 1965 - Image via SkyscraperCITY

Jalan PUDU, 1965 – Image via SkyscraperCITY

Back in 1965, Guinness saw enough demand here in Malaysia to actually BUILD THEIR OWN DISTILLERY – which up till today, is one of only FIVE Guinness-owned breweries in the world!

guinness tshirt cropped

Just tell us what your favourite pubs are that serve Guinness and why, and win this limited edition t-shirt!

To celebrate, Guinness wants to give away 10 limited edition t-shirts. This is like the simplest contest CILISOS has EVER run k? Just tell us what your favourite Guinness-serving pub is, and why you love it! Send answers to [email protected] with the SUBJECT Guinness 50 year contest“. (Contest ends October 30, 2015) 

In the meantime, let’s swing the doors open to the past, and check out what keeps these amazing bars still open to this day. We’ll start with the youngest, and eventually move our way to the OLDEST RUNNING BAR in Malaysia (Yes, they’re all older than The Ship and Ronnie Q too!)

 

5. Rennie’s House of Oxtail, PJ (1975) – 40 years and running

Rennie's Interior

Snack on: AMAZEBALLS Ox-Tail Soup (we tapaued two packets for additional research), and Spicy Mutton Curry

Rennie’s, near the original Ipoh Chicken Rice and (conveniently) down the road from Universiti Hospital, is probably the most authentic 70s pub in Malaysia. The decor looks pretty much the same as the day it started 45 years ago, with founder Rennie (what else, duh) Bernard Klassen at the helm. The walls are covered with old newspaper cuttings, and of course, some really rude bar signs – which were all contributed by regulars who brought them back from overseas.

Rennie's crude sign

This is already one of the tamer signs on display at Rennie’s. Go have a pint there to check out the full set 😉

rennie's oxtail

Rennie’s Ox-tail is still one of the best in town

Rennie, a Dutch Eurasian, had started the pub when his previous members-only club called MyApartment, closed its doors.  “He was my neighbor… we were just dating, I met him when I was 17-years old. He was handsome, charming man… not very funny though,” recalls Aunty Trudy, his rather shy wife/widow, who has been running the establishment since Rennie’s passing 16 years ago. The bar still serves many of the same regulars (and their children) from back in the day, including Lim Kit Siang and Ling Liong Sik (although they have yet to be spotted at the same table). It’s not a surprise, considering that their Spicy Mutton Curry and Ox-tail soup are still the best in town (yes we tried them), mainly because Aunty Trudy still insists on cooking each bowl herself.

“I was a housewife, so I used to come and help last time. If I’m not here, what am I gonna do… just sit at home?” – Aunty Trudy, current owner of Rennie’s House of Oxtail.

There’s a legend at Rennie’s of this one guy, who as a teenager (of legal drinking age, of course) was sent by his mother to go to Rennie’s to search for his dad, who had been spending way too much time there. Unfortunately, while he was there, his dad pulled him into the party, and the next thing you know, the poor son started getting overly-familiar with the regulars there.

A few years later, he became Rennie’s bartender.

 

4. Jaguar Supper Club, PJ (1970) – 45 years and running

Jaguar Supper Club 40 anniversary

Snack on: chicken wings, and if you’re hungrier, a lamb chop

This one’s one of the oldest school pubs around, from the same vein as Dinty’s (which has moved, so not counted in this list) and Rennie’s, having previously been a regular hangout for the Cycle&Carriage staff, and reporters from the old days. While the anniversary sign says 40th anniversary, and its “Since 1975” crest seems to agree mathematically, some say it’s older.

“When I put  1975, my customers were the ones that actually told me it’s much earlier! One fler, who is in his 60s said his lecturer brought him there back when he was in Form Four.”Krishna Uthandy, current owner of Jaguar Supper Club

Today, its current incarnation is a little quieter, as a bar and restaurant famous for its lamb and chicken chops. It’s currently owned by Krishnan Uthandy, who turns 59 this year, and has been operating the Supper Club for the last 10 years. “A lot of those people who’s children – their fathers brought them before they were courting their girlfriends back then.”

Krishnan runs it somewhat as a side business these days, serving bottles of Guinness to seasoned regulars, while also maintaining an active insurance business, and running and Indian restaurant in Brickfields.

supper club bistro upstairs

Upstairs though, it’s a bit louder, but also quiet. There’s an Indian live music place called Supper Club Bistro, which is under a different management. They sing Tamil songs all night (from our Indian friend’s translation, they all seem to be about heartbreak), with often more bartenders than patrons.

 

3. Sinhalese Bar, Ipoh (1931) – 84 years and running

Yep. It's still got those amazeballs ol'western swing-doors. Image from Shirin's Instagram

Yep. It’s still got those awesome ol’western swing-doors. Image from Shirin’s Instagram.

Snack on: Sausages & kari leaves

On the wall, hangs a picture on a belt, which locals say was the last wish of one of the bar's regular patrons - to have his belt hung on the wall of the bar he visited for most of his life.

On the wall, hangs a picture on a Belt, which locals say was the last wish of one of the bar’s regular patrons – to have his pants belt hung on the wall of the bar he visited for most of his life. – Image from Shirin’s Instagram

Push those saloon doors open at the oldest pub in Perak, and you’ll feel you’ve just walked into a John Wayne movie, but with all Malaysian extras. The extras are also dem friendly, as one patron has said…

Instead of dead silence to seeing a stranger, it’s all Hellos, Welcomes & Where-are-you-from questions. Not everybody will know your name, but everybody has stories to share!” – One of Sinhalese Bar’s customers

Sinhalese bar has been running non-stop for an astonishing 84 years, with many of the marble-top tables from way back when, oddly matched with those plastic chairs you find outside 24-hour mamaks. It’s currently managed by Mr. Alfred Perera who took over Sinhalese from his dad, George Perera, back in the 60s.

Mr. Perera came to Malaysia with a close-knit group of friends and family from Sri Lanka in the early 1900s. Unlike the others who worked in railway, mining or other things, Mr. Perera was interested in starting his own business.

Sinhalese Bar Cats Dogs

Yep. Definitely pet friendly. This cat looks like he should be wearing a cowboy hat. – Image via Sinhalese Bar’s FB

Today, the pub is very much the same as before, although quieter than in its heydays of being bursting with miners, lawyers and policemen of all races and backgrounds back in the early 1900s. They still serve the same bar (with very few actual Sinhalese dishes, although they’ve been asked for almost a century now), and also play host to a constant stream of cats n dogs (definitely pet-friendly), and one apparently very promiscuous pigeon.

“And she has a one legged Romeo pigeon behind the bar. Got girlfriends one. Kena belasah from his main girlfriend when she found him with another girl pigeon” – Shirin, Sinhalese bar customer.

[Ed’s note 25/10/15: Our original article mentioned that Mr Alfred had passed on. OMG. We’re so sorry that we got this wrong! Long live Mr Perera! Sorry sorry sorry 🙁 ]

2. The Coliseum, Jalan TAR (1921) – 94 years and running

 IMG_20150930_112824

Snack on: SNACK!? Just skip the appetizers and whack the iconic sizzling steak (medium rare)!

1921.

NAH, BACA:
3 Malaysians who are doing more with the Net than just posting selfies

Let’s let that one sit in for a while.

Sure… everyone knows the Coliseum along Jalan T.A.R… but do they know that it’s been there for FRIGGIN 94 YEARS!? Well, the good news is that since those first few ads in the 1920s, the Coliseum has not had to advertise at all. “We don’t believe in Instagram, Snapchat, all these things one,” says their marketing guy. Just to prove his point, on the day of our interview…

  • Perak Royalty were due to drop by with Pak Lah
  • So were the film crew of HK superstars Chapman To and Aimee Chan’s new movie, Let’s Eat – to shoot some scenes at the iconic restaurant bar.

Eh Chapman, white shirt and sizzling steak not so good idea ya?

The famed Coliseum was also a favourite haunt of all ex-Prime Ministers (just for the food, of course), who’s faces adorn a mural on the wall outside. In fact, because of its proximity to the high-court, it has also been known for being a great place to get a story, since after a long hour of litigating, the lawyers could loosen their lips with the bar’s signature of Guinness stout mixed with beer.

So cute he even grew his beard like a pirate, so we decided to give him a wee little pirate hat! - Ori image from twitter

So cute he even grew his beard like a pirate, so we decided to give him a wee little pirate hat! – Ori image from twitter

Another highlight of this bar is the longevity of its workers. The waiter we spoke to, Mr. Foo Meng Kai, has been working there for over 30 years, and since his wife passed, he’s been living upstairs (talk about shortest work commute EVER!). “Few people buy bottles here. Most either bring their own bottles or buy beer n stout,” he says in Cantonese. He also recalls when he first joined, he was a waiter by name, but also doubled as housekeeper, electrician and plumber.  “Anything also can do, do lor”. He also sadly reminisces that more people used to sit by the bar, but now have sadly moved to the more silo-ed, but beautifully maintained coffee tables and chairs (which he says are more than 50 years old!).

Another guy, who was sadly taking a well-deserved vacation during our interview slot, was restaurant captain, Mohan, who has been there for over 30 years. However, he goes by another name at the Coliseum. When he first started, the patrons kept mispronouncing his name as “Morgan” and Mohan was so enamoured to be called “Captain Morgan”, that the name just stuck after that.

One of the many cartoons on the wall – by Malaysia’s most famous cartoonist

92 years, and still one of the best Hainanese chicken chops and most affordable steaks in town. What a long time. But that isn’t the oldest bar we’ve come across yet.

 

1. Long Bar, Royal Selangor Club – 100+ years and running (!)

rsc old

Image captured from Royal Selangors 90th Anniversary Magazine

Snack on: Murruku and heritage

The Royal Selangor Club has been around since 1884. We can’t even be bothered to whip out the calculator on how long that is. We also don’t know how long the Long Bar itself has been there, although we know it was created to have a perfect view of the rugby and cricket matches which have been going on since the late 1800s all the way till 1987, when the iconic field area was taken back by DBKL. As a consolation, they gave RSC a plot of land in Bukit Kiara – That… is why it’s a Royal Selangor Club ANNEXE.

clarity clarence no wonder la

RSC Tiles

Those tiles and that bar are more than a CENTURY old. Check it.

AAAAANYWAY. Back to the Long Bar. It is the epitome of heritage.

  • The bar counter is the same.
  • The TILES on the floor are the original tiles from British India (which means they’re older than your kungkung)!
  • It’s still full of white peepur (thus the meme).

The walls are brimming with history, with photos of champions, many of whom might no longer be with us. Roy, one of the managers who’s worked here for over 20 years, tells us that the bar has been serving the same gin-tonics, scotch on the rocks, beer and stout since the colonial era.

It IS called the Long Bar after all

It IS called the Long Bar after all

There’s a very nice image in our heads of people sitting here in the cool breeze of August 1957, drinking beer, stout and sipping scotch and contemplating history, while Tunku Abdul Rahman was declaring Malaysia a free country just metres away.

Speaking of free though… we did verify that one very old limitation on freedom at Long Bar.

Yes it's true.

Yes it’s true.

 

So how did these amazing bars survive so long?

cilisos featured guinness 50 years pubs

There were more stories to tell among all the bars than we could fit in this already-lengthy article. As for their successes, different reasons were given for each bar. For places like the Jaguar Supper Club, Sinhalese Bar and Rennie’s, it’s the regulars that kept it alive – by not only coming there many times a week, but bringing their children in to do the same thing. Amazingly, these three bars are still paying rent, and despite their heritage, haven’t even bought the land out for themselves.

For others like the Coliseum and Long Bar, it’s purely the sense of amazing heritage that oozes out of them. Many things are done in exactly the same way as before – from the Sizzling steaks, to the familiar sight of a waiter in a penguin suit with a bowtie. They don’t take orders – they remember them, together with the names of the patrons that keep them alive to this day.

Ms Kamalatachy

Mr. Alfred Perera and Ms. Kamalatachy, of Sinhalese Bar.

“A lot of them, when they come down memory lane, they’ll drop by here. They like to come back and reminisce. They like the environment. Some of them have gone abroad.  They’ll talk about the past… they’ll say my father used to do this or that,” Ms Kamalatachy, who helps her husband at the Sinhalese Bar.

“Bars have tremendously improved – the younger generation have so many concepts to pick from. Those youngsters don’t really come to our club. But those that come do appreciate the ambience, privacy and the food. And of course, the bartenders remember the names of the regulars.”Krishnan, Jaguar Supper Club

“Many remember the easy camaraderie between those who ran Coliseum and those who relished its food and delighted in its drinks.”New Straits Times, July 9th 2007

“So when all rebook yamseng & cheers, someone will get the drink munchies & ask aunty for her special sausage & kari leaves (while stock lasts). Usually, got la drunken rebut share share. Then someone will bring up the topic about the roof tiles jatuh, some old walls jatuh, someone died, masuk hospital or jatuh. den they’d talk about that person. It’s like… you walk into the bar, and you get life stories. You were there with them. Sharing the laughs, sadness. Best la.” Sinhalese Bar Patron.

And of course another thing they all had in common? We didn’t look for bars that specifically sold Guinness, but guess what? They all did. Haiyo… why do you think Guinness got it’s own distillery here  for half a century adi!?

Happy 50th, you old Bulldog. Let’s cheers to another 50.

1965-guinness

PS: If we missed any, do let us know in the comments. FYI, Dinty’s has moved (and was uncontactable), and Farquhar at E&O Penang isn’t really that old 🙂

8 Comments

  1. Guinness Draught <3

    24/10/2015 at 12:19 am

    Tunku Abdul Rahman is famous for his love of fine Scotch Whiskey. Hehehe….. Just Saying! 😉

    • Mike James Lim

      25/10/2015 at 2:06 am

      I read from somewhere that he was a pot head too. Can someone from the era confirm this?

  2. Anon

    23/10/2015 at 7:12 pm

    You don’t count Dinty’s because it moved, but you still counted RSC despite it moving too?
    How about Penang Club which was established in 1868?

    • Chak Onn Lau

      25/10/2015 at 3:57 pm

      Rsc didn’t move according to the owners? Sorry we didn’t hear about Penang club. Wish you guys would ask nicer tho.

  3. Yok-Foo Yap

    23/10/2015 at 1:29 pm

    Not enough research has been done for this flawed piece, interesting though it be. If Selangor Club’s Long Bar is included, then you should examine all the bars in the clubs in Malaysia; starting with The New Club in Taiping and then to The Royal Lake Club in KL and the various clubs in Penang.

    • Chak Onn Lau

      25/10/2015 at 3:58 pm

      We did hear about lake club but yea, didn’t have time to research. Might add it to the list after. The article was written on quite a short timeline tho so hope you understand. We did check out a few in Penang including the e&o but found out they weren’t the originals.

    • Yok-Foo Yap

      25/10/2015 at 4:46 pm

      Thank you for your note.
      If you are in KL and free for a couple of drinks, may I invite you to Batek Bar, Royal Lake Club; maybe one lunch time any day
      Just let me know when you are free
      You can call me at 03-79719118
      (sorry I don’t carry a handphone)

    • Chak Onn Lau

      25/10/2015 at 7:29 pm

      Omg. We will totally take you up on that offer! Thanks so much for reading

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