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My grandparents ran a laundry shop during the good old days. At the shop front, there were fragrance from neatly pressed colourful clothing on wooden hangers with hand-written labels and kept nicely on glass cabinet with wooden panels; at the ‘back-of-house’, there were piles of one-meter bar of orange-coloured soaps, several big tanks fill with water, sometimes bubbly… a mysterious but restricted area for a kid.
Therefore, I can’t help but reminiscing when I step into the Old China Café, which is used to be the office for Selangor & Federal Territory Laundry Association. To me, wooden chairs and staircase, marble table, hanging lamp, large feng shui mirror, stained glass, black-and-white photographs, boards with Chinese calligraphy, all exudes ‘rich flavours of the past’. However, to my dad, it reminds him of the ‘poor old time’ where he were intimidated by the dark and squeaky staircase, and especially, the hardship of cleaning and ironing tons of clothing.
In Old China Café, you can see tourists stepping in with some sort of travel guidebook in their hand. Usually, one seldom link touristy restaurant with good food but the Nyonya food (fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking) here is pretty decent. Yet, the thing that really surprise me is a cup of nutmeg juice. I use ground nutmeg sparingly to spice up my food as I always associate nutmeg with nutmeg oil for stomachache and preserved nutmeg with a strong smell that I find it hard to bear. I will never go close to any of this special souvenir from Penang.
Here it is, right in front of me, a cup of nutmeg juice. Hesitantly, I take a sip. My hand is in the ‘prepare to push the cup away position’. Hmm, tangy. To be sure, I take a second sip. I want more. Without realizing, half cup gone. Hey, I really like this! I am glad that my curiosity led me to a thirst-quenching treat and a refreshing sensation. If you are in the mood of nostalgia, come to Old China Café. If you want to wash down the heat from scorching sun, get yourself a nutmeg juice.