Winner of the Lifestyle Dining category at the World Top Gourmet Awards 2019, this cosy restaurant touting the mantra “Mi casa es Su Casa” offers comfort cuisine in exquisite black-and-white surroundings reminiscent of indulgent golden years of old partaken in a colonial bungalow
BY YVONNE YOONG
Following the success of the decade-old Citrus Cafe in Bangsar Village, charming co-owner Puan Sri Shaesta Said together with parents Dr Said and Dr Zubeda Khan and partner Sheerin Begum launched 27 Scotts at a cosy corner of Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
“Citrus and 27 Scotts share many common elements and dishes. We have a central kitchen where our signature biryanis and curries are prepared. There are dishes that are particular to each restaurant. Both menus continually evolve and the common thread for both is producing wholesome food in an innovative way. The simple formula of presenting food that we ourselves enjoy eating is working.” she says.
The idea to name it after our family home in Singapore, namely 27 Scotts (Road); a colonial black-and-white bungalow, came to me in a moment of clarity. It seemed the perfect name to reflect the values behind our brand which are about producing food with love that has been part of our collective childhood and family life for generations,” she shares.
“The amalgamation of our family home name to our food brand evokes strong feelings of family and the ties that continue to bind us. It continues to ‘conjure in us’ vivid memories of our childhood,” she recollects of the golden years past.
“Family get-togethers were always about food. I saw the love and care lavished by my grandmother who prepared breakfasts on a tray with the requisite fresh fruit and curry with thick bread which she served to my grandfather Haji Mohamed Khan (appropriately named on menu as ‘Nana’s Breakfast’ with options of toast or freshly made naan, chapati or paratha).” she said.
The original 27 Scotts residence in Singapore was the house her mother grew up in with her uncles and aunties and the one in which she eventually got married in.
“I spent many hours playing there with my cousins and witnessing family interactions. Struggling to finish my food sometimes and being the last one at the table, my grandfather would characteristically encourage me to chew slowly as it was good; making me feel like a hero.
“Their amazing chef, Subhan who was with the family for many years, would hand grind with a wooden rolling pin the chilli and spices that made the bases for curries. It was never about taking the easy way out but producing the best quality food with so much pride in the details. My grandmother would think of creative ways to feed us tea overlooking the garden such as a rolled up chapati with butter and sugar,” she reminisces fondly. [rml_read_more]
Frangipani flowers reflected in the 27 Scotts cafe windows are symbolic of the flowers she remembers growing in the old house’s garden which her grandmother would collect and string into a necklace. The black-and-white flooring is reminiscent of the 27 Scotts colonial grand dame.
Shaesta’s grandmother’s legendary nasi lemak – a sure crowd favourite with her kids and grandkids has been recreated with basmati rice which is extremely well received. As her parents are both doctors, it made sense to “present wholesome dishes” that we would ourselves eat at home, she adds.
“My mum taught me baking from a young age. I would present my baking attempts to my grandmother (who was) characteristically always setting standards of excellence with varying reactions,” she recalls; crediting her mother – a retired doctor with strong work ethics while possessing a perfectionistic attitude and attention to detail who continues to bake cakes daily for both Citrus and 27 Scotts.
Marriage of Cultures
Shaesta describes the palate of offerings with palatable attention to detail sprinkled generously with care, love and passion:-
“Just as 27 Scotts cafe is a juxtaposition of colonial and modern decor which reflect our passage through time, our menu is also a dichotomy of traditional recipes and modern tastes such as chicken tikka salad, pomelo salad and tiger prawn avocado salad. The pisang goreng that we gleefully enjoyed on hot afternoons takes pride of place on our dessert menu. “The influence of being in South East Asia was evident in my uncle’s favourite Pakistani lamb curry eaten with soya and chilli dipping sauce; a staple at our tables along with sambal belacan. These condiments adorn our restaurant tables today.
“Another early influence is the Chinese coffee shop near my dad’s clinic in Chinatown that he would take me to; where I savoured cold slabs of butter slathered on hot bread and marvelled at the pretty pattern the soya sauce would make in my half-boiled egg. This is the influence behind the humble but satisfying Abus Upper Pickering Breakfast. Our Singapore People’s Park Rojak hints at our fabric shopping days in People’s Park while mee rebus and mee soto are firm crowd favourites,” she recalls.
“By the grace of God – with the richness of their bases, we have other crowd favourites such as our seafood pasta and Philadelphia beef sandwich on long baguette bread. But, the Pakistani biryanis and curries with fresh bread most reflect our heritage and also continue to be our best-sellers.” “What binds the recipes together is the quality and attention to detail by our chefs. We want each meal to be enjoyed and savoured by every customer; as if they were enjoying a family meal with us on a balmy afternoon. Some of our family members have since left us, but their legacy lives on vividly in our food and hearts,” she reminisces.
Spoken like a true food connoisseur!
While the goal is for both restaurants to continue to grow, with expanded floor space in the near future factored in so that “more people can enjoy family meal together,” she doesn’t discount franchising the restaurants.
However, she acknowledges that a lot of its success depends on the quality and attention to detail as everything needs to be hands on. “However, an opportunity in Singapore is certainly exciting and would feel like we have come full circle,” says Shaesta with a beam.