I used to be one of the editors for a Perak history website during which time I did some revision of the content, and came across a very short post on a restaurant-cum-hotel in Ipoh called The FMS Hotel Bar & Restaurant, after the Federated Malay States, which was essentially Hainanese-ran eatery on Brewster Road (now Jalan Sultan Idris Shah) frequented by the likes of the British and locals, including Perak Royals, back in the days before merdeka.

After showing the aforesaid web post to ayah, he began to tell me that he used to eat there with my tok. In the mornings, ayah and tok would check on the horses at the stables following which ayah would drive tok to FMS for breakfast. The owner then was Mr Toon, who would attend to tok and ayah, making tok half boiled eggs and toasted Hainanese bread, while ayah would have a slice of ikan kurau. Both of them were indeed regulars at FMS, and ayah recalled a nephew of Mr Toon by the name of Joon who borrowed tok‘s Buick when he got married. Ayah told me that I had been to FMS too when I was a toddler. Ayah also recalled that Mr Toon died when visiting Windsor in England some time back in the late 70s (or early 80s). FMS later closed down in the early noughties, and it was said that it was to reopen some time in 2010.

Years had passed and to my delight, I noted a post on Facebook about a year ago describing the reopening of FMS. The place is now called Durbar at FMS, and the old restaurant was done up very nicely as I could see from the photos (not that I could remember what it looked like in the early 70s). Photos of the current DYAM Tuanku RDH and his family taken after having dined at the place made me smile to see that Perak Royals are still wanting to frequent the venue. And it wasn’t until this year that my family and I went up to Ipoh to try the food for ourselves, and more importantly, to give ayah a treat to revisit an old haunt.

We arrived relatively early-ish for lunch (way before 1PM) and we were attended by a pleasant member of staff. Ayah began pointing to the side entrance where he and tok would enter after parking the car on Belfield Street (now Jalan Sultan Yusuf), and the spot he and tok would have his breakfast. We had a look at the menu and it was typical Hainanese fare – but, as we were regulars at KL’s Coliseum Cafe[1], ayah wanted to have the oxtail soup as a starter and the baked crab as his mains. I know chicken chop is commonplace, but I wanted to try what FMS’ was like. My brother had the dry beef hor fun, sis had the Chateaubriand steak and my nephew the chicken Kiev. The meal was so good that we decided to return the same evening for dinner. For this I made a booking just in case it will get busy. And what did we have? We ordered beef wat tan hor, cream of pumpkin soup, Thai fried rice, fried rice with crab meat, and a repeat of the Chateaubriand. If I had the freshly pressed orange juice for lunch, I decided to jazz it up that evening with a Shirley Temple (a mocktail basically made of Sprite with a splash of grenadine syrup). For dessert, there were orders of fried bananas with ice cream, crêpe with bananas and ice cream, and more ice cream! And of course, a cup of kopi for me.

Now, before you ask what is so special with FMS, I’ll tell you why I felt this place isn’t your run-of-the-mill Hainanese restaurant. For one, FMS has got history, especially for us. It has been standing here since 1923. Most importantly, all of our orders tasted good and on point. We were surprised with how tender the Chateaubriand was, especially at that price, which in KL is considered cheap. The portion size of each dish was perfect, and even better than some places in KL. FMS’ baked crab beats Coliseum KL’s hands down. Last but not least, the service. The waiting staff was ever so attentive – at lunch we were waited on by Kevin Chandra, previously from the Ipoh Swimming Club and Station Hotel, as well as this pleasant lady (whose name we didn’t manage to get) who happens to live on Jalan Raja Kam – which was named after my aforementioned tok, much to her surprise. Arul who took our table reservation for the evening was very polite over the phone. I was later informed that the kitchen staff were previously from the Club which explains the quality. After lunch, we were introduced to Mr Wee Liam Seow, the proprietor. I expressed my delight with the quality of the meals served and what he had done to the place (the proprietor is also an architect)[2].

I really look forward to another visit for a repeat performance.

2 Jalan Sultan Idris Shah
30000 Ipoh
05 210 5115

[1]Not really now.
[2]There was a comment on Tripadvisor recommending a visit to restaurant’s rest rooms. Seriously, very nicely done up with black and white tiles!