New cafe with a classic feel
Kopitiam by Wilai is a newish place but its retro design complete with vintage photos of the island’s past makes it feel like an old favourite in Phuket’s Old Town. The word kopitiam should be familiar to travellers around Southeast Asia, a Malay-Hokkien phrase that translates simply to “coffee shop”. It’s a fitting name for this fan-cooled restaurant, which opens out to vibrant Thalang Road in Phuket Town’s historic district.
Sitting in the heart of bustling downtown, Kopitiam attracts a mixed crowd, from local Chinese retired gents gathering for chaa ron (hot tea) to well-coiffed ladies on lunch breaks from the nearby banks and government offices to curious tourists looking for some refreshments and rest from their Old Town walking tour.
The menu, in English and Thai with photos to help guide virgins of Thai and Baba-Nyonya (Peranakan) cuisine, has a good range of noodle and rice dishes, all in the range of 60-120 baht. There are cheaper places to eat along Thalang Road and around Phuket Town, but shelling out a few extra baht gives you the chance to soak up some lively Old Town atmosphere while you dine. Judging by the number of people snapping photos of their meals and the restaurant’s interior, this place is well on its way to being an Instagram hit.
We’ve tried a few things here and so far a favourite is the Hokkien mee – a tasty bowl full of yellow fried noodles in a hearty sauce, with a choice of chicken, pork or seafood and a few leafy greens thrown in. For the same price, 60 baht, you could try bee hoon mee (mix of Hokkien and Phuket white noodles) or bee hoon pad (Phuket white noodles).
Kopitiam’s long and varied beverage menu alone makes it worth a visit. There’s coffee, of course, plus tea and some exotic fruit juices including butterfly pea flower, chrysanthemum, beetroot-lime and tamarind. Those seeking some added richness to their drink could try Kopitiam’s colourful selection of “milky milky” drinks: green, pink and purple among them, served hot or iced. Small and large bottles of beer are available, too.
Kopitiam’s sister restaurant, the simply named Wilai just a few doors down, offers a more basic set-up in which to slurp a hot bowl of steaming noodles, at slightly cheaper prices.
Though Phuket’s not known for having much of a cafe culture, Kopitiam by Wilai is among some of the more artfully designed shops in the Old Town area that are breathing fresh life and energy into this historic part of the island.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
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