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Ipoh’s Nightlife Renaissance


Ipoh’s night life has improved, so said several people working outside of Ipoh, when they returned over the extended Merdeka weekend recently.

Ipoh's nightlife has improved. Lau Ek Ching Street at night.

Ipoh’s nightlife has improved. Lau Ek Ching Street at night.


Indeed their observation is spot on, for over the last two years,  the night scene has been heating up all around town with more outlets opening and being upgraded in Greentown, New Town and also Old Town at the heritage enclave surrounding Concubine Lane.  These new outlets offer more than just drinks and are now offering a wider variety of light snacks and meals for the family, with live music included.


The new outlets provide drinks plus a wide variety of snacks and meals for the family

The Changing Scene

Just two years ago when returning children came home to Ipoh for long weekends and holidays, their night hangout joints would be at Ipoh Garden East. On major public holidays, the roads leading to the pub stretch between Medan Ipoh 1 to 5 would be jam packed with cars and patrons would socialize, party and eat at the scores of pubs, coffee houses and eateries there. It was the place for a night out in Ipoh which ultimately earned it the title of being called the Bangsar of Ipoh.

Jalan Medan Ipoh 5 at Ipoh Garden East

Jalan Medan Ipoh 5 at Ipoh Garden East

The choice was pubs and karaoke outlets at Medan Ipoh 4 while Medan Ipoh 5 was where the food stalls were located and where whole families would come out for dinner and supper. The other alternative night outlets then were in Greentown with similar watering holes and establishments. However the variety and concentration of outlets in Greentown could not compare to Ipoh Garden East. As such Ipoh Garden East had remained the night location of choice for close to 15 years.

With the proliferation of more hotels both starred or budget now opened throughout the whole of Ipoh, an inevitable outcome was a demand for new establishments both for entertainment, drinks as well as food within the proximity of these hotels.

Gastro Bars

A new F&B (food and beverage) concept that has now caught the fancy of Ipohites, and has seen the establishment of quite a few of them, is that of the Gastro Bar. Originally conceived in the west to combine elements of good gastronomy with the more relaxed pub style drinking, the Gastro Bar is best epitomized by some of the newer establishments that have popped up all over town, one of these being Bricks & Barrels.

Calvin Leow of Bricks & Barrels

Calvin Leow of Bricks & Barrels

Owned by brothers Calvin and Kenny Leow, both Ipohites and former Michaelians, they established the outlet as they found it difficult to find an enjoyable outlet for a drink and some music when they returned home to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur where they work as engineers.

They enjoy a social drink, don’t smoke, love to cook and return home regularly. So they came up with the concept of Bricks & Barrels, based on the English pub and where one can dine comfortably on good, even gourmet food while being entertained with live music.

The location at Lau Ek Ching Street was selected because its facade was similar to an ‘English town house’, two heritage houses joined together where the front and back walls are opened to create one expanded unit to enable happy hour chill out meals whether at the front yard or more privately at the back air-well area.

Besides attracting the evening happy-hour crowd of office executives, it also has a family meal following who patronize the outlet for its good food.

Calvin Leow describes B&B as a Gastro Bar. “Actually it was originally created for the whole family. However, the initial concept was for just a bar. Now that our kitchen is being better recognised we want to attract whole families.”

The families usually come in for dinner and leave when the drink crowd comes in although some stay on for the live music.

Drinks with a Decent Meal

The concept of having drinks with a decent meal has certainly paid off for James Kennedy the owner of Barbeza outlet at Medan Ipoh.

Barbeza is one of very few outlets in Ipoh Garden East that has lasted for five years without changing hands, unlike scores of other neighbouring outlets that have changed hands several times.

Kennedy attributes his success to the fact that he caters to his customers’ requirements and creates events to consistently attract his regulars. Additionally, his kitchen, which serves Italian cuisine, contributes 25 per cent regularly to the monthly revenue and has a regular family following who come for their meals in the early evening. Regular pizza takeaway orders are also a common request.

What’s Available?

Over at Greentown the scene has grown. As is usual, pubs have changed hands over the years although Mikes Place at Lebuh Satu has remained at the same location and with the same owner since it started 10 years ago.

What has also changed with each change of ownership is the theme of these outlets. Secret Garden over at Jalan Cheah Cheng Lim is a pair of old colonial bungalows with spacious compounds converted to a coffee house that serves drinks and full meals. Bar.Racuda, another bungalow outlet recently opened several months ago, offers similar and very interesting food and has live music during the weekends.

Over at Greentown, Quiz nights on Monday at Healy Macs or Chill out at The Museum

Over at Greentown, its Quiz night on Monday at Healy Macs or Chill out at The Museum

Obviously anticipating better times ahead, Bryan Ngan who first started the Haven (across from the Syuen Hotel) five years ago, has opened another outlet called The Museum Wine Bar at Persiaran Greentown 6. Museum offers live music and serves tapas (small snacks which may or may not be hot) while the Haven which was recently upgraded, offers karaoke with light food, both western and local. At the Haven which has limited parking, Ngan employs a security guard for customers to park their vehicles at the back lane which helps to alleviate their concerns on security.

Then there is Healy Mac’s, the “real Irish bar” which has great food, though, at premium prices and live music six nights a week. Monday nights here is Quiz Night (centre pic) where tables of customers participate in a quiz with the goal of a tower of beer as the final reward.

Ipoh Old Town

Over at Old Town while the area is becoming active in the day, the nightlife is still confined to the heritage enclave around Concubine Lane.

The dominant outlet here is Yoon Wah, a ‘Tai Chao’ food outlet that introduced snow beer to Ipoh over a decade ago. Its shop, located at the east corner of Concubine Lane has expanded across the road while its al-fresco tables line a block along Jalan Bandar Timah.

At Oldtown, capitalising on that Heritage theme

At Oldtown, capitalising on the Heritage theme

In July this year, Plan B, a franchise outlet from Kuala Lumpur, opened right next door to Kedai Kopi Kong Heng. Designed to blend in with the heritage image that is Old Town, the outlet is understated in its decor, discreetly cosseted by clever landscaping with bright open spaces and is air conditioned. It operates daily from 9am till 10pm and serves western food.

Interestingly, Dr Mike ‘Gurmil’ who owns Mikes Place in Greentown, has himself ventured to open his second outlet in Old Town calling it Mikes Place 2 (MP2, top pic) with his immediate neighbour being Yoon Wah.

Capitalising on the heritage theme, he has upgraded a unit on Concubine Lane into a cosy and chic outlet with decor that retains as much of that Old Town image as possible. Obviously aware of the challenges with opening a pub, MP2 opened recently in August for four days in a week and serves light fare.

Ipoh New Town

New Town, a makeover of chic pubs and clubs

New Town, a makeover of chic pubs and clubs

The location in Ipoh which has seen the most makeover activity over the last two years is New Town. The change probably started with St Patrick’s Irish Pub along Jalan Raja Ekram and gradually spread to its neighbouring back street at Lau Ek Ching street which saw the start of Bricks & Barrels and subsequently another two pubs and a dance club.

The party growth has since spread to the opening of two clubs, SOS on Jalan Yang Kalsom and House Music Club on Jalan Sultan Idris, both of which are well patronized especially on weekends.

Fussy Ipoh a Testing Ground for New Concepts

 “If you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere” – Calvin Leow of Bricks and Barrels

Ipoh is certainly no laggard in the area of F&B concept contribution to the larger world. We can now see Ipoh White Coffee outlets everywhere in Malaysia and touting the fame of our delicious Ipoh bean sprout and chicken noodles.

Due to Ipohites’ demanding standards, another concept developed in Ipoh might soon find its niche throughout the country, and probably beyond, is Bricks & Barrels.

Bricks & Barrels’ business concept and design which owner Calvin Leow described as being ‘Vintage Industrial’, has attracted a following and is due to open its first franchise in KL at the end of this year.

Calvin Leow is from Ipoh. He well knows that Ipohites are fussy and “if you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere”. Considering that Bricks & Barrels will be celebrating its second anniversary in November, Leow’s gut judgement to create something different will show dividends soon and is another feather in the cap for creative Ipohites.

James Gough

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and Restaurant

Musings on Food – SeeFoon Goes Pubbing in Greentown


musings on food - food reviewsBy See Foon Chan-Koppen

Sitting in the Ipoh Echo office in Greentown, I observed one day that a new sign was going up across the road with the name Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and Restaurant emblazoned across its corner shop frontage. I dismissed it as yet another of the locally-run pubs masquerading as Irish or Scottish or English and serving the usual run-of-the-mill beer on tap with nondescript pub fare thrown in to fill ravenous beer bellies.

I was finally persuaded to hop across the road one lunchtime to sample their fare when Ramesh, our marketing manager, told me they had a coal fired pizza oven on the premises and that I had to try their pizzas.

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and RestaurantCool Comfort

Floor Manager Kamal was on hand to greet us and immediately showed us to a table and handed us the menus. It was a scorching hot day and I was sure I was going to have a melt-down as the whole pub is open air but to my surprise, the air-conditioners were on and the bank of air-curtains surrounding the inside combined with the mist-blowing fans on the outside pavement, kept the place cool and comfortable.

Outside on the pavement, tall barrel tables with seats made to the right height for comfortable eating and drinking, provided a cocoon for the interior.

‘Spirit of Ireland’

They had been opened for more than two months and business at lunchtime was not brisk. So I sat down at a big table on the inside section and looked around. If not for the heat outside, I could have been in Ireland! A large wooden board on the street front with the name Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and Restaurant proclaiming Guinness as the ‘Spirit of Ireland’ beckons passersby while inside, at the long bar, a bank of long pull handles named with the particular draft beer each releases, provided more temptations of spirit to one’s spirit. And I not being much of a beer drinker, preferring other libations, actually order a Kilkenny.

‘Method in Magners’

Liam Healy the proprietor and an honest-to-goodness authentic Irishman happened to be there and sat down with us to talk about the Pub. He promptly persuaded me to try his Cider, a special brew which he imports directly himself called Magners Original Irish Cider. At RM29++, ‘there’s certainly method in the Magners’ as its slogan proclaims. Made from Irish apples, the alcohol content is the same as beer and for cider lovers, this is one tipple worth forking out the money for. And it is only available here at Healy Mac’s.

Special promotions are ongoing here for their beers, which they proclaim as Happy Hour “All Day, all Night, Everyday” with six draught beers of Tiger, Guinness, Heineken, Kilkenny, Paulaner and Strongbow and eight bottled beers including Corona, Hoegaarden, Budweiser and Victoria Bitter. The draught beers go from the lowest of RM18.50 for the Tiger to the highest of RM26 for the Paulaner and Strongbow and the bottled beers go from RM16 to RM22.

Wines too feature strongly here as Liam has also started to import some special reds and whites from a winery in Spain which is not available elsewhere.

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and RestaurantHealy Mac’s Irish Bar and RestaurantHealy Mac’s Irish Bar and RestaurantFood Glorious Food

But what about the food, you dear readers may ask. After all, this is a food column and why am I raving on about the beverages? Well, firstly, I am writing about a pub and most people go to pubs to drink. One seldom goes to a pub for food and that is where I had to be persuaded by Ramesh before I agreed to go, having always had the opinion that the usual pub fare tends to be mediocre at best and appalling at worst.

Coal Fired Pizzas

I was delightfully surprised. Their on-premise coal fired pizza oven with the chef in a glass cage in full view, putting in and taking out the pizzas is a sight to behold and their choice of pizzas is impressive. The 12-inch pizzas come with a choice of thick or thin crust and more than ten options ranging in price from the simple Margherita of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese at RM18 to the ‘Create Your Own’ pizza with the same basic sauce and cheese plus three toppings of your choice. Other than asking for my pizza to be browned more, the ‘Everything-on-It’ pizza that I tasted with thin crust was scrumptious and worth a revisit.

I asked Liam, who owns two bars and restaurants in Ireland, one in Alicante, Spain and four pubs in Malaysia, (2 in KL, 1 in Penang, Ipoh being his fourth), what his food philosophy was and how he maintains quality given that he is so spread out.

Food Philosophy

“I have a head chef who travels around and spends two days in each location in Malaysia. He works with the head chef in the local kitchen and controls quality with them. We also have a menu where we have 20 fresh cooked dishes per day. Our ingredients are often imported directly for taste and authenticity, such as our mozzarella cheese and we have a strict policy on freshness of ingredients,” he revealed.

I can certainly vouch for the freshness of the dishes as I tucked into the marinated Organic Pork spare ribs, sweet melt-in-mouth, served with truffle oil mashed potatoes, sweet corn and Guinness barbecue sauce – RM38; Irish Beef or Lamb Stew – RM33; Shepherd’s Pie – RM28; Chicken Panini – RM24.

Brother Vincent Corkery, who happened to be there on the same day and a true blue Irishman if there ever was one, made the remark to me that it was one of the best Irish stews he had ever eaten.

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and RestaurantPièce de Résistance

The pièce de résistance on the menu has to be the Organic Pork Knuckle. At 1.3 kilos for RM58 and 1.7 kilos for RM78, the pork knuckle is slow cooked, roasted in a special oven and served with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes, with a choice of black pepper, apple or red wine sauce. Our pork knuckle arrived with crisp crackling and meat falling off the bone. Just the smaller portion of 1.3 kilos was sufficient to feed two people and the large one definitely enough for four although on the menu it says enough for two. Especially when you combine it with the large selection of salads and other tasty treats on the menu.

Extensive Menu

The menu at Healy Mac’s is extensive and with enough variety to suit most palates from fish to meat to pasta and paninis. Of special mention is the Spaghetti Bolognese which arrived topped with a generous helping of Bolognese sauce. Having eaten spaghetti at many an establishment in Ipoh purporting to serve pasta Italian style and being terribly disappointed, I found the spaghetti here done just right…al dente, each strand of pasta cooked to the perfect degree of resilience; pliant yet springy on the bite and not soft like other establishments catering to the local tastes. A hearty entrée – RM28.

Immaculately Clean

The one thing that struck me about Healy Mac’s was how immaculately clean the whole place was, from the bar counter to the glass shelves holding all the bottles. When I mentioned this to Liam, he was quick to point out that this is one factor he pays close attention to. He hires his friends from Ireland to manage all his pubs and he relies on them to ensure that cleanliness is top on the daily agenda. I verified this when I went to use the facilities and found them to be spotless. This being one of my ‘horrors’ when it comes to restaurants and pubs I found the attention to cleanliness a sign of good management.

Healy Mac’s is certainly one pub that I’ll be returning to in the future…both to quench my thirst as well as to assuage my appetite.

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar and Restaurant
#2 Ground Floor, Persiaran Greentown 4,
Greentown Avenue, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 05-2493627

CNY Back-Street Party


The Back-Street-Party Boys – spokesman James Kennedy is in red

We often hear about “street party”, what about back-street party? If you haven’t, you will soon.

Four pubs – Sugar, BaBerry, Grays and Barroom, which operate from the end units of their block and share a common lane in Ipoh Garden East, are pooling their resources to organise one during the Chinese New Year season.

The back-street party will be on for four days starting tomorrow, the eve of Chinese New Year. Each night, there will be two DJs to entertain the patrons.

Spokesman for the group, James Kennedy, said that the back-street party location would not hinder street traffic and should give their customers an alternative setting to usher in the Year of the Tiger.

Ipoh Garden East is the party hub in the city and often packed during festivals and eve of public holidays.





The latest night spot to find favour with our local trendies is Locomotive which opened for business in August of this year. Located conveniently on Medan Ipoh Bistari, that new hub of dining, wining and now dancing, opposite Tesco, Locomotive boasts a uniquely designed brick bar counter, pool table and livebands on Thursdays and weekends.

Open from 5.00 p.m till 1.00 a.m. on weekdays and 2.00 a.m. on weekends, they play music from the 70s and 80s, Hip Hop and mostly R&B and rock numbers, all in English only. Happy hours from 5.00 p.m. till 9.00 p.m. see them charging RM50 for six Tiger Beers. With music thrown in and ample parking available, Locomotive looks set to be the hotspot in Ipoh for the coming months.