Gracing Brickfields' ornate façade are roaring lanes of cars, lorries and motorcycles that coalesce into a muddle of fumes and honks. Separating this snarled up spectacle and the shops is a narrow sidewalk, whose every square foot has been claimed by flower stalls peddling garlands, temple offerings, colourful sarees and pigeons. If Jalan Tun Sambanthan is the artery that pumps in the crowd, tourists and prosperity, Jalan Scott is the quiet refuge for the religious and cultural.
Named after Sam Scott, a chemist who owned the Selangor Ice and Aerated Water Company in the 1880s, Jalan Scott has mushroomed into a thicket of Ceylonese Tamil temples and restaurants. The huge Indian community in Brickfields has engendered a sprawl of Punjabi and Chettinad eateries, which insure significant foot traffic during lunchtimes and weekends. Waiters are usually solicitous as customers pile in and fidget in anticipation of their piping hot chapatti.
But the impact unleashed by the city’s ever-expanding infrastructure can be unpredictable. While gleaming commercial towers continue to grow in confidence, marring the view of Brickfields' prettiest temples, places of worship along Jalan Scott have been left unkempt. The belt of construction work outside Jalan Scott, though in an attempt to dandify the streets, have kept walking tourists at bay. The restaurant owners, however, aren’t too troubled: ‘We’ll always have banana leaf rice’. And that solves everything.
The mango lassi at Vishalatchi Food Catering (18 Jalan Scott. 012 348 3034) masquerades as a meal on its own. Ripe mangoes, scoops of yoghurt and ice are blitzed to a creamy consistency. Ask the staff to add a pinch of ground cardamom, if that fancies you.
It’s hard to disentangle the relationship between grittiness and delicious things. Vishal Food & Catering is evocative of a ‘mess hall’, boasting long rows of tables teeming with diners chattering over banana leaf rice. True to their Chettinad roots, Vishal specialises in spicy cuisine hailing from Tamil Nadu.
KL’s chapattis have seen better days, and proof is in the dough at Authentic Chapati Hut. Service is speedy without sacrificing flavour or soul.
Get educated on Punjabi sweets – laddu, palkhova, gulab jamun and more – by the roadside stalls from either Patiala Punjabi Sweets (in front of Kuil Sri Maha Muneswarar. 014 623 7490) or Restaurant Srinivasa Bhavan (21 Jalan Scott. 016 636 3751).
Modernity and radicalism prevail in the curation of Wei-Ling Gallery, which showcases works by local luminaries such as Anurendra Jegadeva, Chin Kong Yee, Ivan Lam, Zulkifli Yusoff and Yee I-Lann.
Stock up on cooking essentials such as cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, thyme and curry powder from Jai Seetharam Store (23 Jalan Scott) which are bound to assault the senses.
Walk several doors down from Vishal and you’ll find a bookstore with no signage. Books sit higgledy-piggledy at a corner but those enshrined on shelves proffer gems like a Ghandi biography and Niromi de Soyza’s ‘Tamil Tigress’.
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Marvel at the Sri Kandaswamy Kovil built in 1902, a potent symbol to the local Ceylon Tamil community.The temple’s architecture is inspired by Sri Lanka’s Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. Only Hindus are allowed into the praying halls but you can steal a glimpse of the interior during major festivals like Thaipusam.