Along Lebuh Armenian, just a couple of doors away from the Yap temple, is this newly restored house with a café and gallery offering halal food and artwork by budding Malaysian artists. Manned by mother and son team, Jawi House’s restoration adhered to UNESCO’s heritage site building requirements.
Its proprietor Dr. Wazir Jahan Karim, an academician and author, admits to it being a long process. Although, looking at the result of it on the two-storey building, it is obviously well worth the effort. The first floor, as you enter, is part art gallery and café with a little covered air well that allows in daylight and brightens the back area of the house.
A steep flight of stairs leads you to the second floor where a splendid gallery space with polished wooden floors awaits. To ensure the longevity of the wood on both stairs and upstairs floor, they request that you remove your shoes before heading up.
What you can expect to see here, besides a lovely example of heritage building restoration, is an exclusive range of handcrafted textiles, heritage craft by craftsmen associated with Malay royal courts and vintage brass and copper pieces as well as Malaysian batik that are for sale.
Once you’re done with feasting your eyes, take a load off at their café for a cool drink or a plate of something unique such as herbal lemuni rice cooked in coconut milk and tualang flowers or balmieh that consists of chunks of lamb stewed in tomatoes, herbs and coupled with crust Benggali bread. There’s also a choice of freshly prepared grilled chicken, braised brisket and smoked salmon sandwich on either white, whole grain or baguette.
While those above are good as entrees, their homemade hummus accompanied by Benggali bread or quiche of the day, are good alternatives as a light meal. On a sweet note, they offer a range of Malay Peranakan kuih besides the western desserts such as tiramisu, red velvet and lemon cheese cakes. Fridays and Saturdays bring on their serabai with sweet, creamy kaya and a savoury option of roti jala or roti surai that you can dip into chicken curry.
To quench a thirst, there’s a selection of freshly brewed coffee, Ronnefeldt gourmet teas and carbonated drinks, but it’s the likes of Jawi local brew coffee, Penang nutmeg juice, Arabian sherbet and wild sugar cane juice that’ll definitely peak your palate’s curiosity. Food is from RM10 and drinks from RM4 here.
What’s charming about Jawi House is, it’s the only Malay or Muslim business and restored house in the midst of what is currently a very Chinese street – there’s certainly a palpable difference in terms of interior decor, colour and authentic feel. And if you can catch her during your visit here, a chat with Dr. Wazir will enlighten you further on the restoration of the house, history of the Jawi Peranakan and the artwork currently exhibited in her gallery. Su Aziz