Abell’s Kopi Tiam has been a much-loved staple of the Canberra dining scene for 20 years. Its spot on Furneaux St in Manuka has become synonymous with the restaurant’s bright yellow and orange walls and the outdoor eating area which, on an evening, is just as packed as the indoors – rain, hail or shine.
The space heaters plus the thoughtful addition of warm, colourful blankets to wrap around shoulders or knees and make oneself cosy throughout winter and all the elements the Canberra climate has to offer makes the outdoor space cleverly weather-proof. It all adds to the buzz of the restaurant with the wafting of fragrant smells of dishes spilling out into the street along with chatter of happy patrons, clanging plates and glasses.
With the comforting warmth of the consistently tasty Chinese-Malaysian and other South East Asian classic food coming out of the kitchen, it is a perfect spot for a dose of winter goodness. Named ‘Kopi Tiam’ after the ubiquitous coffee shops in Malaysia and Singapore that serve traditional and affordable home-style meals, the emphasis for the restaurant is on quick, authentic eats. The staff are delightful, very friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. Even during their busiest times, the service is efficient but never feels rushed.
With a very loyal clientele keeping Abell’s Kopi Tiam consistently packed for dinner, the most difficult decision is always what to order! Tempting options include the small plate starters of ‘Roast Duck Rice paper rolls’ with chilli hoisin sauce or the ‘Red Curry Fish Cakes’ with cucumber dipping sauce. The mains offer old favourites of ‘Crispy Boneless Chicken’, ‘Mongolian Lamb’ or ‘Sizzling King Prawns’. Along with heartwarming, satisfying Malay servings of ‘Malayan Beef Rendang, a well-loved dish with slow cooked beef in spices, herbs and coconut milk or ‘Abell’s Char Kueh Teow’ the perennially adored stir-fried noodles with prawn, chicken, egg and bean-shoot, or the popular ‘My Mum’s Laksa’, a Nyonya cuisine laksa with bee hoon in spicy coconut curry available with chicken or seafood.
For our visit on a cold evening, we started with the ‘Salt & Cracked Pepper Crispy Tofu’, beginning the meal with some texture and crunch. Looking to fight against the chill in the night air, for the mains we ordered two saucy curries that we paired with rice and a side of roti to mop up the extra gravy. The ’20 Chilli Lamb Curry’ with hand cut potato wedges was as expected given the name, very spicy and quickly started to warm us from the inside out. While the ‘Bali Chicken’ in tamarind and coconut cream with aubergine and french beans had more complex delicate flavours full of the delectable tang and sour-sweet taste of tamarind that had us wanting more and more.
As with all visits to Abell’s Kopi Tiam, the meal left us happily satisfied and planning our next outing to the restaurant to try more of the menu which never seems to disappoint.
Abell’s Kopi Tiam is located at 7 Furneaux St, Manuka.
Bookings are recommended on 6239 4199.