It’s not every day that you can be personally served brunch by a Masterchef, let alone one with a cult following. But at Kopitalk, you can.
Kopitalk is a local gem of a restaurant, owned by Malaysian celebrity, university lecturer, hospitality consultant and magazine columnist Chef Dr Kamarul Hasni and his wife Yati, who also holds a Master’s degree in Business.
The founder of Mat Periuk Kafe, Kam was a contestant and then host for eight years of Malaysia’s reality cooking show Versus 1001 Rasa by Baba’s, (the country’s version of MasterChef), the highest rating show in Malaysia with 1.2 million viewers per episode. One look at Kam’s Instagram feed leaves no doubt about his cult following in Malaysia.
So how did Kam and Yati come to be here?
“We first came to Australia as students to study. Yati to do an MBA, and I did a M. Hospitality and Tourism,” Kam tells me. “We went back to Malaysia as lecturers and returned here to study in 2008 at Griffith University.”
Specialising in consumer behaviour for his Ph.D, Kam found that people prefer authenticity in food. After working hard all week, they also want to be treated like royalty, even for the duration of a meal. Service is a winning factor, along with good food.
Won over by our laid-back lifestyle, the beach and friendly locals, the couple made the decision to bring up their children in Australia, opening Kopitalk late in 2017 in modest premises beside a petrol station in Labrador. They soon won a strong following, not just with locals but also with Malaysian street food hungry diners travelling from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on weekends to eat their food.
With the petrol station under redevelopment in 2019, the couple sought new premises.
In 2020, just as Covid-19 struck, set to open their new shop in Crestwood Plaza, the opening was delayed until June as Kam went through quarantine on his way back to Australia while the Gold Coast was in lockdown.
However, it was well worth the wait. The new shop, with huge glass windows on two sides, seats 80 guests and, with a full kitchen, the couple now have the venue and facilities to expand the menu.
Although one page of the menu is dedicated to burgers, to us it’s the Malaysian street food dishes on the menu that are the treasure, all the food prepared fresh to order, such as Char Kuey Teow, a dish we’d enjoyed from street food vendors in Penang, Mee Goreng, Nasi Lemak and Nyonya Curry Laksa, real Kaya toast and Teh Tarik, a traditional frothy hot tea.
There are more Nasi Goreng choices, far more main course dishes such as Rendang, Lamb Chops, Sambal Prawns, Ikin Bakar Sambal (grilled barramundi in banana leaf) and Nasi Dulang (available at dinner only, when the restaurant is also BYO).
As Covid restrictions ease, the couple will begin their Saturday specials with Roti Day an anticipated event held once a month.
Family-oriented with their children helping in the restaurant, Yati and Kam say they love the relaxed coastal life on the Gold Coast, so different to Malaysia where living is hectic and dining out is a 24-hour-a-day occupation!
“Life is super simple here. No rush, no hectic schedule. Enjoying life to the fullest. #simplelifehere #goldcoastlife,” Kam recently posted on his @chefkamarul Instagram.
Yati and Kam describe Kopitalk Coffee as “a small friendly neighbourhood coffee place”, yet from its opening they have attracted customers eager to taste authentic Malaysian food (and perhaps to also catch a glimpse of Kopitalk’s celebrity chef).
“There’s a nostalgic factor involved,” Kam says, “of people on vacation wanting to eat their family food, to speak the language of their homeland. Food is a big thing for Malaysians. ‘Have you eaten?’ is the first thing we say when we greet friends,” Kam says.
“I live two lives,” Kam tells us, “one in Malaysia as a consultant and celebrated media personality and another here where life is so much simpler. Like any chef, I need my kitchen to try things out, to cook and to experiment. [Thankfully, now Kam’s kitchen is bigger!]
Australia is a good country, both for education and to celebrate other cultures. Australians are open to others – that’s what we love.”
Shop 14, Crestwood Plaza, 458 Olsen Ave, Molendinar QLD 4214, Ph: 0450 239 775
Open: Tues 10.30am – 2.30pm; Wed – Fri 10.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 8.30pm; Sat 8.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 8.30pm; Sun 8.30am – 2.30pm.