You have not been to Jakarta if you have not visited Kota Tua. The photogenically vintage complex or preserved old building is perhaps one of the last few surviving witnesses of the Old Batavia era. Kota Tua is an ideal spot for photo hunters, tourists, special societies to congregate and showcase their talents and many more. Notice that I didn't mention anything about food? Well, it's not that the place lacks of food vendors (in fact there are so many to choose from!) and restaurant/cafe, which charge exorbitant price for the mediocre food & drink, but they aren't exactly the kind I would purposely make a trip for, unless I happen to be in the area.
This is quite a shame actually, considering the massive potential that Kota Tua has left untapped. I envision Kota Tua to someday transform into a place much like Singapore's Riverfront (Clarke Quay and the other Quays...). Who knows, if someday this place will become a vibrant, clean and exciting riverfront dining and entertainment hub, where rows of new and eye-catching restaurants, bars and cafes with their al fresco tables, lure visitors to soak in the vintage Batavia ambience. I'd say Amen to that!
The last time I went to Kota Tua was a few years ago for a college assignment, which means my record would be even worse had it not been because of the assignment! And since that time, I had no reason to return, well at least not until a few days ago...
I went there recently to check out this brand new place named Historia Food & Bar. I saw some photos of the place from social media, and they immediately triggered my 'hipster' alarm. So I went there to check out the place for myself.
Historia Cafe & Bar at Kota Tua occupies one of the preserved old buildings, quite an unexpected addition in the area, I must say. It is out of place to say the least, surrounded by souvenir peddlers outside, displaying their goods on the floor. But what's even more hipster is the inside, right from the moment you walk through the main door, past the corridor that splits at the end, leading to the left and right 'wings' of the place. Do note that both sides allow smoking inside (unfortunately!).
|How would you interpret history?|
|Welcome to Historia!|
This place is, by my definition, what I'd label as 'hipster'. It's is hipster for its unusual location (at Kota Tua, a super vintage spot and surrounded with other vintage buildings), and it is hipster in terms of the interior. The interior is clean & modern, with purposely mismatching chairs that one of my friends remarked to look like from Missoni, a home furnishing brand from Italy. The mural on the walls, the placing of some vintage ornaments at random corners, are absolutely what hipster souls like mine find solace at.
I had a hard time picking which photos to publish along with this post. Finally I decided that all of them are too photogenic to be kept inside my computer, so let my photos infect you with the hipster spirit!
|The coffee bar at one of 'wings'|
|Wall murals covering the walls|
The Food and Drinks
Historia is smart in collaborating with Tanamera Coffee for their coffee beverage, as Tanamera too, is a 'hipster' local coffee brand that has gained much popularity these days. Another element that add to the hipster quality of Historia. Besides coffee, there are affordable mocktails on the drinks menu. We tried the Es Jenggala, a refreshing fizzy mocktail of lychee, apple and lime.
|Left: Cappuccino IDR 32,000|
Right: Es Jenggala IDR 25,000
As of the time of my visit (1 month after it opened to the public), the menu was still not fully developed and limited to Indonesian classic favourites such as Nasi Goreng, Soto, Mie Goreng, Sate, etc. It is easy & casual dining for Indonesians, but may be difficult for tourists. When I went there for lunch there were tourists who came here and they seemed pretty reluctant to order for they have no idea what the dishes are. Good thing that the staff can speak good English who could explain and offer recommendations.
For Appetizers, it was quite easy, my sister was craving for Empek-empek (fried fish cake served with sweet & sour vinegar sauce from Palembang). It came in a bowl, inside which are 2 pieces of small empek-empek with egg filling and the other 2 without. It tasted surprisingly well, texture and flavour wise!
|Empek-empek IDR 25,000|
For the next appetizer, I picked one weird-sounding item: Bakpao Ketawa. The dish consists 2 pieces of steamed buns filled with beef rendang, coriander, chili, spring onion and cucumber in oriental sauce and it came served with fresh Indonesian salad in peanut sauce (pecel). The bun tasted good, but too bad I couldn't really tell the rendang flavour of the filling and the beef was quite chewy. Instead of the rendang, the outstanding element of this dish turns out to be the vegetables in sweet & spicy sauce. There's room for improvement, but this dish has a great potential to rock.
|Left: Bakpao Ketawa IDR 25,000 (2 pieces)|
Right: Mie Goreng Jawa
|Mie Goreng Jawa IDR 35,000|
I had a tough time picking the Main Course, because I didn't feel quite hungry at the time (although my tummy was actually growling throughout our drive to Kota Tua). I had wanted to try the Nasi Bakar Kebun Belakang (steamed rice with oncom, leunca, tempeh and tofu, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled), but they didn't have it. So I had to pick another item, and I chose the Mie Goreng Jawa without the chicken liver (the standard recipe includes chicken liver). One of the ways I test an Indonesian eatery is to test its fried noodles. If they can do this basic dish well, most likely the other dishes will be (at least) decent too. This is just my personal trick, but it has been a pretty accurate benchmark. I'd say this Mie Goreng Jawa rocked! It tends to be sweet (which is fine with me) and come served with lots of fried shallots and generous meatballs and eggs inside.
The only major let down was the Es Palu Butung, which is a dessert from South Sulawesi; a bowl of steamed bananas, covered with cornflour, buried under shaved ice and red syrup. The banana and the floating white flakes/lumps were quite puzzling. As I like mushy and moist kind of banana, the banana used in this dessert was a complete opposite. Maybe it's just me.
|Es Palu Butung IDR 25,000|
As you can see, Historia is a place for casual and easy dining with nice ambiance. The price is reasonable for the quality and quantity you get. I won't discredit Historia just because of the flop in the appetizer and the dessert, because I actually enjoyed most of what we ate & drank here.
Because of Historia, I might even find myself coming to Kota Tua more often to get my coffee fix. Oh, Indonesia Instameet members, when you organize your outings at Kota Tua, there's a nice & new place to refill your tummies now. It is not as expensive as the Cafe Bata*ia next door and is a much nicer place to sit at than the concrete outside. Oh, there's also free wifi here, so you can do some work or have meetings. It's not super speedy, but at least you can still update your instagram. ;)
*) Prices are subject to 10% Government Tax & 5% Service Charge
Open Hours: 11AM - 10 PM
Historia Food & Bar
Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 11 (click to open in Google Maps)
Kota Tua - West Jakarta