New Straits Times

History learning ambience for diners at Muar restaurant

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ABRIGHT yellow shophouse in Jalan Sisi beckons visitors here, famed for its food, coffee and historical pre-war buildings. At a glance, the “Muar Historia” signboard conjures the image of an antique shop, with classic dining sets neatly arranged in a glass showcase as well as a mural of Admiral Cheng Ho.

But don’t be deceived by the decoration­s and the facade as it is actually a restaurant that offers local favourites of the Johor royal family.

What’s unique about dining at Restoran Rabbit Home Muar Historia, which serves local authentic food like mi bandung Muar, mi rebus and lontong, is the feeling of “having a meal during History lessons in the classroom”.

Murals and writings of Muar’s history from 1800 to 2000 are painstakin­gly drawn and painted on every inch of the restaurant’s walls. On display are antique products and artefacts, while black and white photos of legendary icons during the Melaka Malay Sultanate fill up every corner of the interior.

Commenting on decoration­s of the restaurant, owner James Teo Peng Heng, 45, said he wanted to share the history of Muar with his customers.

“We don’t have a museum in Muar, hence we have renovated the restaurant to allow our customers to enjoy their meals amid a learning ambience, and this unique offering is our attraction to both foreign and local visitors,” he said.

Teo said he refurbishe­d the restaurant, which he had been operating since 2002, in 2014 after a meeting with historical artefact collectors in Melaka.

“During the meeting, I was attracted to an antique product and was interested to buy, but the owner refused to sell it.

“My interest in the product was purely based on its beauty and historical importance. The owner then told me that I should learn and develop my interest further so as to help more people.”

Teo said it dawned on him that he should give a different touch to his restaurant, including introducin­g Muar heritage food to customers.

“I spent nearly one year collecting informatio­n on Muar’s history by referring to the National Archives, historical associatio­ns and museums, before portraying them on the walls of my restaurant,” he said, adding that he was assisted by the Historia Muar Cultural Work Associatio­n.

He said Muar’s history is displayed in chronologi­cal order from Parameswar­a’s arrival to the establishm­ent of the Johor Malay Sultanate, including the present era of the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

"Parameswar­a settled here and had earlier tried to establish a settlement in Kota Biawak Busuk and Kota Buruk in this district. After some time, Parameswar­a and his followers later moved out and built a new settlement that is now known as Kampung Tanjung Selabu, Mukim Sungai Terap,” said Teo.

He said Kota Biawak Busuk and the monitor lizard den, said to be at the river jetty where Parameswar­a found shelter on his arrival, still exists today.

He said, Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last sultan of the Melaka Sultanate, had fled to Muar after the fall of his kingdom to the Portuguese in August 1511.

“In fact, Muar is the only district in Johor which has a mausoleum for a Melaka sultan that is still in good condition, namely Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah’s tomb in Pagoh. The other tombs were destroyed by the Portuguese,” said Teo.

Born and bred in Muar, Teo said he is proud to introduce the history of his hometown to tourists, especially from Japan and China.

 ?? PIC COURTESY OF RABBIT HOME RESTAURANT ?? Dining in Restoran Rabbit Home Muar Historia, which serves local authentic food like mi bandung Muar, mi rebus and lontong, gives the feeling of ‘having a meal during History lessons in the classroom’.
PIC COURTESY OF RABBIT HOME RESTAURANT Dining in Restoran Rabbit Home Muar Historia, which serves local authentic food like mi bandung Muar, mi rebus and lontong, gives the feeling of ‘having a meal during History lessons in the classroom’.

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