Kopitiam Restaurant in Old Phuket Town
We first found Kopitiam in Old Phuket Town back in 2011 when it had just recently opened. This blog post was first written then, but updated 2017. I often enjoy a little walk in the old town with it's old buildings and interesting little shops. Thalang Road is the center of the old town, and over the last 5 years especially now that many of the ugly overhead wires have been hidden, the area has become very pleasant and more popular with tourists, especially Thai tourists - if you walk down Thalang road or the little side street called Soi Romanee you'll always see young Thai folks snapping photos of each other in front of old doorways! A fair number of small cafes and restaurants have opened on and around Thalang road over the last few years and there are also some older establishments like Abdul's Roti Shop. On that walk back in 2011 we decided to try out Kopitiam. There was a table full of Phuket locals sitting outside, always a good sign for good local food! It's become a favourite place for us since then.
(above) Kopitiam from the outside
Kopitiam coffee shops are found commonly in Malaysia and Singapore - the word comes from Kopi (Malay for Coffee) and Tiam (a Hokkien Chinese word for Shop) - Hokkien people migrated in large numbers to Phuket in the late 19th century and in Phuket Town this is obvious - many people are of Chinese descent (although the families now have Thai names), many shops have Chinese signs and there are Chinese shrines in and around Phuket Town.
(above) Local folks sitting outside Kopitiam
Kopitiam is run by the Bumrungwong family who also run the well known herb shop next door - and the family also had the Wilai restaurant which was on the other side of the herb shop. Kopitiam is also called "Kopitiam by Wilai". The Wilai restaurant has now been turned into part of Kopitiam - same food, but it's airconditioned! And it has a little secret - a passageway through the kitchen leads to the Shrine of the Serene Light which has its entrance on Phang Nga Road one block south. I havve been through a couple of times, but not sure you're allowed to now. There's quite a bit of history here!
(above) Inside the old herb shop next door to Kopitiam
(above) Wiwan, daughter of Wilai. It's a family business.
The history is evident inside Kopitiam, which has kept an old feel, built in a turn of the century (20th century) style shophouse with wooden beams across the ceiling and a stone floor. This used to be the family home. You'll find decorations consisting of Chinese signs, old Phuket photos and tasteful wooden furniture. No need for aircon really - it was a warm day, but these old shophouses never seem to get hot. A couple of ceiling fans is enough. If you are too hot, well, pop over to the other side of the herb shop into the aircon!
(above) Inside Kopitiam
(above) Looking out onto Thalang Road from Kopitiam
(above) Outside looking to the east along Thalang Road.
(above) You can have a history lesson while you wait for the food - there are loads of old Phuket photos around the walls showing the town, tin mines, and I was particularly interested to see pictures of the old ferry connecting Phuket to the mainland - the Sarasin bridge was only completed in 1967. Before that, Phuket really was an island!
And the food! I note that despite our many visits I have very few food pics! I love the Phuket style pork, the various fried noodles, the penang curry is good, you can get snacks like french fries or tofu, they do Bak Kut Teh too. And many many different drinks. All kinds of juices, herb drinks, teas and coffees. And beer too! And during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival they do only vegan food.
(above) Char Kway Teow Noodles
(above) Phuket Style Pork
(above) Mee Hokkien (during vegetarian festival)
(above) Fried tofu with a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce
(above) "Kopi O" - strong back coffee
(above) On a hot day, maybe even better than a beer - try a butterfly pea flower drink ("Anchan")!
I always enjoy a walk around Phuket Town. There's still more work going on right now on other streets to hide all the wires like has already been done on Thalang Road. The area has been considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is my favourite part of Phuket and my wife and I even joke (but in a serious way) about living in an old shophouse in town one day :)
Kopitiam Location Map (Phuket Town)
View Kopitiam by Wilai - Restaurant in Phuket Town in a larger map