Michelin-star is in order for this place – perfect for Christmas, wedding proposals, valentine’s, birthdays, the list never ends.
Miss Ellie Tea House, an English tea house fit for the royals of Middleton’s and Markle’s is a place established when hearts were met in the middle. Not your typical love story but one with honour, respect and as astute as an officer and a gentleman.
Meet Nancy Wong, she professed nonchalantly as a 65 years old without batting an eyelid. She’s as confident as the delectable scones her son Justin makes in the kitchen that have charmed everyone who walked through the doors and into the pages of bloggers, TV screens and rated 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.
“It was supposed to be a backup plan for uncle and I when he retires from his consulting business” but Uncle Yeng Kee as those who have known him left before this place had even found its address. The retired Colonel Yeng Kee who served under the British Administration left us all too soon and it was meant to be his last dash for his queen. Some of us who have been privileged to know the man can still recall his posture, spotting a well-pressed shirt, blazer, pants and tie on Sundays at church.
But to Queen Nancy, this dream began much earlier, back to the days when her kids were still in school. She recalled the idle time after the kids had gone to school, especially in the quiet Taman Melawati back then. She dreamt about having a little hobby place where ladies of the same feather could come together to chat, befriend with one and another and sew up patch work to lull the hours away. If it sounds like something from the telly, she admitted to be influenced by it.
Not far off from the interview and tending to business was Justin, a chef trained on the western cuisine, the French technique, co-owned the first board game cafe in Melbourne on the very popular Lygon Street and also worked on the oil rigs cooking up a feast for the oil boys.
“Well, in the beginning it was really tough as people didn’t know where we were,” said Justin.
“But we owe it to our family members, church members and friends who have come to help, spread the word and bringing another friend when they can. It is a real blessing to us.”
Blessed too with the very friendly staff, Miss Ellie Tea House is a place for everyone to perform life together over appetising food enveloped in great ambience. The British scent is unmistakable as it is like where everybody knows your name.
“Of all the siblings, he was the most westernised,” said Justin about his father while Nancy added that “He would come home from work and have tea without fail, every day.”
She fondly remembers him as someone who goes the distance to plate his meal properly and described, “Some of us when we buy say chicken rice from the shop, we would just open it and eat it right? He would (instead) take it out, put the rice on the plate nicely, laid out the chicken and all that. Then only we eat it.
“When I saw that at first I was like wow but because he was like that, I got used to it and learnt from it.” This she said was the reason behind the Tea House’s meticulous effort in pairing every dish with her suitors of plates and bowls.
The setting up of the tea house is a story of two polarities
For mum, it’s a place to unwind and get together with her friends, customers included without the worry of rents and revenues.
For Justin, it’s filial piety represented wholeheartedly after a long stint in Australia, growing from a student to a matured man as he honed his skills at the culinary trade.
Before this, his lifelong passion was to cook his way to the top and be ranked among the top brass of either a top hotel chain or a restaurant. The thought of being the first Malaysian Michelin-starred chef also crossed his mind.
With his homecoming after dad’s passing, he didn’t dive straight into the tea house business, rather he spent some time giving his brother Nigel a hand at Big Blue Holidays. It was during those few months when mum spoke to him about this dream of having a place with dad that got the ball rolling.
It didn’t take long before they began searching for a place and their search had taken them to Bangsar (rental too high), Mont’ Kiara (still up-and-coming in 2010/11) and Damansara (too far), none could quite cut it and the duo were certainly not persuaded by the glamourous addresses too. But to grow a business that embodies an English tea house can prove to be an uphill battle in Taman Melawati.
“We were also worried whether Melawati has our kind of clientele.”
Justin echoes the same and thought whether they needed to do more to attract clients. But mum was more patient in this area although there were nail biting moments in the beginning. After patronage by the family, friends, church members and the food critics and bloggers, there was a sudden avalanche on this tea house like an overdose of meth.
“It just happened and the customers just began to flow in,” said the handsome and newlywed chef.
Aside from the impeccable dishes like Mom’s Spaghetti Bolognese, Pesto with Sea Prawns, Chicken Carbonara with Duck Bacon and desserts to-die-for like the White Coffee & Chocolate Parfait, scones and the rare Poppy Seed Cake, Miss Ellie Tea House’s decor is also a popular talking point. In this department, mum takes all the credit.
“I know the place by heart,” she emphasised and further explained about her exciting shopping spree to get everything from the dining utensils to the furniture, some exceeding 90 years of age. As to which pieces of furniture are older than you and me, you’d have to visit to find out.
But for such a resounding success after opening in 2012, there must have been lots that have gone into thinking with a business plan to boot?
“No, no, no.”
There was also no focus groups, no surveys, no research whatsoever according to Justin.
To the pioneering spirit of Nancy’s, who had served as a waitress and food delivery girl for her father’s wan tan mee business before she waited tables and as the cashier at Malaysia’s first KFC restaurant, dressing up a fashion boutique where she was caught on camera by The Star back in the day, Miss Ellie Tea House was somewhat a destiny in the making.
“Because there’s no such place here in Taman Melawati.”
For Justin, “I guess we just lucked out!”
Open daily except Sunday’s and Monday’s, Miss Ellie Tea House serves lunch, tea and dinner before they close at 7pm. It’s the best place to create lasting memory and to some lasting friendships. Ask Nancy and Justin, they’ll tell you all about it, over a cup of tea that is.
Look up Miss Ellie Tea House on Facebook.