Grumpy Goat and Friends

Once in a long while I may stumble upon an interesting café or restaurant and this, I must say, is one of those times.

An iconic illustration of a Grumpy Goat on a wooden coaster
What’s fascinating to me is its location – on the fringe of Masai – the town where my family and I have a connection because our parents used to work with the Health clinic or Pusat Kesihatan Kecil and were based here for 13 years.

I’m more than familiar with the old road between Johor Baru and Masai because I used to commute to school in JB by this route during my upper secondary and college years.

In fact, this was why my friends started to tease me with: "Going back to Masai-chusetts?" which inspired the story, now published in my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

In the early years while our parents were based in Masai, my siblings and I lived with our grandparents in JB so that we could walk to school conveniently. We would only spend our term holidays with our parents in Masai.

In the latter years when we moved back to live with our parents, we saw how Masai gradually developed from a one-street town into a thriving business center because it was growing in tandem with Johor Port and the Pasir Gudang Industrial Area.

Many businesses opened to meet the needs of a budding shipping industry and to support the manufacturing and heavy industries happening in Pasir Gudang.

Masai folks were suddenly seeing a new wave of people coming into their once sleepy-hollow town and the enterprising ones started more sophisticated businesses here.

Now the old road to Masai is superseded by more than one expressway that links Pasir Gudang to JB and we even have a choice of which one to use, unlike those days when there was just one single-lane old road.

Using Google Maps, I find my way smoothly to Bandar Seri Alam from JB. I’m driving on the Eastern Dispersal Link via Bandar Baru Permas Jaya and then joining the Pasir Gudang Highway, before filtering off to Bandar Seri Alam just before Masai.

This way please: Spot a foot-print!
Bandar Seri Alam certainly looks different from my previous visit.

As I drive along, I’m thinking about how this area used to be covered by rubber plantations and with so many shops and residential areas, it’s hardly recognizable now!

Keeping major landmarks in mind, I reach my destination quite easily and am pleased to see proper parking spaces in front of the building which has the name, Borneo Asian Food and the logo for Sugar Bun emblazoned on its façade.

With my focus on the event organized for Borneo Asian Food by Sugar Bun, I fail to notice the other signboard painted on the lower left side of the façade.

It’s only much later, after the event, when I’m invited upstairs for a cup of coffee that I discover this gem of a place.

It crossed my mind that the owners of Grumpy Goat and Friends Specialty Coffee House must have good sense of humour or their artistic director managed to sell them this concept …

“What’s with this grouchy goat?” I’m wondering as I walk up the flight of wooden stairs.

A long wooden table to a backdrop of a wall created by
a mosaic of wood in various shades of colour.
For a while, all my wondering is forgotten as my eyes take in the different ways that wood is being creatively used in the décor…

“A picture tells a thousand words” so I will let these pictures do their job:

Not only are my eyes wide open in fascination, my mouth too is open in absolute awe…

From the furnishing and the fittings to the décor, I’m blown away by the clever and classy use of wood to create such a charming interior!

For a moment, I forget where I am. This urbane setting can be anywhere in the world but I’m actually in Bandar Seri Alam, on the fringe of Masai town! Wow!

A cosy seating area with partitions made of wood!
I’m distracted by the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee and am reminded that Grumpy Goat and Friends is not just a coffee house but a Specialty Coffee House.

The thought of a coffee house gives me a flashback to the first coffee house in Masai which was then located at a corner unit of a row of shophouses, on the right side of the town’s main road.

Named, Ocean Coffee House, it was not only designed with a glass door with curtains stretched across its insides, it was of course, air-conditioned.

At that time, it was the place in Masai to entertain clients and visitors with a meal, in air-conditioned comfort.

Check out the creative lamp-shades!
[Please ignore the air-con vent at Right]
I’ve dined in Ocean and remember it had a coffee house menu of food and beverages – both local and European – as well as ice-creams and they also served beer!

Not long after that, visitors to Masai could have a drink or two at a pub-restaurant (if my memory serves me right) called, Seaman’s Paradise. With a name like this, it does not need much imagination to guess what else went on in there…

I’m reminiscing about the old town as I walk around, admiring the designs and décor in Grumpy Goat, marveling at how far Masai has progressed since those early days when Johor Port was created in Kampong Pasir Gudang.

Then I spot a classic turntable on the counter and against the wall, a display of vinyl LP’s.

Just as I’m wondering if it was only for show, a staff member sets an LP record on the turntable. As muted music fills the air, I’m assured that it really works!

Nearby, I spy a menu for Set Dinners. My imagination takes flight as I read about interesting items like Modernized Chicken Schnitzel, Perfectionist White Tuna Steak and Plot Twisted Sliced Ribeye Steak.

Music from a vinyl LP played on a classic turntable!
“Twisted plots? Mmm…” One thing’s for sure. I will be back to sample the food here.

Then I meet with the proprietors, Eddie Ling and his wife, Sharon, and I learn that besides running the café, they have day jobs with the Woodsfield Group of Companies.

The word, “wood” certainly rings a bell and I soon learn that their products were also used in creating that eye-catching building, Galeri Glulam at Jalan Tampoi.

As I congratulate them on the lovely space they have created in Grumpy Goat and Friends, I cannot resist quizzing them about why they named this place after a goat…

And when Sharon explains with a smile, “Because he’s born in the lunar Year of the Goat,” (referring to her husband), I can accept its quirkiness and how catchy it sounds.

I like how the iconic illustration of this Grumpy Goat is repeated throughout.

I see this cute image on the wooden coasters and wooden candle stand and when I’m served my coffee, I’m charmed because it’s also on the wooden serving board that acts as a tray for my beverage!

Must get my friends together for a coffee
and a meal here soon!
Later when I step downstairs on my way out, I take a closer look at the façade and read their tagline, “THE PLACE WHERE F.R.I.E.N.D.S MEET.”

I cannot help smiling at the sight of the accompanying illustration: Four characters with their drinks on the table.

While one character looks distinctly like the iconic Grumpy Goat, its three friends are illustrations of a Duck, a Cow and a Rooster!

Grumpy Goat and Friends Specialty Coffee House Seri Alam is located at 6C, C-02, Jalan Suria, Gravity Green, Bandar Seri Alam, 81700 Johor Baru, Johor.

Open daily from 11am to 11pm. For more info, visit their Facebook page at Grumpy Goat Specialty Coffee House.

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