I’m not really a Penang foodie. Because I’m allergic to prawns, that rules out its famous prawn mee. And the thought of char kway teow gives me a shudder, mostly because it’s often badly done. But there is one Penang dish I really relish – assam laksa! It’s also mostly badly done. I can’t remember the last time I had good assam laksa. But beggars cannot be choosers.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see a restaurant called Gurney Culture open in my neighbourhood of Tampines in the Century Square mall.
It’s named after Gurney Drive, the popular hawker hotspot in Penang that’s a must for tourists.
I hotfooted it there to try out the laksa. At S$5.90, it wasn’t cheap but not too expensive either.
It wasn’t too bad but neither was it something to shout to the rooftops about.
Firstly, the noodle wasn’t the long glassy strips I was used to. Instead they were short, white worms that resembled mee tai mak.
Maybe they were aiming to emulate katong laksa ie enable the person eating to just scoop up the noodles.
But I felt like a 3-year-old who needed her noodles cut.
The soup was suitably spicy and sour and it also had pineapple and cucumber slices as well as visible fish pieces.
But overall, the dish lacked a certain oomph! Probably it didn’t have enough prawn paste, the failing of many an assam laksa. So maybe prawn paste isn’t good for me, but it’s a small sacrifice I make to eat assam laksa. The mint leaves were also a bit limp.
My daughter pronounced her kway teow soup nice but not as good as the one in Kuala Lumpur.
My husband said his char kway teow at $6.90 was quite nice but I felt it was too salty. My son didn’t like his lemon chicken and rice, saying it was too sour.
Maybe our expectations were too high but overall, the restaurant made a good effort.
Prices were reasonable for a restaurant and we met our neighbours who had already been there four times. The service, while not gushing, was adequate and quite fast.
The restaurant also sells famous Penang biscuits at the front.
If you can’t make it to the real Gurney Drive, Gurney Culture is an adequate substitute to hold you.
It offers a little something for everyone, from noodles to rice to grilled dishes to desserts and drinks.
Its other outlets are at Jubilee Square, Suntec City Mall and Terminal 3.