I have to say, unless I had my appointment at the Immigration Office of West Jakarta in the morning, I would not have got a chance, not even a thought, to have my both feet on the cobblestone of Fatahillah Square in Jakarta Old Town, known as Kota Tua, when the area was still far from street artists and vendors.
I slowly walked towards the nearly 400-year-old town hall, now functioning as Jakarta History Museum so-called Fatahillah Museum, that stood gracefully and peacefully without crowds passing by and blocking the view. Apparently, I was the only one crossing the square, enjoying the free space all by myself and refreshing breeze after the rain.
Nonetheless, when I was almost reached the museum, I turned away, heading to the alley on the right side next to it. A neo-classic building that has been turning into a cafe restaurant I had been longing to visit, called Historia Food and Bar.
Long before becoming a cafe restaurant, it was the office of Maatschappij voor Uitvoer en Comisiehandel (MUCH), a Dutch trading company during the colonization era built in 1914 by Eduard Cuypers n Hulswit architecture firm. It consists of 2 buildings separated by a courtyard, that now belongs to Indonesian Trading Company (PPI).
Historia Food and Bar occupies the lower level of the building facing Pintu Besar Utara Street, situated behind the main building facing Kali Besar Timur Street. The 2-storey rear building had different functions in the past. The lower level was a spice warehouse and a shop-house. The upper level was small offices with archive rooms, also once occupied by another company called NV. Borneo Sumatra Handelmaatschappij, shortened as Borsumij. The latter, unfortunately, is not accessible for public.
Prolonged neglection and continuous demolition of abandoned antique buildings into budget-oriented (aka tasteless) design shop-houses cause the rarity of commercial centers inside historical buildings in Jakarta compared to other big cities like Rome, Paris, Tokyo, St. Petersburg etc.
So I’m glad to find that the former Dutch warehouse is well-treated and turned into cozy place to hang out like Historia Food and Bar. It’s also good to know that Cafe Batavia is not the only most-preserved historical building turned to be an F&B business location in the area.
There were tables placed upside down on other tables outside the building as if it was still closed, until an errand convinced me otherwise, at 10 am.
I was surrounded by (just a lucky guess), a Dutch general and a lady, local peasants, heroes, and civilians living hundreds of years before my grandparents were born, who perpetually inhabit the brick walls inside the cafe. They illustrate historical events and the life of people in Batavia before it changes its name into Jakarta. Partly-coloured fresco accentuate a modern touch in the tempo doeloe (old days) theme. The significant amount of monochromatic characters remind me of comic strips.
Apparently, they are the limelight of everything inside Historia after food and drinks, where rustic canned canisters and an antique phone on the cabinet facing the giant fresco are completely overlooked.
A few people in black outfits were in the bar area, while some others were in the dining area ready to greet and serve customers. Basically, they all were doing some last checks in the fist minutes of the operational hour.
I heard a woman saying in the outdoor area at back side of the restaurant, “You shouldn’t place this here. Put it aside!” I don’t recall what she meant by this and here, but for sure it was part of the inspections.
Then, she walked in to the dining area where the bar area was located, the non-smoking section where I was sitting and observing the morning ritual. She was somewhere in her 50’s (coincidentally?) wearing a black outfit. In the mean time, she passed and looked at me for a few seconds. Soon after, she left me in privacy and believed that I had been taken care of.
There was no one else placing their asses on the chairs but me, nor watching the black outfit people doing their routines. In a nutshell, I was the first guest of the day.
There were assorted Indonesian food offered in a relatively affordable price and I was actually tempted to taste one. But too bad, I wasn’t into big meals at the moment. Still, I think I had to take something since the waiter had earlier assisted me to my seat, meaning that I already gave them hope to contribute their income.
I looked at the drink list instead and asked the waiter what the best seller is. He suggested Merah Merona, which literally means “blushing”, a smoothie with pink dragon fruit, banana and fresh milk. It sounded like a deliciously healthy concoction to consume in the morning. Additionally, I requested to have the simple syrup, a fancy gastronomy term for liquid sugar, separated.
The smoothie was really worth it as it deserves to be labeled “best seller”, with a decent price of Rp.35.000, or about $3. I was glad that the banana doesn’t overpower the sweet subtle dragon fruit flavour, while the milk harmonizes both fruits having different level and character of sweetness.
I thanked the barista who created the lovely blushing smoothie that energized me to start my day. So I had to leave for work after finishing the final zip with a kind of gargling sound from the straw. Nevertheless, I will return someday to try the food and that’s a promise!