Friday, 7 December 2007
The Borneo Rainforest
The real Tiara
By FARIDAH BEGUM,The Star
Photos by NORAFIFI EHSAN and RICKY LAI
Tiara Jacquelina puts 100% effort into all her endeavours, including her latest project, the Borneo Rainforest Café.
IF you want to know the real me, you must come to the Borneo Rainforest Café and you will understand the person I was, the one I have become and who I will always be,” says Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina candidly.
No pretences, all sincerity!
Cool touch: A waterfall amidst the dining area at the café.
Tiara, as she is more fondly known, has been a runaway success on the celluloid screen since her debut more than 20 years ago. It is often difficult to understand why a beautiful woman such as she would not succumb to the leisurely pursuits availed to her and be a trophy wife to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi.
Instead, she has, in the past few years, undertaken gargantuan projects such as Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL), turning it into one of the most talked about movies, and later a musical, not just in Malaysia but across the region and even in international film arena.
Yummy: Laksa Sarawak is one of Tiara’s favourite foods.
If producing the biggest budget movie in Malaysia was not enough, she even took the pressure out of worrying about whether the budget would hold and took on the lead role and sang the theme song, Asmaradana.
Before the dust settled on PGL, she had already undertaken the job of producing another success, the P. Ramlee musical, entitled My Name is Remy, to allow the legendary celebrity to be understood and loved as part of not just film history but also part of national history.
“These projects are not about feeding the masses with music and entertainment but about understanding the great legends of our society.
“We must pay heed to what had happened and how it has shaped our country and the people as a whole,” she says, during a casual meeting at the Borneo Rainforest Café, yet another pet project of hers that was squeezed in between her two entertainment endeavours.
You see, the thing about Tiara, if one is to understand her, is that she cannot sit idle.
Refreshing: Dining alfresco at Borneo Rainforest Café.
And time, even a second, is precious.
While she sips tea and talks to her audience, she still has time to break into a sincere and friendly smile, greet her staff and ask them how they are!
It is practically amazing that her café, new as it is, has one of the best teams in town, where every single staff member calls out a greeting the moment you enter, and throughout the time you spend there, eating delicious food and drinking exotic beverages, you feel right at home.
Back to Tiara.
Despite the fatigue she must feel in between major projects, and the numerous visits back to her husband’s home state of Sarawak and the travelling that comes with a minister’s job (she also puts in her 100% effort and support for Effendi), Tiara also tends to her two young growing children, Karmila Hani and Eridani, who demand a fair share of her attention.
The café is an entirely new venture for her and marks her foray into the world of food.
She smiles cheekily, knowing that people are wondering if she is really sane putting together this beautiful outdoor café, right across the Sunway Hotel resort, all planned very carefully and painstakingly to ensure the ambience of a natural setting is imbued into the atmosphere while people partake in reasonably priced and deliciously prepared food.
“This café is my identity. The food is simple yet exotic and it captures the direction of my spirit.
“I like the freedom and choice of eating simple foods, which I do almost all the time.
“But when it came to the crunch, having so much to do and no time to get to these comfort foods of mine, I thought it would be good to have them all in the same place and also to share my simpler pleasures in life with my family, friends and fans!” she says.
Among the foods that she loves are Kelantanese food, especially the Laksam, a rolled rice noodle dish with thick and creamy fish-based sauce filled with a generous serving of thinly sliced herbs and vegetables.
Others on her list are fresh seafood – her notable favourite is the chilli crab, Lebanese food and, of course, the signature dish of Borneo Rainforest Café – Laksa Sarawak, a spicy rice vermicelli soupy dish that is tangy and spicy and filled with delicious ingredients such as prawns, eggs and chicken!
For drinks, the lemongrass tea and Borneo mocktail are at the top of the list but the magic coffee that Tiara seems to favour also looks like a top-of-the-charts beverage.
Borneo Rainforest Café, which has been styled to be a clearing within a jungle setting, has a little something for everyone from hidden soft toys hugging the pillars to totem poles of Sarawak ethnicity and a beautiful waterfall amidst lush greenery.
While you enjoy the ambience of this natural setting, you can also enjoy the delicious offerings of the eight kitchens in this place.
They serve up dishes such as Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Lemak, Cantonese style noodles, grilled seafood – including oysters, crabs, prawns and fish – and delectable Mediterranean fare from the Lebanese kitchen, which serves the healthiest foods with most of its dishes roasted or grilled.
Not forgetting – because Tiara and her family “just love to eat” – there are also dishes like Laksa Johor, pizza and Italian fare to meet the different expectations of every member of a group that comes in to dine.
The dishes are reasonably priced with the Malaysian local favourites going from as low as RM6.90 per generous serving.
When patrons requested for WiFi and Shisha – a water-bottle contraption with which herbal fruit and fruit flavoured tobacco are smoked – Tiara ensured these items were incorporated into the café.
It is usually busy from 8pm onwards when the dinner crowd walks in. In recent times, the café has been the venue of some corporate parties where – you guessed it – the headhunting theme was the choice.
“We have people who book our café to hold corporate parties and even birthday parties,” says Tiara, beaming as she looks around the café, noting the happy faces of patrons and the equally happy staff members who are serving.