Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clinic Cafe: The Hospital Themed Restaurant

Kidney shaped pans — not just for hospitals anymore
Deep fried prawns... yum! 

I've been to my share of themed restaurants. There's The Magic Time Machine in San Antonio, Aquarium on the Kemah boardwalk, the long-closed Medieval Inn in Austin, and at least four locations of Rainforest Cafe to name a few. So, the first time that I saw the Clinic Cafe at a mall in Penang, I was intrigued.

Clinic Cafe has a hospital theme.Perhaps hospital food has a different reputation in Malaysia. After all, one of the most popular bakeries in town is located in a hospital. Maybe people here don't think of hospital food as bland, mass-produced, and somewhat mushy like they do in America.

One Saturday, I was looking for something to amuse the kids for a few hours and decided that Clinic Cafe would be the perfect prescription. We called some friends to join us, and off we went.

The place looked like a huge red and white hospital ward, the kind that were more prevalent before people started demanding private rooms. The benches that lined each stainless steel table had metal headboards and red vinyl cushions. Operating room lights hung from the ceiling. The tables by the entrance had working wheelchairs for seating. You could even scrub up at the multi-sink handwash station. Having just studied The Parts of the Body at school, my girl was excited to see a poster of the respiratory system on the wall by our booth. A flat-screen TV showing Tom and Jerry cartoons fit right in considering how often those two injure each other.

We grabbed some menus and took a look at the food offerings. It had a mix of Western and Malaysian food, and I'm kind of glad that they didn't try to get clever with the names just to carry on the hospital theme. No blood sausage or head cheese, thank goodness. We filled out the order form and passed it to the waiter. Or was that a Resident? After entering it, he came back and put a printout on the patient chart clipboard hanging from the headboard.

Is that flask full of urine or is it lemonade?

The drinks came out first, and the kids got a pretty big kick out of drinking from Erlenmeyer flasks. The food came out v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y which has happened to me before at other restaurants. Unlike America where the food is delivered to the table all at once, the norm here is to bring out each dish as it's ready. I think there must have only been one surgeon back in the kitchen and no one assisting because there were loooooong gaps between each one. In fact, three kids were already done eating before the last kid's dish was brought out. But no matter, the kids were having fun.

Because how could you not have fun when your ketchup comes in a syringe? For some reason, my mommy powers were weak that day, and I didn't predict that she would completely miss the chicken and the plate but squirt ketchup across the table instead. She had a mighty big cutlet. Luckily, they gave us scalpels for all our slicing needs.

At the end of the meal, I let them take turns on the wheelchairs which the kids thought was a blast. They even made a little train with the one in front doing all the work.

So what do you think? Would this go over well in America?

UPDATE: This restaurant in Gurney Plaza is now permanently closed. Perhaps too many people were found the concept revolting?


  1. My kids were asking about this place. I guess we will have to put it on our list of things to do when we get bored this summer.

  2. Ewwwww. I just don't even know what else to say. Laughing (very hard), but ewwwww. :-) -- Mary M.

  3. Interesting! We have been to Penang before, but must have missed this place! Thanks for pointing it out, we may have to try it next time. :)

  4. I think the restaurant in Penang looks better than the Clinic Bar in Singapore. Actually, the bar went under some major renovations and I think they changed the theme.

    My thoughts remain the same with this whole concept. It's very clever and innovative. I'm just not sure I'm comfortable eating out of a bed pan and having drinks come from an I.V. bag (the Sing bar) or a flask. For me, it crosses over the line into just plain wrong.

    Glad the kids had a great time!


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