PappaRich is a Malaysian restaurant in the heart of the city, located on the ground floor of the Canberra Centre shopping centre. It is in the restaurant area of the centre, where you can also find CBD Dumpling House, Hero Sushi Train, Jamie's Italian and a host of other quality dining restaurants. PappaRich is part of a franchise of restaurants, with over 20 other locations around Australia and outlets in 11 countries around the world. I personally hadn't heard of this chain before (I know, where have I been?), however I was intrigued by this restaurant as it is always packed full of people and often has a short line out the front. I must admit, with the name "Pappa" in the name and the brick and arched windows inside (which looked like pizza ovens from a distance), I assumed it was an Italian restaurant. Once it finally dawned on me that it was a Malaysian restaurant - and with my particular love of Laksa - it wasn't long before our family went to check it out.
PappaRich - with plenty of room for prams on the outside tables
We visited PappaRich with our five year old daughter and we were pleased to see other families enjoying their meals, with prams out the front and a good number of high chairs available. We were soon led to our table and given menu's with large photos of each dish - which is always a handy feature in any restaurant.
Although it wasn't explained to us, we soon realised that the ordering system was unlike any other restaurant we had been to. We watched as people on other tables wrote out their order on the pad of paper provided (from the cutlery box on the table) and filled it out using the codes off the menu. They then pressed the green button on the cutlery box to order. We then followed suit and with great excitement, our daughter pressed the button - thankfully only one time, as the buzzing sound shrilled throughout the restaurant for everyone to hear. Our table number then flashed on a sign above the front counter and a waiter came to swiftly take our menu's and piece of paper - and he was gone.
As we sat and enjoyed looking around at this busy restaurant (somehow ignoring the buzzing sound, which you stop hearing after awhile), our daughter was entertained by the whole process. She enjoyed watching the table numbers change and then guess where each of the tables were - then giving herself a high five when the waiter went to the right table! Although impersonal, the ordering system certainly makes the process fast - and fun for kids to watch.
Photo menu and spacious interior - with plenty of tables...and buttons!
Our order arrived quickly and we were impressed with our Laksa Curry (Seafood) ($15.90), Pappa Fried Mee ($14.90) and Roti Canoi ($5.90). If you enjoy a hit of chilli in your meals, you will enjoy their tasty menu - however ensure you check the "chilli rating" on each photo in the menu to ensure you get the right amount of heat. Our meals were rated as "one chilli" and it was perfect for our tastes, although two chillies or more may have required a trip to the emergency department. The Laksa certainly had us sweating, however the Pappa Fried Mee had more of a subtle chilli flavour, to calm down our tongues nicely. The Roti was also tasty and completely consumed by our daughter within minutes. It is fair to say that she enjoyed it.
Laksa Curry (Seafood) - full of chunky ingredients and heat
For children there is a wide variety of tasty breads to choose from including roti, Hainan bread and naan, as well as satay kebabs and other meals - depending on how adventurous their tastebuds are. A feature we enjoyed about this restaurant, was that there was also "back up" meals in case your child doesn't like the food - or just to order while parents enjoy something spicier. On the menu, kids can enjoy chicken nuggets and chips, toasted Hainan bread with butter (or peanut butter), Milo Dinosaur drinks and Banana Splits - a definite winner with all ages.
Kid friendly options. Image: Original images from PappaRich website
Although we hadn't heard of PappaRich before, we left extremely impressed by the whole process, food and ambience. Although we had little to do with the people who worked there (which made the experience less personal), we watched as people on other tables, who weren't sure of what to order, were given some friendly advice and excellent service. Another feature we enjoyed, in comparison to other Asian restuarants nearby, was that our finished plates weren't whisked away from the table as soon as we finished. We were able to sit back and relax and talk for awhile, without feeling rushed to vacate the table.
With such an enjoyable experience - and one of the best Laksa's that we have had in Canberra - we can't wait to return to try more from the menu. Next time we plan to leave room for an icy cold drink from the Iced Coffee selection, to cool our mouths down after a Laksa. The last option (below right) looks particularly interesting to try - Iced Tea with Coffee Jelly - now that is worth going back for!
Top (left to right): Kopi (Iced Coffee), Kopi O (Iced Black Coffee). Bottom: Kopi Cham (Coffee) and Milo (Iced),Teh Tarik (Milk Tea) and Coffee Jelly (Iced). Image: Original photo's from PappaRich website