Malaysia smoking ban met with mixed reactions

The Jan.1 smoking-ban notice is placed in one of the open-air restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. (AN photo)
Updated 03 January 2019

Malaysia smoking ban met with mixed reactions

  • Restaurant operators are mandated to place no-smoking signs in their premises or risk facing a fine of $726, as well as up to six months in jail

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia enforced a nationwide smoking ban on all restaurants, including public and open-air eateries on Tuesday, which has garnered mixed reactions from smokers and restaurant owners.
From the new year, both smokers and restaurant owners who do not comply with the anti-smoking law in the country may face heavy government penalties. Anyone caught smoking in eateries can be fined up to $2,500 or face up to two years in jail.
While most restaurants in Malaysia have already enforced the smoking ban, open-air eateries, coffee shops and “mamak-style” Indian restaurants, which are popular among Malaysians, are still lagging behind.
Many restaurant owners in Kuala Lumpur still allow their customers to smoke in their open-air areas.
On Tuesday, smokers could be seen huddling in parking lots, back alleys, bus and taxi stops, and even loading bay areas at shopping malls.
Restaurant owner Daljit Kumar Singh, who runs an Indian restaurant in Brickfields, told Arab News that he lauded the ban and views it as a step in the right direction. “I do not allow my customers to smoke in my restaurant,” he said. “If they want to smoke, they have to smoke outside of the restaurant,” said Singh, adding that smokers do not have the right to smoke in public, as second-hand smokers are exposed to harm.
“I have a friend who owns a bar and he also enforced a zero-smoking policy at the bar or inside the lounge,” he said. He believed the ban is not just good for health, but also good for business, as it brings in more health-conscious clientele.
However, several restaurant owners and smokers have reacted negatively towards the anti-smoking law. In the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the smoking ban has been put on hold due to lobbying from local coffeeshop groups.
One newly formed rights group that calls themselves the “defenders of smokers” group had filed a judicial review against Malaysia’s Health Ministry to overturn the ban and claimed that the ban was “against their constitutional rights,” according to local media reports.
Meanwhile, restaurant operators are mandated to place no-smoking signs in their premises or risk facing a fine of $726, as well as up to six months in jail. Restaurant owners that allow smoking at their eateries can be slapped with a fine of $1210 or a six-month jail term.
One smoker told Arab News her concerns about the ban.
“What really worries me are the legal implications of the ban because it criminalizes smoking in public,” Kuala Lumpur-based Maryam told Arab News. As a smoker, she said she tries to be mindful of others.
“Smoking is definitely not a fundamental human right but a prevalent cultural norm,” she said. “I think smoking advocates should focus their efforts on challenging the criminalization aspect of the ban.”
As a young professional, Asyraf told Arab News that the ban is a good initiative despite being a smoker himself. “I smoke a lot only when I am socializing, but I do not really smoke at home,” he said, adding that the policy may push him to quit smoking in the future.
“Some may feel something is missing when hanging out with friends, but this is just temporary. Once you get used to it, it may not be an issue anymore.”

The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

The London Project resturant in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2019

The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

  • The London Project is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence
  • The menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared”

DUBAI: We’re fans of visiting restaurants before they reach Instagram-level hype, and so during an outing to Dubai’s newest neighborhood, we had to pass by The London Project. This establishment — which opened late last month, and is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence — is the latest addition to the emirate’s ever-changing culinary scene.

It won’t be the first eatery you’ll come across when you arrive from the mainland; it’s tucked toward the far end of the marina, near the giant, yet-to-open Ain Dubai.
Offering glorious views of the Ferris wheel attraction and the Beach JBR, the venue has launched at the right time: perfect weather makes for perfect outings.
Upon entering, there’s an instant ‘Secret Garden’ feel to the place, with bespoke plants adorning every corner right up to the top level. Try and get a table on the terrace — the views are unbeatable.

The star of the show, naturally, is the food. Designed by chefs Christopher Walker and Robert Fairs, the menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared.” The food is certainly eclectic, ranging from chocolate-fed wagyu steaks to salmon flatbreads. It is a tad disappointing that each dish doesn’t come with a story of the borough it’s inspired by though — that would have been a nice touch on the menu.
We opt for small plates to share, and they’re impressive. The buttermilk chicken is perfectly juicy with just the right amount of crunch, while the braised beef in the pulled beef soft shell tacos is melt-in-the mouth. The heirloom tomato burrata is another delight: fresh and topped with a smoked raspberry sorbet that surprisingly works; while the Ika Mata ceviche marinated in coconut cream is a sight to behold.

For dessert, the restaurant’s signature is a vanilla yoghurt parfait served with fresh strawberries, and strawberry parfait.
The food, then, certainly passes the test. Another plus point? The friendly service. We were met by smiling hosts and that welcoming, laidback attitude remained throughout service. The décor and dishes are upscale, but without the air of pretension often associated with venues like these. It’s so refreshing to see.

As you’d expect with any new establishment, however, there were teething problems. While the ‘adult’ beverage menu was extensive, little information was offered regarding soft drinks, and a staff member had to take a minute to check which sodas were available. It’s important for any restaurant, not just in this region but everywhere, to understand its clientele, and be knowledgeable about ‘zero-percent’ options. After all, non-alcoholic drinks are in demand more than ever in real London, too.
We visited midweek, avoiding the more-manic weekend. However, we were distracted a couple of times during our meal by staff members discussing the evening’s service in a group huddled together right behind our table. We know that it’s important to cross-check things with colleague — it just might be more professional to do so in a quieter area away from diners.
Nevertheless, it’s evident that a great deal of detail has gone into The London Project, and if it maintains its food quality and friendly, laidback style of service, then it will fast cement itself as one of Dubai’s restaurants to watch in 2019.
And the eatery recently announced that it is now brewing its own brand of coffee, Queenie’s Estate.
“The Queens first ever official, unofficial roastery in Dubai,” the restaurant’s Instagram page stated this week. “Obviously named Queenies, and obviously roasting coffee that is strong, sophisticated, and has a touch of sass — just like Ma’am herself!”
That gives us one more reason to pay another visit.