Julie’s Kopitiam

1109 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow

07835 108102

Dinner: £12-£20

Food rating 8½/10

JULIE'S Kopitiam gives off a crackle of energy and excitement typical of Generation Y, the so-called millennials, young people who, having declared the old order of their parents dead or deficient, are experimenting with creative responses to the altered economic realities of life. Its customers look to be in their 20s, as does the staff. From 5.30pm onwards there’s a steady stream of them, slim, lively, civilised, all looking for a table. As this postage stamp restaurant is already going like the clappers, they’re most charmingly sent off to neighbouring pubs to await a call telling them that their table is free. I witness no storming off in a "can’t be bothered waiting" huff. This isn’t the carefully contrived, emperor’s new clothes queue designed to brainwash us into thinking that they’re doing us a favour allowing us eat there. No, the word is out that Julie’s is cool, and definitely worth the wait.

Julie’s Kopitiam epitomises millennials’ resourcefulness, good taste, and originality. The titular Julie, inspired by her aunt’s tiny eatery in pretty Malacca, in Malaysia, started off cooking street food, and rapidly built a following. The dimensions of Julie’s current kitchen are no greater than a small food truck, but the wheels have been taken off the operation. That roughness and readiness of takeaway cartons has been replaced not by those cheapskate enamel plates and pie tins that have become such a stale cliché, but by simple, solid, stoneware, elegant teapots, real cutlery, washable chopsticks. Rattan lampshades project Spirograph shadows. Fresh flowers and candles create softness. The playlist is cheery 1960s US flower power. Gorgeous aromas waft under your nose as you open the door.

Julie’s menu is sensibly short. Price reflects portion size. The most expensive option is the 12-hour slow-cooked lamb rendang (£10) but when it comes it’s enough for two people; all you’d need is a little bowl of Julie’s steamy fragrant rice. The meat collapses submissively into a coconut gravy that first introduces itself with mellow notes before building up to a final 3-D chilli heat, underpinned by pungent shrimp paste that’s a match for the strong lamb. I’d say that Julie makes her spice pastes from scratch, and so it’s not the paste that lets down the vegetable curry – it’s a lovely one, with star anise and green cardamon to the fore – only that the vegetables are slightly too firm, particularly the small aubergines, which have such a thick skin that they need frying, grilling or some such pre-gravy treatment. But that’s really a small complaint in a meal that’s otherwise extremely pleasing.

Sweet corn fritters, for instance, are paragons of the art of deep-frying; none of that stinky fishiness that typifies over-used oil. The batter is yellow from turmeric, and also possibly chickpea flour. I think I’m picking up roasted ground cumin in their fruity tamarind sauce, maybe a bit of chest-warming ginger. But I run out of them before I decide because once you start eating them, you just can’t stop. Chunky simplicity defines the steamed pork dumplings: firm meaty filling, satisfactorily chewy wrappers. The malty roundedness of the gently acetic black vinegar partnered with soy sauce, and something unidentifiable to me, but slightly sweet, makes the ideal dipping medium. Smokiness is the stand-out characteristic of the char kuay teow. Its rice noodles – flat, broad, slippy, still springy – are interspersed with crisp, barely cooked beansprouts, flashes of juicy greens, and half their weight again in bouncy prawns. You can smell and taste what Chinese people call "the breath of the wok", the "wok hay". Julie’s auntie would surely cluck with pride to see that her niece has stir-frying skills in her DNA.

Our unusual dessert shows flare and a sophisticated grasp of seasoning. Warm cooked rice, unsweetened, lies beneath a blanket of Alfonso mango pulp (possibly sharpened with lime or lemon), gingery palm sugar, peach slices, and crushed pistachios. It’s the most interesting pudding I’ve tasted in months.

Julie’s Kopitiam shines a beacon for indie start-ups fired by the engaging energy of youth. In a world where tired copycat chains spring up on every corner, we can never have enough Julies.