With its nine-mile stretch of pristine coastline, Redhead Beach is a stunning surfside paradise that generations of locals have been privileged to call home.
Those generations have also had a familiar constant over the past forty-four years: the Seaview Malaysian Restaurant. This institution has offered Redhead residents the joys of delicious Malaysian, Chinese and Thai food for decades.
Whether your pick is spicy sambal, laksa, salt and pepper chicken, dim sims, fresh lobster or chilli soft shell crab, or a creamy curry, it’s a cornucopia of Asian flavours.
Walk inside and you’ll be greeted by the familiar smiling face of Guam, who is a bit of a local legend. My team at Altitude, Katie, Troy and Dave all love it! And so do I.
I recently sat down with Guam over a bowl of my favourite Short Soup with handmade wontons to find out the who, what, where and why of their four decades-long success and how they’ve watched the generations and Australia’s tastes change.
Guam, what an illustrious history! The Seaview Malaysian should be a cultural landmark in Redhead. Can you tell me about the history of the restaurant?
It’s a family business, through and through. The restaurant has been in existence for 44 years. My older brother started it in 1977 when he came to Australia from Kuala Lumpur. He then passed it over to my sister in the early 1980s. I worked at the restaurant all through school and then came to work full time on completion of my education. My sister retired in 2010 and I took over. I work very closely with my nephew so, hopefully, he’ll be next in line.
When did you come to Australia?
I emigrated from Kuala Lumpur to Newcastle in 1981 when I was 14 years old. I attended high school at what was the local Marist Brothers College, now known as St Xavier’s College, in Hamilton.
Newcastle during the 1980s must have been different from a bustling busy city like Kuala Lumpur?
Oh yes, it was so quiet in those days! But I settled into the Australian lifestyle easily and made lots of friends. When my sister was running the restaurant, I spent years working with her. She always had a very high standard when it came to the quality of our ingredients and her dedication to keeping our dishes authentic. She taught me everything I know.
You offer a few different cuisines. What is the food like in Malaysia?
There are many delicious influences as Malaysia is a very multicultural society. At Seaview, we focus on traditional Malaysian cuisine, Chinese and Thai food.
While Australians have always loved the flavours of Chinese food, did it take them a while to get used to spicy Malaysian food in the early days?
At first, we had to adjust the flavours a little due to spice factor but our customers soon came to love Malaysian food! Australian palettes have changed over the years and now people tend to love spicy food. Our signature dishes are our satays. We go through 25 kilos of peanut butter in a week for our satay sauces. In Malaysia, it’s often said the thicker the satay sauces are, the better they taste. We live by that principle. Another crowd favourite is our Mongolian Lamb, which is a Chinese dish. Although we’ve modified it by making it a little sweeter and spicier.
How did you cope during the lockdown period last year during COVID-19?
We adjusted pretty well. We’ve always offered home delivery and pick up services, so it was business as usual, apart from the closing of our dining room. Our regular customers were fantastically supportive. They have always been great to us. As a business, we’ve always taken an active part of the Redhead community. This year, we’re sponsoring the Central Leagues Cricket Club.
Being such an integral part of the community, you must have seen the generations change before your eyes.
Yes! We’ve always hosted big family gatherings and celebrations, so I’ve watched entire families growing up. Some customers were in a high chair when I first met them. Now they bring in their children. My old mates from school still come in, so we’re watching each other ageing!
What do you like to eat in Redhead when you’re not eating at your restaurant?
I love a good pizza. Both 19 Pizza and Soleil @Redhead do a great pizza.
Thanks for your time Guam, and thanks for the soup!
You can taste the satay at Seaview Malaysian, 21 Beach Road, Redhead.
Photo credits: Seaview Malaysian website