Nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore are places which form part of our collective social experience. They are places we associate with old memories and special occasions. According to former CEO of URA, Mr Liu Thai Ker, “Nature is the soul of the city. Heritage buildings are the memories of the city. For people to feel this is a special place, we need both.” (Singapore Tatler July 2017 – Liu Thai Ker On Building A Lovable Singapore ). In addition to buildings, nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore also form part of our shared memories to make the Lion City a lovable place. Here is The Ordinary Patrons’ (TOP) list of nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore that have stood the test of time and served different generations of ordinary patrons.
TOP list of Traditional Restaurants in Singapore
We start our list of nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore with a restaurant that is said to be the oldest restaurant in Singapore. The sign at the Islamic Restaurant claims to be Singapore’s first and original briyani since 1921. We cannot verify this claim but the interior of this restaurant does look very quaint and atmospheric. We would not be surprised if they have been here for almost 100 years. The must-try dish here is the nasi biryani. Read about our lunch at Islamic Restaurant here.
745 North Bridge Road
The Mooi Chin Place Restaurant in the Landmark Village Hotel is said to be the oldest Hainanese restaurant in Singapore. They started in 1935, but we can only remember them from the 80s when they were situated in the basement of the Funan Shopping Centre. The must-try item here is the Hainanese Pork Chop. Read about our visit here. Read our review here.
Mooi Chin Place Restaurant
#03-12A Landmark Village Hotel
390 Victoria Sreet
Nearby MRT Station : Bugis
Spring Court Restaurant is the oldest family-run restaurant in Singapore. With a history dating back to 1929 when Wing Choon Yuen opened in Great World Amusement Park. They serve “Singapore Chinese food”. Despite its long history and the heritage building along Upper Cross Street where it is now located, the interior of their Chinese restaurant is surprisingly modern looking. Our favourite dish of the Spring Court Restaurant is the humble popiah (which some say is the best popiah in Singapore). Read our review here.
Spring Court Restaurant
52-56 Upper Cross Street
(Opposite Chinatown Point carpark)
According to the Hung Kang Teochew Restaurant’s website, the restaurant was opened by a group of wealthy Teochew towkays in Singapore. They longed for the traditional cuisine they had back in China and started their own restaurant in 1962. Its name pays homage to the scenic Han River (韩江) in Chaozhou City, Guangdong Province. We like the traditional Teochew dishes here such as steamed pomfret and yam paste dessert (oh nee). Read about our dinner here.
Hung Kang Restaurant
28 North Canal Road
Poh Heng Building
(opposite Hong Lim Park)
Tel: +65 6533 5300
Huat Kee Teochew Restaurant started in 1969 and has been serving Teochew cuisine over three generations. They have moved locations a few times before settling at their current location at RELC Building in 2015. The usual Teochew classics are good here but we particularly like the cold crab and the braised tail of threadfin (ngoh he buay). Read about our visit here.
Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee (1998) Pte Ltd
#02-01 RELC Building
30 Orange Grove Road
Beng Hiang Hokkien Restaurant started in 1978 and is one of the most famous Hokkien restaurants in Singapore. As far as we can remember, they were at the shophouse on Amoy Street for the longest time but decided to relocate out of the CBD to their current space in Jurong East in 2015. It is quite coincidental that Huat Kee was also located on Amoy Street when they made the move to RELC in 2015. The items we tend to always order are the Hokkien mee and prawn rolls (hae cho). But for something different, try the stewed chicken stuffed with lotus nuts. Bring along a bottle of wine ($10 corkage fee). Read our review here.
Beng Hiang Restaurant
Blk 135 Jurong Gateway Road #02-331
Guan Hoe Soon
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant has been serving a wide range of Peranakan dishes in Joo Chiat since 1953 and lays claim to be one of the oldest Peranakan restaurants in Singapore. Guan Hoe Soon Peranakan Restaurant is a place to go to for good simple nonya dishes. We recommend the crab foo yong. Read about our dinner at Guan Hoe Soon here.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
38/40 Joo Chiat Place
Roland Restaurant is generally accepted as the place to go for an authentic version of the famous chilli crab dish. The original version did not have eggs and sambal in the recipe. According to its website, chilli crab was the creation of Roland’s parents, Mr. Lim Choon Ngee & Mdm Cher Yam Tian, who started their seafood restaurant along the Kallang River before relocating to Bedok Beach along Upper East Coast Road. The must try dish is of course their own creation, the Chilli Crab.
Block 89, Marine Parade Central, # 06 – 750
Lai Wah Restaurant
Lai Wah Restaurant deserves a place in any list of nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore by virtue of having created one of the most significant dishes for Chinese New Year – Yu Sheng (鱼生). They have apparently been serving Yu Sheng (鱼生) since around 1963, according to the Lai Wah website. Another interesting piece of information from the website is that the sauce that is now associated with chilli crab was created by the “Four Heavenly Kings of Chinese restaurants”, two of whom were at Lai Wah restaurant. Read about our visit here.
Lai Wah Restaurant
Blk 44, Bendemeer Road,
Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee
Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee is one of those grand old restaurants in Singapore that has a special place in the hearts of many Singapore residents. Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee started more than 70 years ago, as a coffee shop in Bras Basah Road. They switched from western cuisine to serving nasi padang when the British troops left Singapore. The chicken bagadel is one of the must eat items.
Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-72 to 75/77/92, The Central
Tel: +65 6339 7508
Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Nearby MRT Station : Clark Quay
According to the Han’s website, Mr Han Choon Fook, then a civil servant started in 1977 to offer cakes made by his brother Choon Kuang to colleagues and friends. The popularity of the cakes inspired them to open a small bakery in Upper Thomson Road. The first Han’s cafe opened in 1980 in the Arcade, Raffles Place. Since then, the Han’s empire has grown and the cafes have modernised. Many of us would have patronised Han’s at one time or another. They currently have more than 20 outlets in Singapore. The delicious Hainanese pork chop has been on the menu for as long as we can remember. The beef hor fun is another of our favourites. Read about our visit to Han’s Centrepoint here.
The Centrepoint #01-53/54/55/56
176 Orchard Road
The Jack’s Place website provides an interesting story about its beginnings. Mr. Say Lip Hai arrived in Singapore from Hainan and started as a cookboy with the British troops. After picking up the culinary skills, he started his the Cola Restaurant and Bar in 1967 in Sembawang. In 1968 a British housewife suggested that he start a catering business in her husband’s pub in Killiney Road. Her husband’s name was Jack Hunt. That led to the birth of the famous Jack’s Place Steak House. Many of us probably remember Jack’s Place as the only affordable steak restaurant in those days when the Western restaurants are usually very expensive. Read about our dinner at Jack’s Place Paya Lebar here.
Hua Yu Wee
Hua Yu Wee deserves a mention because it is the last of the seafood restaurants left standing in Upper East Coast Road. It is listed in the Bedok Heritage Trail and described as a restaurant which “continues to operate today from its original 1920s bungalow. The bungalow features detached double-storey wings, outhouses and steps to the former beachfront”. Hua Yu Wee is popular for a variety of seafood and zhi char dishes. The black pepper crab is worth a try.
Hua Yu Wee
462 Upper East Coast Road
Tel: +65 6442 9313
Thank you for reading The Ordinary Patrons’ list of nostalgic and traditional restaurants in Singapore.