We’ve seen countless food and restaurant concepts from all over the world opening up here over the years and while Singapore remains a hub for all things new and trendy with regards to gastronomy, there are several heritage gems that still, and will always, bear timeless appeal.
These are the places that our parents and even grandparents used to frequent, the original hangout spots before the era of modern cafes and posh eateries. Taking a trip down memory lane, here is our list of 10 dining establishments that will transport you back to old Singapore.
Tucked in the estates of Joo Chiat lies a quaint family-run restaurant—British Hainan—and dining here feels like we are taken back to 1960s. Once you step into the restaurant, you can find lots of vintage collectables like old gramophones, mixers and pay phone that we used in the past.
They serve multiple classic British dishes with a Hainanese twist, but the dishes to-die-for include their signature oxtail stew and their braised lamb shank.
75 Carpmael Road
Tel: +65 6336 8122
Mon to Sun: 11am – 5.30pm, 6pm – 10pm
Closed on Tuesdays
Nearest Station: Paya Lebar/Eunos
Lately, breakfast seems to be all about the cafes and English-style breakfasts but nothing beats a good old local breakfast of Kaya toasts and half-boiled eggs. A step into Chin Mee Chin brings this nostalgic feeling—from the marble round tables to the way the aunties shout across the room with your orders—almost as if time stood still in the 1970s.
Unlike the usual Kaya Toast, Chin Mee Chin’s kaya toast comes in a burger bun rather than bread slices. These buns are made on the spot and toasted until perfection, with a little char on the outside. The warm buns melt the butter and a slab of kaya is spread onto the buns. Having this alongside an aromatic kopi o makes this a complete and wonderful breakfast.
204 East Coast Road
Tel: +65 6345 0419
Tues to Sun: 8.30am – 4pm
Closed on Mondays
Nearest Station: Eunos
First opened in 1953 at Jalan Hang Jebat to serve as the unofficial canteen for members of the British Army back in the day, Colbar is both a heritage site as well as a popular haunt for lovers of craft beer and a wide variety of both Chinese and Western grub.
The food is nothing much to rave about but what you do get is a charming and fascinating look into old colonial Singapore—and a couple of ice-cold artisanal beers too while you’re at it.
9A Whitchurch Road,
Tel: +65 6779 4859
(Closed on Mondays)
Tue to Sun: 11.30am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Queenstown
What sets Colony apart from other buffet restaurants is that they adorn a classic charm that transports you back to a time to when Singapore was still a developing state and the culinary journey at Colony will remind you of our heritage.
The Colony impresses even the most discerning taste buds through seven kitchens that showcase a mouth-watering spread of Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Malaysian, Western and local dishes.
7 Raffles Ave
The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore
Tel: +65 6434 5288
Mon to Sat: 6.30am – 10.30am, 12pm – 2.30pm, 3.30pm – 5.30pm, 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Sun: 6.30am – 10.30am, 12pm – 3.30pm, 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Nearest Station: Promenade
Photo Credit: Dong Po Colonial Cafe
DONG PO COLONIAL CAFÉ
Dong Po Colonial Café is the place to go to for those who want an authentic local breakfast experience. With the traditional Chinese logo displayed outside and the vintage interior of the café, it can trick you into thinking that this place has a 100-year-old history but it was only opened in 2013.
With affordable breakfast sets like Kaya Butter Toast with Teh/Kopi & 2 Eggs (S$4.50), it is easy to see why people are in love with this place–it brims with old-world charm and is a great spot to visit to start your day proper.
56 Kandahar Street
Tel: +65 8748 0828
Mon to Thurs: 8am – 6pm
Fri to Sat: 8am – 10pm
Sun: 8am – 8pm
Nearest Station: Bugis
HEAP SENG LEONG
They say that you need to keep making changes in order to improve but Heap Seng Leong coffeeshop has proved that philosophy wrong. Established in 1974, this coffee shop has kept maintained its heritage by doing things the way it used to be done 40 years ago.
Apart from the traditional breakfast, Heap Seng Leong is well known for their kopi gu you, which is also known as butter coffee. The taste of kopi gu you is similar to that of a normal kopi but much creamier with a slice of cold butter that melts on top.
10 North Bridge Road, #01-5109
Daily: 4am – 8pm
Nearest Station: Lavender
Singapore’s second largest kaya toast chain with more than 20 outlets nationwide, Killiney Kopitiam is a well-established coffee shop with outlets conveniently located at popular locations, easy for their customers to find.
Many might think of Ya Kun when it comes to kaya toast but Killiney definitely puts up a good fight. Slathered with sweet kaya and butter in between the two slices of soft bread that have already been toasted to perfection, the aroma of the slightly burnt toast is hard to forget.
67 Killiney Road
Tel: +65 6734 3910 / 6734 9648
*Mon, Wed to Sat: 6am – 10pm
Tues & Sun: 6am – 6pm
Nearest Station: Somerset
(Killiney Kopitiam has multiple outlets)
Modelled to look like a typical classroom, Old School Delights is one of the most interesting vintage cafes we have ever been to. Decorated with chalkboards, wooden furniture, and a menu in a form of an exercise book, this place definitely makes us wish we were back in school because as much as we hated school, we have to admit that school days were definitely the best days of our lives.
Old School Delights strives to relive culinary memories of Singapore’s past through their authentic recipes that have been passed down through generations. A must-try at the café is their famous Old School Heritage Mee Siam that boasts over 30 years of history. The rich flavour of the mee siam paired with a touch of zesty lime just makes the whole dish perfect!
180 Kitchener Rd
Tel: +65 6458 4518
*Mon to Sun: 11am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Farrer Park
(Old School Delights has multiple outlets)
Although kaya toast sets can easily be found in Singapore, Tong Ah Eating House is one of those eateries that we just can’t get enough of, from its rustic, old-world charm to their stellar kopi and kaya toast offerings.
Their Traditional Kaya Toast Set comes with kaya toast, two soft-boiled eggs, and a drink. Toasted till slightly charred, the kaya toast was exceptionally crispy with a smoky aftertaste.
35 Keong Saik Road
Tel: +65 6223 5083
Daily: 7am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Outram Park
YET CON RESTAURANT
Founded in 1940, Yet Con Restaurant has been dishing out plates of their popular and oh-so-tasty chicken rice even way before the Japanese occupation.
At Yet Con, their chicken is cooked for hours, which enhances the flavours of the meat and gives it its signature tenderness. You can really feel the firm texture of the meat, which was not too drying and their chicken skin is definitely not oily at all.
25 Purvis Street
Tel: +65 6337 6819
Daily: 12pm – 7pm
Nearest Station: Esplanade