Deputy Director, Digital Operations (Asia)
We’ve seen it all before: The quintessential hipster café decked out in vintage furniture and antique knick-knacks, and situated in a deliberately ramshackle, restored shophouse to evoke a sense of yesteryear. Pair that with an all-day brunch menu and a fascinating story to tell about the premises’ past life (for extra street cred) — be it as a hardware store, clinic or provision shop — and you have a winning formula.
There’s a lot to like at these eateries, from their old-school décor to trendy food options (salted egg yolk, anyone?). But sometimes, it’s a refreshing change to dine at a restaurant that truly has a rich heritage, and has remained faithful to its roots even amidst fleeting food fads and the ever-growing competitiveness of the gourmet scene. Such establishments continue to serve up traditional recipes and, for some, have preserved their unapologetically retro interiors.
Ranging from a Chinese establishment with over 80 years of history (and several changes in locale), to a Russo-Hainanese stalwart that recently made a comeback, here are 5 of Singapore’s oldest restaurants. They may not boast the most Instagram-worthy settings or newfangled culinary offerings, but these dining institutions have managed to stand the test of time, and are testament that old is indeed gold.
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
Set up in 1977, this old-school establishment along Keppel Road is Singapore’s last revolving restaurant. Its interiors are unabashedly retro, with rosewood furnishings and Lazy Susan-topped tables reminiscent of the 80s.
The place focuses on Beijing cuisine, with tasty highlights such as dim sum, Peking duck and egg white with scallops and fish meat. Be sure to sit by the windows and to stay at least an hour for your meal, so you can get a complete 360-degree view of Singapore as the restaurant revolves.
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, 201 Keppel Road, Singapore 099419, +65 6272 8822/8988, pfs.com.sg
One of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Singapore, Spring Court was originally opened as Wing Choon Yuen in 1929 at Great World. It changed locations over the years, moving to Chinatown from 1978 to 1990, and then to East Coast from 1990 to 2004. It eventually settled down along Upper Cross Street in Chinatown, and remains there today.
The restaurant may be over 80 years old, but its interiors are not at all outdated. It is decked out in wood furnishings and a contemporary palette of mostly earth tones. Its menu offers Singaporean Chinese cuisine, with a mix of Cantonese and Hokkien dishes on its menu. Signature dishes include popiah, roasted suckling pig and fried yam ring.
Spring Court, 52-56 Upper Cross Street, Singapore 058348, +65 6449 5030, www.springcourt.com.sg
This 31-year-old Russo-Hainanese restaurant at Far East Shopping Centre made headlines last year when its owners revealed plans to close it down, citing slow business and difficulty in finding manpower. After the news broke, many local foodies flocked to the establishment — be it out of curiosity or for a last meal.
Turns out there was a happy ending for the iconic eatery after all. In March, Shashlik reopened under a pair of second-generation owners, and continues to serve its signature dishes such as borsch, skewered beef and Baked Alaska, a dessert of ice cream, cake and meringue which is flambéed tableside.
Shashlik, Far East Shopping Centre, 545 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238882, +65 6732 6401, www.facebook.com/shashliksg/
Entering its 95th anniversary this year, Islamic Restaurant has served the likes of dignitaries such as Singapore’s late President Yusof Ishak and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. It was opened in 1921 by M. Abdul Rahiman, who was the head chef for the prominent Alsagoff family.
The establishment specialises in Malay and Indian cuisine, spanning options such as tandoori chicken, kebabs, mutton vindaloo and its signature Dum Biryani. It also does catering for events, and offers a “Dial-A-Beryani” service, which allows customers to conveniently order its biryani dishes to anywhere within Singapore.
Islamic Restaurant, 745 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198713, +65 6298 7563, www.islamic.sg
Founded in 1963 at Goodwood Park Hotel and originally named Gordon Room, this restaurant was the first grill room to open in Singapore, and was also one of the first to serve Black Angus beef. It was renamed Gordon Grill and relocated to a different part of the hotel in 1965, where it introduced a dedicated meat wagon featuring different cuts of beef.
The restaurant underwent a revamp in 2004 and now sports brighter and more contemporary interiors. It dishes up steaks and a repertoire of refined European fare. Also available is its meat trolley service — an updated version of its historical wagon — which is wheeled to each table so diners can see their meats being sliced and weighed.
Gordon Grill, 22 Scotts Rd, Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore 228221, +65 6730 1744, www.goodwoodparkhotel.com