The Life List: 7 old-school eateries with over 80 years of history

The Life List: 7 old-school eateries with over 80 years of history


SINGAPORE – Regulars of 89-year-old pastry shop Tan Hock Seng Cake Shop were relieved to hear recent news that the shop would have its lease extended for another year, after earlier fears that it might have to shutter for good.

Besides this bakery in Telok Ayer Street, there are other venerable eateries that have stood the test of time. The Straits Times picks out seven eateries over 80 years old that you should visit to taste a slice of history.

1. Tiffin Room (established 1892)

Where: 1 Beach Rd, tel: 6412-1816

Open: 6.30am to 10.30am, 12pm to 2pm, 6.30pm to 10pm daily

Started in 1892 as part of Raffles Hotel Singapore, the 128-year-old Tiffin Room offers delectable North Indian cuisine. Dishes are served in copper tiffin boxes, reminiscent of the traditional lunchboxes used in Indian culture.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the restaurant will not be offering its usual lunch and dinner buffets. Instead, it features a new Holi lunch and dinner set menu, which are four and five courses respectively. Highlights include Kachori Chaat, a mix of potato, tamarind and refreshing mint chutney enveloped in a crispy deep-fried stuffed bread, and Paneer Butter Masala, a creamy and rich vegetarian delicacy.

Prices start at $68++ for the Holi lunch menu and $78++ for the dinner menu.

2. Zam Zam (established 1908)


Where: 697-699 North Bridge Rd, tel: 6298-6320

Open: 7am to 11pm daily

The 112-year-old Indian-Muslim restaurant Zam Zam has been serving popular dishes such as nasi briyani, murtabak and roti prata since it first opened in 1908. Open seven days a week, Zam Zam stands out for its methods of preparing traditional dishes. Its murtabak, for example, is layered with an egg on top of the dough and sprinkled with minced meat, giving the stuffed dish extra crispiness.

Zam Zam’s murtabak comes in five varieties and prices range from $5 for a small beef murtabak to $20 for a large deer murtabak.

3. Islamic Restaurant (established 1921)


Where: 745 North Bridge Rd, tel: 6298-7563

Open: 10am to 10pm daily

Established nearly a century ago, Halal eatery Islamic Restaurant is one of the first restaurants to serve nasi briyani here in 1921. It continues to serve delectable North Indian dishes to customers.

Interestingly, Islamic Restaurant’s nasi briyani is not as rich and fiery as the Indian version. Instead, it draws on Middle Eastern influences for its secret blend of about 25 spices for the meat marinade.

The eatery also offers catering and has been doing so since it started cooking for events at the British High Commission and for a buffet lunch at the Padang for British expatriates in the 1920s.

4. Ananda Bhavan (established 1924)


Where: Five outlets island-wide, various opening times

Started by a Brahmin family, the 96-year-old Ananda Bhavan is the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurant in Singapore.

From chaat to thosai, diners can enjoy a wide selection of North and South Indian as well as Indian-Chinese cuisines. Favourites include appam ($5), mysoor masala thosai ($7) and briyani set meal ($9.50).

In 2017, the restaurant even entered the Singapore book of records for making Singapore’s largest ever murukku, a deep fried snack typically made with rice and dal flour.

The business has five locations, but the flagship 24-hour restaurant is located nearby in Little India, across from Mustafa department store.

5. Spring Court (established 1929)


Where: 52-56 Upper Cross St, tel: 6449-5030

Open: 11am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm from Monday to Thursday, 11am to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 10pm from Friday to Sunday

As one of Singapore’s oldest family-run Chinese restaurants, Spring Court first began as a makeshift stall started by the late Ho Loke Yee at Great World Amusement Park.

The 91-year-old restaurant is also credited with playing a large role in developing Singaporean Chinese cuisine in Straits Times Press publication Delicious Heirlooms. These dishes, which typically feature stronger flavours, include claypot chilli crab, roasted chicken with minced prawn ($24) and double-boiled chicken stuffed with bird’s nest in superior soup ($398).

6. Tong Heng Bakery (established 1935)


Where: 285 South Bridge Rd, tel: 6223-3469

Open: 9am to 9pm daily

Known for its diamond-shaped egg tarts ($1.90), the 85-year-old bakery still operates from its original shop in Chinatown. Its egg tarts’ thin and flaky crust can be attributed to how they are made – employees roll and mould the pastries by hand.

The bakery is adamant on continuing this labour-intensive tradition as the taste of the pastry is altered when machines are used to make them, fourth generation owner Ana Fong shared in an interview with The New Paper in 2016.

Other pastries Tong Heng offers include coconut egg tarts ($2.20) and mini moon cakes ($3.20)

7. Chin Chin Eating House (established 1935)


Where: 19 Purvis Street, tel: 6337-4640

Open: 11.30am to 9pm daily

Opened in 1935 by Mr Lim Kim Choon, 85-year-old Chin Chin Eating House was originally located at 24 Seah Street. It is widely recognised for its Hainanese chicken rice and pork chop ($6).

After Mr Lim died, his son, Mr Lim Hong Pow took over and ran the business with his wife, Madam Tan Quee Wah, until 2002, when the couple, both aged 72, decided to close the business as their rented shophouse was due for redevelopment.

In 2003, due to overwhelming response from former customers, the younger Lim’s sons, Randy and Dennis, re-opened the eatery.

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