Ready for a dose of nostalgia? These four retro, laidback eateries take you back to the simply charming days of yesteryear.

sinpopo cafe interior, retro design and furniture, green and white mosaic tiles, grey and white accents with wooden furnishing - retro cafes singapore

Interior of Sinpopo cafe

1.Sinpopo Brand

WHAT: From the people behind Awfully Chocolate, Sinpopo Brand was conceived as a way to “put the Katong back in Katong”, says a spokesman from the Awfully Chocolate Group. Amid growing gentrification of the area the eatery to serve as a reminder of the neighbourhood’s rich Peranakan history and culture. ‘Sinpopo’ is the name of a 1960’s Katong nightclub.

THEIR SAY: “Sinpopo is not just about heritage, but living heritage. We took inspiration from the dishes of Katong icons, our grandmothers and mothers to create modern recipes for the present generation. A great example is the Katong Jelly, an iconic drink named after a favourite sip among ‘Katongites’ during the 1960s, but which disappeared from the neighbourhood over 20 years ago. We revived this drink with our interpretation of the pink lemony jelly drink. To date, we are the only ones selling Katong Jelly in Singapore.”

BITES AND SIPS: Highlights include Nasi Lemak Set, Maling Luncheon Crisps, Sambal Fishballs, Gula Melaka Cake and Sng Muay Pop.

VINTAGE FINDS: Family hand-medowns and pieces from vintage stores and discarded bins. Some items are even created by the owners, such as an old television set and a suitcase turned into furniture.

458 Joo Chiat Rd

 

2.Jubilee Coffee House & Bar

blue retro car and old school benches with flowery design carved at the exterior of Jubilee cafe - retro cafe singapore

The entrance to Jubilee Coffee House and Bar

WHAT: An old – school coffee house serving local eats. Owner Lee Choon Khim wanted to replicate the charms of Singapore coffee houses in the 1960’s and 70’s.

THEIR SAY: “I wanted to create a casual, cosy, and simple atmosphere to calm our racing minds and encourage the sharing of family histories. It’s the stories of our past that shape our present.”

BITES AND SIPS: Food influenced by the spirit of Hainanese-operated coffee shops and British style coffee houses. A dish to look out for is the Ter Kar Beehoon (pig trotter vermicelli)

Ter Kar Beehoon against a white backdrop - retro cafes singapore

Ter Kar Beehoon

VINTAGE FINDS: Morris Minor out in the porch yard, old-school window grills and floor tiles, and an antique cabinet from the family collection.

580 Netheravon Road

3.Old Habits Boutique and Café

exterior of old habits cafe, a retro cafe that caters to diners with a sense of nostalgia

Old Habits cafe

WHAT: Owner Donovan Goh loves collecting vintage items, especially local pieces. Two years ago, he and wife Selena planned only to set up a vintage shop, but decided to also make it a café offering local heritage fusion food as they loved cooking. The place is part curioshop, part kopitiam, and part Boston bar Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”.

THEIR SAY: “Rediscovering the old toys that my father bought for me when I was young made me recall memories of my dad’s hardship, the values he imparted to me and the happy times we shared together. I would like people to experience the same emotions and not forget what made us who we are. I would consider myself a ‘Memory Collector’ for myself and my guests.”

BITES AND SIPS: A must-try is the Old Habits coconut kueh (coconut bread pudding with soufflé-style pastry topped with vanilla ice-cream). Other dishes include Simply Salmon (belachan chilli aglio olio-style pasta, topped with a juicy salmon fillet), and in the works, a new Hakka dish by Selena based on her family recipes.

coconut kueh with vanilla ice cream with retro backdrop, vinyl records retro cafe

Coconut kueh topped with creamy vanilla ice cream

VINTAGE FINDS: The pair scour flea markets, karung guni shops, scrapyards and residential rubbish bins to find ‘conversation pieces’ as well as more obscure items for enthusiasts. Goh’s collection of 3D viewers from 1910s-1980s is his favourite—they come with images with different themes such as Disney movies, superheroes, and sceneries around the world.

#01-315, 38 Telok Blangah Rise

4.British Hainan

exterior of British Hainan with restaurant staff, retro cafe singapore, 75 Carpmael road

Exterior of British Hainan with restaurant staff

WHAT: A casual home dining and vintage collectibles café run by Frederick Puah and family.

THEIR SAY: “In the past, my grandfather, like many of our Hainanese forefathers, worked on board British ships. Along the way, he honed his culinary skills and served up dishes like the Oxtail Stew. We hope that our guests would tuck into our family recipes and take a stroll down memory lane in our little ‘museum’.”

British Hainan traditional oxtail stew retro cafes singapore

British Hainan Traditional Oxtail Stew

BITES AND SIPS: Dishes such as Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew, Braised Lamb Shank and Hainanese Pork Chop.

VINTAGE FINDS: Quaint items include a 1960’s fire extinguisher, a 1980’s rotary dial telephone and a harmonium.

75 Carpmael Road


Cover: Jubilee Cafe Exterior
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s August 2016 issue, Going Retro ‘Hungry for the Past’