8 Singapore family diners that are probably older than you

Remember a time when eating out involved plastic checkered table cloths, vinyl booths and fancy-free menus? Before uppity cocktail bars, “indie” cafes and trendy fusion restaurants helmed Singapore’s food scene, there were (and still are) local dining institutions like Pasta Fresca, Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant and of course, Shashlik.

1. Colbar

There’s a chance you’ll be making the trek here not so much for the food, but for the ’50s colonial coffee shop’s old-fashioned and rustic charm. Located in Wessex Estate, its appeal lies in the area’s lush greenery, serene atmosphere and its Instagrammable iconic blue interiors. On the menu are unpretentious Hainanese-style Western dishes like pork cutlets, fish and chips and chicken curry rice, and a selection of milk shakes and English beers. 

2. Pasta Fresca Da Salvatore

This 28 year-old South Italian restaurant, which has three newly-renovated outlets at Boat Quay, Siglap and Bukit Timah, prides itself on serving authentic, home-style cuisine. The restaurant’s affordable menu has hearty classics like sliced beef tenderloin in rosemary oil, as well as a wide variety of starters, pastas, pizzas and desserts. Pasta Fresca also partners with the Health Promotion Board and offers healthier alternatives with wholegrain choices. 

3. Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant

Just as its name suggests, this revolving restaurant doles out Beijing fare with a view of Keppel Harbour. The space might seem stuck in a Dynasty-era time warp, but this heritage brand is famous for its Peking duck, shredded scallops with fish and egg white, the intriguing Three Non Stick, a traditional Northern Chinese dessert made from egg yolks, sugar and flour, and a menu headed by veteran Hong Kong chef Chan Sung Og.

4. Red Star Restaurant

Opened in 1974 by four Singapore “Heavenly Kings” of the 60’s and 70’s dining scene, masterchefs Sin Leong, Hooi Kok Wai, the late Tham Yui Kai and the late Lau Yoke Pui, Red Star is one of Singapore’s most well-known landmark restaurants. This dim sum institution is unlike other contemporary exports like Tim Ho Wan. Here, you get your dim sum wheeled out on old-school trolleys and the restaurant’s highlight is its affordable menu. 

5. Samy’s Curry

Established by the late Mr M. Veerasamy in the ’50s, this unpretentious and casual Indian eatery is pretty much an institution at Dempsey Hill for South Indian food lovers. Here, you’ll be dining on signatures like masala curry chicken, fish cutlet and fish head curry, all on banana leaves. The affable wait staff circle the floors with buckets of sides and rice, so if you’d like a top up, just raise your hand and you’ll have food heaped unceremoniously on your table. 

6. Shahi Maharani North Indian Restaurant

Tucked away on the third level of Raffles City, Shahi Maharani is a throwback to the ’80s with ornate oriental finishings inspired by the opulence of Indian palaces. We were told this fine-dining establishment has a loyal following and it’s not hard to see why—the wait staff are both friendly and attentive, and the food is a rich mix of staples ranging from tandooris, curries, dhal, chutneys and fresh naans. Come here for dinner, and you’ll be entertained by an atmospheric live Indian classical performance.

7. Shashlik

There was quite a stir when news broke of Shashlik’s closure last year, but fans of the retro Russian restaurant can now breathe easy as it has reopened at the smoky corner of Far East Shopping Centre under the care of second-generation owners. Known for dishes like baked Alaska and cherries jubilee, which were prepared tableside by Hainanese waiters, the restaurant retains its original atmosphere and most of its menu. 

8. Tambuah Mas

This 35 year-old Indonesian restaurant is popular for its authentic home-style fare from Padang, Sulawesi and Java, with outlets in Paragon and Tanglin Shopping Centre. Don’t miss out on signature dishes like tahu telor; fried beancurd with eggs, rendang lembu; braised beef cooked in a mix of fragrant spices and coconut milk and soto ayam; comforting chicken broth with bean sprouts.