Cafes with A Touch Of Nostalgia

Cafes with A Touch Of Nostalgia

The recent invasion of cafes in Singapore may have seen many unique concepts, and a lot of them have also tapped on old-school features to bring back the Singapore that we were familiar of. This list compiles cafes which have incorporated that nostalgia yet familiar feel of home; some of them even from the old days itself
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Being situated in an old neighbourhood, LJJ Cafe is constructed to recreate that old-school vibes that coffeeshops used to have, though albeit in a hipster fashion. The menu pays tribute to the past as well, selling Toasts, Noodle Soup, Mee Siam and even Ice-Cream in bread (heard there's an Atap Chee flavour around). The food is not particularly impressive, but it's the environment that would probably catch you as you people watch, with a cup of Kopi on the table.

Situated around the Sultan Mosque area, one would have easily mistaken Dong Po Colonial Cafe as a place that had been around since the colonial era. The wooden furnishings and the countless memorabilia placed in the cabinets and tables not only creates the mood, it brings back memories of the good old days. Bakes come out of the oven fresh daily, with a large variety of bakes that are long-forgotten classics such as the 3-Hole Cookie and Lamingtons just to name a few. Do try their Kaya Toast; its rare to find a place like Dong Po which does their own bread and Kaya in this era. If you are one who would love a taste of nostalgia, Dong Po Colonial Cafe is worth a visit.

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Sinpopo used to be the name of an infamous nightclub in the 1950s in Singapore. While there is no sleasiness here at Sinpopo Brand, it attempts to bring out the best of the 50s with its decor and food; posters of food replicating advertisements of the 50s, attendance registers for their menus, old records; you name it, they have it! Songs from that era also transports you back in time; tunes that your parents/grandparents can relate with. Most food items also ring a bell, such as the Ais Bor, but do go for the Kato Rice (Scissors Cut Curry Rice) and the Pulot Hitam with Coconut Ice-Cream, both of which are what they are known for!

This would be easily one of my favourites when it comes to nostalgic-themed cafes. What used to be located within the grounds of The Dispensary was a Chinese Medicine Hall, and The Dispensary beautifully combines that theme with the cafe by incorporating the cafe into the shop space rather than vice versa (which a lot of cafes does these days). A lot of detail can be seen that shows the amount of effort in preserving the shop's past; the old Chinese medicine cabinets, the mirror with Chinese characters and the outdoor facade all pays tribute to its past. While The Dispensary does serves all-day brunches and sandwiches, go for their cakes; especially the sliced ones since it is what they are known for. Feeling stuffed? Takeaway some of the cupcakes instead, which gives you a rough gauge on what to expect for their sliced cakes as well.

This really hip-looking cafe shows no trace of its past; probably the only thing that is obvious was the signboard that is retained from the previous tenant. It takes over an old coffeeshop that had started here ever since the estate was around, which also used to house a rather famed Prawn Noodle stall in here. Other items such as the artwork in the cafe featuring old calendars and a weighing scale in its toilet also gives a nod to the past. Despite so, the menu is rather western, featuring salads, all-day brunch and desserts as well as coffee made using the Throwback blend by Papa Pahelta. Go for the waffles if you are here; the Buttermilk is fragrant at its best even though its not even stated in the menu, and for those interested in savoury waffles they also serve them with Fried Chicken, which is also one of their specialties.

Time stalls here, as one would find themselves stepping on tiled floors, sitting around wooden chairs and marble top tables. Chin Mee Chin seems to have been undisturbed by the changes happening all around it, giving it an old-school charm. While the food ain't mind-blowing good, the charcoal-toasted buns, vanilla cake and custardy egg tarts does seem to transport one back in time a bit; after all its the taste that we used to know.

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Colbar's been pretty much a piece of history by itself, with its past stretching to the 1950s; way past most of our time. Built originally to serve British soldiers, the bar eventually stayed on even after Singapore's independence. The original location of Colbar was moved to facilitate the building of PIE, with it being dismantled and rebuilt at its current location not far from where it used to stand. Much of the colonial flavour still retains; old photos, plastic seats and wooden boards are all over the restaurant. Expect no fancy fare here; it's all no gimmicks serving rather mediocre but clean-tasting food that's all simple yet delightful, seemingly as though using recipes way back in their heydays as well.

Surrounded by an estate built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in the 50s, Tian Kee & Co offers a very different feel that other cafes lack these days. Being tucked deep into the estate, it is surprisingly serene and rustic, adopting several cues from the 54 year-old provision shop it takes over from such as the signboard and metal rails. The interior is rather homely; the open-air non-air-conditioned space looking much like a mismatch of several pieces of modern furniture with pieces replicating the past which most would be familiar with. Despite so, the menu is an interesting mash of old & new, with a variety of pies, muffins and cheesecake. Coffee comes in old-school white cups and saucers with gold linings, though its not Nanyang Kopi they are serving but a three-origin blend from Dutch Colony Coffee. They would start serving ice-cream next week, which would be a comforting treat in this space that can get slightly warm on sunny afternoons.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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