Hidden in some quiet corner along the AYE (Ayer-Rajah Expressway) near Portsdown, lies a nice little cafe/bar that sells authentic Hainanese-style Western food!
Some Singapore history for non-Singaporeans reading this: When the British colonised Singapore, they divided the various ethnicities. The Chinese community was further divided according to their dialect groups. The early Chinese settlers, such as the Hokkiens and Teochews, were the first to come, and so they got the big jobs. But some dialect groups came much later and were compelled to take on other jobs on this island. The Hainanese were one of those groups of Chinese who came much later to this island. Many of them became cooks, serving both the Westerners as well as the other Asians on this island. For this reason, you’ll often find “Hainanese” and “food” associated together, e.g. Hainanese Chicken Rice.
If you are a Westerner, and you order Western food from a hawker centre here in Singapore, you’d notice that the Western food here looks somewhat different from what you’re used to. That’s because it has been adapted by the Hainanese (in the past), and adjusted to fit local tastebuds.
Now, what’s interesting about this little place is that it still retains the Hainanese adaptation to Western food, but it has continued to serve Western tastebuds! (I’m stressing this because some Singaporeans may not like the way the food is cooked – it’s not suited to our tastebuds)
Anyway, this nonetheless makes the food very unique. I don’t think you can find it anywhere else on this little island.
What is this place? It’s called Colbar (short for Colonial Bar).
It’s located at 9A Whitchurch Road, and opens from 11am to 10pm (from Tuesdays to Sundays, they’re closed on Mondays).
As the name suggests, this wonderful little place has retained a lot of colonial artifacts. The place looks like it’s been frozen in time, and you can find quite a number of retro things – like furniture, coin-operated weighing machine, fans, lightings, etc.
What’s more amazing about this place is that even the old Chinese lady who works there has all the traditional English mannerisms and dresses accordingly too!
She looks rather English, doesn’t she?
As it is the Colonial Bar, they also serve a wide range of English beers and ciders.
It’s really nice and refreshing. I don’t think you can get them anywhere else.
Anyway… Personally, I think their star dish is “Chicken Merryland” ($15).
Take a look at that! There’s a chicken cutlet, a sunny-side up, a grilled tomato, baked beans, BACON, potato wedges, and goreng pisang (deep-fried banana, a specialty in South East Asia).
Ok, to be fair, the goreng pisang seems out of place, but trust me, it fits this dish perfectly well! It’s very very very wonderful! It goes great with a bottle of cider.
Anyway, there’s a lot of Westerners who frequent this place. That’s probably why their food is still catered to Western tastes. What’s nice about it is that this place is also pet-friendly. A lot of people bring their dogs. It’s quite a sight!
I like how there’s a nice mix of Westerners and Singaporeans here. It’s not like other places where it feels a lot like an exclusive expats-only hangout.
Oh, and because the place is still pretty much undeveloped, you can enjoy the view of the lush greenery around you as you dine.
It’s a really nice place to chill after a long day’s work.
One thing though, it’s probably better to come here by car. The nearest MRT station is one-north, but you have to walk like 15 minutes to get here. There’s only one bus serving the route, but it comes like every half hour, and the last bus operates at around 8-8.30pm.
What’s also nice about this place is that after your done with your meal, you can take a nice stroll around the area and enjoy the sights of colonial-style housing. As you walk around, you’ll forget that you’re in Singapore! This is probably the closest experience you can get of colonial Singapore.