From logo changes, to new locations and menu updates, these eateries balance their decades-old legacy with the demands of the 21st century diner.
If you hail from Generation X and earlier, you will most definitely have dined at one of the many heritage restaurants in Singapore. Names like Moi Lum, Beng Thin Hoon Kee and Spring Court will be familiar favourites with you and your parents. But what of your children and grandchildren?
Faced with increasingly stiff competition – both from within their segments and from other cuisine types – many heritage restaurants here have wised up to the fact that in order to continue sustaining and succeeding in their business, they will need to transform themselves to keep drawing the crowds, especially the young.
Here, we profile four heritage restaurants that have undergone a rebranding exercise to keep up with the times.
1. Chao San Cuisine
This Teochew restaurant moved from its Beach Road location to Philip Street in January this year, and when it opened, sported a new, stylised logo and Facebook page managed by its owners’ daughter. Although it was established in 2010, Chao San Cuisine has its roots in Guan Hin, which was set up in 1972 by its owner Koh Hoon Liang’s father.
It was there that Koh learnt and refined his culinary craft, allowing him to create the now-well-loved classics that can be enjoyed at his restaurant. These include the tender braised goose, delightfully crispy oyster pancake (above), and firm and flaky steamed pomfret.
17 Philip St
2. Fatty Weng Restaurant
Named for the moniker given to its founder Lai Foo Weng, this eatery reopened in 2014 after a seven-year break. When it did, it occupied a new address in Smith Street, had a refreshed logo and Lai’s son Derek running the show. What has not changed is its dedication to introducing tasty innovation to classic Cantonese dishes.
Fatty Weng’s origins were in street food as a modest roadside stall along Albert Street. However, the only remnant of that legacy is the hearty food that it still serves – from deep fried soon hock fish, to honey pork ribs and chili crab.
37 Smith St
3. Moi Lum
It is uncertain when exactly in the 1920s that Moi Lum was founded. Regardless, the restaurant is still going strong more than 80 years on. In 2010, the Cantonese eatery opened in Maxwell Road, two blocks away from where it was originally started by Khong Yu Lum.
With this, it changed its logo design but has kept the well-loved favourites from its first iteration, such as the majestic roast chicken and golden coin beancurd. Well-loved for its homely vibe, it has also updated its menu by introducing modern ingredients such as wasabi and salted egg yolk.
38 Maxwell Rd
4. Spring Court Restaurant
Opened in 1929 by Ho Loke Yee, Spring Court has bragging rights as Singapore’s oldest family-run restaurant. It is credited for introducing what has become popular dishes served in Chinese eateries, including suckling pig and popiah.
Located today in an elegant four-storey heritage shophouse at the edge of Chinatown, it is run by the Ho family’s third generation and saw its logo undergo an update earlier this year. Despite that, its owners Madam Soon Puay Keow and her son Mike Ho make it their personal mission to ensure the food prepared is authentic and the service, impeccable.
52-56 Upper Cross St
– TEXT BY LOW SHI PING
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.