I doubt many young people know that Singapore’s first fast food restaurant was not from MacDonald’s or KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) but A&W. It was located at Dunearn Road near the former University of Singapore’s Bukit Timah Campus.
From 1974 to 1986, I lived at the HDB (Housing and Development Board) estate in nearby Farrer Road and visited this restaurant occasionally. But it is my friend Peter Tan, who used to study at the Singapore U. who could recall details of this place.
Thanks to Peter’s friend for this rare but somewhat faded photo of Singapore’s first fast food restaurant at Dunearn Road.
The shape of A&W Restaurant was like "Raffles Village" at Cuscaden Road - a Minangkabau long house type; with roof that was not tiled but made of attap leaves. The building was raised from the floor and had long glass windows so you could look out to the University grounds and Dunearn Road. There was a small car park for customers - made of granite chips and not metalled road surface. The signature item at A&W was the ceiling lights which we students wanted to "flick" but were afraid to do so.
When we studied at the Union House (of USSU or University of Singapore Students Union), we used to walk over to A&W at night for the food. There used to be a pedestrian path through the Bukit Timah Campus, leading from the Union House to A&W’s. In those days, there were no such things as spaghetti. The menu was plain and simple. Usually the loser of the snooker game - played on level 2 at Union House - had to buy the rest supper.
** I have been informed that there is an error in my sketch above. The location of the old Adam Rd Hawker Centre should be on the same side as the present location. Anyway, I intend to blog about this another time. Hope I can provide more reliable information then. LCS - 23Jan2007.
Here’s the spot where the A&W Restaurant used to stand.
In-between lectures, students dated at A&W ,,, cheap date and air-con for that root beer. Some said Michael Chiang (my classmate) conceptualized his book, "Army Daze" at this place and not SAFTI where he served his NS in the 1970s; but since MINDEF funded his project, he had to "change the script".
If students had more $$$, they would go down to Orchid Inn Hotel for lunch or the former Equatorial Hotel at Stevens/Bukit Timah Road corner but not A&W.
Other things I recall:
- Frosty root beer served in those icy beer glasses - could have been S$1.50 or 1.80 then.
- Promo item in those days was the bear (brown in color and the A&W sash). If you spent about $10, you can buy the bear for another $2
- Waffle served with ice cream.
- The place was popular with ACS boys on weekdays and courting couples on Saturday nights.
- There might have been a drive-in facility, I am not sure. But later on, A&W did open one at Jurong open air drive-in cinema for a short time before it closed shop in 1973 or 1974.
Photo courtesy of Luckypines
Lam Chun See continues ...........
Yes, I certainly miss that root beer and float served in heavy chilled glass mug. For a time, you could still get that in Malaysia, but last month, when I ate at the A&W Jejantas Restaurant at Sungei Buloh along the North South Highway, I was disappointed to discover that they too had changed to paper cups.
Personally, whilst I do enjoy the food at fast food restaurants, I really dislike eating from paper boxes. Did you know that in the early days, KFC used to serve their food in proper plates with normal fork and knife. If fact, you could even bring your date to KFC, as I did once to the KFC outlet opposite the Orchard Cinema, next to the Yuyi Emporium. But the first KFC restaurant I went to was probably the one at Kampong Java Road, near the entrance of the present KK Hospital.
Sadly, the A&W Restaurant, like many other landmarks in Dunearn Road are no more, and so we can only reminisce about it here.
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