Fig 1: GH Café on the right side of Battery Road towards Bonham Street (circa 1960)
Fortunately for me my father was able to take me to those wonderful joints like the GH Café down in Battery Road and Polar Café in High Street. On my own, I could not afford to pay for a bowl of Hokkien Prawn noodle soup, not until I earned my first buck.
Whilst clearing my old junkies, I found this great menu list from the Goodwood Park Hotel to remind me of the time when I was able to sit down for a big nice meal at a time when only “Upperty Ang Mos” could do so effortlessly because it was charged to the company’s entertainment expense.
It was not really difficult for me to finger through the menu list to place my order. The Gordon Grill was famous for its tender juicy meat on the trolley; everybody knew about that. There was my old friend “Captain Wong” the Maitre d ‘Or who recommended me the best cut. “US Prime Tenderloin, 150 grams just right, medium to well done”, said Captain Wong. For the starter, I chose Scottish Smoked Salmon, remembering the unpleasant experience I had with the Scottish Haggis dish at the Tanglin Club bar. Then I decided on dessert which was cheese cake, a house brand of the hotel. You can bet nobody came close to this unless it was the Singapore Hilton. Today I was told that the Pan Pacific Hotel has the best of the lot. Then I rounded it with Irish coffee. A bottle of red white was not particularly exciting for me because I knew very little about wine – the “Year of Manufacture” and making suitable comments about its quality. I thought those things were very bourgeois. However if you like to know the reason, it was because a bottle would set me back at least $70. That was too much for the taste.
Captain Wong had looked at me very much amused but I did not catch the hint. It was actually too much for a native Singaporean because our generation never had big appetite for western food.
Fig 2: Gordon Grill’s menu list and the inside pages
When the bill came, I crossed the $200 mark which was still within my initial estimates. How nice to sign-off with an American Express credit card: I never forgot NEVER TO LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT. In those days having an American Express card was much sought-after than a DINERS CLUB. VISA and MASTERCARD had not made their presence felt until the 1980s. After I left the hotel, I came down with indigestion and a big bill to foot from next month’s salary.
Fig 3: Another of the inside pages of the menu
I just wonder how different was I from my children who are now young working professional with a bigger pay-packet than the time when I started working? Maybe if I was born 30 years later, I can join the “Sentosa Foam Party” but then I remember before there was a foam party, there was a wilder one called the “Wet T-Shirt Party” in Angeles City.
Fig 4: Captain Wong on the left standing and observing a waiter serving the guests
The next article I will touch on clubbing, again because I found an old poster in my store-room.