Friday, February 01, 2008

Dining in the ‘old days’ (by Peter Chan)

Today where there are more avenues to pub, club, munch and dine apart from hot spots in the Orchard Road area. When I look back from my time, we have made immense progress in the F & B industry. So I don’t regret one bit that the “good ole days” have changed.



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.

10 comments:

Victor said...

Wow, you were quite a big spender in your younger days, Peter - blowing in excess of $200 for a meal! Without wine some more. And I presume that you were dining alone? In real money terms, I believe that a similar meal today would cost more than $1,000. I can only conclude that you were earning quite a comfortable salary then.

Having a credit card in those days was indeed a big deal. In contrast, nowadays people have to siam (avoid) those pesky promoters who trust credit card applications in people's faces.

Ivan Chew said...

For a while there, I thought it was Chun See who spent $200 and considered joining the Sentosa Foam Party! Luckily I scrolled back up and read the title. :)

Lam Chun See said...

I am very frugal when it comes to such things. Don't ever recall spending more than $50 on a meal. Maybe it's becos I don't drink liquour. Even if it's company account, I won't splurge. A few years ago, I was on this project with a MNC in Jakarta. They put me up in Hilton and did not put any restriction on my meals. Still, I never spent more than $30 per meal.

zen said...

During my early years as a kampong kid my eating places would be mostly confined to home, school canteen, kampong coffee shop or stall, and would feel very happy if my uncle took me to Hock Lam street to eat at the famous char kway teow stall in a coffee shop after a film show. To attend a wedding dinner with my parents was considered a big deal. After reading Peter's story, I felt a little deprived but then I suppose everyone has their own way of being happy.

Tom said...

TOM said...
Peter, you said you had an unpleasant Experience eating a Scots Haggis, know wonder alot of people dont like it even my wife, I love it there use to be a joke about the haggis, it had two legs one short and one long leg so it could run round the scottish Hills we use to tell the Americans
that and some beleave it, da da.do
you what the haggis is made of , its made of the heart,lungs, liver and other parts of a sheep minced with oatmeal, suet and onions and then packed in to a sheeps stomach and then boiled, that not to bad a meal, with turnip and potatoes.

Brian Mitchell said...

Tom

I may be the only true Scotsman here (all my ancestors come from there) and I certainly don't like Haggis!

I wanted to comment on the first photo accompanying this piece - the view of Battery Road as it seemed to me to show a rather poignant view - that of an old Chinese woman holding out a hand to an attractively dressed young western woman who appears to be ignoring her - and alongside one of those large American cars with fins. I thought it summed up a lot about those days - maybe not so good days either.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Brian you said you may be the only true Scotsman, how come, if you were born down south in England and registered there, that means that you are a English ? Brian your ancestors must have followed the scotish prince at the 1745 rebellion and settled down there my Ancestors followed the prince and had settled in a small fishing vilage after the Battle of Prestonpans it is not far were I live.Brian why not come up and visit me you and your wife will be most welcomed.try another wee bit Haggis you may get a tase for it ?

Tom said...

Tom said...
I was reading the Edinburgh evening news, it said a chinese canadian, has made up a new recipe for scots haggis, it is called haggis in sweet and soured sauce, Brian and Peter have ago at that one it may be very tasting,I think I will try it,haha.

peter said...

I just finished watching a documentary on food. Guess what? "How to make haggis". All ths "spare=parts" of a sheep minced together with nuts, flour,,,,,,and placed inside the intestine of a sheep to form a sausage. Then need to put into a hot steamer. With a knife you cut open. Best served with potatos and turnip.

Then I remember is this not the same as our local food called "Kway Chap" which used pig "spare-parts" and served in its original form? Next time Tom u come to Singapore, I make sure you try this "Kway Chap" for a change. How about it?

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Peter you said "the Kway Chap" is made of Pig, spare-parts, so it will not have the same taste like the Scotish Haggis have,Peter I think I will take up that challenge when I come out to Singapore, the Kway Chap, sounds good to me, because I like pork haha.