Today is the 5th day of Chinese New Year (CNY). It is back to normal with many businesses. Is it true that the pandemic remains unresolved? It started soon after last CNY and lasted throughout the year. We need to put on masks and can’t travel freely to neighboring countries. Nobody knows when it will end. Life has to go on.
For the whole of last year after the CB period, together with few of my friends, we have been going around the island searching for nice food. At least once a week, we would go to different parts of the island for lunch. We’ve been to many of the popular food paradise recommended by friends or social media. This afternoon, we set off to Blk 10 North Bridge Road.
We had a hard time looking for this particular block as we circled around Beach Road, Crawford Street and North Bridge Road in AT’s car looking for Blk 10 not knowing it is the only block away from the cluster from Blk 1 to Blk 13 North Bridge Road. Blk 10 is situated amidst those new blocks of Blk 461 to Blk 468 North Bridge Road. We did not even know that we were right in front of that block waiting for Wilson to arrive for our lunch.
Close to 1pm, we had our lunch at one of the 3 coffee shops at Blk 10 North Bridge Road. This block of old flats is short but has 3 big coffee shops. We went to the first one for our lunch. We ordered 3 dishes from the Tze Char. Fried spicy fish head with black beans, Ka Lan and Tofu. The food was delicious and the prices were reasonable.
After a simple lunch, we moved over to the next coffee shop at the middle of the block to try their famous “butter coffee” and toast. The Malay stall selling freshly made big curry puff at $1 was fantastic. They keep churning out curry puffs for the stream of customers at a bargain price. We ordered three pieces of curry puff for each of us plus coffee for each of us. Three pieces of thick bread with cold storage butter. Each cup of coffee had a butter thrown in. That’s how they got their name “butter coffee!” Coffee costs $1.20 per cup. The bread costs 40 cents. We had three pieces of bread.
The said coffee shop belongs to the old school. It is run by father and son. The father brews the coffee. At age 88 yrs, the old man looks fit and healthy. He was dressed in a typical pajamas pantaloon without pockets like in those bygone days to prevent siphoning of cash by the workers.
When we looked around the premises, we observed that the electrical wirings are not concealed in PVC casings. All the wirings are exposed when this block of flats were built more than 40 years ago. Nowadays, all electrical wirings are either covered within PVC casing or in concealed piping. When I visited the washroom, I noticed sacks of charcoal stashed at the side. This is a rare sight to see charcoal used for the heating of the coffee canisters. No gas or electricity used in maintaining the heat at the stove. There is even an old clock that runs on electricity hanging on the wall. I remember when I was a child I used to see similar clock in almost every shophouse. This place brought back reminisces of those good old days.
We were having our thick delicious butter coffee enjoying the antique ambiance of the place when time stood still. This is unlike those new modern establishments where everything looks expensive and fake. They open from 6am to 6pm and take their business to occupy themselves without any profiteering mindset. This is a sharp contrast to those modern sleek chain coffee shops monopolizing the entire neighborhood.
How long could that old school coffee shop last before it’s gone?
We do not know. Only time will tell.
When it’s gone, part of cultural heritage will be gone. Slowly, bit by bit we are losing our inner psyche and turning into a soulless society where everything is measured in dollars and cents with profiteering as the driving force. When that day arrives, it’s going to be a sad day.