But some parts escape this onslaught by virtue of being way too cool. In a little nook of Singapore called Portsdown lies an old Singapore-style coffee shop-eatery known as the Colbar. It stands in the middle of idyllic Wessex Estate, somewhere around the year 1953. It was opened about 10 years after the surrounding British military housing was built, hence the name “Colonial Bar”.
Those housing units still stand and are extremely popular among expats. They are painted black and white and feature large balconies and verandahs, surrounded by trees with large vines and all types of ferns hanging from above.
These structures are appropriately called Black and Whites and after an early evening meal at the Colbar, it is well worth taking a walk along the twisting and mysterious roads of the Portsdown estate, especially if you have eaten the chicken curry for dinner.
The Colbar is not fanciest of joints, but what it lacks in poshness, it makes up in charm and atmosphere. No reservations are required and seating is open, and most people prefer to eat outside and are free to carry a table outside, place it in the grass and enjoy the sunset and cooler temperatures of the evening.
The menu is quite extensive and the menu features continental cuisine, Chinese food, and Malay dishes.
If you make more than one visit to the Colbar you will surely see some regular faces. Some customers have been coming for years and practically live there. When passing by there late at night, they are often still huddled around their table with a growing number of bottles of Tiger Beer before them. I imagine that they will continue to come to the Colbar till their dying days – they are as much a part of the Colbar as the Colbar is to Portsdown.
The Colbar closed its doors in 2003 to make way for a highway extension.
Thanks to the petitions of Colbar regulars, the Colbar was replicated and relocated just a stone’s throw away from the old site. Declared historically important, it was rebuilt brick by brick and copied exactly, reopening its doors last year looking no different from what it used to be, an old piece of cool Singapore, saved from the wrecking ball…
Getting there: 9A Whitchurch Road, Wessex Estate Tel: +65 6779 4859 Open: 11am-10pm; closed on Mon.