25th January 2014.
My tutor has been telling me about this old coffeeshop that used to serve the former army camp along Jalan Hang Jebat named Colbar for some time but I haven’t got the chance to visit this historic institution dating back to 1953 until yesterday when I was helping my tutor to pack his office.
While I was visiting the old Colbar, which is the short form for the Colonial Bar, I can’t help lamenting that my school is letting go an immensely knowledgeable man with genuine and passionate interest in Southeast Asian and Singaporean history. Such individuals help bridge the gap between the past and the future, just like the Colbar which preserve a part of history that Singaporeans (and perhaps Malaysians as well) are increasingly losing touch of as these institutions fade away, like the extinction of a species or language.
Never mind the seemingly inevitable loss for my school, I hope my tutor will continue the good work that he has done to reconnect people to the past through books, writings, lectures, sharing sessions and even a replica of a national monument. I was honoured today to have a meal with him at the Colbar today, ran by Mr and Mrs Lim as well as their daughter, the elderly couple still remember my tutor when he used to visit the Colbar back when he was a student in my school.
We had the recommended Sausages and Eggs as well as the Pork Chops with Mushrooms, both of which came with a serving of potato wedges. While I was waiting for my food, I explored the interiors of the Colbar a bit, the building was originally located further down Jalan Hang Jebat and it was shifted to its current location, bit by bit. You could see the photos of the move on its walls.
The ambience reminded me of the Neo Tiew Coffeeshop where I had spent part of the childhood in. The wooden panels with grille, the old posters, the greenery surrounding us, the old fans…it brought back fond memories of Neo Tiew as well. The coffeeshop used to serve army personnel from Sungei Gedong and Keat Hong Camps too.
On the food, it wasn’t spectacular and doesn’t pretend to be spectacular. It was an unofficial army mess. To put it in context, Colbar started to cater to locals and the British soldiers that used to patronize it, the mix of curries, steaks, sausages, fried rice, hor fun was the result this colourful demographic and the food was decent in my opinion. (Might not be comparable to your Ribeye with Bernaise sauce or Wagyu Yakiniku, and Colbar doesn’t aim or pretend to emulate that kind of cuisine). The pork chops is your local style western pork chops, it was quite tender with a hint of smokiness but the sauce can get a little salty towards the end.
The sausages were sourced from a private grocer and they are not your frozen franks, not bad too. The prices range from 8 – 25 SGD nett. It is an old makan institution that serves simple, unpretentious mix of Western and Asian food.
Colbar Eating House
9A Whitchurch Road