Stepping Back into the Old Orchard | Tanglin Shopping Centre

14th August 2015.
The impending closure of 30 year old Shashlik symbolized yet another significant transformation of Orchard Road as the old institutions give way to contemporary malls and international brands. What is left of the Old Orchard of the 1990s or 80s remains in the grand dame modernist malls around Orchard. One such mall that still carries the old soul of Orchard Road is Tanglin Shopping Centre, once the pinnacle and most trendy of shopping malls according to my tutor. The shopping mall was built in 1981 and was designed by local architect, William Lim.

Stepping into the shopping mall today, I was reminded of the old Plaza Singapura or Thomson Plaza, with lower ceilings and small cramped parking lots but that cosy atmosphere is unmistakably nostalgic.

TAMBUAH MAS | #04-10/13
We dined at the Tambuah Mas, an Indonesian restaurant located on the fourth floor of Tanglin Shopping Centre dating back to 1981, serving “home-style Indonesian cuisine”. The meal begun with some emping and peanuts to munch on.

The signature of this restaurant is their huge Tahu Telor (10.50 SGD), a ‘salad’ or ‘omelette’ of fried cubed beancurd, eggs and topped with spicy sweet dark sauce or kecap manis. While a tad oily, this was really good.

Then there was the Singkong Santan, Tapioca leaves simmered in fragrant, tasty coconut gravy. The Ikan Pepes (not otah) was excellent as well with its flaky texture and slightly spicy mix of sweet, fragrant flavours from the rich marinade. The Rendang Lembu however was disappointing, I found the meat too dry although my tutor shared that the ones he had it in Indonesia is closer to this with a “more chewy” texture than the ones I am used to.

Lastly, we ended off with a really nice glass of Cendol.

After our meal at Tambuah Mas, we wandered around the mall a bit, stumbling upon the Antiques of the Orient, a shop which specializes in the sale of old prints, maps, postcards and even books and dates back to 1981.  In their collection, we spotted a 19th century Hiroshige print as well as an antique Singapore map with really old names, Ang Mo Kio was written was Ang Mo Kia for example.  Prints ranged from 70 SGD upwards to 2800 for a vintage movie poster.

The mall has a high density of galleries that sell art, sculptures, craft and antiques. One of particular interest to me was Beyond Colours, run by a knowledgeable and engaging gallery owner named Michelle Loh. The gallery promotes mostly established artists in Singapore with a couple of artists from overseas such as Widayat from Indonesia. In its collection, we spotted prints by Lee Man Fong, a 1980s on-location painting of the old Trengganu Street in Chinatown by Koeh Sia Yong and two beautiful pieces of paintings by Eng Siak Loy.

Mr Eng is known for his work found on many of our stamps such as the 1969 150th Anniversary of Founding of Singapore series, the 1993 Bird Series etc. With the UNESCO World Heritage Site status bestowed upon Singapore Botanical Gardens, Mr Eng have yet another piece to add to his portfolio : the design of the gates of Botanical Gardens on Tanglin side. The artist even painted them as a subject matter in one of the paintings we found.

Anniversary of the Founding of Singapore 1819 - 1969 by Eng Siak Loy
Source : PSM Forum

Tanglin Gate at Singapore Botanic Gardens by Eng Siak Loy

Another veteran tenant within the shopping mall is Steeples Deli, some say it is the first deli in Singapore. It was opened in January 1981 and some of the treasures within the shop include an old freezer of some sorts with a pre-1998 Walls logo, an old Sanyo microwave oven and the most prized item in the deli is the vintage Hamilton Beach Scovill Model 941 Milkshake Mixer. The lady owner highly recommends trying their milkshakes.

We were quite full and had coffee instead which was pretty decent as well. We enjoyed the cosy Edward Hopper Nighthawk-like atmosphere the deli provides as well. Songs like Unforgettable and other oldies plays in the background and the layout resembled those home-style cafes in Kyoto. The owner shared that the interiors was designed by a Japanese lady.

Tanglin Shopping Centre
19 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247909


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