A classic cult café

Posted on February 27, 2006 by Aun

One of the most unique restaurants in Singapore is the Colbar. This 58 year old, out of the way, non-air-conditioned, and inexpensive restaurant has been a cult favorite of locals and (especially) expatriates for decades. I’ll admit right away that I’m a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the Colbar. While I’ve known about it for years, I’ve only started going there very recently–which means that I’ve only eaten there in its present and new location on Whitchurch Road.

For generations, the Colbar–allegedly short for “Colonial Bar”–was on Jalan Hang Jebat, a small street in a part of Singapore that once housed British soldiers. However, in a very Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy moment, the Colbar was threatened with closure because of a planned highway extension that would overrun this sleepy street. Thankfully, Colbar regulars petitioned the powers that be and not only was a new home found for this quaint eatery, but the building that housed it was declared historically important, taken down and completely rebuilt on its new premises, just 5 minutes from its old home on Jalan Hang Jebat.

The Colbar serves both Western and Chinese food. The food’s pretty basic. You won’t get fancy, plated gourmet fare here. What you will get, though, is very well made versions of popular classics like chicken and pork chops (pictured at the top is an order of chicken chop with beans and chips), steak and chips, and a number of omelets. Some dishes in particular are stand-outs. I’m told the full English breakfast is excellent. My brother’s girlfriend adores the ox tongue sandwich. But the dish that I, and many others, go to the Colbar for is the chicken curry.

I love the chicken curry here. It’s made just the way I like–extremely lemak (meaning, with tons of coconut milk) and very mild. Locals consider this kind of curry very Chinese, as opposed to Malay or Indian. The meat is incredibly tender. The portion, as you can see, is pretty healthy. And at just S$7, it’s a real bargain. Some days, the curry even sells out by mid-afternoon.

The Colbar attracts a pretty eclectic clientale. It’s very popular with expatriate families. Go for lunch on the weekend and you’ll be surrounded by dozens of well-dressed foreign children digging into their food or playing at the nearby tire-swing. Its also popular with young local couples with a penchant for nostalgia. And, of course, its a pilgrimage spot for local foodies.

The space itself is pretty unique. The Colbar is located in a large field in one corner of Wessex Estate, a tree-filled, artsy, residential neighborhood. The restaurant is essentially a kitchen and a couple of rooms, none of which are air-conditioned. There’s a big open area in the back with several tables and even more tables around one side and in front of the restaurant. It’s a fantastic throwback to another era and a little piece of Singapore that I hope is still here and still serving great curry after another 58 years.

Colbar
9A Whitchurch Road
Wessex Estate, Singapore
Tel: 6779 4859
Open Tues-Sun, 11am-830pm

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. keiko February 27, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    Great place, great pictures!

  2. Robyn February 27, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    Ahhh, what beautiful photos…

    …Damn, I’d love this place. Deep fried meat! Curry! Rice! Beeans!…wait, not the beans so much. I WANT MY OWN COLBAR!!

  3. Eggy February 28, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Hiya, what a co-incidence. I just did a curry chicken and prata post like five minutes ago. Love the shot of the fry-up

  4. Docile February 28, 2006 at 10:21 am

    YOu’re a dear for introducing this place!

  5. J February 28, 2006 at 11:01 am

    hi, what gorgeous pictures – i can almost smell the sunshine bouncing off the plates.they truly do justice to colbar’s old school appeal…

  6. neil February 28, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    In Australia, I’ve noticed that non Asians usually have the rice under the sauce, so that the rice carries the sauce to the mouth while Asians have their rice seperate as per your picture. What is the correct sequence for eating the dish in your picture?

  7. Anonymous February 28, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Colbar is a great place to skive too :)

    You get people like me sipping beer on a weekday afternoon there.

    Colbar comes straight out of a Wong Kar Wai movie set.

  8. hmph February 28, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    I agree that Colbar’s ambience is excellent for those laid-back weekday skives. But food-wise…I may have to disagree…for Colbar’s pricing…better alternatives can be had as well.

  9. Fiber February 28, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    Whoa. That chicken curry looks outstanding!! And I’m a vegetarian! =)

  10. Matt Armendariz March 1, 2006 at 6:09 am

    What an excellent posting and such beautiful photography. I always feel like I’m there through your talents.

    THANK YOU!

  11. gerald March 1, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    Those are great pictures, it looks like you took them in a studio.

  12. Chubby Hubby March 1, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Keiko: Thanks.

    Robyn: Hmmmm…. you know, a franchise in Ny/NJ might actually work.

    Eggy: Gorgeous prata pix. Thanks for dropping by.

    Docile: My pleasure.

    J: Thanks. I can’t wait to go again this weekend (heh heh).

    Tankeduptaco: I think it’s really very individual. Some Japanese curry places, for example, pour the curry on the rice and meat for you. Others put it on the side. I like it on the side so I can control how much curry goes on the rice.

    Anonymous: Great idea. If only it had wireless broadband. ;-)

    Hmph: Everyone has their own favorites. Some people like one thing, some people like another. It’s good that way. Means that not every one in town wants to eat at the same place.

    Fiber: C’mon… give in to the dark side. :-)

    Matt: Thanks.

    Gerald: Thanks. I was lucky with the light that day.

  13. mamasan March 1, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    So glad I found your blog! Searched for it after reading your comments in Wine n Dine Jan 06 issue. The fried bananas with honey at Colbar are fantastic! Where do you get the beautiful white cake stand for S’s banana cakes from? I can’t find them anywhere!

  14. Herbie March 1, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Looks yummy, have you ever been there with Alix and Sascha? The humans are running out of eating places that me and my friends can go as well.

    Just last week, we were told at bottle tree village that we can’t go there anymore, coz there were too many of us, although we stayed at our table quietly and did not make any sound. sigh.

  15. Cin Fredericka March 1, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    Thks for posting on Colbar. It’s truly a nice place to chill out when U dun feel like dressing esp on weekend. Good food, nice open air & simply no frills rest.

    Well, sometimes if the owner is in bad mood, U may jux haf to deal with dat too. :) Ya, de last time I was there, the old man seems pretty grouchy. Guess it’s jux one of those days. Tough luck for me.

  16. Claire March 2, 2006 at 8:00 am

    hmmm.. what are the odds this place is run by Hainanese.. :)

  17. ana March 2, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Hi! Nice blog. I wish I read this when I was there in Singapore. Too bad. =D

  18. julie March 3, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    the food looks alluring.. (=

  19. spots March 3, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    hi chubbyhubby, i like ur pictures. :) hey i hv tagged you for a meme – hope you don’t mind! wld like to see ur answers to them ! see my blog for more info ya? tanks

  20. Frederico March 3, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    CH! I re-created your Mentaiko Pasta tonight. Check out my pics of it at thewinterealm.blogspot.com . I think it went really well. Just wanna thank you for sharing that recipe with everyone. :) You have truly inspired me!

  21. baking love March 5, 2006 at 12:55 am

    we stayed pretty near Colbar all these years & we’ve FINALLY visited Colbar thanks to your blog!

    the 1st dish you featured is actually Chicken Cutlet. my hubby took the Pork Chop & both are great!

  22. DirtyDancer March 8, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Hi CH, I’m quite a foodie and am always looking out for good eating places. I’d heard so much about Colbar but I only decided to check it out after reading your post. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it that exceptional. Nice ambience and wonderfully nostalgic perhaps, but I didn’t think much about the food. I had the Pork Chops with Mushrooms while my other half had the curry. Both dishes weren’t bad, but I thought they were awfully ordinary. And for $7, a bit pricey! I think the portions were normal sized, not really that generous… But then again, that’s just me.

    I’m looking forward to trying those burgers at Four Seasons though.

  23. Polar April 17, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    $7 for that quantity of curry is obscene expensive.

    I doubt that the quality is that much better than the $3.30 curry at Dover Road food center.

  24. Anonymous June 8, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Been there before once..was not impressed at all. Ambience was ok, if you like the outdoor dining kinda thing. But the major turnoff was the pricing. Eating there felt like eating in my pri sch canteen in the 1980s, which was no frills and very cheap. Unfortunately, paying restaurant pricing doesn’t jive well with the ’1980s pri sch feeling’. Overall, I felt cheated and the food’s not even that great either.

  25. Anonymous August 22, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Just went to this little cosy eating place.
    The ambience is indeed good. Price wise…not the coffee shop range (though the building is like a coffee shop, but the setting trys to tell her customer that ‘I am NOT a COFFEE SHOP!’)
    Nevertheless, if you like the ‘colonial’ setting, don’t mind the price, and are able to bear with the service level, then go for it!

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