It was a warm and humid afternoon. There were few customers in this old kopitiam tucked away at the ground floor of one of the old HDB flats at North Bridge Road.
The sleepy neighbourhood had seen several changes in the past three decades; the once-popular Plaza Cinema and Golden Sultan Theatre at the nearby Textile Centre and Sultan Plaza were long gone. Eng Cheong Tower, standing beside North Bridge Road Hawker Centre, has been redeveloped into a condominium named Southbank in the mid-2000s.
But Heap Seng Leong still holds its ground against the name of progression and development. Its interior has remained largely the same for years, served by the old uncle in his pajamas who makes dozen cups of kopi day after day.
The plastic chairs are perhaps the only “new” things in the kopitiam. The others, such as the round marble-top tables, Formica tables, Diamond-brand electric clock, Bakelite switches, orange payphone and old wooden cabinets, remind one of Singapore of the seventies and eighties.
Heap Seng Leong’s “specialty” is kopi gu you (coffee with butter). The dissolving butter may not look too pleasing to the eye, but it certainly adds a nice aroma and taste to the thick coffee.
While other modern coffeeshops keep on raising their prices, using inflation as a convenient excuse, Heap Seng Leong’s beverages remain affordable, which is a good news to the elderly living in this estate.
So the next time you pass by North Bridge Road, show your support by having a cup of kopi or a plate of Hokkien mee at Heap Seng Leong, because how much longer will this old kopitiam last? Nobody knows.
While writing this article, another old kopitiam is about to cease its operation soon.
Chin Hin Eating House, established at Tanglin Halt since 1976, has decided to call it a day at the end of February 2014. The aging housing district, commonly known as chup lau (tenth floor) is slated for demolition and redevelopment.
Published: 26 February 2014