Lee Tai Fu, hidden among a row of old shophouses along Kim Tian Road in the gentrifying Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, is a quirky cafe that’s worth a visit. The cute photo on the menu cover is that of a young Derrick Chiam, owner of the cafe.
The decor is best described as eccentric and eclectic, one that brought back a flood of memories from the 60s and 70s, with lovely old mosaic floor tiles. The cafe echoed with equally nostalgic Western and Cantonese songs belting out from the lone TV.
The volume of bric-a-brac is staggering, with a collection of miniature ultramans, Star Wars memorabilia, childhood toys and Chinese collectibles from the 50s and 60s, including a classic Chinese calendar that you tear off a page to mark each passing day. Derrick told me that all the items are from his family’s horde of all things old. He even kept his primary school uniform and baby chair in the back of the restaurant. My wife’s immediate reaction was to asked him how he dust them – LOL.
There’s even a laminated front page of The Straits Times 30 January 1986 edition with the cover story of the shocking Challenger space shuttle explosion.
Lee Tai Fu specialises in craft beers and ciders, and often brings in limited editions. The fabulous selection does demand some deliberation.
Even the plates are a mixed bag of things from the past.
The pineapple-flavoured nacho chips is delish.
The Otah (curry fish paste) Pizza is a must-order here; the blend of the spicy otah, melted cheese and crusty pizza topped with crispy anchovies is a delightfully companion for the refreshing icy-cold ciders.
The Chicken Quesadilla is almost like a murtabak, very filling and best shared.
The Lee Tai Fu Special Pasta was interesting, a very smoky dish of noodle that grew on me; just a pity that it was over-fried with too many ingredients.
I love the quirkiness of Lee Tai Fu; it is a commendable effort to keep alive some of our childhood memories. The flooring outside the cafe and the outdoor table tops are embedded with bottle caps from soda drinks of old. Food-wise, it’s a pity that the chef has a heavy hand with the spices and ingredients, making the food too robust for my liking. Notwithstanding that, I would still recommend a visit to Lee Tai Fu just to enjoy the blast from the past, the craft beers and the pizza accompanied by an odd medley of songs from the likes of Cantonese star singers like Lam and Sam Hui; alongside the Bee Gees and young Michael Jackson.
Lee Tai Fu
16 Kim Tian Road
Phone: +65 63762338