There are cafes. And there are cafes with stories.
Tian Kee & Co. was a 54 years old provision shop, situated in one of Singapore’s oldest estate Dakota Crescent, and has now been converted to a café with a nostalgic touch.
This was an old-school provision shop in a 2-storey block, fitted with rusty spring-loaded metal gates and grilled windows. The day after previous owner Uncle Lim wanted to give up the shop due to old age, the current owner Vincent (some call him C.K.) went up to him and said, “I want this shop.”
It was supposedly a present for the wife, who dreamt about opening a café called “Black Rose”. However, to retain the integrity and heritage of the shop, they kept its original name, and the iconic blue signboard.
Many nostalgic elements still remain, from an old Milo tin which was used to collect money in the beginning of days, childhood toys, coffee-shop tables, to a 20-cent dolphin kiddy ride outside which is still in operation!
Even the cups used are those commonly used to serve ‘kopi-o’, exactly the same ones used in Chin Mee Chin.
Coffee beans are sourced from Dutch Colony, and the Latte ($5) I had was medium-bodied and delicate, only slightly acidic without a sour aftertaste. While some may find the coffee lacking the intensity, I figure that those who wants an easy-going cuppa can appreciate this.
For something more ‘girly’ with caffeine, Tian Kee also offers a SNAG ($5.50 – espresso and rose syrup with steamed fresh milk.
The café is still in the works of delivering their brunch sets and homemade gelato. For cake lovers, go for their Japanese Cupcake ($3.50), a soft and light chiffon cake where the spoon can go easily through, and a Yuan Yang Cheesecake ($6.50) made with both espresso and Hong Kong-styled milk tea.
Their pies ($7.90) are homemade, though both are quite spicy – one has chicken simmered with Korean pepper paste and the other has it in black pepper.
Though the cafe is non-airconditioned (tough in the staggering Singapore heat), it was a breeze sitting in and absorbing the nostalgic air, perhaps reminiscing the good old days of Singapore.
Tian Kee & Co. would work well in a quiet reflective afternoon, but I wonder if its charm would still remain when the people come in packs.
[Updated: Another one goes. 17 blocks in Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore’s oldest neighbourhoods, have been earmarked for redevelopment. Tian Kee & Co which spent a lot of effort retaining the old features has to go by end 2016 too. Sad day for them. Sad day for Singapore’s heritage.]
Tian Kee & Co.
Blk 12 Dakota Crescent, #01-48, Singapore 390012
(Mountbatten MRT CC7 – 3 mins from Exit B, Dakota MRT C8 – 5 mins from Exit A)
Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm, 10am – 9pm (Fri-Sun)