On a Friday in early April, I experienced time travel – a surreal and unsettling experience, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. I went back in time to the ‘70’s, in a Time Ship, complete with dark wood furniture, wood panelling and fake portholes. Yes – I ate at The Ship Restaurant in The Shaw Centre.
The first indication that the evening was going to be a somewhat retro, was calling the restaurant to book (you read that correctly – no online booking). Unusually, I had to repeat my name only once to secure the booking, so that was a good start. Arriving at 7.00pm for dinner, we were met by a harassed-looking gentleman, with a clipboard that had seen better days. The hand-written reservation list had lots of notes and crossing-outs, so clearly it had been started, updated and amended over several days. We were courteously but informally shown to our table – a great location by the window. It’s a few years since I have sat on a red leather banquette, so that was fun.
Menus arrived quickly, and drinks followed within a couple of minutes – and how often does that happen? The service throughout the evening was courteous, informal and prompt, which is not as easy as the staff made it seem. The restaurant is well-staffed and runs efficiently, without giving the feeling that it’s a machine – a hard trick to pull off. We discussed options, got good advice from the waitress (‘wait staff’ or ‘server’ seem inappropriate terms in this context), and settled back to enjoy the ambience, and wait for the food.
The clam (or seafood, depending on which waiter got it right) chowder arrived promptly. It was steaming hot and radiating heat. Unfortunately, it had been put into a cold bowl, which rapidly sucked the heat out of it – turning the first course into a race between my ability to ingest soup and the laws of thermodynamics. I won – just. The soup was very much a product of the ‘70’s – and I mean that in a good way. There was nothing modern about it – it was good old-fashioned chowder, made without regard for style or fashion, and while it won’t win any culinary awards, it tasted great, and took me right back to my childhood.
Unfortunately, my wife’s Escargot Bourguignon (half dozen) – snails baked in shells seasoned with Chablis garlic butter (S$18.90) took longer to arrive. I had just finished the soup when it was carried to the table, in an invisible cloud of garlic butter. Ah yes – The Ship understands that snails are basically an excuse to ingest vast amounts of garlic and butter – and understands it well. It is one of my wife’s favourites – and she practically inhaled the dish, looking about as happy as I have ever seen her. She even rechecked the shells before allowing the waitress to take the plate away!
The entrees did arrive more or less together. I ordered the Rib Eye Steak grilled to tender perfection with a superb butter sauce, served with vegetables (S$38.90), presented on a hot(ish) cast iron skillet, with chunky carrots and broccoli – and a jacket potato – wrapped in foil! My wife’s Garlic King Prawns Baked with Chablis garlic sauce (capitalisation justified), served with butter rice and vegetables (S$25.90) vanished just as quickly as the escargots – so no complaints there. The steak was acceptable rather than stellar, in true ‘70’s style. In terms of quality, think somewhere between Jack’s Place and Morton’s – with a price point to match. As I had ordered a set, coffee and ice-cream followed. How does vanilla ice-cream have a ‘70’s taste?! I still can’t work it out. The coffee was less of a mystery, with both the actual coffee having a distinctly retro taste, and the milk (presented in a small brush stainless steel jug with no handle) taking me straight back to the ‘70’s – as if we had ever left it!
It was a deeply nostalgic evening – directly for my wife, with memories of family outings flooding back – and for me, it evoked memories of Beefeater and Berni Inn meals in the UK, with my family. This is a place to go if you grew up in Singapore in the ‘70’s and want a nostalgic evening revisiting your family’s discovery of “Western” food (I was the only Caucasian in the restaurant that evening). It was a deeply and surprisingly evocative evening for both of us – and one we will repeat.
The Ship Restaurant & Bar, Shaw Branch
Address: 1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre 03-16/18 Singapore 228208
You need to reserve by phone (!) at +65 6235 2235