If there’s one place a homesick Britisher should go to get the taste and feel of home, the Colbar is it. Two large fridges stock a good range of ciders, ales, and lagers; a freezer has ice creams; you can even buy pork scratchings if so inclined. The food menu is large, and includes various British “classics” (spanning sandwiches, soups, fried stuff with chips, curries, and the ubiquitous prawn cocktail) and some Chinese dishes as well. There is a handful of vegetarian options, ranging from the basic (Marmite sandwich, anyone?) to the fractionally more elaborate.
The Colbar is known for its remote location on the edge of the bucolic Wessex Estate. Getting there is a hassle. The easiest way is to drive but, failing that, you can either walk from one-north MRT, or take the 191 bus from Buona Vista MRT. The decor is a cross between an old classroom and a holiday home in Devon. A bookshelf hosts a collection of mildewed crime thrillers, and the walls are adorned with framed and yellowing photos of expat cricket teams. Everything about the Colbar is a time-warp; there’s nowhere else like it in Singapore.
9A Whitchurch Road, Wessex Estate
Open 11:00-22:00 Tuesday-Sunday; CLOSED Monday
The name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but that hardly matters when dealing with this most British of staples. Just add a dash or two of malt vinegar and you have a meal fit for a king. Whilst the eggs were greasy and chewy (and the one on the right was undercooked), the chips were sublime – some of the best i’ve eaten in Singapore. Thick-cut and plentiful, the outside had a sensible level of crispiness that yielded to a hearty and voluminous filling.
This reminded me of the Boxing Day curry – consisting of leftover turkey and vegetables – we used to have when I was younger. A real blast from the past. The ingredients were few – rubbery French beans, tomato, and cabbage – and the taste was more peppery than spicy. It was smooth and mild and expensive, but worth it just for the memories.
The Colbar is an Anglo-Singaporean institution. It’s unassuming, down-to-earth, and irresistibly nostalgic. The food is blunt and filling and misplaced. But that doesn’t matter, because everything tastes (just about) right. Forget about the imitation gastropubs, this is unpretentious British stodge at its best. Or worst.