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Every now and then you stumble across a little gem - and I had the pleasure recently. Simple, humble, yet so right in so many ways, Singaporean restaurant Old Raffles Place - at the easier-to-park end of Johnston Street in Collingwood - is a very lucky find.
The food is both fabulous and very reasonably priced, while the place's charm and cosiness is warm and welcoming. Owner/Chef Alan (pictured below left), who has worked in big name restaurants and hotels in both Australia and Singapore, opened his little baby about 10 years ago - and his authentic Singaporean cuisine (some with a contemporary Melbourne
The menu spans a wide range Singaporean hawker style fare as well as old colonial favourites. Traversing the creatively named menu sections is a little journey in itself. Perhaps start with something from Soup Kettle followed by an appetiser of maybe Lobak - Raffles Way (minced pork marinated in five spice powder and wrapped in beancurd skin). It's crunchy, somewhat sweet and packed full of lip-smacking flavour.
Vegetable Farm features a stunning Indonesian Gado Gado Salad, while the signature Chicken Rice, Singapore's most iconic dish, is delish.
While the Lemongrass Chilli King Prawns from the Seafood Market, waistlines demanded a more moderate approach - especially as we'd already visited Claypot Corner earlier and knew our Old Canton Claypot Seafood Deluxe was not far off. (It was even better than it looks - fresh, clean, and tender-seafood sublime.)
Meat Inn offered its own temptations, while the highly recommended Rendezvous Beef Rendang from Curry Corner demands a rendezvous on a repeat visit soon. Old Town Laksas mix it up with the best, while Kampung Noodles saw us succumb to a sensational Racecourse Char Kway Teow, a uniquely Singaporean dish of assorted noodles fried in dark sweet sauce with eggs, prawns, squid, fish cake, chinese sausages & bean sprouts.
We had no room for Neighbourhood Rice but I found a little space for some yum Ben & Jerry's ice cream, while Sue enjoyed a scoop of Movenpick, pronounced the best ice cream she's ever had.
As for the name, Old Raffles Place is named after the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, and Raffles Place, the ultra-modern complex at the heart of Singapore's CBD.
If you can tear yourself away from the lovely Singaporean food, take the time to peruse the wonderful newspaper clippings, stories and photos of Singapore's colonial heritage days, which line the walls of this charming little Collingwood restaurant.