CHECK OUT – JUBILEE COFFEEHOUSE & BAR
Vintage home-inspired restaurant.
Standing out against the urban cityscape along Penang Road is the iconic House of Tan Yeok Nee. With its distinctive Chinese-style architecture built in 1882, it was originally the home of prominent Teochew Chinese businessman Tan Yeok Nee and his family. Now, it houses Ming Yi Guan, the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s first treatment facility outside China, and in South-east Asia.
Being the only courtyard house left in Singapore (there were initially three), the Chinese mansion was gazetted as a national monument in 1974.
“We had to be very careful about what we did (when refurbishing it). Even when cleaning, we use only a soft cloth and water,” says Tan Boon Pheng, the head of design management at Perennial Real Estate Holdings Limited, the company in partnership with Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine that’s behind the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) centre.
The mansion’s large courtyard, separating the entrance foyer from the main hall, is just one of the sensational architectural and design features. In the main hall, look up to find ornate carvings on the beams and rafters depicting scenery and motifs such as pumpkins (an auspicious symbol in Teochew culture). On the outside, along the ridges of the roofs, fragments of colourful tiles were used to make the attractive decorations and sculptures of auspicious creatures such as phoenixes, and flowers — a rare craft technique. The walls near the roof on the second storey are decorated with calligraphy and murals, too. It was during a major renovation in 2000 that craftsmen from China were specially brought in to restore the damaged details, says Boon Pheng.
Now, in all its glory, the conserved 21,500sqf two-storey property goes back to its Chinese roots with TCM. The centre’s features include an “herbalist counter” (TCM pharmacy) with a built-in medicine cabinet that backdrops the main hall, a pavilion with a view of the ecopond, an event hall, auditorium, as well as 17 consultation and treatment rooms.
Ming Yi Guan even has an in-house brewing facility where medicine is pre-packed through an automated process for hygiene.
To complete the look, furnishings in the Ming dynasty style were procured from local stores. Drop by to take in the visual splendour of its architectural details, while making sure your body is in the pink of health.
Aptly named Jubilee Coffeehouse & Bar, this vintage 1960s’ home-inspired restaurant was established in 2015 when Singapore celebrated its golden jubilee. Helmed by veteran restaurateur and founder Lee Choon Khim – who concurrently runs F&B establishments such as The Coastal Settlement, Symmetry, Unplugged, Xiao Ya Tou, and more – the design and decor pay tribute to the old world charm found in homes during the olden days.
Once a chalet and residential development, the almost defunct double-storey space was turned into an enclave, which older generations can relate and reminisce in, while younger customers get a glimpse at what some Singapore homes used to look like.
“Growing up, Changi was a place I would frequent. Jubilee is relevant because it is within a historical location, and while I still have memories of the old days, I want to recreate them for old time’s sake,” says the 52-year-old.
He shares that many customers enter the restaurant with the misconception that the space is well preserved when, in fact, it was built from scratch to emulate an old-fashioned style.
Throughout the two floors, furniture and furnishings – such as photographs of olden-day Singapore, dated paintings, rattan chairs, Art Deco lamps, vintage appliances including a vinyl record player and fan – decorate the space. Many of the pieces were salvaged and bought from The Salvation Army. “I’m basically like a karungguni (rag-and-bone man). The first piece of furniture I collected was a cupboard, which I moved from my
kampung to an HDB flat in 1979,” he says. Much of Jubilee’s design was fabricated to include traditional patterned ventilation blocks, patterned tiles, retro window grilles and partitions, and terrazzo flooring sourced from Vietnam. Even the ceiling boards are “stained” to create a weathered look, and blend perfectly with the ambience of the interiors.
As you dine, music from the pre-1990s era plays in the background. The menu caters to all ages, offering a spread of local fare with the likes of
meegoreng and chendol, and more “hipster” options, such as truffle fries, to appeal to the younger crowd. “This is a place where all generations – from grandparents to grandchildren – can spend time, and still have conversations,” Choon Khim emphasises.
RIGHT Past the courtyard, the main hall of Ming Yi Guan – with its 7.5m ceiling – features an herbalist counter with a built-in medicine cabinet. The space is decorated with Ming dynasty-style furniture pieces.
Connected to the house, the pavilion that’s surrounded by the eco-pond is a chic space for guests to relax in. MING YI GUAN IS AT THE HOUSE OF TAN YEOK NEE, 101 PENANG ROAD, TEL: 6351- 9640. RIGHT
The House of Tan Yeok Nee has a symmetrical layout plan, a classic and distinctive Chinese architectural feature. BELOW
TOP The vintage-style window grilles and wooden frames were fabricated in Vietnam. ABOVE, LEFT The entrance design was inspired by old barber shops in Singapore, with display cabinets outside. ABOVE, RIGHT The second floor houses popular 1960s’ art prints. RIGHT The garden and outdoor seating area were done up to add to the overall dining experience.
VISIT JUBILEE COFFEEHOUSE & BAR AT 580 NETHERAVON ROAD.