Steeples Deli – a Singaporean treasure

It is my belief, that if a food establishment stays open for more than a fair amount of time, the quality of what they serve on the menu must be consistently good enough. The other day i revisited Steeples Deli in the corner of the 2nd floor of Tanglin Shopping Centre in Singapore, and realized the family run business has been operating since – get this – 1981, in the same location all this time.

Not only that, their menu has remained mostly unchanged, consisting of classic sandwiches, milkshakes, fresh coffee, burgers, all day breakfast omelettes, and specials like lasagne, pork loin and grilled chicken. The only thing that changes is the writing on the one of many chalkboards for chef’s special and soup of the day.

The moment you enter the place, the old school decor hits you like a wave of nostalgia, without the hipster decorations , art deco furniture etc that you’d find in one of the newer, popular cafés these days. Instead, they have chalkboards on the wall where the menus are (no eggs Benedict, but they do have all the deli classics), wooden interior, yellow lights hanging from the ceiling and the aroma of some stew or grill wafting from the kitchen.

Mdm Susan (the mother of the family who’s also the cashier) then asks you to order and pay up (no GST and service charge, which is nice) before you take a seat on one of the stools lining the counter. The grill, preparation area and oven are on the other side of the counter, which just means the show kitchen concept has already been done since the eighties. Never mind new restaurants that try to claim the idea as a novelty and use it as a selling point these days!

It is obvious that over the years, this deli has gained many fans who have left many post-it notes on the board proudly displayed on one of the walls. Back for the 3rd time and having sampled the very satisfying Reuben sandwich and chicken pot pie more than once, I can say for sure the food has been consistently comforting. On this most recent visit, one of my friends tried their club sandwich, which he claimed was really good. The good thing about the place is, they aren’t stingy with the ingredients so you get a decent portion. And the prices are fairly reasonable. For a filling chicken pot pie and an iced coffee, my bill came up to about SGD15.

Mdm Susan told me that they haven’t really changed their menu much since the eighties, only the prices have been updated with the inflation (don’t we know it…). The recipes of the dishes have also been kept consistent, since they have been popular with the regulars, for a long time including Mrs David Marshall, whose husband was the first Chief Minister of Singapore. Interesting.

One thing to note about their coffee, they use Graffeo Coffee, which, in a quick Google search, reveals to be a roaster from San Francisco. Not sure why they would use them, although so far I’ve only tried the iced coffee and I’m not sure if that’s the best way to tell the quality from it. Will update if I go back again.

For foodies looking for something a bit less avant garde, this is a nice hideaway in the afternoon after the office lunch crowd leaves. Shame it is in the 2nd floor of a shopping centre. It would be nice if they get a patio and some sunshine. But do try it out if you want to experience a throwback of how a deli used to be like, without all the frills.

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