Holding on to treasured recipes from his Grandfather, Fred Phua did one of those things… you know… gave up his job, rolled up his sleeves and got cooking! Today, these age old recipes are being enjoyed by crowds of hungry diners every evening at the Puahs’ cosy corner restaurant on Carpmael Road in Eastern Singapore.
British Hainan is run by the entire Phua brood! I had the pleasure of meeting 2 other family members; wife, Jessie, and daughter, Amelia, both of whom are warm, friendly and all smiles! Walk into the spacious restaurant and sit among Frederick’s vast collection of memorabilia, furniture, gadgets and toys from the 70s! Sit at any of the mismatched tables and chairs scattered about the room and you’ll be in the company of either old box TVs and pulse telephones on the shelves, or vintage vinyl records and grand old clocks on the walls. We sat next to a huge coin operated weighing scale found in shopping malls everywhere in the 80s. By my side, an archaic turntable shines quietly, and plastered against the exit door in front of me was a life size poster of the legendary Bruce Lee in his legendary pose and yellow jumper!
The food served at British Hainan is reminiscent of coffee houses popular in the 80s, most of which helmed by Hainanese cooks. Way back in the early days, many Hainanese migrants worked as cooks in British households. And that’s how western and eastern cuisine kinda fusionized into today’s British Hainanese fare!By recommendation from all 3 Puahs, we started with Clams in White Wine Broth. A whole kilo of shiny shells for 4 of us! And though we polished the entire pot dry, a kilo could easily feed 6-8 people! The clams were fresh, clean and sweet, the broth was rich with subtle flavors of wine and onions, perfect for dipping the crusty baguettes in! A nice little light starter to work up the stomach juices! Grandpa’s Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew was absolutely lovely. Fork tender meat cooked to a soft springy texture in a rich beefy gravy with a hint of sweetness. Order more bread! Grab some fries! Steal your partner’s carrots! Wipe down every last bit of that gorgeous gravy with whatever you got! The meat, the bread, the potatoes and celery all need a swipe of the magical brown gravy before you pop them in your mouth!! Our plates were bone dry by the time we were done!!The Grilled Rosemary Lamb Shank does not play second fiddle to the Oxtail. Despite the absence of a killer gravy, the also fork tender glossy shank was well seasoned, without robbing the natural flavor of the lamb. A little bowl of sweet aromatic rosemary sauce adds a touch of moistness, not that the meat was anywhere near dry! The huge shank makes a hearty meal.Though we were stuffed, we couldn’t possibly leave without tasting the famous Hainanese Beef Noodles! This was as authentic as it could get. A rich sticky beef gravy. Smooth slippery rice noodles and tender Australian wagyu beef to up the game! I liked the crunchy roasted peanuts for a contrasting bite and those salty-sour pickles that added zing!They may be outsourced until Amelia starts making their own desserts but our evening still ended on a sweet note! We each had a favorite among the three cakes ordered. Despite looking rather plain and unexciting, the ondeh cake surprised me with a good amount of flavorful coconut filling in between soft pandan sponge cake.
Clockwise from top left: Clams in Wine sauce was a sweet light start to the meal; Stuffed Portobello mushrooms were decent but probably needed a more decadent cheese for extra oomph!The Apple Crumble had a good crispy crust and balanced sweet tart apple filling; Brownie…Can’t go wrong if you’re a chocolate lover!
The setup at British Hainan screams nostalgia inside and out!
The menu isn’t huge but boasts mostly comfort foods that many of us grew up on.
There are a number of other dishes offered on the menu but until Fred digs deeper and finds another sensational recipe, I doubt I would be able to forgo that sweet Oxtail for anything else.
British Hainan @ 75 Carpmael Road. Singapore 429812 Phone: +65 63368122
Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post!