The Satay Club was an open-air food centre filled with hawkers selling satay, a popular local skewered meat dish. Previously located at the Queen Elizabeth Walk, the Satay Club was demolished in 1995 to make way for the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and the Nicoll Highway extension. The Satay Club offered a decent and cheap outdoor dining in the downtown area.
The first Satay Club
Older Singaporeans may remember the older and original Satay Club that existed before the one at the Esplanade. The Satay Club is said to have started in the late 1940s on a short thoroughfare off Beach Road known as Hoi How Road (now expunged), between Marlborough Theatre and the Singapore Volunteer Corps headquarters. One end of the road was used as a bus terminal by the now-defunct Chan Kwee Sung Company. As such, the place would be filled with a mixture of fumes from the buses and the aroma from the foodstalls, but that did not affect the business. Customers sat on low stools and wooden benches. However, being located next to the busy terminal led to accidents. Therefore, in the mid-1950s, the hawkers were relocated to a field between Dhoby Ghaut and Prinsep Street, but business suffered. The stallholders successfully petitioned to return to the original site, and business picked up again. But it was not for long, as they were asked to move again in 1970 – this time to the Esplanade.
The Satay Club at the Esplanade
The Satay Club that most Singaporeans remember is the one that moved to the Esplanade. The word "club" is a little misleading: Far from being exclusive, the dining concept was an open-air food centre, where most food stalls sold satay. Families would crowd around each stall in clusters, watching the satay man grilled the meat over hot charcoals, eagerly waiting for the satay to be served with the sweet-and-spicy peanut sauce. The Satay Club opened from sunset to early morning. It sat on the Esplanade park under big, old trees and had a relaxed and cheerful ambience that was much loved by locals and tourists alike. Unlike other food centres like the Newton Food Centre where fights were not uncommon at the time, the Satay Club was a peaceful place for family outdoor dining. The nearby Elizabeth Walk added charm to the place.
In 1994, the stallholders of the Satay Club were told that they had to vacate, as the site was needed for two projects: Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and the Nicoll Highway extension. They were given until May 1995, after which they had to choose either to relocate to other food centres or receive compensation of S$15,000. The Satay club was demolished in 1995. There were 28 stalls around the time of its closure.
When the new Clarke Quay Satay Club was set up in 1995, eight of the stallholders moved there. Rental rose from S$300 at the old place to S$3,000 at Clarke Quay. With the rest of the stallholders dispersed and the old site demolished, gone is yet another much-loved historic spot Singaporeans were proud to call their own.
In 2004, an attempt to bring back a taste of the old satay to the Esplanade led to a business venture between four ex-Satay Club stallholders. They opened up the D’Original Satay Club, which was located under the Esplanade Bridge. It boasted the original recipe in the days of the old Satay Club, and the satay served comes with a view of the city from the Singapore River. However, the business failed due to poor human traffic at the site and the D’Original Satay Club closed the next year.
The latest incarnation of Satay Club, called Satay by the Bay, is located at Gardens by the Bay. There are eight pushcarts serving satay amongst other popular local dishes.
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Ida Bachtiar. (1994, November 20). The scattering of Satay Club. The Sunday Plus, p. 32.
Lin, M. (2013, April 26). Nostalgia on a skewer. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
Tan, D. (1995, March 25). Satay down by the river. The Straits Times, p. 30.
Teo, P. L. (2003, June 8). If you like satay, join the club. The Straits Times.
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Wee, L. E. (2005, June 28). Old Satay Club operatiors face gruelling time. The Straits Times, p. 2.
Wong, A. Y. (1997, March 9). Satay Club name booked by Esplanade. The Straits Times.
Yeo, S. (1996, December 4). Satay Club spirit lives on in two places: Stallholders leave but new ones arrive immediately. The Straits Times.
Chairul Fahmy Hussaini. (2005, November 3). Satay club dihidupkan semula. Retrieved June 1, 2006, from http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:pJ3YadTcKCgJ:cyberita.asia1.com.sg/singapura/story/0,3617,30846,00.html+singapura+satay+club&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7
The information in this article is valid as at 29 October 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Heritage and Culture
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Malay
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