Glutton's Square



Glutton’s Square was one of the most popular street dining venues in Singapore in the 1970s.1 Located at a carpark along Orchard Road, opposite Centrepoint shopping mall, it was one of the few open-air street dining areas there.2 It was also infamously known as “Jaws Centre” because some hawkers charged high prices to unsuspecting tourists.3 As part of the Singapore Food Festival held in July 2004, Glutton’s Square was revived and remained open until February 2005.4

Background
Glutton’s Square was first opened in 1966. For more than 10 years, it attracted local and foreign diners, from families out for a quick dinner to revellers stopping by for supper before or after going to nearby pubs such as Tivoli, Tropicana and Peyton Place. When the carpark closed at 5 pm, hawkers would immediately rush in to set up their stalls. They prepared their dishes in anticipation of the evening crowd eager to feast on their hawker fare.5


At the height of its popularity in the 1970s, there were 80 stalls at Glutton’s Square, selling local favourites priced at less than a dollar, including oyster omelette, carrot cake and char kway teow. Two stalls, each with two to three tables, shared a single parking lot. Thus, overcrowding was a norm.6

The open-air nature of the square subjected the hawkers and their diners to the whims of nature.7 Hawkers throwing leftovers into the canal alongside the carpark exacerbated the unhygienic conditions. There were also no proper electricity and water pipes for them.8 Hawkers had to lug pails of water from nearby Koek Street for their own usage.9 Due to these poor environmental and hygiene conditions, the government closed Glutton’s Square in 1978 and relocated 32 hawkers to Newton Circus Hawker Centre, while the rest moved to the nearby Cuppage Food Centre. The last of the hawkers left the Orchard Road carpark on Sunday, 3 September 1978, and the area was converted to a park in November 1978.10

Revival

As part of the month-long Singapore Food Festival in July 2004, Glutton’s Square was revived. Its revival was one of the more than 50 events organised by Singapore Tourism Board for the festival. Managed by food consultancy, Makansutra, 10 to 11 stall owners were gathered to participate in the event with at least 130 tables set up. These stalls sold a mixture of local dishes including barbecued string ray, char kway teow, chicken rice, fried carrot cake, roti prata, oyster omelette and satay. Organisers had difficulty getting the original Glutton’s Square hawkers to participate, as they were either deceased or had stopped business. However, they did find two “originals” from the 1970s who were willing to participate – the Low brothers, Thye Chua and Thye Hong, who were then hawkers at Newton Circus selling oyster omelette and char kway teow respectively.11  

Contrary to the unhygienic conditions of the 1970s, the stalls set up in 2004 were installed with electricity and piped water. There were also electric fans to cool down diners, and modern grease extractors to reduce pollution.12

About 200,000 diners visited Glutton’s Square in July during the food festival. The square opened until 6 am daily throughout that month. Due to the overwhelming response, it remained open until February 2005 under a new management team, Kopitiam. Its opening hours were cut to 3 am from Sundays to Thursdays and 4 am on Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays.13



Authors

Nureza Ahmad & Azizah Sidek



References

1. A food centre no more... (1978, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Soulful streets. (1980, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 16; Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. A food centre no more... (1978, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 22; Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Loh, S. (2004, July 3). Street food comes full circle. The Straits Times, p. 6; Teo, P. L. (2004, June 30). Record breaking feasts. The Straits Times, p. 3; Leong, S. (2004, August 9). Night revellers. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30; Leong, S. (2004, August 9). Night revellers. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Loh, S. (2004, July 3). Street food comes full circle. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Loh, S. (2004, July 3). Street food comes full circle. The Straits Times, p. 6; Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Soulful streets. (1980, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 16; Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30; A food centre no more.... (1978, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30; Leong, S. (2004, August 9). Night revellers. The Straits Times, p. 3; Teo, P. L. (2004, June 30). Record breaking feasts. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Berns, M. (2004, November). Orchard Road car park hawker. ADB newsbrief: A publication of the Association of Dutch Businessmen in Singapore, 10–11. (Call no.: RSING 330.95957 ADBN)
12. Teo, P. L. (2004, July 4). What’s square comes round. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Leong, S. (2004, August 9). Night revellers. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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. 

Subject
Dinners and dining--Singapore
Cookery>>Food
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places