An extinct open-air food centre filled with hawkers selling satay, a popular local steak. 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 40s on a short thoroughfare off Beach Road known as Hoi How Road (now disappeared), between Marlborough Theatre and the Singapore Volunteer Corps HQ. One end of the road was used as a bus terminus by the now defunct Chan Kwee Sung Company. Hence, the place would be filled with a mixture of fumes from the buses and the aroma from the foodstalls. But business was good. Customers sat on low stools and wooden benches. Being next to the busy terminus however led to accidents. Thus in the mid-50s, the hawkers were relocated to a field between Dhoby Ghaut and Prinsep Street, but business suffered. They begged 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 foodstalls sold satay. Families would crowd round each stall in clusters, watching the satay man grilled the meat over hot charcoals, eagerly waiting for the satay to be served with sweet-and-spicy peanut sauce. Around the time the Satay Club was due to close down in 1995, it had 28 foodstalls. The Satay Club opened from sunset to early morning. It sat on the Esplanade Park under old big trees and had a relaxed and cheerful ambience much loved by locals and tourists alike. Unlike other food centres like the Newton Food Centre where fights were not uncommon, the Satay Club was a peaceful place for family outdoor dining. The nearby Elizabeth Walk added charm to the place.
Closure of Satay Club at the Esplanade
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 at other food centres or receive compensation of $15,000. The Satay club was demolished in 1995.
When the new Clarke Quay Satay Club was set up in 1995, eight of the stallholders moved there. Stallholders who previously paid $300 at the old place now had to pay $3000 at Clarke Quay. With the rest of the stallholders dispersed and the old site demolished, gone is yet another much loved historical spot Singaporeans were proud to call their own.
In late 2005, an attempt to bring back a taste of the old satay to the Esplanade led to a business venture between one ex-Satay Club stallholder and three friends. They opened up the D'Original Satay Club which is located under the Esplanade Bridge. It boasts the original recipe that dates back to the old Satay Club, and the satay served comes with a view of the city from the Singapore River.
Chan, K. S. (1996, December 13). The real Satay Club revisited. The Straits Times.
Food, glorious food!. (2001, September). Treasures of Time, 9, 16.
Hong, L. T. (1992, October 1). Re-sited Satay Club to be privately run. The Business Times.
Ida Bachtiar. (1994, November 20). The scattering of Satay Club. The Sunday Plus, p. 32.
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.
Teo, P. L. (2004, June 6). Join the club. The Straits Times.
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://18.104.22.168/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 2006 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.