Once upon a time – a much simpler time – dining out was treat for the family. And going for seafood along Upper East Coast Road was always something anticipated by everyone.
Upper East Coast Road
Those in their 40s and older will remember the line of seafood restaurants along Upper East Coast road. They are housed in colonial bungalows vacated by the British after the little island gained independence. I do not know who came first, but all them have one trick up their sleeves.
In its heydays, the stretch had over 20 restaurants on both sides of the long and narrow dual carriageway. This led to complaints of excessive parking along the roadsides by the rich residents around that secluded corner of Singapore when the vehicles spilled out of the carparks of these restaurants. And when the government announced the East Coast Parkway plan, the death knell was struck.
Most of them either moved to UDMC Seafood Centre or closed for good in the years following 1985. Long Beach held out for a while longer, but eventually had to move. Hua Yu Wee is the only one remaining in the original location. The coastlines have changed. But the memories of a simpler time remained in all of us fortunate enough to live through those culinary good times.
Palm Beach 棕櫚海鮮
Palm Beach 棕櫚海鮮 at No. 514, moved to UDMC Seafood Centre in 1985. Still operating in multiple locations, including the revamped East Coast Seafood Centre, they supposedly invented the chilli crab. The original folks have since sold the brand and recipe to the current owners. They migrated to New Zealand and the children subsequently came back to start Roland Seafood.
Kheng Luck 慶樂
And then there’s Kheng Luck . This was my family’s favourite and we spent many family gathering in Kheng Luck. And our favourite that we would always order – dough fritter stuffed with sotong/squid 蘇冬油條. Here’s an evidence of their existence. Kheng Luck 慶樂 was one of the firsts to move to UDMC Seafood Centre in 1985. Unfortunately, they lost that touch and closed down in the 80s, becoming one of the first casualty of UDMC Seafood Centre.
Long Beach 長堤海鮮
Long Beach 長堤海鮮 at No. 38 inside Bedok Rest House was the furthest on the stretch and next to an old artillery battery post. Their claim to fame – the inventor of black pepper crabs.
They stayed on after the rest moved to UDMC Seafood Centre. However, Bedok Rest House eventually could not escape the fate of reclamation so Long Beach moved to East Coast Recreation Centre (ECRC).
They opened in East Coast Seafood Centre after the ECRC was repossessed by the government for redevelopment. I remembered the live seafood tanks at their ECRC location. It was filled with exotic seafood from around the world. They were one of the first to offer snow crab cooked in the local styles.
Red House 小紅樓
Established in 1976, Red House Seafood is considered the baby on the block. But because they are one of the newest on the block, they had more innovative cuisine that borrowed more spices and influence from local Nyonya and Malay influence. Great for their lobster e-fu noodles.
They were one of the five that moved to UDMC Seafood Centre. However, because they were located in a separate block away from the parking, the foot traffic was not there. So they were the first to venture out with locations elsewhere in Singapore. Eventually they closed this outlet in 2015 after the whole block was demolished when NParks decided to expand the open spaces in the location. (Also according to Straits Times, “Of the seafood centre’s three blocks, Block 1204 is set farther back from the shore.” ST 15 Jan 2015)
The One that Stayed Behind
And of course there’s Hua Yu Wee. They have operated at the same location at No. 462 since the beginning. For some unknown reason, they were deemed to have a permanent permission license so they were spared the order to relocate to UDMC Seafood Centre.
While their pepper and chilli crabs are good, their signature dish is definitely the crispy fried chicken. Not sure how long they will still be around. The value of the land is so much more expensive than the returns from the restaurant, and sooner than later, the younger generation will not choose to take over. So enjoy it while you can.
East Coast Seafood Centre
This is Ground Zero of all seafood restaurants in Singapore. It started life as a relocation point for five seafood restaurants that were evicted due to the reclamation project that gave birth East Coast Parkway.
It started with three blocks in 1985, and Kheng Luck, Palm Beach, Chin Wah Heng, Golden Beach and Red House were the first to come and set up shop here, together with debutante Jumbo Seafood and Seafood International. Many have come and gone. Other graduated and went to setup shops else.
The Complete List of Upper East Coast Road (almost)
Here’s a list that I can remember, please leave in the comments if I miss any out or inaccurate in my research.
- Wyman’s Haven 惠文港酒家 at No. 357A, now closed.
- Ocean Park Seafood 海洋海鮮 at No. 447A inside Country Club Hotel, moved to UDMC Seafood.
- Hua Yu Wee 華友園 at No. 462, the only one still there.
- Tai Sun Sea Paradise 大新海鮮園 at No. 488, now closed. Spring Court took over this location for a while in the 70s.
- Golden Lion / Golden Beach 金獅酒樓/金濱海鮮 at No. 496-498, moved to UDMC Seafood and renamed as Mermaid Beach, closed
- Kheng Luck 慶樂 at 506/506A, moved to UDMC Seafood Centre in 1985, closed due to poor management.
- Red House 小紅樓 at No. 512, moved to UDMC Seafood Centre which closed in 2015. Relocated to current location.
- Palm Beach at 棕櫚海鮮 No. 514, moved to UDMC Seafood Centre in 1985. Still operating in multiple locations.
- Bedok Restaurant at No. 520/521, closed.
- Spring Court or Wing Choon Yuen 詠春園 (Branch) at No. 521 and then No. 488, still in operation in Chinatown.
- Bedok Sea View 海景樓 at No. 779A, moved to UDMC Seafood Centre, closed in 2015.
- Chin Wah Heng 振華興海鮮 at No. 785(?), moved to UDMC Seafood Centre, now closed
- Mun Yuen (or Hoi Mun Yuen?)Restaurant at No. 797 (or 521?), now closed. It seemed that N0. 797 was a renumbering in the 70s from No. 521.
- Long Beach 長堤海鮮 at No. 610 Bedok Road inside Bedok Rest House, moved to East Coast Recreation Centre.
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