Monday, October 30, 2006

Street hawker themed restaurants

A SG$16,000 (£5,350) Qing dynasty 100 year old horse-drawn rickshaw in the half-acre Food Republic's latest cafe a VivoCity in Singapore [Photo Mohd Ishak

Singapore - IT could be that the ethnic eatery is about to take over from the Irish theme pub in Asia. And if so, you can bet it will be heading to America and Europe soon. Singapore's most expensive cafe, the 27,000 sq ft 900 seat Food Republic at VivoCity cost $6m (£2m) to fit out, and comes complete with 24 hawker stalls, five mini restaurants and a shop. It aims to recreate the street hawker scene in Asia from the 1900s to 1940s with bygones imported from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Reclaimed materials like floor tiles came from houses in China due to be demolished, as well as old wooden chairs and tables. The ersatz hawkers wear traditional Mandarin collar shirts, three-quarter pants and walk round in old-fashioned clogs.

Food Republic's Patsy Loo said that it took two years to plan and find materials. They found inspiration in Signapore's National Museum and Heritage Board. Next they went to Malaysia and China, and shipped back two containers of furniture and materials. Said Ms Loo, "We want to help locals and tourists understand what Asia was like in the pre-war period, when there were a lot of street hawkers. People were poor, but they had simple and good food. We want to recreate that flavour."

Though the food court in VivoCity was expensive to create, the food there is not. A plate of tahu goreng costs $3.80 (£1.20), while a bowl of bak chor mee from the famous Tai Hwa Pork Noodle stall is about $5 (£1.75)

Food Republic is a subsidiary of the Breadtalk Group, a bakery whose hallmark shops have see-thru plate glass kitchens (see photo below). Breadtalk Group

One of Breadtalk Group's hallmark 'see thru' plate glass high street bakeries.

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