The first time I visited Old habits was on the recommendation of Jeffrey Koh from Can Cafe. Greeted enthusiastically by owner Don, I instantly felt at home.
Collecting is a habit of Old Habits owner Mr Donovan Goh (Don), he lives a very sustainable motto of “If it is still useful, why throw it?” He has deep appreciation for the craftsmanship in the 60s and 70s, thus it is not surprising that Old Habits is decorated from ceiling to floor with retro vintage items from Singapore’s past eras.
A former chemical engineer with zero knowledge in F&B business, he plunged into the cafe business with the support of his wife, Selena. As with all business, the first few months were the toughest, what was more amazing was that they found out that Selena was pregnant one day after they signed the lease to the new cafe. “We just have to make it work” was what Selena replied, in a matter of fact manner when asked about how she felt at that moment.
So the journey began, with Selena (very pregnant) helming the operations while Don (a self taught Chef) fires up the kitchen. Dishes are research and experimented for months before the opening. The results are evident in the delectable dishes which this writer tried… the Jessy’s spicy casserole and the Old Habits Coconut Kueh with Vanilla ice cream are worth special mention.
What was observed throughout the interview was also Don’s keen sense of observation and sensitivity to details. Asked on how he self taught himself cooking, he shared that you not only look and experiment but also listen, “…listen to how the meat sizzles…” he said. Selena immediately asked “How come you never teach me??”…. “How to teach? Very hard to teach…” came the reply.
Jessy’s Spicy Casserole
A chicken version of Shepherd’s pie, Nyonya flavoured, exclusively only at Old Habits
The feeling of eating this dish is akin to Parent’s love…depths of layers….The top layer is bake textured, nonya chicken within is spicy delicious, abit like a parent’s scolding…a mix feeling of stimulating of senses…then the potato settles you down into a lovely comforting embrace.
Old habits Coconut Kueh with Vanilla Ice cream
A perfect arranged marriage… plain old Jane (the vanilla ice cream) marries into a traditional coconut kueh… a taste of sweetening bliss ensues… who says arrange marriage ain’t romantic? It is.
Old habits Float
Frizzy childhood candy that reminds me of my primary school crush….refreshing, energetic, hopeful.
Crispy hot & spicy drumlets
This dish reminds me of an old friend… crumpled face, fierce and spicy strong look…. a basketball player who led his team to many victories…a warrior. But once you bite into him, as a friend… you see the sweet tenderness side of him.
So what is it that motivates and bring success to this little cafe, hidden in a quiet old neighbourhood? Passion is but one small factor. Don remarked that we have to make things work, and passion alone is not sufficient. He mentioned that he felt like a failure for many months, when the learning curve of starting the cafe is extremely steep. The key is to never give up, and keep learning, keep trying. Keeping overheads low is also vital.
What this writer notice is that above all things, what is key to this lovely place call Old Habits, is a Love between the owners (15years and counting), that brings soul and heart to this vintage habitat.
– Erwin Tan
Old Habits Cafe
Address: 38 Telok Blangah Rise, 090038
Tel: 9127 7147