The Ship restaurant serves some of the best Hainanese-style Western cuisine popular among Singaporeans and Malaysians. The Hainanese were the latest Chinese immigrants to British-Malaya in the late-19th century. By the time they arrived, most of the trades have been dominated by other ethnic-Chinese groups - the Cantonese & Hakka in the mainstay tin-mining industry, the Hokkiens in merchant trading, retail and fisheries, etc. So, the Hainanese sought a niche working in the households British colonialists and wealthy Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) as valets, butlers, cooks and servants. In the 1920s, when post-World War depression forced many colonialists to be relocated back to their home countries, and many Peranakan families lost their fortunes, the Hainanese came to open the first “kopitiams”, for traditional Chinese coffeeshops as we know in Singapore today.
Hainanese food in Singapore and Malaysia bore no resemblance to the cuisine back in their homeland, Hainan Island in China. Their fame in the food industry in Singapore & Malaysia came from their own brand of hybrid “Western” cuisine: steak served with brown sauce spiked with soy-sauce, pork-chop with Chinese 5-spice, etc.
The Ship is a steakhouse chain started in 1970 by Hainanese restaurateur, Foo Hee Hong, in Kuala Lumpur. It then expanded to Singapore and Penang.
The Ship in Singapore started in 1977 in Robinson Road, in downtown Singapore. It later moved to Bukit Timah Shopping Centre in 1986, before moving to its current location in Shaw House, in the midst of the Orchard Road & Scotts Road retail/shopping district in 1989. It’s perpetually packed with local diners, as foreigners/Westerners were unable to comprehend the Sinicised/localised flavours applied to what seemed like “Western” dishes: beef Stroganoff, chicken Maryland, etc. Hongkongers may recognize this kind of fusion cuisine from their own retro Canto-British dining spots like Jimmy’s Kitchen, Landau’s or Tai Ping Koon.
For me, the dish to come for at The Ship is its roast prime rib, served with baked potato, boiled vegetables, smothered in a thick mushroom sauce. Best in town!
The Ship Restaurant
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre 03-16/18
Tel: +65 6235 2235 (Call ahead to book - we usually book 3 days in advance)
Opening hours: 11am-3pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm daily.