Killiney Kopitiam is a Hainanese coffee shop that was formerly known as Kheng Hoe Heng Coffeeshop. It was established in late 1919 by an émigré surnamed Foo, known to his regulars as “Ah Gong” (‘Grandpa’), from Hainan Island. Located on 67 Killiney Road, the old place was bought over in 1992 by former stockbroker, Woon Tek Seng, a Hainanese who wanted to preserve the traditional Hainanese coffee culture in Singapore.
Today, Killiney Kopitiam has grown into one of the largest local Hainanese café chains, with over 30 outlets in Singapore, and franchised branches throughout South-east Asia, China and Australia.
Its most popular offerings remained the traditional Hainanese coffee, brewed from coffee beans which had been roasted the traditional Hainanese way: about 50% coffee beans and 50% white sugar, and 5-10% butter, plus any other aromatic condiments which the coffee roaster might add.
When brewed, the Hainanese coffee, even without sugar, will already have a slightly sweet flavour. The way to order your beverage in a traditional kopitiam:
Kopi = Coffee with sweetened, condensed milk
Kopi-Orh = Black coffee (usually with sugar added already)
Kopi-See = Coffee with evaporated milk (also with sugar added)
For less sweet, say “siew tai” at the end. It means “less sweet” in Hainanese and is commonly used in Singapore. So, kopi-see siew tai means coffee with evaporated milk and less sugar.
A favourite accompaniment to any Hainanese hot beverage is the kaya-and-butter toast, and Killiney Kopitiam’s version is one of the best.
Many locals will also insist upon an order of soft-boiled eggs, cracked into a saucer and sprinkled with dark soy-sauce (in Malaysia, the saltier light soy-sauce is used instead) and white pepper.
Around 2000, Killiney Kopitiam introduced the French toast with kaya and butter, and it has remained one of my favourite items to order there ever since.
Killiney Road started offering Mee Siam as one of its savoury dishes in the past decade, as it diversified its menu amidst stiffer competition from other café chains. The rendition here is actually pretty good. 20 years ago, the only savoury dish they offered was a not-so-good nasi lemak.
Killiney Kopitiam outlets can be found anywhere on the island these days, but I always liked to go back to the original outlet on 67 Killiney Road where it all started.
67 Killiney Road, Singapore 239525
Tel: +65 6734 3910/ +65 6734 9648
Opening hours: 6am-10pm, Mon, Wed-Sat.
6am-6pm, Tue & Sun.