Choo Choo Your Way to 1932 Story Cafe
CHERYL JUAN takes a trip down memory lane to a newly opened 1930s-themed cafe located near the historic Bukit Timah Railway Station, just a 10-minute journey from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
A portion of the display in the cafe’s heritage gallery room. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Hype Issue #55
Aug 4, 2022
Are you an avid cafe hopper or just looking for new attractions to explore? Well, the recently opened 1930s-themed cafe, 1932 Story Cafe, near the revamped Bukit Timah Railway Station may pique your interest.
Located along the Rail Corridor nature trail, Bukit Timah Railway Station was restored and reopened with a new addition of the 1932 Story Cafe on Jul 1 2022. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
I’ve recently been getting back into exercising, and decided to revisit one of my exercise routes, the Rail Corridor nature trail (formerly known as the Green Corridor). I remember enjoying the lush greenery and fresh breeze, walking over uneven surfaces on a dirt road to get to the Bukit Timah Railway Station.
Bukit Timah Railway Station in 2020 before it was revamped. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
However, this place has now been fully restored, and believe me when I say it has exceeded all my expectations with the juxtaposition of the restored heritage buildings next to the new infrastructure. This makes it easy for the young to get a glimpse of the past and for the old to experience nostalgia. The addition of a themed cafe came as a pleasant surprise, adding to the area’s charm of being a pit-stop for fellow joggers to get a refreshment. Being a massive foodie, it definitely caught my attention, and together with my friend, Alyssa Loh, 19, a fellow foodie, we set off to check it out.
Finding the cafe was a breeze since I was already familiar with the area. But for those who aren’t, it’s a five-minute walk from King Albert Park train station; you just have to get to the Rail Corridor first, walk straight and turn left. You’ll be greeted by a huge yellow ‘RAIL CORRIDOR’ sign.
Rail Corridor is located midway from King Albert Park MRT Station and King Albert Park Mall. GIF by Cheryl Juan.
The hard-to-miss sign is large and in a vibrant yellow. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
From there, just follow the path and you’ll reach 1932 Story Cafe in no time.
Known as the “Bukit Timah Railway Station Community Node”, it comprises two beautifully conserved buildings: the Railway Station and Railway Staff Quarters. The latter is where the 1932 Story Cafe is located. I like how the cafe is housed in such a historical area and how it carries the essence of the heritage with its vintage furnishings.
1932 Story Cafe serves a wide array of pastries, gelato, and dishes – ranging from local, western and even fusion cuisine. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
From the moment we stepped through the doors, we were transported to the past century. Artistically furnished with vintage pieces and repurposed train station artefacts, the cafe gives new life to old objects, helping to preserve a bygone time of Singapore’s history.
Curious to find out more of how the cafe came to be, I had a chat with Mr Marcus Wang, 50, the owner of 1932 Story Cafe.
“This proposal was actually put up by the government to invite suitable participants to get involved. So I was one of the participants that put up my proposal and it was shortlisted by the agency to curate this staff quarter – the former railway station to rejuvenate that whole vibe from the 1930s to the 1980s,” says Mr Wang.
As a furniture designer, Mr Wang certainly has an eye for beauty which shows in his design and layout of the cafe, seamlessly blending the artefacts and furniture into a living experience for visitors. He shares that the thought process behind it is to give visitors a ‘throwback’ experience to the past.
“When you step into this cafe, it’s more like you’re stepping into a time zone. A former living room, a former bedroom – you have that feel. It’s not [a] conventional cafe, it’s more like it’s a very relaxed environment,” says Mr Wang.
“When you step into this cafe, it’s more like you’re stepping into a time zone. A former living room, a former bedroom – you have that feel. It’s not [a] conventional cafe, it’s more like it’s a very relaxed environment,”
The train levers Mr Wang is posing with date back to 1937. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Mr Wang has curated each section of the cafe carefully by bringing out the nuances of a bygone era in each room to give visitors a different feel and experience each time they dine there.
One of the many seating areas visitors can choose to dine at resembles a living room, decorated with authentic vintage speakers and record player, along with other quaint furniture pieces. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Mr Wang also shared that the dining area that features the four-poster dining bed overseeing a scenic courtyard view is a favourite amongst Ngee Ann Polytechnic students, as four to five can huddle together to share their meals.
Psst… Here’s the inside scoop: It was such a cosy nook, so if you’re heading down to 1932 Story Cafe, this is a must chope (reserve) spot.
Enjoying the comfort of the four-poster bed dining area with a scenic view by the window. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
The rustic view by the window opening out to the courtyard. If you prefer dining outdoors, you can also dine here. Photos by Cheryl Juan.
While going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over the decor, our stomachs rumbled and reminded us of the main reason why we were there: food. While looking through the menu, I noticed a diverse variety of cuisines, thus leading me to question: how was this menu created?
“Because [it’s like] we are back into this Kampong era, we try to sell heavier on the menu on local foods. We try not [to] go international because we will lose that flavour. So we try to sell a lot more local food like mee siam, mee rebus, nasi lemak – you know all the local foods that people resonate with… We’re trying to be down to earth with this kind of environment selling local foods but we also integrate fusion food like spaghetti with laksa, spaghetti with curry – so [as] not to lose the [interest of the] younger generation,” says Mr Wang.
With this wide variety, Alyssa and I had a tough time deciding on what to order. This was when Mr Wang chimed in and recommended us the frappuccinos, pies, and Mee Siam (a local noodle dish), adding that “you can try the Mee Siam without chilli if you’re not a [fan of] spice”.
With these recommendations, we took his advice and ordered the Mee Siam, Mushroom Chicken Pie and Matcha Tiramisu Frappuccino.
I’m going to be honest. Although I’m Singaporean and have been living here for my whole life, I hadn’t tried mee siam before. Hence, I was a tad bit sceptical that I wouldn’t be a fan of it. However, the Mee Siam ($7.90) exceeded my expectations with a good balance of sweetness and sourness to it, and a mild kick of spice as well. There was more chilli on the side, but I didn’t mix it in since I liked it as was. If I could give it more than a 10/10, I would.
Alyssa adds that despite not usually being a fan of mee siam, this particular one caught her by surprise as it was to her liking with the perfect blend of tanginess and spice.
The Mee Siam comes with lime and chilli on the side that can be mixed in the dish for extra flavour if you want it to be more tangy or spicy. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Moving from local to western cuisine, the Mushroom Chicken Pie ($9.90) came with a side of fries, which I felt was a nice addition to the dish. The pie had the right amount of crispiness to its crust which complemented the inner peppery and creamy texture of the pie. It had a herbal tinge to it and it was perfectly seasoned. I give this dish a 9/10.
The filling provided the right amount of sweetness while the crust made it savoury. This gives the pie a nice balance. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
With all the seasoned goodness of the dishes, there was no way we could get by without some thirst-quenching drinks on the side.
Smoked Coffee, Salted Caramel, and Triple Chocolate are just some of the many frappuccino flavours offered. It was such a tough choice but I ended up with the most exotic sounding one, Matcha Tiramisu Frappuccino ($9.00) which certainly didn’t disappoint. Although it was a bit more on the pricey side, it had a uniquely delicious flavour I hadn’t tasted before. It was the perfect blend of sweet and bitter, with hints of coffee. However, the only downside was that I could not really taste the matcha in the frappuccino. Overall, I give it an 8/10.
Though the Matcha Tiramisu Frappuccino was good, I did wish there had been more of it given its price. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Although we probably had more than enough food and drinks for the both of us – I just couldn’t resist sneaking in an additional Rose Latte under the ‘Specialty’ section of their menu as well.
The Rose Latte ($6.00) stood out with its unusually vibrant red colour complemented by the latte art sitting on top of it. It was a pretty sight that I was reluctant to destroy.
Taking a sip, I was hit by the flavours of both sweet rose and bold coffee. As someone with a sweet tooth, I liked the rose flavour. I did wish that the rose flavour was a bit more prominent so it could overcome the strong coffee flavour which I found slightly overwhelming.
While the drink was aesthetically pleasing and served well as a prop for taking pictures, it might not be to everyone’s taste. Nonetheless, I give it a 7/10.
The Rose Latte was foamy and creamy. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
Besides the unique nature of this cafe, the other selling point was the heritage gallery which Mr Wang described to be the main attraction of his cafe. Once we had finished our meal, we immediately went to check it out.
“The cafe is integrating a mini gallery or museum as you can see here – everything is authentic here. So basically, the uniqueness of stepping inside here is you are stepping back in time and you can [also] chill out. I think there’s a lot of IG (Instagrammable) sections here [where] people love to take their IG [photographs]. So everything does come alive,” says Mr Wang.
The cafe is integrating a mini gallery or museum as you can see here – everything is authentic here. So basically, the uniqueness of stepping inside here is you are stepping back in time and you can [also] chill out.
There are two tables at the heritage gallery where visitors can choose to dine if they wish. However, these tables have to be booked in advance via phone call reservation. Photo by Cheryl Juan.
As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed what the cafe had to offer, from the service to the food. I appreciated Mr Wang’s kindness in giving us a tour and his willingness to be interviewed, despite his busy schedule. If I could make one suggestion, it would be to offer some simpler drinks for joggers or passers-by who aren’t looking for a sit down experience. Nonetheless, I would definitely come visit again with my family and friends.
Name: 1932 Story Cafe
Address: 1005 Bukit Timah Road
Opening hours: Mon – Sun 9 AM-9 PM
- Ambience 5/5
- Food 5/5
- Price 4/5