It was last Saturday and a bunch of us young parents were gathered at a friend's place for afternoon tea (sounds damn atas siah......). However, before we know it, it was time for dinner and neither of us had any plans.
Here comes the big challenge. Where to find a place for makan for 4 sets of parents and their screaming kids on a Chinese New Year weekend without a reservation?
By a stroke of genius, Trench suggested Madrina Pizzaria at Block 3 Farrer Road Estate. However, being the Type A personality of Trench, he called up and made reservation only for us to arrive 5 minutes later. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we were VERY VERY VERY closed by. :P
In his defence with flailing arms, "I want to make sure the restaurant got space for us mah!".
He had a point there.
The Pizzaria was empty when we got there. Business was critically bad for a Saturday night. I would attribute the main cause of this to the bloody road works along Farrer Road for the new MRT line that has been going on for years. The traffic there during the evening is a nightmare and I'd be surprised with people even think about dining around here. If the traffic don't kill your mood, then perhaps the dust and dirt from the MRT tunneling will kill your appetite.
One of the few consolations was that the staff were very friendly and endearing that you would almost want to beg them to run a child care centre alongside. Ok, I kid (no pun intended) but I like their idea of engaging the kids while the chef cooks. Every kid get a little pizza dough to knead and later which would be place in the oven to bake. Thereafter each kid will get to each his/her own creation (which turned out more like a naan than a pizza).
All these while the kids watched the chef in action, creating our dinner from scratch. Educational indeed.
Another good thing about this place is the location. The special thing about Blocks 3 and 4 of the Farrer Road Estate is that the ground floor is the covered car park (Remember to park only in white lots. Red lots are for residents only unless you itching to pay parking fine to the over zealous Parking Aunties) and the second floor, a flight of stairs above are the restaurants (e.g. Westlake Eating House) and old shops. Between them is the vast expanse of a deck for which the kids can run all over the place to their hearts' content and be relatively safe since there are no cars on this level and the deck as big as it may appear to be is actually an enclosed place, encircled by all the shops. Great place for the kids to run around leaving the tired parents to eat and talk in peace.
What about the food? Sadly, it's no good but not to the extend of being terrible. It's a place you would still return but only because it makes your kids happy. The food is just mediocre at best.
However, in their defence, it is hard to fault them for it for business is really really bad in that area and all the deficiencies in quality standards are a result of cost cutting measures in order to make it through another day. My iced lemon tea tasted no tea but a sour diluted lemonade should give you a rough picture.
This is a dangerous and vicious cycle. Bad business > cost cutting > compromised quality > bad business > rinse> repeat.
A friend suggested that they should move to another location but I can tell you that there isn't another place in Singapore that has the "Deck of Blocks 3 and 4" (See below). You have to be there to see the "deck" to understand fully what I am talking about. It was the very same deck which, I too was screaming and running amok when I was a kid myself.
The bad news is that there is no solution to this. Relocate and lose the deck to become just another pizza place peppered all over the island. Stay and there may not be enough revenue to pay rent.
Food is not good enough for people to beat a path to the doorstep and so for now, this is just a kid friendly albeit pricey Curry-less Prata Place.
p.s. On another note, Westlake Eating House which I mentioned earlier was in business as far back as the early 70s. I was there for dinner the night before Madrina's visit and I have to say that business dampened significantly since their heydays. Again, it was obvious how serious the impact of the tunneling works have on the local businesses. I wondered if the Gahmen compensates these business owners for the loss of revenue?
I imagine the scenario of a NO. Then these establishments would eventually shut their doors only to make way for new businesses to take over. Ironically, these new businesses would have come at a time where the MRT works were completed and even a MRT station right at the doorstep!
It is a bitch of a cruel world, I tell you. I feel for the guys at Madrina who work their hearts out but still everything seems to count against them. KNN.....