$108 for a fish? Meal prices the result of high rents, say Boat Quay restaurants

Pedestrians walk past restaurants along Boat Quay. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Pedestrians walk past restaurants along Boat Quay. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

A riverside dinner left a bad taste in the mouth of one British tourist, who was shocked to find that two live sea bass set him back $108 each at a Boat Quay restaurant.

In April, a Filipino family had to foot a thousand-dollar bill for their meal.

However, restaurants there say they are not out to make a quick buck, and defended their pricing yesterday.

They say that the prices are a result of the area's high rents, which have almost doubled in the last five years.

In a letter to The Straits Times yesterday, 71-year-old British retiree George Vickers said he had not read the menu prices before sitting down with his wife for a recent dinner, which included rice and vegetables. The bill came up to $314, including tax.

"It was fairly dark in that restaurant around night time, so we didn't note the price," he said.

Live seafood is offered by five eateries along the riverside stretch, all of which have similar menu prices.

At Harvest Seafood Restaurant, live sea bass goes for $7 per 100g.

At Fuqing Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant and Haven Lobster & Seafood Restaurant, it costs $9, while two outlets run by Forum Seafood Village charge $9.80 per 100g of sea bass, after a discount.

These prices are double that of live seafood restaurants in other locations, which price the same fish at between $2.80 and $5 per 100g.

Mr Vickers did not lodge a complaint with the restaurant, as he was in Singapore for only a brief visit.

Had he done so, the restaurant might have given him a discount, its owner told The Straits Times.

"It's not fair to us," said the owner, who did not want to be identified.

"We are 30 to 40 per cent more expensive than a coffee shop, but everything is the same as what other restaurants here are doing."

He said that his restaurant must pay more than $30,000 a month in rent, and that it is "just getting by".

According to real estate agent Richard Tan of PropNex, rents for shophouses in the Boat Quay area start at a minimum of $10 per sq ft and go as high as $14.

"It has doubled over the past five years," he said.

"During the financial crisis in 2009, rental was less than $20,000.

"From 2009, it went up. This year, it went up the most."

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said there is no real regulation of food prices in Singapore.

He added: "The prices of food items are usually set by the restaurants but are subjected to competition and market forces."

marilee@sph.com.sg