Street View: Goodbye to iconic fast-food joint at Bt Timah

McDonald's Place at King Albert Park making way for new development

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IT WAS where students from the likes of St Margaret's Secondary School, National Junior College and Ngee Ann Polytechnic would hang out, exchanging glances over their burgers. It was also where families in the tony Bukit Timah district went for a snack or two after their Cold Storage shopping.

But now McDonald's Place, the two-storey building with the cool blue exterior at the junction of Clementi and Bukit Timah Roads, will soon be no more. The McDonald's outlet there will open for the last time on Sunday before making way for new mixed development KAP Residences.

"It's just a pity. It's the biggest and most spacious McDonald's I know," said housewife Soo Woan Shy, 41, who was having lunch there with her husband and seven-year-old son when The Straits Times visited last month.

Opened in 1991, McDonald's Place housed the biggest McDonald's outlet at that time as well as its corporate headquarters. It was also the "Hamburger University" - where McDonald's workers from the region came for training.

The King Albert Park hang-out was known for its design, both exterior and interior. For instance, it made the news for the electric train toy set that used to run around the ceiling as part of the design but was later removed.

The closure of this prime district McDonald's outlet comes almost two years after the equally well-loved East Coast Park branch, known for its playground, took a bow back in 2012.

For many students and residents, the King Albert Park McDonald's formed the backdrop to key phases of their lives.

Madam Soo, for one, remembers how as a schoolgirl more than 20 years ago she would take a five-minute bus ride from her school, Nanyang Girls' High, to McDonald's Place almost daily.

"Nothing much has changed since then, except that they renovated the place some years ago and there was no drive-through then," she said.

The outlet had two storeys and seating for 433 people, including an outdoor area that could seat 80.

A double-storey McDonald's was a novelty then, said postgraduate David Lim, 40.

He used to go to the restaurant a few times a week when he was a teenager at Nan Hua Secondary School.

"We would have lunch, read books, study and enjoy the air-con," he said.

Mr Johnny Lim has sweeter memories of the place than most. The former Chinese High boy, now 30 and a construction project manager, would spend hours there every week with his then girlfriend, chit-chatting over burgers and fries.

The King Albert Park McDonald's, one of the few outlets to have a drive-through, is still as popular as ever with students.

During the examination period, Secondary 3 student Tan Jia Xin, 15, and her friends would study at the fast food joint daily.

"We can also meet our primary school friends here. It's one of the few places in Bukit Timah where we can meet," said the National Junior College student.

Residents, too, said it's a ritual to drop by there. "It's our Saturday morning routine," said business development director Lee Parito, 42, who goes there with his seven-year-old son for breakfast on weekends.

And be it 1991 or 2014, young people dawdling over their Cokes at this McDonald's, which attracts a good mix of students, are wont to let their glances linger.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic final-year aerospace technology students Darrell Mitchell Ho, Daniel Afiq and Jurado Teo, all 20, go there to study - and also "make friends", they said cheekily.

"They either smile and stare at you in a nice way or in a bad way. It's fun," said Mr Teo.

Just the week before, Mr Afiq bought a strawberry sundae for a girl who caught his eye. She ate the ice cream - but left without even saying goodbye.

Such are the wistful memories that this most regal of fast-food joints here serves up with filet-o-fish and fries.

But as Mr Teo put it: "Things come and go. It's life. We just have to accept it and move on."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 14, 2014