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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Where to after Novena Ville?

Eateries make plans to move after Novena Ville was sold, with some moving to United Square
January 13, 2013
By: Eunice Quek
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Where to after Novena Ville? As Novena Ville will be closed, Mr Wee Toon Ouut’s chicken rice restaurant Wee Nam Kee is moving to United Square, while customers of The Vines Seafood And Steak Restaurantcan head to its sister outlet Mariners’ Corner Restaurant instead. -- ST PHOTOS

Family-owned chicken rice restaurant Wee Nam Kee, an institution after 26 years at Novena Ville, is moving out.

The eatery will vacate its current premises in Thomson Road and move to United Square shopping mall, a few blocks away, by June.

Novena Ville, which has 33 apartments and 10 shop units, was sold to a subsidiary of the public-listed Fragrance Group for $131.52 million in May last year. The existing tenants have up to the end of March to leave.

Wee Nam Kee's 74-year-old owner Wee Toon Ouut says: "We are not a hawker centre where people go to various stalls and don't come back. We have many regulars who are afraid we would move too far away.

"At least, we are still in the Novena area. The new outlet will have a bigger space and we will add more dishes to our menu, to suit the mall's image."

Their current space is 1,600 sq ft, while the new location will boast 2,800 sq ft. The chicken rice eatery will take over the space where Swensen's is, on the first floor of the mall. The Western restaurant will move out by the end of the month.

Mr Wee says they may do a "price adjustment", to deal with the rising cost of ingredients and not because of higher rent at the mall. Wee Nam Kee,

famous for its plump chicken and spicy chilli sauce, also has stalls at Marina Square and Katong I12's food courts, as well as Glutton Bay at Esplanade.

Popular Korean barbecue outlet Ssikkek BBQ, Wee Nam Kee's neighbour three doors down since 2011, will also move to United Square by June.

Meantime, Fragrance Group, which owns various property and hotels, has yet to announce its plans for the space.

Another iconic eatery at Novena Ville, The Vines Seafood And Steak Restaurant, ceased operations last week. A notice on the restaurant door states that customers can dine at its sister outlet Mariners' Corner Restaurant at 120 Cantonment Road instead. A spokesman says that The Vines, which opened in Novena in 1998, will not be opening anywhere else.

Indian restaurant Aromas Of India, a tenant at Novena Ville for the past three years, is likely to move to Little India, says its spokesman.

Not all the outlets have found new homes though.

Penang Road Cafe owner Alan Lim, 53, says that he is still looking for a location for the two-year-old restaurant. He adds: "It's not easy finding a new place that is suitable for us. We may just close for a while until we can find a proper location."

Likewise for Hwa Seafood Restaurant. A spokesman says that they are "concentrating on Chinese New Year first" before deciding on a new location.

Meanwhile, United Square, which is owned by UOL Group, is boosting its food offerings with new pizzeria Extra Virgin Pizza. Mr Hauw Kheng Lip, deputy general manager of marketing for UOL, says the mall's three upcoming food outlets "will add a new

dimension to our current stable of food and beverage outlets" when they open by June.

Diners who frequent Novena Ville have mixed feelings about the area's closure.

Engineer Wilson Ho, 36, who works in the Novena area, says: "My friends and I have been coming to Novena Ville for chicken rice and Penang food for more than 10 years. It's a relief to know that we can still eat at Wee Nam Kee after it moves, but I do hope that Penang Road Cafe does not close for good."

Retired manager Josephine Lim, 58, says: "My fear is that the vibe of Wee Nam Kee and Ssikkek BBQ will change after they move to United Square, as I have always liked the casual environment at Novena Ville. But at least they are not closing for good."

euniceq@sph.com.sg

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