Steeple’s Deli, Tanglin: “The most delicious bread-and-meat action I’ve encountered.”

Tanglin is foreign to me. No, I’m not referring to the drama series on Channel 5. I’m talking about that swanky district of private properties and towering condominiums which resides on the tail end of Orchard Road. This is the older, more heavily worn out part of Singapore’s retail centre. But I wouldn’t come here to stroll aimlessly or be guided by spontaneous gazes into the abyss of Zara. You should go down the road for that. 

Sign at Steeple's Deli

Instead, I find myself in Tanglin Shopping Centre, where folks arrive equipped with a tighter agenda in mind. Think displays lined with heavy antiquities, Aladdin-esque carpets, and all things niche. It’s also home to quaint spots like Steeple’s Deli.

shopfront of Steeple's Deli

Relics don’t come half as well preserved as this. Don’t get me wrong, the establishment is deeply matured and grizzly-fashioned in its disposition, but it remains stubbornly rooted in its facade. It is, after all, the first deli in Singapore.

39 years later, not much has changed. I find that thoroughly commendable, especially when glittering, fresh-faced cafes dominate just two streets down. Now that’s a prime example of not succumbing to peer pressure. 

Interior Of Steeple's Deli

Everything screams old-school, from slick wooden countertops and plush bar stools for sitting, to a playlist that seems unblushingly stuck in time, blasting evergreen tunes by The Beatles and Elvis. I love it. Iconic movie scenes are made of this stuff. There’s none of that white tablecloth and pesky service nonsense here. Walk right in, make your order, pay up, and plop your bosom down on the first empty seat in sight. It’s unpretentious that way. 

What I tried

Sandwiches are the name of the game at Steeple’s Deli. Anyone can slap some ham between two slices of Gardenia and call it a sandwich, and if that floats your boat, who’s to judge? Of course, as with any proper delicatessen that has earned its chops, meats cured in-house and fresh bakes make the offerings here worth your extra dollar.

Menu and deconstructed Steeple's Burger

You’ll be spoilt for choice too. Don’t even think about QR code menus, because that is so 2021. Chalkboards sprawled across ageing brick tiles are what you get, so either take a picture or come back enough times to have the menu memorised.

There’s burgers, omelettes, and milkshakes—fare that seeks to hit the sweet culinary spot more than adhering to your daily caloric intakes. 

Pesto Roast Chicken sandwich

My seat, like all others in Steeple’s, faces the kitchen where an order of Pesto Roast Chicken (S$12.90) gets assembled before my eyes. It all makes for excellent entertainment within their cavernous cooking space. To be frank, it’s more kitchen than restaurant at this point. I hear the sizzle and pop from splatterings of oil on a hot pan while peeking over the counter at the chef slicing and stacking away, one sandwich at a time.

I’m heavily enamoured by its simplicity. Grilled strips of chicken come empowered by a brilliantly flavourful homemade pesto that’s savoury, herby, and lip-smackingly good. There’s little else on this plate, other than the usual fixings of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber between toasted rye. Still, it works wonderfully. I desperately wish for all my sandwiches to come this well-balanced. For now, I’ll leave it to the pros at Steeple’s Deli.

Cuban Sandwich

Next on the agenda is the Cuban (S$18.90). This one’s a long-standing classic and for good reason. Pulled pork that’s impressively tender, crunchy dill pickles, and a generous slathering of mustard to boot. All that goes between a crispy ciabatta loaf, and sue me if it isn’t some of the most delicious bread-and-meat action that I’ve encountered. Bright, acidic notes from the dill and mustard punctuate the fattiness of the meat. This is culinary magic, and I’m just happy to be on the receiving end.

Steeple's Burger

I’m diving into the plates hands-on now, and there’s little to distract me from these sandwiches. Except maybe the Steeple’s Burger (S$21). Completing the trifecta of dishes is Steeple’s Deli’s iteration of the ubiquitous hamburger, which comes decked out in a thick beef patty cooked pink, along with salty strips of bacon and a sunny-side-up. 

Digging into this one is gloriously messy. Pools of meat juice quickly collect on the plate. I’ll leave them alone—for now. A mound of chunky, crinkle-cut fries sits on the side, fresh from the fryer. This isn’t your brown paper bag take-out burger. No, honey. It deserves heavy, pearly white plates and all your undivided attention. I’d have this on occasion because it’s not any day that I’ll fork over twenty dollars for a burger, and a sinfully indulgent one at that.

Pecan Pie

Like a nervous houseguest, I feel obliged to stay for dessert. There’s a flurry of bakes and pies on the menu, but I’ll practise some restraint and keep to two. A slice of Pecan Pie (S$7.80) inches toward and teases me over the countertop. Okay, I’ll bite. This one’s heavily sweet and nutty—as all good desserts should be. I’d wish for a more buttery pastry layer, though my expanding waistline might beg to differ.  

Chocolate Fudge

Regulars of Steeple’s would know of this off-menu item—the Chocolate Fudge (S$0.90). It quite perfectly encapsulates all that this deli stands for. The ninety cent price tag hasn’t budged for the past thirty years, free from the evils of inflation. It’s proudly homemade and stuffed with marshmallows and milk chocolate. Yes, it’s very sweet. Maybe even cloyingly so. But can you really come here and not order this? This is a slice of heritage that I reckon you can’t find anywhere else, and a neat homage to the storied institution that is Steeple’s Deli.

Final thoughts

Over the course of the meal, two customers mention the problem of weak mobile signals within the shop. Of course, they’re decked out in wireless earbuds, armed with giant smartphones in their hands. That’s where the restaurant has nothing to apologise for. It’s a celebration of history right in the heart of Tanglin, where honest-to-goodness grub remains wholly untainted by rapid, constant change all around.

Notice at Steeple's Deli

As I’m taking my leave, Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’ seeps in from the speaker. It conveys my thoughts quite aptly, and I know at once that this is a place I’ll religiously return to. Never change, Steeple’s Deli, never change.

Expected Damage: S$15 – S$25 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Steeple's Deli

19 Tanglin Road, Tanglin Shopping Centre, #02-25, Singapore 247909

Our Rating 4/5

Steeple's Deli

19 Tanglin Road, Tanglin Shopping Centre, #02-25, Singapore 247909

Telephone: +65 6737 0701
Operating Hours: 11am - 6pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun
Telephone: +65 6737 0701

Operating Hours: 11am - 6pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun
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