Mama Diam (directly translates to 妈妈店) is a speakeasy restaurant bar hidden behind the front of a nostalgic old-school Mama Shop, an important element of Singapore’s rich cultural heritage. All the snacks, toys and candies are actually bought over from an actual mama shop – Spot the familiar items that we grew up with such as the country flag erasers, five stones, lottery slips hanging from the clip hanger and that old school calendar that we rarely see these days!
And would you please take a moment to appreciate the beautiful mural on the wall. The set was so well-thought it’s all the little elements that made this whole experience such a stroll down memory lane. They even managed to get the iconic blue and white tiled “void deck table”!
Step into the hidden bar inside and it’s a whole new classy vibe. Mama Diam serves Asian influenced food dishes and locally influenced cocktails served in beautiful glassware that accentuates the whole Mama Shop nostalgia. (It’s super insta-worthy too)
When asked about how this theme came about, the owner Sebastian Ang said that the inspiration for Mama Diam came from an elderly couple who owns a Mama Shop at Clementi and were planning to retire due to old age.
“I chanced upon the article about the Mama Shop closure early August this year and wanted to preserve the local heritage of Mama shops but make it appeal to the young adults,” Sebastian said.
Turning Crisis into Opportunity
Prior to COVID, Sebastian was in the entertainment industry. The industry was badly hit by COVID and the company he was working for closed down.
However, Sebastian did not let this crisis get him down as he now used his newfound freedom to explore his dreams.
“I’ve always liked to cook and I enjoy working with people, it’s my dream to have a hidden bar of my own! Therefore I decided to take a leap of faith and start Mama Diam.” Sebastian said.
When disaster strikes, you can either wallow in misery or see opportunities. And that is exactly what Sebastian saw, an opportunity to open a shop at a discount price.
“I feel that every crisis is an opportunity. Many established f&b businesses wind down during this Covid period, creating an opportunity.” Sebastian said.
After searching meticulously, Sebastian managed to locate this unit which has the right layout for a hidden bar.
“We are 3 months old now and the Covid situation is improving and so is business!” Sebastian said.
Personal Development for Sebastian
“As a business owner myself, I am also learning along the way. Besides learning how to manage the business, I also learn from my fellow staff because everyone has their strengths and experience from their previous jobs. It’s definitely rewarding for me when I see my guests leaving happily or even coming back for the second, third or fourth time. We became friends eventually.” Sebastian said when asked about his experience running the business.
It is known that the F&B industry is a cutthroat industry where only the best will remain. Hiring difficulties, long hours and wearing multiple hats is common, especially for smaller shops.
“The F&B business is probably one of the few businesses that are easiest to start. You just have to have a space of your own, get the relevant license and there you go!” said Sebastian, dispelling one of the common misconceptions about running an F&B business.
Yet starting might be easy, but sustaining the business is a whole new ballgame.
“However, it is not easy to maintain the business because you have to keep improving along the way. Singaporeans have a lot of options for food and if the business is only here for a trend then it probably won’t last long.” Sebastian explained.
Mama Diam's Specialities
When asked about MAMA DIAM’s specialities, Sebastian strongly recommends the 9 bites of wonders, one of the signatures over at Mama Diam.
“It’s my twist on local high tea sets but in a form of savoury bites. One can try 9 different items of our “small bites” menu.” Sebastian replied.
Other signature items include,
- Crab Kueh Pai Tee,
- Butter Boxing Chicken,
- Stuffed Seafood Lychee
- Soft Shell Crab Bao with Chilli Crab Sauce.
“I feel that it is very important to be sincere and humble to your staff and to the customers. Nothing beats a genuine heart and you will gain respect from your co-workers and customers.”
Located along Prinsep Street, it is almost impossible to miss Mama Diam. The decor and unique culinary twist in their menu make it a worthy spot to hang out and reminisce the nostalgia with family and friends. Mama Diam is also looking to change the food menu every 3 months for guests to try new dishes so definitely keep your eyes peeled!