I haven’t visited Prego for years, more than a decade. It used to be a firm favourite with me and Bert. We first came across it about twenty years ago I think, around when it first opened, when the space it occupied used to be under one of the Westin Hotels formerly there. Westin Stamford or Plaza, I forgot which. Now the hotel there is called the Fairmont.
So it brought back some nice memories when we went back with a couple of friends recently. To me, the fact that Prego is still there after all these years is remarkable for Singapore. But it’s pretty stunning that even the interior is the same. Now that’s incredible. Commercial space here like malls and restaurants get makeovers frequently, some every few years. From interiors to even entire building facades, it can seem striking even for locals how frequent and fast things change, let alone for repeat visitors like tourists.
I don’t know why I was so darn happy. It’s just a restaurant. I think it’s just that I was so surprised because it’s so unusual for things to stay the same in Singapore, and for such a long time. Things keep changing here. To keep them appealingly fresh, I suppose. But the way I see it, the problem becomes: how do you really let sink in the memories that you can treasure by letting them take root, when the places these memories are crafted around seem disposable. At the back of your head you are already thinking that the place won’t last, that you would soon be forming new memories with the new things that will take over the space. After a while there are just too many of these ‘short-term’ memories, so you allow all these memories associated with the same space to be filmsy and disposable too.
So when I walked in again and saw that things were mostly the same as it were twenty years ago (except for some very few and very small touches here and there) Prego ceased to be just a restaurant. It became snapshots and voices and laughter from years ago, the food we ordered, what we liked and didn’t liked. The faces of the friends and family we dined with. The other people we brought there. I even remember a few of the waiters. Not their names or what they looked like, but some things that were said or done to earn smiles or frowns. Crazy, the amount of memories. And now imprinted even more deeply in me, to be cherished for many more years.
‘Prego’, the name of the restaurant, means ‘welcome‘, by the way.