This trip was in all seriousness, fuelled by Mondayitis. It’s not that I don’t love my job (yet would never admit to loving it either) but the first Monday of the year had me looking at airfares faster that you can say back at work.
Singapore’s national sport is eating, so it was always going to be a stretchy pants kind of holiday. It was three days of never being hungry, with both high and low end eats being equally good. On one day we had Yan Ting’s dim sum brunch, which included a half lobster in a superior stock sauce (so tasty); the next, an incredible light-as-air chilli crab yam puff from the much cheaper Tim Ho Wan. Thoughts of both still make my heart skip a beat.
Other highlights were the lacquered sheaths of Peking duck at Imperial Treasure and Burnt Ends’ steakhouse-gone-luxe living up to the hype (a post for later). (If I don’t get to the post, do this one thing at Burnt Ends – get the marrow bun!) We also had a truffle spiked degustation at what I think is the ultimate date night restaurant: Osteria Mozza.
But the cheap eats, boy did they punch above their weight. There was the freshly thrown roti dabbed in bowls of strong curry (for only a couple of dollars), the oily (but good) goreng pisang and ice laden cups of sugar cane juice. Then there’s the nostalgic favourite – I’d take it over Peking duck any day – an ice cream sandwich from an old fashioned pushcart. For the princely sum of $1.20, the ice cream uncle cuts a slab of ice cream and slides it between wafers purloined from an ancient Jacobs tin. Sweet corn ice cream has never tasted better.
Surprisingly, it was not all about the food. Thaipusam with its piercings, colour and joy was amazing to witness. Chinese New Year preparations were also in full swing. Chinatown was sensory overload with dried ducks, fruit and salted watermelon seeds being hawked as loudly as possible to the crushing crowds. Half a day was spent in Katong checking out the (gorgeous!) Peranakan terrace house and an old school nyonya biscuit shop.
Just behind Bugis Street there’s a junction where HDB flats, a wet market, temples and a street market converge. With incense hanging in the air and gloriously red lanterns blowing in the wind, it’s where I felt transported, heart and soul, into a slice of the real Singapore.
Albert Centre Hawker Food Court | 270 Queen St, Singapore 180270
A bustling food court on the ground level of a wholesale food centre. A good spot to sample everyday Singaporean food like goreng pisang (battered deep fried banana), rojak and fish noodles. Early birds should check out the small wet market adjacent to the food court.
Al-Jilani | 127 Bencoolen Street, Singapore 189637
Parathas done 24 hours. Eat by the roadside and watch the buses roll by.
Basheer Graphic Books | #4-19 Bras Basah Complex, 231 Bain St, Singapore 180231
Paradise for paperphiles. Great selection of design, interior and culture books, plus independent, small run magazines. See below for Bras Basah Complex.
Bras Basah Complex | 231 Bain St, Singapore 180231
An old school mall in the middle of the Bras Basah district. Catering to the area’s academia, it’s a hive of paper goods, stationery and book shops. Look out for Cat Socrates and Basheer Books. Good buys include chinese calligraphy brushes and vintage cameras.
Burnt Ends | 20 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore 088391
Specialists of grilling, smoking and anything insanely delicious. Book ahead! Otherwise rock up before opening time to snag a table.
Hotel Rendezvous | 9 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189559
Well priced, in the thick of the CBD and serviced by buses (including the zoo bus) and multiple MRT stations. Easy walking distance to the Raffles District, Bugis, museums and Plaza Singapura.
Imperial Treasure Peking Duck | 290 Orchard Road, PARAGON, #05-42/45, Singapore 238859
This is real Peking duck. First, the lacquer crisp skin from the beast’s back is served, to be dipped in sugar and wrapped in a steamy pancake. The leg and breast meat are doled out separately, to be lashed with hoisin sauce, spring onions and cucumber. It’s pricey, but worth it.
Joo Chiat Road
The road’s pastel, wedding-cake town houses are crazily photogenic. The surrounding Katong area is a goldmine of old school food finds (like laksa, nyonya kueh, bakeries) but avoid going on a Monday when most are closed. The surrounding bungalows offer a glimpse of what some consider to be a rarefied way of life on the island. It’s easier to take a bus to Joo Chiat, however if you like walking Eunos station is about 15 minutes away.
Jumbo Seafood | 30 Merchant Road, #01-01/02 Riverside Point, Singapore 058282
Not exactly a local eat, but Jumbo is popular for a reason. Their fat Sri Lankan mud crabs doused in their house chilli sauce are hard to beat. The two Clarke Quay branches are the most accessible via MRT.
Kapok | National Design Centre, 111 Middle Rd, Singapore 188969
At the back of the Singapore Design Centre, Kapok stocks locally made jewellery, leather goods and clothing.
Kim Choo Kueh Chang | 60 Joo Chiat Pl, Singapore 427784
Gorge yourself on the displays of nyonya kueh and chang (rice dumplings). The bakery behind is worth a look – it’s where the family bakes their renowned pineapple tarts.
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple | 178 Waterloo St, Singapore 187964
This temple was spared during the Second World War bombings and is believed to be lucky, so it gets very busy. Definitely worth a look, especially with the morning flower sellers and the colourful Hindu temple next door.
Osteria Mozza | Marina Bay Sands
Flanked by a marble bar that looks at home in Rome, Osteria Mozza is date night central. From the first bite of the truffle buttered antipasto to very last bite of the dark chocolate tart with Perugian chocolates, it was all hits, no misses. The pasta is second to none. If the gnudi is available, ORDER IT.
Tim Ho Wan Lavender | 12 Kallang Avenue, #01-01/02/03 Aperia, Singapore 339511
Michelin approved dim sum is now available 24 hours. Look out for the local menu items.
Yan Ting | The St. Regis Singapore, Level 1U, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911
Served on weekends only, the dim sum brunch includes a half lobster in a divine superior stock sauce, a teapot of abalone soup, plus all the cooked to order dim sum you can manage. Perfect for that luxurious long lunch every holiday should have.
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