If you asked me what I’d be doing at the end of Feb 2017, chances are it would be something blasé like attending all of the food festivities taking place in Dubai. But as lady luck would have it, I had the very exciting opportunity to travel to Singapore on a culinary adventure with Your Singapore Arabia!
Yep. Incredible! So thrilled, and so blessed!
If you’ve hung out with me a while, you’ve probably heard me saying that Singapore is one of the best food cities in the world. Sure, I haven’t been everywhere but it would be a fair assessment based on how incredibly kid-in-a-candy-store-like I feel, every time I’m there. If you are planning a trip, you are guaranteed to leave very full and very happy.
As a former resident and visitor twice since, I have a list of places that I recommend to everyone who asks, and I was introduced to a few new restaurants during my trip there last week. And I’ll admit: it gets better every time.
So it was time I wrote it all down and shared it with you. Here’s a list of must-visit restaurants in Singapore. Pin it, bookmark it, share it; it’ll come in handy for anyone going for the first time or even if you’ve been before, I’m sure you’ll find something new and exciting.
Have a local breakfast at Yakun Kaya Toast
When you see a restaurant full of locals having breakfast, you know you’re in the right place. Kaya, a jam made with coconut and pandan leaves, is spread on brown bread along with a thick slab of butter. You add a dash of soya sauce and garlic powder to soft boiled eggs, and dip your kaya toast into this concoction. It looks extremely unappetizing but tastes just the opposite – sweet, salty, and delicious.
LOCATION – Yakun, several.
Taste the national dish of Singapore at Tian Tian
Hainanese chicken rice (never “chicken” and “rice”!) is a dish I crave the most from Singapore. It looks very simple but having been on the constant search for a good plate, I know that not many can recreate it. The white rice is cooked in stock, resulting in fragrant, flavourful, oily grains, and the chicken is either poached or roasted. Of course, the essentials are the chilli served alongside soya sauce and sesame oil dressing, and some ginger. Its best eaten in one of the local hawker centre joints like Tian Tian in Maxwell Food Centre or if you are squeamish like my husband and don’t like to see carcasses hanging by the window, head to Chatterbox in Mandarin Orchard Hotel.
LOCATION – Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, Stall No. 10 AND Chatterbox, 333 Orchard Road, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, Level 5
Get chilli crab at Jumbo Seafood
One of the best things to have come out of Singapore is their chilli crab. Served with fluffy, deep-fried mantou buns, it will be one of the most memorable meals of your trip. It’s spicy, jam packed with flavour from the crustaceans, extremely messy – even if you wear the gloves provided, the tablecloth (and maybe even your trousers!) will be covered in orange sauce. But hey, it adds to the experience! The restaurant itself is crowded, with servers dashing about carrying trays brimming with plates laden with sides to go with your chilli crab. The vibe is pumping and you will walk out of the restaurant in a food coma, belly full and satiated. The black pepper crab is an excellent option too, if you can handle the spice.
LOCATION – Jumbo Seafood, several.
Michelin star meal on a budget at Liao Fan
Despite having a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, eating in Singapore does not have to cost a fortune. Here’s one to tick off your bucket list: eating the world’s cheapest Michelin starred meal at Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle. The humble hawker stall inside Chintown Complex Food Centre received its star in July 2016, and there is usually a 2-3 hours long queue. If you don’t fancy waiting, he’s recently opened a proper restaurant opposite the Food Centre where you can get the same famous meal, still top value at just SGD 3.80 (approx AED 10) but no star for this location yet.
LOCATION – Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, 335, Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, Unit 02- 126.
Modern interpretation of local food at Revolution Coffee
To get a taste of local cuisine with a twist, head to Revolution Café in Media Circle where Chef Shen Tan serves up Asian classics with a twist. Think Laksa salad, pancakes with gula melaka butterscotch, and sambal made with coffee beans. What’s even more fascinating is the story behind this place. Chef Shen quit her day job in 2008 and opened a stall in a hawker centre serving nasi lemak. A few more gigs later and she’s now running the show at this little café. A girl who follows her dreams to become her own boss lady; she’s got my heart! Revolution Coffee is also the only café in Singapore to sell specialty coffee from Caffeine Dispensary, a Jakarta-based roastery. Shen uses the coffee powder to create coffee-based sauces such as the coffee sambal and coffee-barbeque sauce. A fun spin on much beloved local dishes.
LOCATION – Revolution Coffee, #01-03A, Infinite Studio, 21 Media Cir, Singapore 138562
Experience a hawker centre at Satay by the Bay
I’d usually frequent Newton hawker centre due to its proximity to the office, or Lau Pa Sat because its in Raffles Place and close to tourist sites (when I had visitors). Those can be overwhelming as a tourist and chances are you’ll be over-charged. A good option is Satay by the Bay which is located within Gardens by the Bay. Its a mini version of a hawker centre, there are lots of photos so easy to pick what you want to eat, and you’ll get to taste some damn shiok satay. A hawker centre experience without getting your fingers dirty (not literally, its pretty messy if you order one of each like we did!).
LOCATION – Satay by the bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-19 Singapore 018953
Take in the greenery at PS. Café in Dempsey
One of my favourite areas in Singapore is Dempsey Hill. It used to be old army barracks which has now been converted to cafes and restaurants. Go to PS. Café for an international brunch. Sit outdoors, take in the greenery, and listen to the birds chirping while you indulge in eggs benedict, chorizo chilli hash, fluffy pancakes and a mimosa or three.
LOCATION – PS Cafe, 28b Harding Road, S 249549
Artichoke for when you’ve had enough Asian food
Run by whacko chef Bjorn Shen, Artichoke is a wonderful take on Middle Eastern cuisine. Sure, you don’t fly all the way to Singapore to eat what you can at home but trust me. A few days of eating noodles and rice and you’ll be craving something else. Here you’ll find a nice mezze mix but the mains/big plates steal the show. Hot skillet halloumi, grilled octopus, a delicious twice-cooked duck with a cheesy smoked eggplant puree, a smashing prawns dish with green chilli, harissa, coriander cream sauce, and the best dish of the evening for me – Artichoke’s Brassica Tabbouleh. It is a mix of fried brussel sprouts, raw cauliflower grains, red cabbage, pickled onions and almonds, topped with labneh ranch. Tastes nothing like tabbouleh nor looks like it. Thank goodness! Its divine.
The hummus might not be the best but Chef Bjorn has perfected pretty much the rest of it. And I don’t mean he cooks like the Arabs do. Because that’s not what he’s trying to do. He’s got his own style and he owns it!
I told you, he’s a wild one!
LOCATION – Artichoke, 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188 978
People watch and lunch at Spago
One of the most glorious views in Singapore is from the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, Spago, sits up on the 57th floor, overlooking the infinity pool on one side, and a bird’s eye view of Singapore all around. Go for lunch or just to have a cocktail and people watch. An express set menu costs only SGD 45 (approx AED 117) and includes a three-course meal with dishes like chicken laksa spring roll, steamed red snapper, and coconut passion fruit trifle.
LOCATION – Spago, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Level 57, Sands Skypark Tower 2, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956
Baffle your tastebuds with vegan sushi at Herbivore
I’m not one to promote veganism but if all vegan food tasted this good, sign me up! Herbivore is a Japanese restaurant in Bugis which serves an array of all my favourite Japanese dishes like sushi, sashimi, ramen, teriyaki – just everything is vegan, and without onion and garlic too. Its still incredibly satisfying and tastes just like the real deal. You’ll be gobsmacked, guaranteed.
LOCATION: Herbivore Pte Ltd, Fortune Centre #1-13/14, 190 Middle Road, Singapore 188979
Drink a cocktail with history at the Raffles
The Singapore Sling cocktail was created at the Raffles Hotel, which itself is steeped in history. Following the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, the hotel was the gathering place for the community and it mainly was men drinking gin or whisky. Etiquette dictated that women could not drink in public. A bartender called Ngiam Tong Boon took it upon himself to create a cocktail that looked like fruit juice. He masked it in pink, cleverly disguising the alcohol and leading people to believe that it was a socially acceptable punch for the ladies. Bless him! And with this, the Singapore Sling was born.
If you don’t fancy going to Long’s bar (the original place), you can also go to the Raffles Hotel for afternoon tea. There’s usually a long waiting list though so book ahead.
LOCATION – Raffles Hotel, 1 Beach Road Singapore, Singapore 189673
No name cocktails at a secret location
OK so it’s not really a secret as it’s all over Tripadvisor and Yelp. A must visit bar that I recommend all my friends go to if they’re ever in Singapore. Bar Stories is located on 55-57 Haji Lane. Blink and you’ll miss the signboard. Look for tiny white shuttered doors and a narrow stairway leads up to a discreet little bar, with seating for maybe 6-8 people. There’s no menu so you need to tell the bartender your favourite flavours and alcohol of choice, and he’ll make you a superb cocktail. I once was in a Tom Yum phase and he made me the best vodka based drink with smoked kaffir lime leaves – was brilliant! Beware though and don’t show up for an afternoon tipple like I did, it’s doesn’t open until 6pm.
LOCATION – Bar Stories, 55-57A Haji Lane, Singapore 189248
Snack away at Breadtalk
If you’ll be using Singapore’s superb MRT network, you’re sure to pass by many a Breadtalk when you walk through the stations. Stop by and pick up an assortment of breads, buns and cakes, stuff that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. My favourites are the cheese tarts, the curry buns, and golden fluffy floss buns. One is never enough!
Can someone please bring Breadtalk to Dubai?
LOCATION – Breadtalk, various locations.
So there you have it. My list of where to eat (and drink) in Singapore.
Have you been? Whats on your must-do list?
This is the first of a three-part Singapore series. Coming up next week is: Street foods of Singapore, and an itinerary for 3-4 days in the city. Let me know if you have any questions so I can address them there. X
DISCLOSURE – I was a guest of Your Singapore Arabia on this trip, however I’ve been to Singapore before and these posts are solely a collection of my favourites. All opinions are my own.