Breakfasting in the great outdoors doesn’t get any more glamorous than at the leafy, safari-themed Dempsey Hill branch of Tiong Bahru Bakery. The nosh is similarly picture-perfect: think buttery croissants, beautifully glazed kouign-amann pastries and colourful lattes tinged with beetroot or turmeric for an antioxidant boost. Your little ones will also enjoy the small wildlife-themed playground adjacent to the restaurant.
Once you’re all fuelled up, take a cab ride to Fort Canning to explore Jubilee Park, where your kids can work off the sugar high and you can enjoy a stroll in serene surroundings. Relatively new, the park offers multiple swing sets in an assortment of sizes and styles – perfect for older kids and tiny tots. There are also two slides, hydraulic see-saws, a log scramble and even a “treehouse” with large climbing nets. While you’re there, be sure to also check out the towering Javanese-style gateways at the nearby Sang Nila Utama Garden.
From there, hop on the train and alight at Boon Keng MRT to explore the Balestier area. Once gritty with secret societies, modern-day Balestier’s colourful shophouses are part of a hawker food haven. Whampoa Drive alone has two excellent hawker centres sitting side by side. We recommend the popular Singapore Fried Hokkien Mee and Nan Xiang Chicken Rice for indulging in arguably two of Singapore’s most well-loved dishes.
After lunch, grab a coffee from the nearby Wheeler’s Yard, then download the Balestier Heritage Trail brochure to explore the area’s multicultural architectural legacy. There’s Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple, home to one of Singapore’s last few permanent wayang stages, and which still holds Chinese operas and puppet shows during major festivals; the Sim Kwong Ho shophouses with their colourful Chinese Baroque façades; Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, a colonial-era villa that was once the Southeast Asian headquarters of the revolutionary leader; and Sasanaramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple, which boasts the largest marble Buddha statue outside of Myanmar.
For sunset hour, perch yourself at LeVel33– the world’s highest urban microbrewery – which offers a spectacular view of the Marina Bay skyline. Food-wise, it’s modern European flavours with beer-inspired twists, such as local seabass and beer malt risotto, as well as choux puffs piped with malt-and-stout parfait filling. Sample each of their five signature brews on tap by ordering the beer paddle flight.
Begin your day at Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata, an East-side institution located along Joo Chiat Road. As its name suggests, this family favourite serves the South Indian breakfast staple freshly pan-fried for that crispy, chewy texture. Best enjoyed with their scratch-made fish curry and a frothy glass of teh tarik.
Next up is a photo walk around the Peranakan quarter. At the alley after Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic, a two-minute stroll from breakfast, you’ll find colourful terrace houses built over concrete stilts – a practical necessity back before land reclamation pushed the coastline out from here to present-day East Coast Park. Diagonally across at the start of Tembeling Road are shophouses done in the transitional style.
Browse the trove of eclectic knick-knacks and books at Cat Socrates, then continue along Joo Chiat Road to the Koon Seng Road shophouses, which are pastel-toned with porcelain wall tiles and decorative eaves. Once you’re all walked out, pop into Hiew to pick up ornate Peranakan tableware and tiffin carriers, or to commission a hand-embroidered kebaya by Heath Yeo, one of Singapore’s last kebaya makers.
For lunch, make a beeline for the newly opened 1-ATICO, sprawled out at the peak of ION Orchard. This multi-concept dining destination features two distinctive dining establishments – a contemporary Argentinian restaurant FIRE and a Japanese-Peruvian influenced sumiyaki bar and grill.
Meanwhile, at Plaza Singapura, you’ll find NomadX, one of the many retail concepts in Singapore heralding a high-tech approach to shopping. At this multi-label store, a gamified “onboarding” process generates product recommendations based on customers’ shopping personalities.
For more futuristic fun, head to Moo Moo Park, the Lion City’s first drive-through art exhibition. Organised by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, this unique exhibition features a slew of digital installations – such as augmented reality murals and “talking” red packets – from local artists like Puffingmuffin, Almostasthma and Andre Wee. Ticket are available on SISTIC.
After an evening of nourishing your artistic soul, it’s time to satisfy your belly. Hop back into your car and make your way to Capitol Piazza, where you and your family can enjoy a seafood extravaganza at Famous Treasure. Known for local zi char-style (home-style) dishes like salt-baked flower crab and wok-fried squid with okra and cincalok (fermented krill or small shrimp), the Chinese restaurant has also rolled out a selection of special dishes for the festive period, including braised cod fish with sweet corn and wok-fried prawn ball with salted egg yolk.
Start the day with a trip to Chinatown Complex, which is as local as it gets. The hawker fare here is cheap, delicious and incredibly varied. If you have time to spare, queue up at Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu for the homemade yong tau foo (assorted tofu and vegetable items stuffed with fish paste). Meanwhile, the basement wet market– which is stocked with ingredients such as eels, live frogs and even soft shell turtle meat in addition to the standard goods – offers a fascinating shopping experience.
Join in the feasting with a Lunar New Year lunch set at the National Gallery’s Yàn. The staff will guide you through their Shunde-style lo hei– a tradition of tossing raw fish and julienned veggies while chorusing propitious sayings – before plying you with roast duck, chicken with cordyceps flower, wok-fried lobster and more. For other Lunar New Year restaurant recommendations, check out our comprehensive story here.
Not far from the National Gallery, more photo opportunities await at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, which has been transformed into a glorious Chinese garden with over 1,400 dahlias and other Lunar New Year floral favourites such as azaleas, chrysanthemums and cymbidiums, until 21 February.
If you prefer something more subdued, head over to Ota Fine Arts located within the white-and-black confines of Gillman Barracks. From now till 6 March, the contemporary Japanese art gallery will be showing “Yayoi Kusama: Recent Paintings”, a solo exhibition featuring 15 monochrome paintings from the acclaimed artist. While there, wander over to the nearby FOST Gallery where you can admire the works of talented local artist Wyn-Lyn Tan, whose exhibition “A Matter of Time” is on till 7 March.
Dinner at Preludio is just as artsy – the avant-garde, fine-dining restaurant draws inspiration from a different theme every 12 to 18 months (the current theme is “Two Roads”). Finally, conclude your evening at Junior The Pocket Bar, which is currently running a limited-run Chinese New Year pop-up in collaboration with Rémy Martin. Back for the second year, the pop-up will be available till 27 February and features a signature menu of cocktails and Chinese New Year treats to mark the joyous occasion.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine and was updated on 27 January 2021.