Gear up for a day of exploration around Marina Bay with a mid-morning bite and brew at TWG Tea. The tea purveyor, established a decade ago in Singapore, has two outlets at Marina Bay Sands. The most atmospheric of the pair is the Garden venue, set on a semi-circular platform above the reflecting pool in Basement 2.
With your stomach content, head over to Gardens by the Bay for the annual Sakura Matsuri, or cherry blossom festival. Held in the Flower Dome from 9 to 31 March, it features a Japanese-style garden brimming with spring vigour – full-size traditional torii gates and a sakura tunnel leading to a display of more than 20 varieties of flowers in bloom. Other eye candy includes a traditional teahouse and a marumado (round window) that frames landscapes evocative of Japan.
From here, make the 15-minute stroll to the Singapore Maritime Gallery, which traces the Lion City’s maritime journey from the 13th century to its beginnings as a trading post and subsequent evolution into one of the world’s top transshipment ports. After a morning on your feet, take a break at Restaurant JAG. The French eatery takes its cues from the Alpine region of Savoie, using indigenous herbs such as sage, pine and aspérule odorante from the area to inform its tasting menus.
If you’re in town for the last weekend of the month (29 to 31 March), stop by Boutique Fairs, a twice-yearly shopping marvel of independent vendors selling jewellery; men’s, women’s and children’s wear; home décor; toys; and more.
After this, you’ll need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up; head to the new Baristart Coffee, a branch of the popular Hokkaido café where the creamy, velvety coffee and desserts, such as cream puffs, are made using brown-Jersey- cow milk from the northern Japanese island.
If time permits, head back to your hotel to unwind and freshen up before dinner at 15 Stamford at the Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore. The brainchild of chef Alvin Leung (his restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong has three Michelin stars), this new restaurant creatively reimagines familiar Asian dishes – think beef short rib rendang and Singapore laksa with tea-smoked quail eggs.
Thereafter, head over to Pandora’s Garden, set in the courtyard of a house on Chinatown’s Ann Siang Hill. The menu lists British classics such as the Ploughman’s Platter and pork pies, but the real draw is the impressive selection of rosé wines from Europe, Chile, Australia and the United States.
This morning will be dedicated to exercising your mind, so kick-start your brain with a shot of excellent coffee at either Chye Seng Huat Hardware or Liberty Coffee (the former also serves a great breakfast). March is when Singapore Design Week (4 to 17 March) takes place, with more than 100 events throughout the city focusing on local and international design. These include Wallpaper* Handmade (one-off luxury items made by Singapore talents); a forum with representatives from Unesco Creative Cities of Design around the world; Southeast Asia’s leading furniture fair; and talks and live entertainment at the Lion City’s second Singapore Urban Design Festival.
If you’re here outside these dates, wander around the neighbourhood of Jalan Besar to admire the shophouses, especially along Sam Leong Road and Petain Road, where the architectural influences range from Chinese to European to Malay.
There’s more caffeine on offer – as well as burgers, protein bowls, avocado toast and beef stew – at the bright, split-level Black Fairy Coffee. After lunch, reset with a quick stroll over to the Asia-influenced One Farrer Hotel for a traditional Chinese treatment or a Balinese massage.
Suitably relaxed, you’ll be ready to enjoy dinner at the long, sleek Thevar. The modern grill restaurant along Keong Saik Road is firmly rooted in the tastes of India, and you’ll find dishes such as seared snapper with curd rice and coconut molee curry; and tandoor baby lamb with chickpea curry and green chutney. Work off the feast with a short walk north to The Guild. Set in a pretty shophouse and with parquet floors and exposed brick walls, this is where to find a wide range of craft beers on tap.
Today is filled with activity, so fuel up with a hearty breakfast at your hotel. Then, take a taxi over to Sentosa for Sentosa Fun Fest (16 to 24 March), an extravaganza of innocent revelry where adults are very much welcome. Expect a giant inflatable playground, a sticky wall and a foam pool – attractions that will help you to rediscover your inner child.
The Merlion that shoots water into Marina Bay is a famous icon of Singapore, but many visitors aren’t aware of the Sentosa Merlion, almost 30m taller than its more photographed counterpart. This one has a viewing deck, with fine vistas of Sentosa visible from the head and the Singapore CBD skyline from its mouth.
After this, take a taxi to lunch at Holey Moley which bills itself as a “golf club” but is a themed restaurant and bar. You can play a round of mini-golf and order burgers, pizzas, hot dogs and five different types of fries. Eating at this lively place will put you in the appropriate frame of mind – and location, as you’re now in Clarke Quay – for the Singapore Festival of Fun (14 to 24 March), a smorgasbord of comedy shows, food stalls and agile, daring street performers. Alternatively, wander up and down the riverside to see some of the city’s great public art, with pieces that recall and recreate Singapore’s past and trading heritage.
The three-month-long SPRMRKT Cambodia, a celebration of that country’s food and art, winds up at the end of this month, with special pop-up meals by the Kimsan Twins and chefs from Cuisine Wat Damnak; spice sales from ethical producers; Khmer- themed cocktails; and art that explores daily Cambodian life.
Transport yourself to Europe for dinner – specifically the Basque regions of southern France and northern Spain – at Basque Kitchen by Aitor. The menu includes a brioche bun with French Basque chorizo and Idiazabal cream cheese as well as anchovies from the Basque Country served with tomato and olive oil caviar.
Thereafter, head over to Zouk’s Capital for a night out. The New York borough of Queens is the inspiration behind the eponymously named bar within the space, with hip-hop iconography and drinks that are arranged in nostalgia-driven categories such as Breakdancing and Graffiti.
This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine