November marks the start of the four-month-long Singapore Biennale, the nation’s premier festival for contemporary art, as well as the 30th edition of the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), which celebrates the best of local and international films.
Start your day of culture by fuelling up at Narrative Coffee Stand, located within Bras Basah Complex. This spare, whitewashed café with pale-wood décor serves great coffee and delicious homemade sweet treats.
A 10-minute walk will bring you to the Vintage Cameras Museum on Jalan Kledek, recognisable by an exterior that’s shaped like a giant camera. Inside this one-of-a-kind museum, you’ll find around 1,000 cameras on display – including pigeon cameras that were strapped to birds during the two World Wars – along with rare photos.
From here, it’s a quick cab ride to Coconut Club’s new location on the edge of Chinatown. The menu is a refined homage to traditional Malay food, especially the standout dish of nasi lemak (fragrant coconut rice served with sides including fried chicken, egg and cucumber) and cendol (green rice jelly with cold coconut milk and brown sugar syrup) for dessert.
Suitably full, head over to The Projector, an independent cinema and creative hub located at the iconic Golden Mile Tower, for a midday screening of an art house or cult classic film. Alternatively, make your way to one of SGIFF’s venues to catch something from its extensive programme.
Dinner will be at L’Entrecôte, which recently opened a new branch at the waterfront Customs House. The menu is still centred on steaks and fries, but the addition of a new bar on an alfresco terrace overlooking Marina Bay adds aperitifs such as Cuvée de L’Entrecôte – from the restaurant’s own wine label – and bites such as wagyu beef cubes and deep-fried frog legs with garlic aioli to the mix.
End the night with a couple of drinks at Kabuke, a short 15-minute stroll away. Be wowed by the colourful Kabuki-inspired mural on the back wall as you sample a fine selection of Japanese sake, cocktails, whiskies and craft gins. Recommended is the Kabuke POP (a concoction of Wa Gin, sake, lime, cranberry and ginger ale) or mix it up with one of their flights, such as the Aragato, which comes with three glasses of exquisite sake that run along a gradient from sweet to dry.
Begin at Starter Lab, a popular bakery from Bali known for its seven different types sourdough bread and delectable pastries.
From there, stroll southeast to Tiong Bahru, home to beautiful Art Deco buildings and independent boutiques. Along Yong Siak Street, find BooksActually for Singaporean literature and vintage items, multi-label women’s and children’s fashion shop nana & bird and cupcake specialist Plain Vanilla. Be sure to admire the charming, external spiral staircases of the area’s residential buildings.
For lunch, Tiong Bahru Market, arguably the area’s culinary anchor, has food stalls on its upper floor, with highlights including the chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes served with pickled radish) at Jian Bo Shui Kueh and Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee for wok-fried noodles served with squid and prawn.
Alternatively, hunker down at the bustling Greek taverna Bakalaki. Open every evening and for lunch on weekends, the deli also sells Greek products daily after 2pm.
With a full belly, take a 20-minute ride to another quaint neighbourhood, Joo Chiat, in the island’s east. An area with strong Peranakan (or Straits-born Chinese) heritage, Koon Seng Road is home to ornate shophouses with colourful façades enlivened by pretty window shutters. If you feel your energy flagging, drop by Homeground Coffee Roasters for a caffeine jolt, or join the line at Birds of Paradise for gelato in unique botanical flavours such as lemongrass ginger and white chrysanthemum. Recharged, visit the captivating Katong Antique House, a shophouse that is chock-full of Peranakan clothing, crockery, furnishings and memorabilia.
Dinner at Sinpopo Brand is a dive into Singaporean culture. Try their crab bee hoon (thin rice noodles) and Nyonya kiam chye arg (vegetable and duck soup). To aid your digestion, choose from more than 10 craft beers on tap at the relaxed Malthouse, located a five-minute drive away.
Head to the west of the island for breakfast at Poon Kee Wanton Noodle in Jurong to savour its springy, juicy noodles. If you’re feeling really energetic after your meal, then walk over to check out the newly developed Jurong Lake Gardens.
A couple of stops along the MRT, Jem is a large suburban mall housing over 200 stores and services, such as department store Robinsons, a branch of the minimalist Japanese homeware brand MUJI and the second outlet of Singaporean womenswear brand Love, Bonito.
After a couple of hours of shopping, take a cab to Gochi Church Street Japan Kitchen in the CBD for lunch. This space contains six Japanese eateries and concepts, including the Italian-Japanese café Pronto and the conveyor-belt sushi spot CHOJIRO.
Make sure you save some space for dessert at Maxi Mango, the Filipino soft-serve ice cream shop that opened its first outpost in Singapore a few months ago in Capitol Piazza. Besides the sweet treats, look out for regular events here, as they host flea markets, musical performances and exhibitions.
A few hundred metres away, the Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator is Singapore’s oldest church, dating all the way back to 1835. It remains a beautiful and exquisite piece of architecture, complete with Doric columns, balustrades and a white portico.
For dinner, make your way to Inle Myanmar, located at Peninsula Plaza. It serves classic Burmese dishes such as lahpet thoke (fermented tea leaf salad) and mohinga (fish noodle soup) in a slender dining hall lined with mirrors and large images of the country’s scenery. End the night with the international language of laughter at The Merry Lion, a comedy club where performers from near and far test their material on enthusiastic audiences.
3 locations in Singapore that were used as filming locations
Singapore isn’t only a great place to watch films – you can be in them as well
1. Henderson Waves
Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge acts as a meeting point in Equals, with Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult.
2. Changi Airport
Action flick Hitman: Agent 47, based on the popular video game series, has an opening sequence filmed in the iconic interior of Terminal 3.
3. Boat Quay
The Hong Kong action film 2000 AD was shot on location in and around Boat Quay – involving a thrilling car chase scene – and the Singapore River.
This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine