Flanked by the Singapore Botanic Gardens and MacRitchie Nature Reserve, the Bukit Timah area – running between the Botanic Gardens and Beauty World MRT stations – is a residential enclave, home to stately bungalows, lush natural trails, cosy eateries and a host of speciality stores. While previously only accessible by bus, the opening of the Downtown Line 2 at the end of 2015 has made it a breeze to get here from downtown. Whether you’re in the mood for some quiet time in nature, are looking for the perfect date-night restaurant or need to stock up on some pantry essentials, you’ll find all that and more. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Maison Marie
Part-bistro, part-gourmet marketplace, Maison Marie is the latest addition to the lively Rail Mall stretch just before Hillview. Showcasing the best of European produce and ingredients, you can expect to find hard-to-procure French wines and cheeses, truffles and cured meats from Italy as well as premium olive oils from Greece. After stocking up your pantry, sit down for a delectable feast in the adjacent restaurant. Start with a flight of oysters (flown in fresh each week from different regions in France) and a hearty French onion soup that is made extra creamy with the liberal use of Gruyere cheese. A must-try is the Octopus Bolognese – this unique dish features Spanish octopus cooked sous vide for six to eight hours before being minced and added to a mirepoix and bone marrow mix, and then tossed with al dente gemelli pasta. For something lighter on the palate, try the Whole Mediterranean Seabream, where the fresh, clean-tasting fish is complemented by a nutty Romesco sauce. Carnivores will enjoy the Charolais Beef Ribeye, a juicy and tender steak that is served with a side of scratch-made Choron sauce.
Plant-based burgers served out of a food truck? Yes please. Posted up outside of Coronation Plaza, The Goodburger serves delicious burgers made with patties from the now-ubiquitous Impossible Foods. Founder Lee Ken Ming started his business in 2019 as a way to shed light on the wastage and unsustainable practices of the meat industry, while offering an equally tasty alternative that’s kinder to the environment. Their menu currently features four core burgers – you can select how well you want your patty to be cooked, after which its sandwiched between two fluffy brioche buns and dressed in your toppings of choice. Standouts include the decadent Happy Days (with cheese, onion rings and smoky barbecue sauce) and the aromatic Black Tie (with cheese, truffle aioli and rocket).
3. La Braceria
Bukit Timah has several top-notch Italian eateries, from LINO at Binjai Park to RUBATO and Peperoni Pizzeria along Greenwood Avenue. Our pick of the lot is La Braceria, a warm and homey joint by chef Fabio Iannone, who’s also behind the popular Limoncello at Robertson Quay. La Braceria specialises in pastas, and the offerings come perfectly al dente and tossed in just the right amount of sauce. Try the homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach in a sage and butter sauce or, if you’re in the mood for seafood, try the linguini with fresh crab meat and a light bisque sauce. Finish off your meal with a classic tiramisu or panna cotta.
4. Ikeda Spa
Need a spa day to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit? For a zen-like experience, head to Ikeda Spa which specialises in authentic Japanese therapies in a Japanese-themed setting. You can select from a range of treatments including the Ganbanyoku Detox Massage – a unique massage with essential oils that’s carried out on a Ganbanyoku hot stone bed – and the Geisha Organic Facial – which harnesses natural products such as rice bran, camellia oil and azuki red beans to help smoothen and brighten the skin. Following your treatment, go on a meditative walk in the charming Japanese zen garden or take a seat and sip on some green tea as you revel in the tranquillity of the space.
The popiah at this corner eatery – hidden away on the second floor of Coronation Plaza – is often spoken about in hushed, reverent tones by the area’s residents, and it’s easy to see why. The popiah’s (S$2.50 per serving) soft, paper-thin skin is stuffed to the gills with a delicious turnip filling, chopped eggs, shaved cucumbers, crispy bits and sweet sauce, as well as piquant smears of chilli and garlic. Best of all, it’s made fresh and served piping hot. Still hungry? You can supplement your meal with their other dishes, which include mee rebus, mee siam and laksa. Come early if you want to snag the popiah, as it sells out lightning quick.
6. Hop Shop
Stock up on all your craft beer, spirit and wine needs at this hole-in-the-wall liquor shop at Bukit Timah Plaza. While the retail space may be small, it’s crammed with all manner of alcohol from top local and global producers. Their impressive craft beer, mead and cider selection includes offerings from New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing (try the Boyz in the Berry, a boysenberry-flavoured hazy IPA) and Garage Project (the Golden Path is a juicy, hop-forward delight), as well as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Heretic Brewing Company and Gosnells, among others. Hop Shop also stocks an extensive collection of whisky and gin, and it’s one of the few local stockists of cult-favourite Copenhagen export Empirical Spirits.
Stock up on some pantry staples in an eco-friendly manner at one of Singapore’s leading zero-waste store. Located at Cluny Court, the Australian export also has a larger branch at Great World City, with another planned for Raffles Place in the near future, but this is the cosiest of the lot. You’ll find all manner of goods here from protein balls, nut butters, granola and chocolate-covered treats to shampoo, household cleaners and activated charcoal. They also retail a selection of items to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle, such as stainless-steel straws, water bottles and reusable containers. Pro tip: bring your own containers to store your purchases.
8. Bukit Timah Railway Station
While the Bukit Timah Railway Station was officially closed in 2011 – it once functioned as a stop along the train line that ferried passengers between Singapore and Malaysia – it was gazetted as a conserved building and is now a popular attraction along the Rail Corridor trail. You can access it via a quick walk from King Albert Park MRT station: simply look out for the striking over-ground truss bridge (you can’t miss it) and enter it from either side. The disused train tracks are ideal for snapping a few photos for Instagram, and, if you’re feeling like a hike, you can keep walking west along the path all the way to Hillview MRT station.
Work on your swing and get some light exercise at one of Singapore’s top public golf courses (unlike Champions, many of the private courses require country club membership to gain access). Originally constructed in 1988, the site – with its undulating hills and lush greenery – recently underwent a renovation and now contains a nine-hole golf course, a 66-bay driving range, a golf academy, a fully stocked shop for all your equipment needs and even two on-site restaurants. Their mini-golf course is currently closed due to the pandemic, but is an ideal spot for some fun with the kids once it opens again.
10. Riders Café
For an alfresco meal in a beautiful, rustic black-and-white building, head to Riders Café. Located along Fairways Drive and part of the Bukit Timah Saddle Club, this is a great spot to visit when you need a retreat away from the hustle of the city. With any luck, you’ll spot a few horses milling about in the sprawling grassland. The restaurant serves a menu of modern European fare, with its generous brunch options offering good value for money. We recommend the brioche French toast, which comes with burnt bananas, honey butter, coconut caramel, pecans and honeycomb; as well as the homemade rosti & breakfast sausage, which includes poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, Parmesan and bacon.
This article was first published on 9 August 2020 and was updated on 5 April 2021.