The Lion City turns 58 this month, and to celebrate, the SilverKris team is rolling out – in four instalments – a comprehensive list of all the things to love about Singapore – from its vibrant arts and cultural scene and world-class dining experiences to its wide variety of entertainment offerings.
In this second instalment, discover where to go when you’re craving local street food, the best places to see and be seen, as well as under-the-radar watering holes where you can unwind with a well-made cocktail.
To catch up on reasons 1–16 first, check out the arts, culture and heritage edition.
17. Young hawkers taking up the mantle
While many of Singapore’s older generation of hawkers are retiring, a small but brave new cohort of young hawkers are taking up the torch and keeping one of Singapore’s most treasured cultural elements alive. A Noodle Story is one example, which made news when it clinched a well-deserved Bib Gourmand award back in 2016. While A Noodle Story puts a contemporary spin on their offerings, with inventive dishes such as pulled pork ramen, other next-generation hawkers like Tan Jia Le stick to the classics. His stall, which he runs with his girlfriend at Bishan Street 11, is simply named Fried Carrot Cake and serves just two dishes – black or white carrot cake.
18. Sustainable dining and drinking are taking off
One of the most exciting recent happenings in Singapore’s dining scene was the Michelin Guide presenting the country’s first Michelin Green star to Seroja. The award is bestowed to restaurants that have distinguished themselves through sustainable and ethical practices. While this might be the first restaurant to catch the Michelin Guide’s attention, bars and restaurants like Analogue and NATIVE have also been championing sustainable practices for years. NATIVE’s efforts at sustainability include a zero-waste approach that sees dried lotus leaves used as coasters, reusable cloth towels instead of paper napkins and cocktails made with locally foraged ingredients to eliminate its carbon footprint.
“There’s been a rising trend in sustainability and I would like to see more organisations, brands, bars and restaurants working together and sharing ideas to push this movement ahead,” says Vijay Mudaliar, co-owner of NATIVE.
19. A brand new gourmet food park in Resorts World Sentosa
Looking for a convivial dining location with plenty of food options? Check out the newly opened Gourmet Park in Resorts World Sentosa. It features 18 exciting new concepts spread out across food trucks and urban containers, including one from Michelin-starred chef Rishi Naleendra of Sri Lankan joint Kotuwa, chilli crab from Blue Lotus and spins on old classics such as Chun Noodle Bar’s truffle char siew noodles.
20. Ample boozy brunches to splash out on
If you’re in the mood for a lavish brunch with endless flutes of bubbly, you’ll find no shortage of options. Manhattan’s adults-only Sunday cocktail brunch is a classic option with its extravagant spread that includes freshly shucked oysters, chilled seafood, carving stations and a free flow of Telmont Champagne and exquisite cocktails. Another decadent option for a booze-fuelled brunch is Sundays at Atlas. Take in the extravagant bar’s Art Deco-inspired interior and enjoy a free-flowing selection of finely crafted cocktails, Telmont Réserve Brut NV Champagne and an impressive array of small plates. The highlight here is the G&T suite where you can craft your own bespoke gin and tonic. Pick from a choice of two gins, 10 craft tonics and an array of eclectic garnishes, including pink peppercorn, rose buds, bay leaf and cinnamon.
21. Home to gourmet nasi lemak – and its classic renditions
Nasi lemak (fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) might be Malaysia’s national dish, but it’s just as beloved in Singapore where locals are fiercely protective of their favourite stalls. While normally considered a humble dish, Coconut Club raised eyebrows when it first opened, selling an upmarket rendition with premium ingredients and prices to match. Since then, they’ve more than proven their merit, winning a coveted Bib Gourmand award from the Michelin Guide. But just as important are the neighbourhood stalls that are held in equally high esteem – Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak and Ponggol Nasi Lemak are just some of the stalls presenting exemplars of the dish.
22. A wealth of heritage cuisine
While chilli crab and chicken rice might be Singapore’s most iconic dishes, take a deep dive into Singapore’s rich culinary heritage and you might find some other noteworthy culinary curiosities. Chwee kueh (steamed rice cake topped with preserved radish) is one such dish, and has recently garnered notice in the Michelin Guide by way of legendary stall Bedok Chwee Kueh. Another uncommon Singaporean treat that deserves mention is putu piring – steamed rice flour cakes stuffed with coconut and palm sugar. Try this delectable confectionery at Haig Road Putu Piring, which was featured on Netflix’s Street Food Asia, and has outlets across the island – including at Jewel Changi Airport.
23. Quirky, under-the-radar boutique hotels
The city-state is home to a remarkable number of legendary five-star hotels including the quintessential Raffles Hotel. But if you’re looking for a more intimate experience, book a stay at charming design-forward boutique hotels like The Warehouse Hotel, Hotel Clover The Arts and the Wes Anderson-esque The Great Madras – both located in some of Singapore’s most culturally rich neighbourhoods. If you’re craving a quiet respite, Lloyd’s Inn is a tranquil oasis in the city that manages to feel far from the urban bustle.
24. A growing craft spirit and beer movement
While Tiger Beer might be Singapore’s most iconic brew, adventurous craft breweries like Lion Brewery also call this city home. Founded by three friends, the boutique brewery produces a selection of pale ales, lagers and session IPAs that drink well in Singapore’s tropical climate. If you’re more of a gin aficionado, visit Tanglin Gin and Singapore’s first micro-distillery, Brass Lion Distillery. Here, you’ll discover a range of gins with local inflections, like the blue-hued Butterfly Pea Gin and the Singapore Dry Gin. Taste Singapore’s melting pot of cultures in the latter, which is infused with herbs and spices like torch ginger flower and lemongrass. Both these establishments also offer guided tours for those seeking deeper insight into the craft.
25. A bevy of private dining options
Singapore’s private dining scene is heating up as food enthusiasts seek fresh, unique and personalised gastronomic experiences. A seat at Potters’ Table is a coveted experience. Here, guests sample artisanal Asia-centric dishes like flavourful nasi ulam (mixed rice and herb salad) on tableware lovingly crafted by the chef-artisan duo. The folks behind Pistachio Everything, a boutique dedicated to – you guessed it – pistachios, The Mixtape Chef sees husband-and-wife Kenneth Yong and Laureen Goh serving a menu inspired by global cuisines, from octopus chawanmushi (egg custard) to Argentinean-style short ribs. Bombay Howrah Dining Car is a supper club with a modern take on regional Indian cuisines from the likes of kolhapuri lamb chops to prawn malai curry. From the rooftop of a terrace home, The Humble Pit focuses on doing barbecue with Asian flavours, starring bacon-cured pork belly, grilled cod with soy bone sauce and many more tantalising bites.
26. A brewing interest in tea
After spending years in the shadow of other beverages, tea is finally getting its moment. “Good tea helps you slow down,” says Xian Tan, co-founder of SILK Tea Bar, which focuses on single-origin teas. And given how exquisite his cafe’s selection of Chinese teas are – and how calming the space itself is – it’s hard to disagree. Other places to enjoy a cuppa in Zen, modern settings include Antea Social and Hvala. For traditionalists, Tea Chapter and Yixing Xuan Teahouse are great options.
27. City of speakeasies
Who doesn’t love a little secret? Especially when there are delicious drinks involved. There’s been a rise of hidden bars in recent years, such as Ume San 100, an izakaya and umeshu bar that’s located behind a row of vending machines inside Fortune Centre. Another one is Synthesis, whose traditional Chinese medicine-inspired cocktails can be found behind a medicine hall shopfront at Suntec City. For something a little more dapper, pay Taylor Adam a visit – this secret watering hole is concealed behind a bespoke tailor shop, and features a fantastical menu inspired by flavours and stories from around the world.
28. Drinks through the night
With many Singapore bars closing at midnight, a 2am closure is sure to draw interest. But Jungle Ballroom is more than just Duxton Hill’s only late-night haunt. For starters, it’s hidden within the buzzy Mondrian Singapore Duxton. An unmarked door off Bottega di Carna or a street-level staircase and tunnel of foliage take you inside this plush space that feels like a cross between ’70s tiki and Southeast Asian glamour. Charismatic head bartender Adrian Besa’s menu is inspired by the levels of a tropical jungle: earthy, herbal drinks go under Forest Floor, while spicy, fizzy cocktails feature under Understorey – and so on. Expect appearances from Asian craft spirits, homemade shrubs and tropical fruit.
29. A world-class cocktail scene
On this note, one would be remiss not to mention the Lion City’s world-class accolades in the cocktail department. 11 Singapore bars took home awards at the recent Asia’s 50 Best Bars ceremony, with veteran Jigger & Pony clinching the #2 spot on the list. Sago House (#10) also made waves in clinching this year’s Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award – well-deserved for its personalised touches that make every guest feel at home in its cosy third-storey walkup in the heart of Chinatown. And shiny awards aren’t the end of the story – the bar scene continues to evolve with newcomers like Cat Bite Club, a Duxton Hill watering hole that lovers of agave and rice spirits will adore, and Mixology Salon, the first international outpost of renowned Tokyo bar serving tea-infused cocktails.
30. A food historian putting Malay cuisine on the world stage
Gastronomy is a big reason to visit Singapore, but marketing food to visitors often means reducing nuanced cuisines to just a few dishes. This is also true of Malay food, with few tourists venturing beyond nasi lemak and mee rebus. But thanks to an 11-year tour de force by historian Khir Johari, the world is taking notice of this multi-faceted cuisine. From interviews with aging homemakers to translations of centuries-old tomes, The Food of Singapore Malays celebrates an expansive and nuanced Malay culinary canon through 40 recipes and over 600 photos. Earlier this year, Johari’s labour of love received top prize at the 28th World Gourmand Cookbook Awards.
That’s it for the hotels, F&B and nightlife edition of “58 reasons to love Singapore”, a National Day-themed series brought to you by SilverKris. Check out the next two stories in this series that highlight the best of Singapore’s shopping scene, as well as the best places to take the whole family:
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