Day 1: Retail therapy
The Little Red Dot isn’t called a shopper’s paradise for nothing. With the Great Singapore Sale going strong, you can score discounts of up to 70% in the city’s shops.
First things first, fuel up for an intense, full-day credit card workout at Middle Eastern establishment Artichoke. It’s a shame brunch is only served on weekends – remember to book ahead – because the Turkish hot plate eggs with spiced lamb meatballs as well as the fried chicken are an exercise in perfection. If you’re into food and can’t wait to start shopping, pick up a copy of their cookbook.
A block down the street is the National Design Centre, where stores like Kapok and Keepers live. The former stocks a range of clothes, accessories and homewares, while the latter champions a rotating collection of local designers and brands including leather goods specialist Gnome & Bow.
Tip: Keepers Playground of Infinite Happiness is a 10-day takeover of the National Design Centre from 27 July to 5 August by Keepers, with over 100 local designers, craftsmen, artists and mixologists presenting interactive installations and products. Just remember, cash is king.
When you’re done, a five-minute car ride will have you at historic Kampong Glam, Singapore’s Muslim quarter. The district is anchored by the striking Sultan Mosque and hosts a myriad of hip boutiques alongside traditional ones in charming conservation shophouses, such as perfumery Sifr Aromatics and Amir & Sons, a Persian carpet shop founded in 1921. Keep an eye out for murals – including Coffee Story by Yip Yew Chong – as you walk around the neighbourhood.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, treat yourself to a feast at Restaurant Ibid, a recent addition to the local dining scene close to Boat Quay. Helmed by lawyer-turned-culinary-whiz Woo Wai Leong, the winner of MasterChef Asia, this contemporary Chinese spot with Western techniques and elements showcases Woo’s talents wonderfully. Don’t leave without trying the lotus leaf rice with foie gras.
If you’re in the mood for some late-night shopping, head over to The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The mall is brimming with high-end designer labels and stays open until 11pm daily (11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
Day 2: The great outdoors
One of the best things about Singapore is its lush, abundant greenery. Take full advantage of that at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the nation’s second ASEAN Heritage Park. Located in the western corner of central Singapore, it’s a mere 20-minute cab ride from the city. Head out early while it’s still cool enough to enjoy the fresh air as you hike to the top of the island’s tallest hill, which stands at a modest 163m. Aside from its rich history – look out for a bronze plaque which tells the story of the battle for Bukit Timah during World War II – the nature reserve is also home to about 40% of the nation’s flora and fauna including Horsfield’s flying squirrels.
While you’re in the area, call a car and make a beeline for chef-owner Violet Oon’s eponymous Peranakan (Straits Chinese) restaurant, Violet Oon Singapore. Don’t miss classics like ngoh hiang – beancurd-skin-wrapped minced meat rolls seasoned with five-spice powder – as well as Oon’s unique take on local flavours in the form of buah keluak (black nut) noodles, a contemporary pasta iteration with coconut milk and minced prawns.
From there, it’s a 15-minute drive to the iconic Fort Canning Park, which served as the headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army barracks back in the day. There are themed DIY walking trails to choose from, including “Colonial History” – highlights include the site of Sir Stamford Raffles’ first bungalow – which take about 30 to 45 minutes.
Continue your exploration of the city-state’s flora at the Singapore Garden Festival, which runs from 21 July to 3 August at Gardens by the Bay, around 10 minutes away by taxi. Nature lovers will appreciate an impressive display of landscapes and gardens created by renowned local and international luminaries, floral art installations and the Orchid Extravaganza – a display in the Flower Dome conceived by award-winning local filmmaker Royston Tan of 881 fame in celebration of Singapore’s favourite bloom.
Before the sun sets, take a short walk and settle in for an exquisite dinner at Pollen, which is also housed in the Flower Dome. Executive chef Steve Allen, previously from Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, puts forth French-Mediterranean fare with ingredients from their very own garden. The picturesque botanic setting makes for a special dining experience while affording stellar views of the Marina Bay skyline.
Day 3: Artistic sensibilities
The Lion City is known for its rich cultural heritage. Get a dose of it at the Peranakan Museum’s “Amek Gambar – Peranakans and Photography”, which runs till 3 February 2019. This exhibition documents over a century of photographs including both studio and amateur images of Peranakans across Southeast Asia. Patrons Mr and Mrs Lee Kip Lee donated more than 2,500 photos, some dating as far back as 1857.
Take a leisurely 10-minute stroll to New Ubin Seafood at CHIJMES, a fresh arrival to the area and the second outpost of this popular homegrown restaurant. While they market themselves as seafood specialists – dishes like salted egg tiger prawns and garlic pepper mud crabs are de rigueur – a standout is their signature Boss Bee Hoon, a rendition of wok-fried noodles executed to a tee.
Singapore also boasts a vibrant arts scene, and one of the best places to experience that is at the ArtScience Museum, a quick cab ride away, where you can catch exhibitions like “Future World”, which consists of a collection of cutting-edge digital installations.
From the museum, grab a taxi to Parkview Square, often referred to by locals as the “Gotham building”. This handsome example of Neo-Art Deco architecture in the bustling Bugis area is home to Atlas, which recently clinched fourth spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. While many know it as a gin bar – it boasts more than 1,000 different varieties – only those in the know are aware that they serve a killer French-inspired afternoon tea from 3pm to 5pm, with offerings such as savoury éclairs, scones, madeleines and canelés.
Stop by the Parkview Museum’s free exhibition “Challenging Beauty – Insights into Italian Contemporary Art” when you’re done with tea, before taking a short stroll over to watch a local play from the Singapore Theatre Festival at Lasalle College of the Arts.
After the show, hop into a cab and make your way to Rvlt along Carpenter Street, a low-key restaurant and bar that’s open till late with unpretentious food – the beef tartare and fermented potato focaccia are delicious – and an expertly curated selection of wine.
Tip: Singapore Theatre Festival’s sixth edition kicks off on the 5th of this month, thanks to homegrown theatre company W!ld Rice. Curated by festival directors Ivan Heng, W!ld Rice’s founder, and lauded local playwright Alfian Sa’at, the festival runs till 22 July and features eight new productions, including one-woman shows such as An Actress Prepares and Building a Character.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.