Get Lost! No, I’m not being rude. Wink. And I’m not even han.gry! (The sign outside Café Symmetry Singapore.)
I’m talking about discovering a hidden Singapore with Singapore Celebrity Concierge. I travelled to Singapore with one of the four Singapore Celebrity Congierge ambassadors, MasterChef Audra Morrice.
Want to get lost and discover the real Singapore?
Here are fifteen top tips for eating there from when I got lost together in Singapore recently with Audra.
1. Tiong Bahru Bakery
Tiong Bahru was built in the 1930s and is Singapore’s first housing estate. Seemed to me it is becoming a bit of a trendy area now, with young professionals loving the spacious apartments and the art deco design. That’s the kind of crowd that was hanging out at the bakery at breakfast on our first morning. And it serves great coffee from award winning Common Man Coffee Roasters.
Audra’s Get Lost tip: Tiong Bahru Bakery serves up unbelievable pastries so try and get there early as tables fill up fast.
2. Tiong Bahru Market
Chef Michael Han (Restaurant 53) first introduced me to this wet market on a previous trip; it’s good to get there just after dawn to see the market being set up. After you’ve checked out the market’s produce, head upstairs to the food court. Travelling companion, Perth food blogger Matt O’Donohue introduced me to Chwee Kueh(literally water rice cake) – hope you like your morning hit of sambal. And there is also traditional coffee, Kopi ‘O’.
Chinatown is a favourite cultural enclave even among Singaporeans themselves. In Chinatown try popular bakeries like Tong Heng Oriental Pastry on South Bridge Road, tea houses such as Kwong Chen on Sago Street, hawker stalls as well as stylish bars along Club Street.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Both modern and new are meshed together. You can buy just about anything you want here. We checked out where she buys her kitchen supplies in Singapore at Sia Huat Beyond Food in Temple Street.
In the heart of Chinatown, a bustling colourful mix of old and new, we tried the infamous durian (banned on the MRT because of their smell) which create an immediate love or hate relationship. I learned that the key is to eat top quality in peak season (like any fruit) and used my hands, not gloves. Not love, but I did enjoy it.
A singing Chef Ming Tan and his team in an open kitchen, modern western food. A sea urchin pudding was to die for. The food is great for share plates, though I didn’t want to share. I think I might have said at lunch that I’d move to Singapore if this Ann Siang Hill restaurant could be my local. And I meant it! Casual and fun with a lovely wine list too.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Try and get a bar seat to watch the chefs at work!
6. Bugis Markets
Bugis Street had a reputation. In the 1950s Bugis Street was renowned internationally for its flamboyantly dressed transvestites and wide selection of cheap goods and hawker food, hence earning it night market or ‘Pasar Malam’ name. After undergoing a major facelift, the cobblestone area now houses almost 600 shops, and is the largest street shopping location in Singapore.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Head to the 2nd floor of the old wet markets at Bugis to buy dried goods, including everything from dried mango to dried shrimp. They will even let you know what you can and can’t bring into Australia.
Ice Kachang and Ice Chendol
Downstairs at the Bugis hawker stalls there is a huge array of local food to try. In true Singaporean style, we kept non-stop eating from dawn to dusk and beyond. While there are delicious traditional savoury dishes at the food court, like congee and rojak, our afternoon snack was sweet and icy and refreshing. We treated ourselves to both Ice Kachang and Ice Chendol.
7. Café Symmetry
Café by day, restaurant by night, Symmetry in Jalan Kubor takes inspiration from both the Australian casual dining culture and French cuisine. Welcoming and cosy, I really loved this hipster place. Great cold-filtered coffee and afternoon tea. And we also got started on fantastic afternoon cocktails.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: If you need a bit of a rest from all the Asian fare, this place also serves up a delicious brekkie.
8. Da Paolo BistroBar
Casual dining in the lush green foliage of peaceful Rochester Park. We enjoyed the setting and the company and a lovely evening.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: This area is the new Dempsey Hill. Nestled in the thick of old colonial houses, it’s a beautiful setting for a meal or simply a drink.
9. The Daily Scoop
The Daily Scoop’s hand-churned ice cream is the best way to tantalise your taste buds. From the fruit to the creamy, the out of the ordinary to the traditional, they have more than 40 flavours to choose from. I worked my way through some samples, and settled on a great big serve of Kaya.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: this has got to be the best locally made ice cream in Singapore and has a huge range of flavours, including plenty of local favourites like durian, chendol, lychee martini, beautiful strawberry, choc mint and my all time favourite, coconut.
(PS Audra – I loved the coconut too!)
10. Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora
Endless splashes of fun (and my first go on a water slide) might be off the topic, you would think. But on my way to Adventure Cove Waterpark we checked out some fish. Audra came up with the quote of the trip “When I see fishes, I see dishes.” Hahaha. And we also got to swim with them. But for me the discovery of Sentosa was the Ocean Restaurant by Iron Chef Cat Cora. There you can dine underwater while serenely watching the fish that Audra has to keep her hands off.
11. Madras New Woodlands Restaurant
Nestled in the bustling hub of Little India, Madras new Woodlands Restaurant is a great place for breakfast, lunch of dinner. The eater serves south Indian vegetarian staples, such as dosai, paratha, idli, upuma and appam. Audra doesn’t have a sweet tooth, but if like me, you do, then check out the incredible Indian sweets by the front door.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: I take my family here with each and every visit to Singapore. Try the dosai, plain or masala (filled with spiced potatoes) and appam (hoppers). A must is their ‘teh’ with milk and sugar served in little aluminium cups.
12. Adam Road Food Centre
Perhaps my favourite hawker experience in Singapore to date, Audra took us off the beaten track to this locals only (and by that I mean even Singaporeans don’t usually travel to this space). Although Adam Road is small in size, it has a good reputation for it’s delicious cuisine. It is the go-to place for Muslim and Indian Muslim fare such as nasi lemak and mee goring. Here I had my favourite dish of the entire trip, Sambal Pippies. Get your sambal on!
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Definitely give ‘tulang’ a go, a Muslim Tamil Indian invention, a huge showcase of Singapore’s cultural diversity.
13. Chin Mee Chin Confectionary
Black and white tiles. Home made kaya and pastries for take away sale. Yet it is best to sit down – at a shared table in Singaporean style – for the traditional breakfast of kaya toast and runny eggs (eat them with soy sauce and a teaspoon). Chin Mee Chin Confectionary is one of the few remaining old-school coffee shops in Singapore.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Kaya toast is prepared with thin white bread that is smeared with kaya (coconut jam) and served with thick slices of butter.
14. 328 Katong Laksa
Because we literally did not stop eating while we in Singapore a morning break between breakfast and lunches (elevenses you might say but lunch was at 11.30am) we walked through the Peranakan cultural enclave of Katong and Joo Chiat. And we made another unscheduled stop (before we had to return to Australia later that day) for the famous 328 Katong Laksa on Ceylon Street.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Joo Chiat has some of the best Peranakan restaurants and shops selling Nonya crockery through to the famous Durian puffs, and Nonya kuehs.
15. Boon Tong Kee
In 1979, Mr. Thian Boon Hua started a small stall in Chinatown serving Cantonese chicken rice. Building upon the popularity of his silky white sauce chicken rice and with an emphasis on quality service, he rallied his family members to establish Boon Tong Kee’s first restaurant at Balestier Road in 1983. Boon Tong Keen now has seven restaurants in Singapore, from the traditional Balestier Road outlet to the upscale River Valley branch, Boon Tong Kee has enthralled Singaporeans and tourists alike with its delectable food and friendly staff.
Audra’s Get Lost Tip: Try their infamous Hai Nan chicken rice and century old egg with pickled ginger if you are up for it.