Any local will tell you Singapore is all about the street food (and they’re likely to have an opinion on where the best street food can be found). I’ve already devoted a post to my experience of the street food in Singapore but I also wanted to cover the other places I ate. There comes a time when you crave some air-conditioning and a seat which is not a wobbly plastic stool. Not to mention the great chefs doing some really interesting things in Singapore which are very much worth checking out. So here are my Singapore recommendations for when you want to eat at an actual restaurant or cafe.
Every second big name chef seems to have a Singapore outpost these days but one of the better ones is Esquina which has Jason Atherton’s name above the door. I was a big fan of Atherton in London and loved Esquina as well even though Esquina is a traditionally styled tapas bar more like Barrafina than Atherton’s Pollen Street Social. There are only 12 seats at the bar and no bookings taken so it’s a case of trying your luck at a non peak time. We had success heading to Esquina for a pre dinner drinks and snacks of padron peppers ($16) charred to a smoky soft state on the grill and sprinkled with sea salt and chilli powder. Ham croquettes ($10) were fat and creamy with a crisp bronzed breadcrumb coating. It was all simple stuff but done really well in a really intimate little space.
Details: Esquina, 16 Jiak Chuan Rd Singapore (Ph +65 6222 1616)
On most must eats lists for Singapore you find chilli crab and black pepper crab. So of course I had to add them to my personal must eat list during my time there. Research on a few different blogs brought up Tung Lok, a small chain of seafood restaurants as one of the best places to eat crab, so MTV and I headed to the Tung Lok on Orchard Road. A bit disconcertingly Tung Lok is located inside a shopping centre – not that unusual in Singapore but it does take away from the ambience. The restaurant was filled with large groups of families and friends eating attracted by the reasonable prices. A starter of deep fried calamari ($12) was crisp and moreish with heat from specks of fresh chilli. But the stand out dish of the night was the crab ($52). Cooked in a wine and black peppercorn sauce it had the kind of freshness that only comes from visiting the seafood market daily. Prising the crab apart to get to the sweet, white meat only added to the fun of the experience although we did manage to destroy our tablecloth and a few finger bowls in the process.
Details: Tung Lok, 181 Orchard Road, Singapore (Ph + 65 6834 4888)
Damage: Pricey. Our bill for two came to $110.65.
Ding Tai Fung
Ever had a truffle Xai Long Bao? It’s the new dish available at only certain outlets of Taiwanese chain Ding Tai Fung including Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. The standard pork XLB ($9.50 for 6) at Ding Tai Fung are amazing. Slightly smaller than the XLB I’ve eaten in Melbourne and Hong Kong but intricate and delicate with (count them!) 18 pleats per dumpling. The dumpling skin is thin and the broth incredibly fresh. So I had high hopes for the truffle XLB ($4.50 per dumpling). There was definite truffle flavour in there, earthy and rich, but even though this dish combined two of my favourite things I just don’t think the truffle was really necessary given the standard XLB at Ding Tai Fung are so good.
Special mention here should go to the amazing Tiawanese bureaucracy at work in Din Tai Fung. From the complicated queuing system to the chefs running around with face masks and waitresses with headsets it’s certainly an experience and we managed to deal with about 10 different staff members during the course of just one meal.
Details: Din Tai Fung, Marina Bay Sands, (Canal level) Singapore. (Ph +65 6634 9969) Open Mon-Thu 11am-9.30pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-9.30pm.
Damage: Reasonable. Our bill came to $37.78 for two.
Billed by Singapore’s Time Out as having one of the best “Australian breakfasts” in the city, Kith is where lots of Singapore’s ex pat Aussies hang out. We met up there for breakfast with my friend Jen who has been living in Singapore for a few years. Sure enough there were brilliant toasties filled with scrambled eggs and bacon ($5.50). From the lunch menu the sandwiches ($16) included a huge ciabatta filled with chicken marinated in coriander and caramelised onions and smothered in a yoghurt mayo. The coffee is decent as well and it’s a fun, bright place to hang out.
Details: Kith, 7 Rodyk St, Singapore (Ph:+65 6341 9407)
2am Dessert Bar
A bar which specialises in desserts and stays open until 2am? My idea of heaven. Genius pastry chef Janice Wong is the woman behind 2am dessert bar which serves a long list of desserts paired with wines or tea and coffee. There’s brilliant all white leather couch seating or you can prop yourself at the bar and watch the chefs in action. I had grand ambitions of working my way through the menu but after an earlier hawker market dinner MTV and I were defeated at one dessert each. Wong’s take on a classic chocolate tart ($15) was spectacular. A smooth, rich tart teamed with the citrus tang of a blood orange sorbet and a salty caramel topping. From the “petite” menu a tiny toffee pudding ($10) was dense and sticky from sauce and a rich English custard. A must do in Singapore.
Details: 2am Dessert Bar, 21A Lorong Liput Singapore (Ph +65 6291 9727)
If you want to splash some cash on a serious restaurant in Singapore, Restaurant André is the place to do it. Housed in an old shop house in Singapore’s Chinatown district Restaurant André serves contemporary French cuisine that will blow your socks off. It’s just been ranked in the World’s 50 best restaurants and I’ve posted separately about my amazing meal there.
Details: Restaurant André, 41 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore 089855 (Ph+65 6534 8880)
Damage: Budget breaking. $SG128 each for lunch.
The Lantern, Fullerton Bay Hotel
Forget having a Singapore Sling at Raffles. It’s over priced and tourists are herded in like cattle to a huge bar with no ambience. For panoramic views over Singapore and a killer cocktail the rooftop bar at The Fullerton Bay Hotel is the place to go. The poolside bar was another recommendation from Jen and the views out across Marina Bay Sands to the bright, twinkling lights of the city’s skyscrapers didn’t disappoint. The cocktails were pretty good as well – I love mojitos on a hot night and the Lantern has six different types of mojitos. The English summer mojito ($24) included strawberries and raspberries alongside the traditional mint and lime. Heresy perhaps but very tasty and it came complete with complimentary bar snacks to ameliorate the pain of the hefty price tag.
Details: Fullerton Bay Hotel, 80 Collyer Quay, Singapore (Ph +65 6333 8388)
Damage: Budget Breaking
Gourmet Travel Tips
- We flew to Singapore from Australia with Qantas using frequent flyer points so the cost was about $400 in taxes only. There are some good deals to Singapore though so look around.
- We stayed at and the The W in Sentosa Bay, Naumi Liora in Chinatown and Hotel 1929 in Chinatown.
- Taxis are really cheap in Singapore and plentiful plus the underground trains are brilliant.
- Highlights were exploring the Chinatown area, visiting the spectacular Marina Sands, shopping in Haji Lane and going on Tony Tan’s food walking tour.