When In Singapore….
With Changi Airport’s great connectivity, flights from India to Australia, China and even popular beach destinations like Bali transit through Singapore. Instead of spending time perusing the ample duty-free options, book a day-long layover and eat your way through the city. There is a wealth of street food, hawkers’ centres for spice-loving meat eaters and a great selection of fine dining establishments for those chasing Michelin credibility. With such a diverse range of offerings, it is no wonder that the city is a food-lover’s haven.
Most visitors choose to stay on Orchard Road when visiting Singapore, but there’s more to see and do especially if you’re not looking to shop. Base yourself at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, which offers views of the Civilian War Memorial and is within walking distance of plenty eateries, shopping complexes and clubs.
Your first stop should be the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre, which is where locals come to eat. A traditional hawker’s centre, take the escalators up to the first floor, where you’ll find a Michelin Bib Gourmand chicken rice vendor rubbing shoulders with stalls selling spicy laksa, buttery coffee (yes, it’s bulletproof coffee before it was trendy) and (for those looking to go local), chwee kueh, which is a steamed rice cake topped with radish and chilli sauce). To know what the locals prefer, keep an eye out for the long lines and the Michelin stickers that dot the glass displays. Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice is where you want to queue up for the aforementioned Michelin approved meal, while selfie-stick wielding tourists, local expats and the Chinese residents can be found occupying the food court’s shared seating, slurping down a cheap hot lunch. That this market is in a rapidly evolving part of town – with bars, record stores and cool shops – is an added bonus. Be on the lookout for charming old buildings that still have their Minton floor tiles, which may remind Mumbai visitors of the city’s historic Fort area. For those looking to see the city’s colonial heritage, a walk around the area offers a way to digest the meal…and one could even peek into shops selling interesting local designer wear.
Don’t get too full though because there’s a lot more eating to be done. With the afternoon humidity, it’s probably best to head indoors for some coffee and cake. Dapper Coffee on Amoy Street is only a couple of stops away by MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) or, like most places in Singapore’s developed core, less than S$10 by Uber. Dapper Coffee’s offerings include a signature Dapper Cold Fashioned that takes its inspiration from the whisky drink and comes garnished with a grapefruit slice.
Content for the moment, start your stroll towards the National Gallery Singapore on St Andrew’s Road. In the past, it’s played host to blockbuster shows by artists Yayoi Kusama and Danh Vō and work from Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. The building itself takes the colony’s former Supreme Court and City Hall and combines them into one sprawling museum. There are a lot of Asian artists on display, but take the time to also see the jail cells, courtrooms and other remnants of its former life.
As the sun begins to set, grab a drink at Smoke & Mirrors, the rooftop bar perched atop the National Gallery that offers views of Marina Bay Sands and the Esplanade. The indoor-outdoor space, with its wooden flooring and lounge-like seating, is the perfect place to kick back with a drink – or three. There’s a lot on the menu, and all of it is good, though we are fans of the Smoked Up, which combines smoky black tea and tequila. For dinner, you should book ahead, especially if you’re hoping for Michelin-starred fare. There’s Odette (two Michelin stars, run by French chef Julien Royer) in the National Gallery itself and Iggy’s (one Michelin star, located in Orchard Road’s Hilton Singapore). For those that haven’t planned ahead, Akira Back at the JW Marriott serves up impressive Japanese-inspired cuisine, though vegetarians will find a medley of mushrooms and tofu dishes, so consider yourself forewarned.
End with a drink at Spago Bar & Lounge, which offers you the chance to make your way up to the top of the Marina Bay Sands (right behind the coveted pool) and stare out at the city below. The Buyer’s Remorse, with Bulleit Bourbon whiskey, smoked pineapple juice and lemon is just the thing to end the day before heading to the airport the next morning.
As you get to Changi Airport after a good night’s sleep, luckily there’s more than a fair share of hangover helpers, should you need it. A piping hot bowl of ramen at Ippudo Express should do the trick. If you’re seeking some bread to soak up the alcohol, make a beeline for Krispy Kreme, where a box of donuts is guaranteed to perk you up.
With a full belly, it doesn’t matter what your next destination is because once you land, there’s a whole new city to discover, in the best possible way — by eating and drinking your way through it.