Category Archives: Dining

Dining in CBD becoming a lifestyle

A food and beverage (F&B) culture has sprung to life in Singapore’s financial district recently on the back of a growing population of office workers, residents and visitors there, according to a report on Tuesday.

Dining in the central business district (CBD) could become even more popular in future, property consultancy Colliers said.

It noted that more than 10 years ago, the CBD was “often characterised as one-dimensional, with office buildings laid out side by side with its worker population plying 9 am to 5 pm work hours”.

But the district has since been steadily transformed by high-rise residences, the integrated resort and other business hotels alongside gleaming new office towers, it said.

“The increased level of human activity in the CBD has led to an explosion of the food and beverage (F&B) culture in Singapore’s financial district, where all types of dining concepts and watering holes can be found catering to every price and taste,” Colliers said in its report, released yesterday.

The CBD takes in Raffles Place, Shenton Way, Tanjong Pagar and Marina Bay. It is part of the “Downtown Core”, which also includes City Hall and Bugis.

The number of office workers and residents in the financial district has shot up in recent years.

The working population in the downtown core is estimated to have expanded from 239,000 workers in 2003 to 356,000 last year – an increase of almost 50 per cent over the 10-year period, said Colliers.

City living has also grown more popular since the launch of the 646-unit Icon in Gopeng Street in 2003 and the 1,111-unit The Sail@Marina Bay in 2004, it said.

There are about 5,300 completed high-rise private homes in the CBD now.

“The increase in office-working population during the weekdays, the live-in population of residents and business travellers staying in the 2,561-room Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and other hotels in the CBD, and the transient tourists who make their way to the attractions at MBS, the Merlion Park and Gardens by the Bay, have created a critical mass where F&B trades can flourish,” noted Colliers.

The detailed report can be found:

Click to access TP-Sept2014.pdf

PMs across the Causeway dined over Nasi Briyani at Kallang Wave

State visits are traditionally filled with pomp, pageantry and lavish dinners. However, the leaders of Singapore and Malaysia broke away from the norm on Wednesday (Aug 27), when they opted for a local favourite, nasi briyani.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Najib Razak, to a simple meal at My Briyani House at the Kallang Wave Mall after a visit to the new Singapore Sports Hub. Relations between Singapore and Malaysia have always been warm, but they took a spicy turn when Mr Lee and Mr Najib went to the My Briyani House for dinner.

The heat was certainly on in the kitchen, as the restaurant staff were only notified of the distinguished guests’ planned visit just a week ago. However, the preparations paid off, and the staff were excited to see both prime ministers tasting their signature dishes.

“We were quite impressed and we were quite glad that they tried the food and liked it. That was what we are most happy about,” said the general manager of My Briyani House, Mr Joseph Low.

The choice for both the Singapore and Malaysia leaders when they dined at the restaurant was one of the signature dishes, Chicken Briyani. Apparently, the owner said it took six months to perfect this recipe to find that right balance of spice. The outlet has been open for less than two months.

While there are no plans to commemorate the leaders’ visit with a special dish, the restaurant’s specialities are already gaining fans.

One diner, Rosaline Phan, said: “We went to a number of shops but we found this place very attractive … We found the fish curry very good and the taste is fantastic. The roti prata was awesome.”

“The atmosphere, ambience and service is superb. And the food is not too bad, but there is still space for improvement,” said another diner, Choo Siew Geok.

My Briyani House will open its third branch at Seletar Mall in the next few months.


Singapore Flyer found a new buyer

SINGAPORE: Straco Leisure, a subsidiary of Straco Corporation, on Thursday (Aug 28) announced that it bought the Singapore Flyer for S$140 million. The Flyer has been in receivership for over a year.

In a media release, Mr Tim Reid, the Receiver of Singapore Flyer, said both parties have entered into an agreement to sell the business and assets of the Singapore Flyer to Straco Leisure. He said the receivers and managers are “confident that the prospects of the Flyer are extremely exciting under the new ownership”.

Straco Corp’s Executive Chairman Wu Hsioh Kwang has more than a decade’s experience in managing attractions. The company runs tourist attractions in China in places such as Shanghai, Xi’an and Xiamen.

Mr Lionel Yeo, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said, “The Singapore Flyer is a key attraction in the local tourism scene. We are therefore pleased that Straco Corp, a Singaporean company with strong track record in managing overseas attractions, has chosen the Singapore Flyer as their first attraction in Singapore to establish a presence back home.”

STB will work with Straco Leisure on their plans for the Flyer.

Singapore Flyer may find a new owner soon.

It has been more than a year since the Singapore Flyer was placed under receivership. But tenants may soon have some clarity about their future; Channel NewsAsia understands that a new owner of the giant observation wheel may be announced soon.

News reports say that local tourism investor and operator Straco Corporation could acquire the Flyer soon. The company suspended trading of its shares on Wednesday (Aug 27).

Many tenants say business has been hit by flagging tourist numbers, but some are holding on to hope that the situation will improve, especially with the possibility of a new buyer coming on board.

Some, like SSP Singapore, which runs popular outlets Popeyes and O’Learys Sports Bar and Grill, have had to cut manpower and adjust their business models. Popeyes has reduced its staff from 13 to just five, and SSP Singapore says sales there have dropped by “more than 50 per cent” since mid-2011. Meanwhile, O’Learys Sports Bar & Grill has tweaked its business model – it now seeks to attract corporate clients to hold events.

Said Mr Parmod Kumar Verma, regional general manager of SSP Singapore: “We were the anchor tenants when we moved here, and business was better then because it was a new location, so there was a lot of hype about Singapore Flyer.  We used to get a lot of people here. Our core business is at the airport and we are used to getting good business. (Moving here) was testing the waters, and I would say it has not quite been up to expectations.”

The Flyer’s changes in management and lack of support for tenants also contributed to this, he added.

Other operators like the Singapore Food Trail are turning to promotions and offers to boost their business. Non-F&B retailers are also struggling. At its peak, motion simulation ride XD Theater thrilled about 80 customers every day, but the numbers have slowed.

Said XD Theater manager Bernard Rio: “Initially, when we started in 2012, business was quite good. But over the last year, business has dropped a little bit, I think maybe like 10 to 15 per cent. There are fewer tourists coming here.”

However, the doom and gloom is not universal. Some outlets say they have been unaffected by the Flyer’s downturn in fortunes, while others have even seen improvements in their business, thanks to tie-ups with travel agents.

Mr Bhandari Rajender Kumar, managing director of Singapore Hospitality Group, for example, says the group’s Royal Palm restaurant has seen a 30 per cent increase in business every year since it opened, due to its good relationships with travel agents.

But this may not last, as travel agents say the Flyer is facing stiff competition from newer attractions in Singapore. More tourists are choosing to go the “free and easy” route instead of joining group tours, and showing a preference for attractions that are more centrally located and that offer a more diverse range of activities. There are also more options for those who want to view the Singapore skyline.

ZOUK’s lease at Jiak Kim Street is extended till 2015 unless new site is found

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) have today announced that Zouk will be allowed an extension of time to facilitate its relocation from Jiak Kim Street.

At the end of its current tenancy on 31 December 2014, Zouk will be granted a final extension of the tenancy at its current premises. The duration of the extension will be tied to Zouk’s ability to secure alternative premises within a specified timeline:

a) If Zouk is able to secure a new location by 30 June 2015, they can be given a final extension up to 31 December 2017 to complete its relocation. An extension up to 2017 will give Zouk sufficient time to undertake renovations or to plan and construct a new structure to house the club at the new site, and relocate thereafter.

b) If Zouk is unable or chooses not to secure a new location by 30 June 2015, the tenancy at Jiak Kim Street will expire on 31 December 2015.

Suntec City starts drawing crowds after a new look

Business has picked up for several restaurants and shops at Suntec City, as its $410 million makeover enters the final phase of a 21/2 year revamp.

Sales for eight eateries and stores in the mall’s new West Atrium and near the Fountain of Wealth have risen by about 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the first half of the year.

Among them are mid-range Western restaurants Peperoni Pizzeria and L’Entrecote, and Muthu’s Curry, an old-timer at the mall since 2006.

Said Muthu’s Curry’s director of operations, Mr Srinivasan Ayyakkannu, 36: “We suffered a massive drop in sales of about 35 per cent during the six-month renovation period from end 2012 to May last year. But our customers have certainly increased now.

“Before the renovations, our 120-seater restaurant would be only one quarter full during dinner time on weekdays. Now, we have 160 seats which are at least three quarters occupied.”

When The Straits Times visited the mall last weekend, queues of about 10 people were spotted at restaurants such as Din Tai Fung and Ramen Dining Keisuke Tokyo in the West Atrium. There were also long queues at the eateries near the Fountain of Wealth. The walkways in both areas were crowded with families and young people.

Tenants in the area estimated that the mall’s foot fall has risen by about 20 per cent this year compared to last year.

Suntec City Mall and its convention centre have been undergoing renovations in three phases since June 2012.

The West Atrium, which opened in June last year, fell under Phase 1. It features F&B outlets and high street fashion brands like H&M and Uniqlo.

Phase 2 in the East Atrium, which opened two months ago and focuses on entertainment, includes a karaoke outlet, an indoor playground and Toys ‘R’ Us. A Golden Village multiplex with 11 screens will open there in November.

The final stage of the revamp is slated for completion by the end of this year. While the mall has yet to announce the line-up of tenants for this phase, most of the shops will be flagship stores, said Ms Susan Sim, deputy chief executive of Suntec Reit, which owns Suntec City Mall. They will include brands that are new to the Singapore market.

Despite the larger crowd, however, some businesses did not make it.

Two high-end restaurants, Oushin Steakhouse by the Akashi Group and Le by the Paradise Group, both located in the West Atrium, closed in April and July, respectively.

One reason for their closures could be the inability to attract their target clientele as they were located among mid-range restaurants and shops, said retail expert Samuel Tan, course manager for retail management at Temasek Polytechnic.

Stores near the middle of the mall between Office Towers 1 and 2, which has been hoarded up for the last phase of the revamp since February, are also not getting the foot fall or sales they expected.

Adore Cosmetics said foot traffic to its store has fallen by up to 50 per cent since the renovation started.

On tenants’ request for more advertising and promotion (A&P) events, Suntec Reit’s Ms Sim said that the management’s A&P efforts have been strategically focused based on tenant mix so far.

Meanwhile, some retailers are doing their own promotions. Said The Travel Store marketing manager Embre Kew: “Our store has been doing okay so far, but we plan to come up with our own marketing activities and collaborate with other tenants related to attractions and travel by the end of this year.”

Since the completion of the first two phases of upgrading, Suntec City Mall has had a committed occupancy rate of 97.6 per cent, with about 220 tenants. The number will go up to about 300 when the mall is fully open by early next year.

– See more at:

Central Area Masterplan

A video that summarises the development plans for the Central Area of Singapore!

Sizzling Thai BBQ

Mookata – pork pan literally in Thai – is a famous thai BBQ cum steamboat cuisine.




At the centre of the pan is for the barbeque and at the side holds the soup where you can have the traditional Thai steamboat.

Amazing part of this cooking method is that the juices from the barbequed meat will flow into the soup. This will enhance the taste of the soup and steamboat!!





Location: Golden Mile Complex #01-67
Price: $15-$30 per pax (approximately based the number of diners)
Rate: Very Satisfying – weekends are usually packed during dinner times.

Hip Stores in Singapore

Hipster decor 101

By now, a decade or so into the movement towards things retro and indie, you might have developed the ability to spot a hipster from miles away.

Buddy Holly geek glasses? Yup. Old-school fixed-gear bicycle? Yup.

Hangin’ out in droves, but careful not to be too much in droves, in cafes of a particular sort? Oh, yeah.

These cafes, like their patrons, often also conform to a certain look. Raw industrial finish, recycled furniture, naked lightbulbs and, of course, a well-placed bicycle or two – for the owners to run errands nearby.

As early as 2010, hipster cafe culture has sprung up in Singapore and has been thriving since. Well-known ones include Papa Palheta now in Tyrwhitt Road, Loysel’s Toy in Kampong Bugis and 40Hands in Yong Siak Street.

They are often fronted by other hipsters – young urbanites who reject consumerism and mass-made products in favour of all things obscure and indie.

With dreams and passion sometimes bigger than their budgets, these cafe owners keep set-up costs down by eschewing fancy fittings. Even torn fabric on a couch can be overlooked, if it saves its new owners $30.

November 8 Coffee & Company’s co-owner Wiltian Ang’s answer to its $10,000 decor budget was simply: “Tight.”

Others that Life! spoke to worked with budgets of between $10,000 and $20,000 to do up their interiors. In true hipster fashion, some owners went the do-it-yourself route.

Hipster cafes often give customers the sense of hanging out at someone’s home, just as their clientele are being inspired to decorate their pads to look like their favourite new old coffee shop.

Life! offers a tongue-in-cheek Hipster Decor 101, with seven must-haves for a credible crib.


Beyond good food, the hipster cafe must also offer numerous appealing spots for clients to pose for Instagram-able pictures. Cute or whimsical often scores well with the shutter-happy crowd.

Step into The Brew & Bake Company in Clementi and you will feel like a child among your favourite things in this three-month-old, 32-seater cafe.

Sit on diamond-tufted chairs and sofas in primary colours, some of which were brought in from Thailand. A striped awning in the same colours hang over the entrance, as though you are entering a circus or carnival.

Upping the aww-factor, co-owner Louis Huang, 31, has filled display cabinets with toys and figurines, such as Care Bears and My Little Pony. There are also coasters and crocheted rabbit merchandise on sale at between $5 and $38.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to the House Rabbit Society of Singapore.

Mr Huang, a self-taught baker who has a silent partner, says: “It just puts a smile on our customers’ faces when they see such child-like surroundings. They feel like they can chill out.”

And while Kovan is not exactly hipster central, cafe Hatter Street there has diners going down the rabbit hole in its 800 sq ft Alice In Wonderland- themed interiors.

Chef-owner Yvette Chua, who declines to give her age, enlisted the help of interior design firm Pebbletree Designs to conceptualise and draw images on the wall of the two-month-old cafe.

Her older sister, a psychologist, also pitched in to help hand-draw motifs on the wall and a lampshade with Sharpie markers.

Ms Chua, a former teacher at Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, says: “It all started when I wanted the cafe to look like the Mad Hatter had decorated it. But it morphed into a cute version of Alice In Wonderland, with the pink colours.”

Before you leave, snap a shot of the yummy dessert table, lined with artificial grass and decorated with a macaron tree, bird cages and stuffed rabbit toys.

Similarly, La Marelle Cafe & Boutique in Baghdad Street may induce diabetic shock in you, thanks to its saccharine, whimsical decor – from a pink stairway dotted with coloured raindrops to lantern lights.

Find the look: The Brew & Bake Company, 28 Clementi Road, tel: 9235-2276; Hatter Street, 212 Hougang Street 21, 01-333, tel: 6988-4591; and La Marelle Cafe & Boutique, 25A Baghdad Street, tel: 8138-7654

Obscure location

Any hipster joint worth its sea salt, artisanal brew or bespoke cocktail must be well hidden – lest the unhip masses wander in and, gasp, make the place too mainstream.

That is why you must hunt high and low for them in the unlikeliest places: industrial neighbourhoods, warehouses, old sports halls or camouflaged among tour agencies or budget hotels.

The thirsty and hungry must be thrown off the scent further. Hence some have no shop signs or public contact information such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, although a Facebook page is a common option.

Wheeler’s Yard is in the industrial estate of Balestier and hidden among factories, while Backstage Cafe is also in a similar area in Kallang. Brawn & Brains is tucked away in the Old Badminton Hall in Kallang.

The folks behind two-month-old coffee house Ronin in Hongkong Street take the cake for being elusive. You need to remember its unit number and hunt for the pillar around the corner of its doors, which has a stencilled sign with “17 HKST”, to give you a hint of its location. Miss the sign and the doors will just look like a mirror. And there is no number to call or a Facebook page to check out.

Find the look: Ronin, 17 Hongkong Street; Wheeler’s Yard, 28 Lorong Ampas, tel: 6254-9128; Backstage Cafe, 158 Kallang Way, 01-06, tel: 6743-6893; and Brawn & Brains, 100 Guillemard Road, 01-07, tel: 9771-1610

Going D-I-Y

The hipster-chic look should not cost much. Why buy a new chair when an old one, at half the price, looks as good as new after a scrub and new upholstery?

The owners of 50-seater cafe Working Title in Arab Street know this. The two best friends, Mr Mustaffa Kamal and Mr Calvin Seah, both 29, stretched their limited budget of about $8,000 by rescuing old furniture and rolling up their sleeves to sand and repaint the pieces.

They salvaged wood from discarded planks, pallets, boards and crates, then sanded and varnished them to create tables.

With no prior know-how, they went online to sites such as YouTube and Pinterest to learn to use tools and paint properly. It was a crash course on how to make furniture, says Mr Seah, who had “never even picked up a saw before this”.

They also scoured used furniture shops to buy items and checked out dumpsters for seats they would refurbish. A prized find was an unwanted powder-blue bench in the Ubi Industrial area. It now has pride of place in the middle of the cafe.

Find the look: Working Title, 48 Arab Street, tel: 9734-4187; November 8 Coffee & Company, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-30, tel: 6554-4388; and Hatter Street, 212 Hougang Street 21, 01-333, tel: 6988-4591


Matchy-matchy is a no-go when it comes to achieving the hipster vibe. No buying of identical chairs in bulk because mismatched ones give off a casual, creative yet devil-may-care attitude.

If you must buy a set, then at least paint them in different colours. Anything that looks too regular or straight off the mass market is anathema.

Different chair styles painted in the same colour help make for a more uniform look, if that is what you desire. Otherwise, go the whole hog and have a bold selection of unique seats at the same table such as those at Cups N Canvas and Working Title.

For individual beauties, rummage around Hock Siong & Co at 153 Kampong Ampat, which sells furniture cast off by hotels in Singapore. The company’s inventory has items such as sofas, lights and silverware. At least three of the seven cafes Life! spoke to had found some of their furniture pieces there.

Or check out dumpsters to yield prized finds, especially in the spring-cleaning lead-up to festive seasons.

Lastly, forget about arranging your mismatched furniture in individual nooks and cosy configurations: Communal is in. Many hipster cafes have long benches at 12-seater tables – all the better to meet and mingle with newfound kindred spirits.

The Marshmallow Tree has a 3m-long, suar wood communal table. The 20-seat eatery mixes wooden benches and vintage pencil-leg chairs too.

Find the look: Working Title, 48 Arab Street, tel: 9734-4187; Cups N Canvas, 139 Selegie Road, tel: 6884-6855; and The Marshmallow Tree, 46 Telok Blangah Drive, 01-85, tel: 9852-1210

Old name, new place

A sick man once walked into this 60- seater cafe in hipster motherland Tiong Bahru and ended up yelling at its owners. He was looking for traditional Chinese medicine to soothe his illness but, instead of ginseng and herbal concoctions, they could offer him only cupcakes and coffee.

Who could blame him, though, given that the place is called The Dispensary and was indeed a traditional Chinese medicine hall in its past life?

The new cafe was started about four months ago by Mr Fred Wee and his wife Claire, both 54, and another partner, Mr Joel Lam, 49. After renting the 2,200 sq ft shop unit last September, with its medicine cabinets and shelving still intact after 10 years of neglect, they decided to build a cafe in it.

They even left the original painted signage on a pillar outside the shop and a wooden sign of the medical hall’s Chinese name inside – taking a leaf from another hipster cafe, Chye Seng Huat Hardware in Tyrwhitt Road, which named itself after the metal and hardware shop that used to be on that street.

Mr Wee, who also owns a cafe in Johor Baru, says: “The name works both ways for us, that people could be mistaken by our identity, but it still draws them in. As long as people are coming by, it works for us.”

These days, the medicine chests behind the counter hold coffee powder. Regular customers can even keep their own beans there.

And never mind that it does not serve any healing herbs. Its classic carrot cake with rich cream cheese frosting ($6) is so good, it is therapeutic.

Find the look: The Dispensary, 69 Tiong Bahru Road, tel: 6536-0225

Industrial, vintage or quaint decor

The naked brick is every hipster’s crush.

A wall of exposed bricks, with visible cement fillers, is the hallmark of the hipster’s lair.

Hipster cafes often use such brick feature walls when designing their spaces. The industrial look has been adapted from Manhattan lofts, where other must-haves include raw, concrete flooring; naked lightbulbs dangling by long looping wires from high ceilings; and exposed piping.

Wood, too, features heavily. The organic material’s grain and patterns as well as dark rich hues go well with concrete walls and floors. At November 8 Coffee & Company in Thomson, owners Shawn Neo, 36, and Wiltian Ang, 32, have paired brick and wood, using the bricks as bench legs and plywood for seat tops.

Mr Neo, who used to run western restaurant Barbacoa in City Square Mall, says of their D-I-Y, exposed-brick aesthetic: “It’s not well done or smooth on purpose.”

Describing the cafe as “a casual hangout and not a high-end restaurant”, he adds: “We don’t want it to be too formal.”

Similarly, Lowercase in McNally Street has a heavy wood influence. The cafe is decorated with industrial pallets and has exposed pipes on the ceiling.

If the industrial look is too harsh, you could opt for a quaint, vintage look, without becoming kitsch or overwhelming visitors with old items.

OZ Specialty Coffee, also in Thomson, has gone for an all-white scheme, making the 291 sq ft cafe look bigger and brighter. With stairs that lead to a tiny storage loft, coffee bags and brewing paraphernalia for sale, and framed pictures of scenery, it has a homely feel. Co-owner Will Leow, 21, who started the cafe with Mr Peh Li Hao, 22, says: “It wasn’t that we were trying to be hipster… We just went with what we liked for the cafe.”

Find the look: November 8 Coffee & Company, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-30, tel: 6554-4388; OZ Specialty Coffee, Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, 01-13; and Lowercase, 1 McNally Street, Block D, 01-01, tel: 6337-5581

Retro Singapore

Hipsters love to reminisce eras gone by in which they wish they had been born – preferably in authentically renovated settings. For that reason, the hipster cafe has thrived.

Ripping off grandpa’s style, these cafes recreate the look of Singapore and Malaysian coffee shops of yesteryear.

Case in point: Penang Street. With its Peranakan tiles and metal grilles, the two- month-old cafe opened by Minor Food Group Singapore brings back memories of the 1960s on the laidback Malaysian island.

Similarly, The Dispensary in Tiong Bahru, which opened a few months ago, has kept its history as a Chinese medical hall. Sinpopo, an eatery styled like an old-school coffee shop, is named after a notorious nightclub in Tanjong Katong Road in the 1960s.

And what do hipsters eat on in these cafes? Why, enamel crockery, of course – while they graze on suitably old-school decor items.

Cafe owners found the ubiquitous, classic enamelware – pale yellow, blue, green or pink, rimmed in dark blue; mostly made in China – after scouring mom-and-pop shops in Tanjong Katong and Joo Chiat. There are also flower- and animal-motif enamelware and all come in different sizes and depths. They can cost from 80 cents for a small plate to $5 for bigger ones.

To dig up vintage paraphernalia to replicate the hipster cafe look, a pilgrimage to Bangkok is a must.

Sweat it out in flea markets to unearth gems such as vintage transistor radios and television sets.

Check out Rod Fai Market, an open-air bazaar beside an abandoned railroad track, or Ratchada Night Bazaar, at the junction of Ladprao Road and Rachadapisek Road, where you will easily find old records, an old dentist chair or a vintage scooter.

Find the look: Penang Street, 1 Lower Kent Ridge Road, One@KentRidge, National University Hospital Medical Centre, 01-09 and 01-19/20, tel: 6334-6023; The Dispensary, 69 Tiong Bahru Road, tel: 6536-0225; and Sinpopo, 458 Joo Chiat Road, tel: 6345-5034

– See more at: