The Singapore Food Festival (SFF) is a celebration of the amazing talent and diverse tastes of Singapore’s culinary past and future.
Exploring Singapore’s drinking and dining options is a big yet enjoyable task. Surrounded by the dynamic cultures of Southeast Asia, with all their regional culinary nuances, Singapore has drawn from these influences to form an array of eating experiences. Chefs are arriving from Europe, Australia and the US to add western elements to the mix. At home, many Singaporeans are moving into the food-and-drink industry, with bankers swapping their suitcases for sushi and forming businesses with originality.
There’s even a movement establishing a modern Singaporean cuisine across the country. We take you to our top hangouts, from ice-cream parlours to street-food centres.
Kerbside Gourmet: Meals on wheels
All that’s missing from Singapore’s dining scene are the food trucks ubiquitous to the rest of Asia. But Ee Poh Luan is trying to change that with her pioneering effort, Kerbside Gourmet. Known as Kerby among its fans – who track its whereabouts via social media – the custom-built kitchen on wheels does more than dispense grub on the go.
Ee left a communications job of 20 years to go to culinary school and now creates dishes with contemporary trimmings such as sous-vide eggs and pea purée. “Food trucks feed consumers’ growing desire for fresh, good food served quickly and conveniently,” says Ee. “At Kerby we serve customers within 30 seconds of their orders.”
Open Farm Community: Natural order
Food visionary Cynthia Chua’s latest venture is Open Farm Community: a sprawling restaurant, urban farm and educational centre for green fingers. Alfresco tables overlook the vegetable and herb gardens and an activity space designated for lawn bowls and gardening. “We want our relationship with food to grow,” says Chua
Burnt Ends: Turning up the heat
A permanent iteration of head chef Dave Pynt’s weekend pop-up barbecue gigs in east London, three-year-old Burnt Ends is proof that playing with fire can generate delicious results. Everything from fennel to Tomahawk steaks, quail’s eggs and chocolate get a smokey char from a quick toss into the brick oven and coal-fired open grill. The grilling master oven was custom-built for Pynt by metalworkers in Chinatown.
Burnt Ends’ menu changes daily, except for a few regulars such as the Sanger burger, a nod to Pynt’s Australian roots. “Every dish is an experiment,” says he. “Wood-fired cooking imparts flavours that are delicious and can only be achieved through contact with coals.”
The New Black: Bringing coffee back
The New Black, with its bright colours and smart Steampunk coffee machines, hopes to bring a new normal to caffeine-craving corporates. Beyond its counter is an array of beans sourced from global roasters such as London’s Workshop Coffee and Singapore’s own Nylon Coffee Roasters. The modular coffee console is designed to be easily moved to offices.
Common Man Coffee Roasters: Beans around the world
A well-known figure in Singaporean hospitality circles, Harry Grover has teamed up with food-and-coffee heavyweight The Spa Esprit Group and Australian wholesaler Five Senses Coffee to collaborate on an all-encompassing venue for fans of good food and coffee.
Using ethically sourced beans from farmers around the world, the coffee menu is extensive; there are also coffee appreciation classes and barista-training programmes. “We’ve carved our eight-metre brew bar to showcase the best coffees,” says Grover. “I want people to be wowed by the food as much as they are by the coffee.”
Corner House: Veg out
Vegetables are said to be the new protein in the realm of fine dining and Jason Tan’s “gastro-botanica” cuisine is a cooking philosophy that showcases just that. “We don’t view vegetables as mere garnishes – we want to celebrate them,” says Tan.
Corner House’s signature dish of French Cevennes onion comprises a single onion presented in four vastly different textures. This vegetable celebration is fitting, as his fine-dining outfit Corner House sits within a homely but handsome black-and-white colonial residence in Singapore’s ever-verdant Botanic Gardens, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Potato Head Folk: Style by spuds
The Indonesia-based hospitality group PTT Family, which is behind the famous Potato Head Beach Club in Bali, opened its first Singaporean venture on Keong Saik Road in 2014. A hearty menu serves delicious gourmet burgers and mainly organic fare paired with homemade sodas and fresh cocktails.
The historical 1939 corner shophouse today stands as a stunningly transformed space, emblematic of the brand’s whimsical yet cool aesthetic. Four levels take you through distinctive experiences; one floor showcases hand-painted murals by Australian artist David Bromley, another is fitted with nostalgic 1930s decor.
The 1925 Microbrewery & Restaurant: Family venture
Uncle-and-nephew duo Yeo King Joey and Ivan Yeo were so proud of their home-brewed craft beers that they soon began passing bottles around to a few of their friends. From that moment it was only a short time before the demand for more cajoled them to legitimise their passion-project into a bona fide business.
The pair’s answer came in the form of a lofty two-storey restaurant-bar on Jalan Besar, an up-and-coming dining street in Singapore. The elder Yeo, who is an aeronautical engineer by day, presides over the four 600-litre beer tanks that churn out various brews. Crowd favourites include a pale ale, stout, alcoholic ginger beer and a Singapore flag-inspired red-tinged lager that is made with beetroot juice instead of water.
Waku Ghin: Relaxed yet refined
Japanese-born, Australian-trained chef Tetsuya Wakuda brings his precise yet laidback cooking philosophy to this fine-dining restaurant within the Marina Bay Sands complex. The intimate space seats only 25, split across four rooms decked out in varying styles.
Each room is attended to by a dedicated private chef or Tetsuya himself. Signature dishes such as the marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar, and Ohmi beef with wasabi and citrus soy, get just the lightest touch in the chefs’ hands. It allows the quality ingredients to speak for themselves.
Wild Rocket: Opposites attract
Willin Low coined the term “Mod Sin”, short for modern Singaporean cuisine, more than a decade ago for food critics befuddled by his marriage of western cooking and local ingredients – and the category has stuck. The best seats in his flagship restaurant are along the sushi bar-style counter, where you can dine omakase-style.
Operation Dagger: Under the radar
This basement speakeasy maintains its cult following by flying under the radar. That’s because it isn’t for everyone, bartender Luke Whearty believes. In a concrete basement that could be described as part bomb shelter, part laboratory, the team combines traditional techniques with modern gadgetry such as sous-vide machines. Clear spirits are distilled from toasted sesame; rye whisky is infused with bananas.
The Market Grill: Surf and turf
Loh Lik Peng is a lawyer-turned-restaurateur whose steak-and-lobster concept within a restored shophouse in Singapore’s CBD started packing in the crowds from its first day of opening in 2013. Head chef Colin West deftly works the grill to turn out a delicious seafood-centric menu that includes lobster rolls so fresh you get to pick your favourite lobster out of the tank.
West says his no-frills restaurant focuses on accessibility and experience, not exclusivity. “I want to provide something more affordable, where customers will still be able to enjoy quality products be they from the land or sea.”
Hawker centres: Group grub
Established in the 1960s as part of the government’s move to clean up itinerant street-food vendors, hawker centres are now an integral part of the city-state’s dining landscape.
These open-air dining complexes are dotted across housing estates, commercial centres and public-transport interchanges and house as many as 50 food stalls selling affordable cuisine ranging from Teochew porridge to immigrant dishes such as Filipino adobo chicken.