Between contemporary murals and art deco-style shophouses, Keong Saik is an energetic artery that courses through Chinatown’s rich heritage. The eclectic and vivacious watering holes you’ll find here even clinched Keong Saik a spot on Lonely Planet’s 2017 list of the top ten places to visit in Asia.
A hub of both leisure and commerce, Keong Saik has many faces and is replete with curious tipples and nibbles. Hip businesses and pubs burgeon with new concepts and ideas, housed within vintage shophouses that exist alongside old men tending to their pet birds or playing rounds of Chinese chess. We recommend slowing your pace and opening your eyes and ears while you’re in the neighbourhood—there’s plenty of the old and new to soak in.
Housed within the trendy co-working and events space The Working Capitol, 1KS is where the neighbourhood’s office crowd congregate for meals or to work remotely. This new tenant of Keong Saik is also a ripe place for people-watching. Creatives and entrepreneurs from an array of industries anchor their laptops inside 1KS, drawing inspiration from the café’s old-school surroundings.
Besides a variety of salads, sandwiches, coffee and toast, this unassuming brasserie at the mouth of Keong Saik also makes fresh carnitas (Mexican braised pork) and short ribs, and there’s an on-site smoothie bar to boot.
The Working Capitol. 1 Keong Saik Road #01-02, Singapore 089109. +65 6221 1792.
Mon-Fri 8am-9pm; Sat & Sun 9am-6pm.
At Gibson, dapper bartenders serve their concoctions on a marble tabletop, blues and swing issue from the speakers, and stained glass flourishes complete the establishment’s ode to the classic dandy. The namesake cocktail (S$23), an elixir of gin, sake and vermouth served with a pickled onion, is the must-order here.
Gibson. 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, 2nd Floor, Singapore 089834. +65 9114 8385.
Mon-Thu 6pm-1am; Fri & Sat 6pm-2am.
Another distinguished bar that’s serious about mixology, Flagship serves what some local connoisseurs argue is the best Old Fashioned (S$22) in Singapore. One might not expect that international bartenders frequently work guest shifts in this aloof, dive bar-harking establishment, which also specialises in highballs (from S$20), punchbowls (from S$220) and a cavalcade of other cocktails.
Flagship. 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, Basement, Singapore 089834. +65 9011 8304.
Mon-Thu 6pm-1am; Fri & Sat 6pm-2am.
Vistas over vino
From the golden beaches of Bali to a gorgeous Streamline Moderne building in Singapore, Potato Head Folk is one of the city’s hippest dining and drinking establishments. There are four floors to check out, where cocktails (S$16-S$18) and gourmet burgers (S$15-S$35) provide fuel for the night. Choose a table at the al fresco rooftop terrace, for a majestic view of the surrounding shophouses and skyscrapers.
Potato Head Folk. 36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089143. +65 6327 1939.
Face the music
A mishmash of musicians frequent Drink Culture, which features DJs, full bands and acoustic duos playing on various nights of the week. The bar whips up a menu of mains and bar bites, alongside wines, draft beer and cocktails. Visit during happy hour, from 5pm to 9pm—that’s when Drink Culture is the most boisterous, with nearby office workers letting their hair down over live music and booze.
Drink Culture. 51 Kreta Ayer Road, Singapore 089007. +65 9683 3516.
Mon-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri & Sat 6pm-2am.
If you feel inspired by the tunes that blare out along Keong Saik, head over to LiveAMP Studios. It offers music lessons or, for those with the right skills, jamming sessions with a rack of instruments and amplifiers to choose from. You can also record the music you make—on professional studio-grade equipment, no less. Take note, though: You’ll have to make an appointment for this.
Chinatown Plaza. 34 Craig Road #B1-08, Singapore 089673. +65 9385 7089.
By appointment only.
Stay in the old-school buildings of Hotel 1929 or Naumi Liora, boutique hotels within traditional heritage shophouses that are almost a century old. But don’t just spend time in the rooms—hit up the hotels’ hip common areas, and you might find some fellow travellers to mingle with.
Hotel 1929. 50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154. +65 6579 2026.
Naumi Liora. 55 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089158. +65 6403 6003.