True to its ‘City in a Garden’ moniker, Singapore is a marriage of lush tropical foliage and bustling metropolis. This emphasis on greenery is moving beyond the streets of our city and onto our plates, thanks to a growing number of chefs and restaurateurs who are whipping up cuisine inspired by what we find in Singapore’s natural surroundings.
Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique
Southeast Asian fruits, flowers, pods, herbs and spices are the pride and joy of this gelato parlour. Its freshly churned, botanical-inspired gelato (SGD 4.70/scoop) pays homage by using ingredients and flavours native to our region. So instead of hazelnut and chocolate, you can pick from lychee raspberry, pandan, white chrysanthemum, strawberry basil, and other refreshing tropical flavours. To lift those floral notes, ask for your gelato to be heaped on a crispy thyme cone for an extra dollar.
Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique. 63 East Coast Road #01-05, Singapore 428776. +65 9678 6092.
Mon-Thu, Sun 12-10pm, Fri & Sat 12-10.30pm.
Located in the heart of the Gardens by the Bay, this fine dining restaurant serves up exquisite plates that are as vibrant and vivid as its surroundings. Executive chef Steve Allen, previously from the one-Michelin-starred Claridge’s in London, pushes out bold flavours with his innovative use of vegetables, as evidenced in Pollen’s Vegetarian Tasting Menu (SGD 168). The degustation includes dishes such as salted egg and sweet potato sabayon with dukkah and apricot, as well as truffle and Parmesan gnocchi with broccolini and capers—all of which you can tuck into while soaking in views of the Marina Bay waterfront.
After a meal here, explore the Flower Dome (you’ve already made it in, after all) and stroll through the sub-20ºC Mediterranean garden that’s set with exotic flowers and plants.
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay. 18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09, Singapore 018953. +65 6604 9988.
Mon 12-2.30pm, 6-10pm; Tue 3-5pm; Wed-Sun 12-2.30pm, 3-5pm, 6-10pm.
The Halia (it’s also the Malay word for “ginger”) is located in the Ginger Garden of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which is home to over 250 species of the root. The restaurant takes the nature theme seriously: even the layout of its architecture conforms to the contours of the land, preserving the trees and foliage around it.
The food, on the other hand, combines refined European techniques with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavours—with many forms of ginger on the plate. Its dish of grain-fed beef tenderloin (SGD 32), for instance, is accompanied by ginger flower ketchup, while its oven-baked halibut fillet (SGD 40) swims in a ginger-perfumed broth. Plus, you’re guaranteed excellent views of the surrounding greenery thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. It doesn’t get more idyllic than this.
Ginger Garden, Singapore Botanic Gardens. 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569. +65 8444 1148.
Mon-Thu 12-9.30pm; Fri 12-10pm; Sat 10am-10pm; Sun 10am-9.30pm.
An indoor food truck park, Picnic is an all-in-one dining destination which offers a different experience depending on where you sit. The café’s landscaping is replete with fresh flowers and potted plants that validate its name. It’s the handiwork of Singaporean florist Harijanto Setiawan, whose designs have won international awards such as the Silver Gilt Medal at Chelsea Flower Show London 2013.
Whether you choose to nosh on a lobster grilled cheese sandwich (SGD 18) in the flower conservatory or sip on tea as you lounge on the lawn, the café’s ambient lighting mimics the weather and time of the day—it’s almost as though you’re picnicking in the great outdoors. Order hearty sharing plates such as pepperoni pizzas (SGD 12) and whole French-style roast chickens (SGD 44), then complete your meal with desserts such as crêpes topped with berries and nuts (SGD 8). For boozy beverages, a small bar at the back of the space offers draught beer, wine and cocktails.
Wisma Atria. 435 Orchard Road Level 3, Singapore 238877. +65 6734 8352.
Wildseed Café and Bar
Wildseed brings together a café, patisserie, cocktail bar and urban farm into one space, with produce from the farm making its way onto the plates and into the glasses. Sip on nature-inspired tipples like the vodka-based beetroot hibiscus sling (SGD 21) and chow down on gourmet meaty sandwiches (SGD 15-18) before grabbing a dessert. The desserts shine through with local influences, too. Banana loaf (SGD 6.50) is topped with shavings of ginger flower, while a coconut muffin (SGD 6.50) is coloured blue thanks to the addition of pea flower, an ingredient traditionally used in Peranakan (Straits-born people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage) cuisine.
The Summerhouse. 3 Park Lane, Singapore 798387. +65 6262 1063.
Knots Café and Living
Stepping into this one-stop furniture store and café is like walking into a greenhouse—it blooms with flower arrangements, terrariums, potted plants, and other tropical flora. Everything here is for sale, including the tables you’ll be seated at while tucking into the desserts on the predominantly sweet menu.
Expect café-friendly treats: there are waffles and ice cream (SGD 4.30-9.90), generous slices of cake (prices vary, depending on availability) and brunch items like eggs Benedict (SGD 12.90) and scrambled eggs on toast (SGD 7.50). Food aside, Knots Café carries an impressive selection of upcycled and hand-crafted furniture pieces that range from dining tables to armchairs to cabinets.
Knots Café and Living. 160 Paya Lebar Road #01-07, Singapore 409022. +65 6817 0383.
Mon-Thu, Sun 9am-9pm; Fri & Sat 9am-10pm.
Open Farm Community
At this open-concept restaurant in the Dempsey enclave of restaurants and bars, the chefs use ingredients plucked from a plot of land just steps from your table. Open Farm Community’s garden is located right beside the dining area, so it comes as no surprise that veggie-forward dishes are its calling cards. Try the coconut laksa (spicy noodle soup) barramundi (SGD 29), laden with baby bok choy and turmeric potato cake, or the red grouper burger (SGD 30), layered with chunky tar tar sauce, pickled cucumber and a local salad on the side.
It’s not just about the food at Open Farm Community. The restaurant works with Edible Garden City, a collective that champions urban farming in Singapore, to conduct workshops and garden tours. Find out more and get involved here.
Dempsey Hill. 130E Minden Road, Singapore 248819. +65 6471 0306.
Mon-Fri 12-4pm, 6-10pm; Sat & Sun 11am-4pm, 6-10pm.