Hidden gems in a bustling enclave

Chinatown's rich heritage and historic charm need little introduction — the district is home to a bustling mix of old and new, filled with traditional shops which stand alongside hip new stores and cafes. Chinatown is also where the Sri Mariamman Temple, Jamae Mosque and Buddhist Buddha Tooth Relic Temple sit side by side on South Bridge Road.

But nestled amidst the rich culture and history are new treasures that have injected a dose of novelty to the neighbourhood. For the trendy crowd, hit the many chic restaurants and bars along Neil Road or Keong Saik Road. Or, hop on over to Club Street where the vibe is electric on the weekends — the street is closed for outdoor dining every Friday and Saturday from 7pm to 2am, so head down to the area for dinner, drinks and hours of fun.

If peace and quiet is more of your thing, head to Ann Siang Hill. This quaint enclave is home to historical sites such as the restored shophouses on Ann Siang Road, Telok Ayer Street and Amoy Street, as well as plenty of tropical flora (such as cinnamon, nutmeg and breadfruit trees) in Ann Siang Hill Park and Telok Ayer Green. Built in 1993, Ann Siang Hill Park is also Chinatown’s tallest geographical point.

Rooftop fun

Photo by STB

Spend the evening sipping on your cocktail of choice while you take in Singapore’s stunning skyline at the many rooftop establishments in Chinatown.

Dive into the sights and sounds at Potato Head Folk’s stunning rooftop bar which is famous for its excellent tiki cocktails. If you’re into craft beers and spirits, drop by Studio 1939, an artsy cocktail club nestled on the third floor of the building. Foodies, don’t forget to check out the excellent grub at Three Buns, a burger joint which occupies the first two floors. Tip: the Baby Huey Burger (prime beef patty with cheese, pickles, spiced mayo and homemade specialty sauce) is to die for.

Over at People’s Park Complex on Eu Tong Sen Street is Lepark, a rooftop-space-turned-bar that serves up a range of tapas, burgers and other comfort food. The name is a play on ‘lepak’, Singlish slang for ‘chill out’. It’s aptly named — kick back and relax with a drink or two while immersing yourself in the unique atmosphere of the Chinatown district.

Put a Peruvian spin on things at Tiger’s Milk, the rooftop bar and grill at The Club on Ann Siang Road. Tiger’s Milk features a ceviche bar that serves up a selection of pisco-based tipples, as well as an open parrilla grill where you can tuck into some traditional Latin American grub.

More Chinatown secret spots

STB

At the popular Ann Siang Hill resides underground ‘secret bar’ Operation Dagger. The bar is as mysterious as it sounds. There are no signboards here, apart from a symbol near the door, but head down the nondescript stairs to enter this basement bar— while you’re there, admire the minimalist décor (bare walls, polished concrete floors and simple woodwork) and savour a range of unconventional cocktails.

Another hidden gem can be found at the nearby Amoy Street — the uber cool Spiffy Dapper. Occupying the second floor unit of a converted shophouse, this coffee shop by day and cocktail bar by night is a favourite haunt of both young hipsters and the after-work crowd. As for drinks, expect craft beers and be prepared to get your gin on with their extensive selection of gin and tonic waters.

For something a little more local, head down to Smith Street Taps at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, which offers affordable craft beer (starting from SGD 6) on tap from 6pm daily (they’re closed on Sundays, though). Pro tip: pair your beer with traditional hawker fare such as satay or claypot rice served up at the nearby stalls for a truly Singaporean experience.