Touring Tiong Bahru
A conserved area that used to house the colony’s wealthy traders, and the site of Singapore’s first post-war public housing project, Tiong Bahru is increasingly gentrified today. In its eclectic mix of Straits Settlements-era shop houses and Art Deco walk-up flats, cafes, hip restaurants and stores jostle for space with traditional coffee shops and grocers. Check out some of these places in between meetings or at the end of a hectic convention.
Tiong Bahru Market
Start early and take a gander through the wet market on the ground floor with locals shopping for fresh produce and groceries. Fresh produce such as pomfret, watercress and pineapples are trucked in from Singapore’s ports that very morning. One level up, tuck into one of literally hundreds of varieties of local dishes here. Must-try dishes include Chicken rice (Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice) and Fried Hokkien Noodles (Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee), both of which are awarded the Bib Gourmand in Michelin Guide Singapore 2016 for serving quality meals at affordable prices.
Address: 30 Seng Poh Road
Hours: 6am to 11pm
The advent of online bookstores has sadly forced some large brick-and-mortar retailers out of business, but indie outfits like this thrive on. Spend hours browsing its tightly curated collection of Singaporean literature – touted to be the largest in town, it includes rare and out-of-print titles – and fiction, or pick up one of its hand-stitched notebooks or vintage knick-knacks as a souvenir.
Address: 9 Yong Siak Street
Opening hours: 10am to 8pm (6pm on Sunday and Monday)
Sin Hoi Sai
This seafood restaurant is one of the oldest in Tiong Bahru. Drop by, like countless others have done for over 30 years, for its exotic local-style seafood that includes irresistible dishes such as salt-and-pepper mantis shrimp, geoduck sashimi, and snow crab stir-fried with cheese. The wee hours are the best time for people-watching, as that’s when businessmen and partygoers come for supper. Who knows, you might even spot a celebrity or two.
Address: 55 Tiong Bahru Road #01-59
Hours: 5pm to 5am
Bincho at Hua Bee
With gentrification comes the loss of well-loved heritage shops but not at Bincho. The modern yakitori bar is deliberately concealed at the back of the 70-year-old Hua Bee kopitiam (local coffee shop), which was featured in Singaporean cult film Mee Pok Man. In the day, partake in some traditional mee pok (flat egg noodles with minced pork) or kaya (coconut jam) toast; when evening falls, dig into some of the finest meat skewers outside of Japan.
Address: 78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19
Hours: Noon to 3pm, 6pm till late (closed on Mondays)
In 2010, Forty Hands offered the nation its first taste of third-wave coffee – and we’ve been hooked since. The name of the shop refers to the number of people believed to be involved in producing coffee, from bean to cup. Besides all the various types of coffee you’d expect, there are also single-origin cold brews and a small selection of ciders, beers and cafe-style meals. A great place for a break when exploring the neighbourhood.
Address: 78 Yong Siak Street #01-12
Hours: 7.30am to 5.30pm
The Tiong Bahru Club
Dressed up like a vintage coffee shop, the Tiong Bahru Club is a naturally ventilated bistro that offers beer on tap and craft cocktails, accompanied by a range of tapas or more substantial meals, all inspired by local cuisine. Try the Sucati, a thirst-quenching fresh sugarcane martini for muggy nights, and the Milo-Dinosaur, a Baileys-and rum-laced version of a distinctively Singaporean malt chocolate beverage.
Address: 57 Eng Hoon Street #01-88
Hours: 9am to 10.30pm (weekdays), 8.30am to 11.30pm (weekends)
Located directly across from the park where retirees used to practise taichi (Chinese martial arts) and listen to their songbirds chirping in the morning, the cosy boutique hotel harks back to bygone days of languid living. Call timeout and take a refreshing dip in the rooftop lap pool or laze under the parasols on the rattan deck chairs. Tip: Request for a room with a terrace and watch the world go by.
Address: 77 Tiong Bahru Road