It’s hard to imagine that Keong Saik Road, an iconic tourist destination, once drew a vastly different kind of crowd. The district—now home to trendy restaurants, bars and boutique hotels—once was a red-light district and a hotbed of small-time crime. Today the only remnants of its provocative past are the multi-storey shophouses that flank the street.
Breakfast spots and coffee stops
Hit up these spots for a hearty breakfast, a midday caffeine boost or simply to lounge your afternoon away.
Tong Ah Eating House
Start the day right by breaking your fast like a local. A traditional eatery along Keong Saik Road. Tong Ah Eating House serves up the classic Singaporean breakfast, which comprises of kaya toast, soft boiled eggs and a strong cup of kopi.
Tong Ah Eating House. 35 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089142. +65 6223 5083.
The Populus Coffee & Food Café
If you need a pick-me-up, follow the aroma of freshly brewed coffee beans into The Populus Coffee & Food Café. The specialty coffeehouse uses blends from local roaster Two Degrees North Coffee, so expect flavours such as natural Ethiopia Dumer filter coffee and Mörk Cold Chocolate. The café sells specialty coffee beans, too, so take a pack home if you’d like.
There’s no better dish to go with your cuppa than the signature The Populus Scramble. Creamy scrambled eggs, marinated feta cheese, bacon and herbs are stacked atop a toasted croissant—breakfast doesn’t get any more decadent than this.
The Populus Coffee & Food Café. 146 Neil Road, Singapore 088875. +65 6635 8420.
Mon 9am-7pm; Tue 9am-4pm; Wed-Fri 9am-10.30pm; Sat 9.30am-10.30pm; Sun 9.30am-7pm.
With mahogany floors complementing blue-tiled walls, The LoKal is a stunning space reminiscent of the laid-back cafés in Australia. An open kitchen puts the chefs in the spotlight, as they use homemade ingredients to create mouth-watering comfort food. Try The LoKal’s kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs) toast and homemade vanilla yoghurt for Singaporean flavours with a twist.
The LoKal. 136 Neil Road, Singapore 088865. +65 6423 9918.
Mon & Tue 8am-4pm; Wed-Fri 8am-10pm; Sat 9am-10pm; Sun 9am-4pm.
These lunch spots have earned a name for themselves, and are buzzing with hungry diners by midday.
Kok Sen Restaurant
Despite the area’s gentrified present, Kok Sen Restaurant retains its old-school charm. With mismatched tables and stools in its dining space, this authentic hawker-styled eatery serves zi char that occupies a spot on the Michelin Guide Singapore's Bib Gourmand.
Do as the locals do and order the prawn hor fun, a signature of the restaurant that graces almost every table. Charred ribbons of the flat rice noodles and plump, palm-sized prawns are drenched in an umami-rich gravy that you will be licking clean.
Kok Sen Restaurant. 30-32 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089137. +65 6223 2005.
Tue-Sun noon-2pm, 5-11pm.
Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant
At Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant, Singapore’s first unagi (freshwater eel) specialty restaurant, you’ll work up an appetite as you watch chefs lovingly baste and grill strips of the fish right in front of you. The daily queue speaks for itself—you’ll find a stream of diners at the entrance even before the restaurant, a Bib Gourmand winner in the Michelin Guide Singapore, opens for lunch.
Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant. 1 Keong Saik Road #01-01, Singapore 089109. +65 6222 0678.
Mon-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10pm.
Go big with dinner
Some of Singapore’s best restaurants can be found on this narrow stretch.
Boasting a Michelin star in both 2017 and 2018, Meta serves up innovative fine dining dishes that marry Asian flavours with French flair. Chef Sun Kim, an alumni of Tetsuya’s in Sydney and Waku Ghin in Singapore, deploys seasonal ingredients in his ever-changing degustation menus—think octopus slick with XO sauce and scallop sashimi in a dressing of basil and yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit).
Meta. Meta. 1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089109. +65 6513 0898.
Mon, Tue & Sat 6-11pm; Wed-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6-11pm.
Flames run in the veins of this Australian barbeque restaurant that occupied the tenth spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list, and has a 2018 Michelin Star to its name.
Unlike American barbeque, Burnt Ends deals in subtler, more complex flavours, like a hangar steak with burnt onion sauce, and smoked quail’s egg that’s crowned with caviar. Its menu changes daily, but if you do spy the Sanger on the board, go for it—The dish consists of luscious pulled pork and tangy coleslaw, sandwiched between brioche buns.
Burnt Ends. 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088391. +65 6224 3933.
Tue-Thu 6pm-midnight; Fri & Sat 11.45am-2pm, 6pm-midnight.