Packed with cafes, independent boutiques as well as traditional stores, the Kampong Gelam district is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike.
It's also a treasure trove of good food—you’ll find a bit of everything, be it authentic Indonesian-style dishes or Mexican cuisine. Kick-start your foodie adventures in this colourful ethnic enclave, with the help of this dining list.
Seek out the heritage-rich restaurants and eateries that locals frequent; some of these boast a history even older than Singapore’s.
Top of the list on must-visit establishments is Zam Zam Singapore, an Indian Muslim restaurant that has been opened since 1908. This family-run business specialises in briyani (an Indian spiced rice dish with meat or vegetables); share the dish or go in hungry to savour the generous portions served.
Other popular picks include murtabak (stuffed pan-fried bread) as well as roti prata (South Indian flatbread), which are popular breakfast-lunch favourites, usually dipped in the accompanying curries.
Further along North Bridge Road is Warong Nasi Pariaman, an eatery with a history that dates back to 1948. It specialises in nasi padang, which is steamed rice served with Indonesian-style dishes like beef rendang (braised meat cooked in coconut milk and spices) and ayam goreng (chicken deep fried in coconut oil).
For rustic kampong (Malay village) dishes, try Hjh Maimunah, a Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant and catering group that’s been around since the nineties. Feast on a spread of dishes such as Sundanese grilled chicken and tahu telur (fried tofu, eggs and vegetables topped with prawn paste sauce). Another must-try: the siput sedut (sea snails in coconut milk gravy).
Zam Zam Singapore. 697-699 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198675. +65 6298 6320.
Warong Nasi Pariaman. 736/738 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198704. +65 6292 2374.
Hjh Maimunah. 11 & 15 Jalan Pisang Singapore 199078. +65 6297 4294.
The charm of Kampong Gelam lies in its diverse mix of the old and new. Take a stroll through the neighbourhood, and you’ll find traditional shops hawking carpets, perfumes and nonya kebayas (Peranakan*-style blouse and dress) just a stone’s throw away from cool cafés and old-school eats.
Coffee connoisseurs will love the selection of quality brews in the area. Head to the Muslim-owned &Why Café, a New York-inspired café and one of a few coffee hotspots in Kampong Gelam. The must-try: cold brews made with coffee beans from Puerta Verde, a specialty coffee farm in Guatemala.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another locale at sister restaurant I Am, which is just a short walk away. You can’t miss it: a large ‘I am’ sign is placed at its entrance along North Bridge Road. Here, you’ll find western-style mains such as pizzas, charcoal grilled burgers and fish and chips.
For hearty eats and sweet treats, drop by Fika Café along Beach Road. This charming eatery is famous for its Swedish-inspired meatballs and baked goods—you’ll want to leave space for a slice of apple crumble pie or salted caramel waffles.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
&Why Café. 31/30 Bali Lane #01-01, Singapore 189867. +65 6291 0993.
Mon-Fri noon-10pm; Sat & Sun 10am-10pm.
I Am. 674 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188804. +65 6295 5509.
Mon-Thu 9am-11pm; Fri 9-1am; Sat 9-1am; Sun 9am-10pm.
Fika Café. 257 Beach Road, Singapore 199539. +65 6396 9096.
Mon-Thu & Sun 11am-10pm; Fri & Sat 11am-11pm.
Food of the world
Foodies hankering for flavours from across the globe should check out the international selection that Kampong Gelam has to offer where you’ll find everything from Mexican food to Japanese-style eats.
Make your way to Beirut Grill on Bussorah Street for Middle Eastern fare. The Lebanese fine dining restaurant specialises in grilled meats as well as mezze (Turkish and Mediterranean small plates) dishes.
Over at Beach Road, more dining options await. Piedra Negra serves affordable Mexican dishes. This little gem is housed within a shophouse with graffiti-style walls.
Further down Beach Road lies Mrs Pho. This small but cosy Vietnamese eatery serves up authentic pho (rice noodles in broth) and rice paper rolls. The ambience sure makes it feel like you’re dining on the streets of Saigon!
Take a short stroll to Box n Sticks at Kandahar Street, if you’re in the mood for Japanese food. Done in the style of a Japanese izakaya, this casual restaurant-bar has everything from yakitori (skewered meats) to sushi and other bite-sized dishes, at wallet-friendly prices.
Piedra Negra. 241 Beach Road, Singapore 189753. +65 6291 1297.
Mrs Pho. 349 Beach Road, Singapore 199570. +65 6292 0018.
Box n Sticks. 28 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198889. +65 6341 7780.
Mon-Thu & Sun 11.45am-3pm, 6-10pm; Fri & Sat 11.45am-3pm, 6-10.30pm.