If there were a neighbourhood we’d like to move into based solely on food offerings, it would be Tiong Bahru. What was originally a sleepy neighbourhood for ‘kept women’, it has evolved into hipster central (mistresses notwithstanding). Whether it’s the plethora of great coffee spots, yummy bakeries, local fare, huge wet market, or funky neighbourhood bars, you’ll have a great time exploring.
A new entrant into the neighbourhood is Bakalaki, which takes its name from the words ‘Bakaliko’, a traditional neighbourhood store, and ‘Meraki’, which represents love, spirit and soul in everything they do. This restaurant and taverna is the perfect spot to explore the food of the Mediterranean, thanks to faves such as htapodi, chargrilled octopus served with a sauce of lemon juice and olive oil; padaikia, a signature dish of seared lamb rack with crispy roasted potatoes; and giaorti, delicious Greek yoghurt drowned in thyme honey and crushed walnuts.
Where to find it: Bakalaki, 3 Seng Poh Road, Tiong Bahru, Singapore
The French just seem to instinctively do things with panache. Merci Marcel is no exception. With two successful sister restaurants (Ô Batignolles and Ô Comptoir), this gorgeous lifestyle concept store brings Parisian chic right into the heart of Singapore. It’s also a restaurant, alfresco lounge, bar and garden patio, boasting a French boutique, wine cellar, cheese corner and art space, all of which are great for getting your ‘gram game on. And the food is pretty darn good too – we love the signature Ravioles de Royans, rillettes, tartes flambées, black pepper tuna, grilled Angus steaks and cheese platters.
Where to find it: Merci Marcel, 56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-68, Tiong Bahru, Singapore
Tiong Bahru Bakery
How can we talk about Tiong Bahru and not mention Tiong Bahru Bakery, the outlet that started the mass pilgrimage to the then-upcoming neighbourhood? Helmed by French baker Gontran Cherrier, this iconic bakery is arguably a top spot for French pastries. There isn’t anywhere else we’ve found that does authentic Galette du Roi the way they do. While you can pop into their Orchard Road outlet at Tangs or Raffles City, we still love our lazy weekend breakfasts or brunches on this side of the city. Our recommendations? Butter and chocolate croissants, the unpronounceable Kouign Amman, and delicious fudge brownies!
Trust Tiong Bahru to up the ante on combination concept restos. This all-in-one unique dining concept ties Singapore’s past with its present, transforming a 70-year old traditional kopitiam into a modern open-concept yakitori bar. It’s an old school mee pok stall by day complete with the classic coffee and toast, marble tables and rickety wooden chairs, but by night, Bincho turns into a progressive and playful yakitori bar, featuring izakaya-style dishes prepared by Chef Asai Masashi, and Japanese-inspired cocktails as well as Japanese whisky, sake and shochu.
Where to find it: Bincho at Hua Bee, 78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19 Tiong Bahru, Singapore
House of Peranakan Petit
Inspired by his mother’s culinary skills, Bob Seah wanted to share his family’s culinary culture with others. He did so with Peranakan Inn in the 1980s, which is still serving piping hot Nonya cuisine in claypots today, but also with House of Peranakan and House of Peranakan Petit – a modern and intimate 30-seater restaurant in the heart of former Nyonya enclave of Eng Hoon Street. Bob is known as a pioneer in the Peranakan food community, creating many Peranakan-inspired dishes such as Selar Sambal Fish stuffed with Rempah, Nonya Crayfish, Assam Prawns and Long Beans Sambal. Our faves? Curry Fish Head, Itek Sioh, Ayam Buah Keluak, and Sago Gula Melaka amongst many others! Today, Bob still goes to the market daily and helms the kitchen.
Where to find it: House of Peranakan Petit, 42 Eng Hoon Street, Tiong Bahru, Singapore
It’s not just cafés and bakeries in Tiong Bahru. If you’re looking for fine dining, look no further than IKYU. Like its mercurial chef, IKYU thwarts mundane expectations. Its edgy post-apocalyptic bunker-like interior first jolts the visitor, then draws you in. We love the minimalist planes of the raw concrete lounges, the moody lighting, and languid Jazz sounds. The food is as modern as its decor too, serving only the best rice and sake in Japan, as well as airfreight seafood, fruits and vegetables directly from Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market three times a week. As far as Japanese-French restaurants go, IKYU is avant-garde and cosmopolitan.
Where to find it: IKYU, 5 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru Singapore
Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre
After a three-month renovation closure, Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre has opened again much to the relief of its neighbourhood patrons and beyond. Whether you’re a local or visitor, it’s still a fun way of exploring the Singaporean way of life. A word of warning though, get there early, or be prepared to battle it out in the queues. We like Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted (#02-60) for char siew (sweet BBQ roast pork) and roast pork, while the famous chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes) from Jian Bo Chwee Kueh (#02-05) are known for their ultra soft, melt-in-your-mouth steamed rice cakes topped generously with fragrant preserved radish (chye poh) and chilli sauce on the side. You’ll also find all your faves like wantan noodles, char kway teow, Hainanese curry rice and lor mee, so you could technically spend breakfast, lunch and dinner there.
Where to find it: Tiong Bahru Market, 30 Tiong Bahru Road, Tiong Bahru, Singapore
Open Door Policy
Food that’s gluten- and dairy-free isn’t easy to find. Even harder still is gluten- and dairy-free food that tastes good. Yet at Open Door Policy, each ingredient has been painstakingly selected to contribute to the overall great flavours of the dishes. The challenge of executing their menu is to find alternative methods to replicate the same flavour and texture experiences that are associated with gluten and butter, and boy have they succeeded! You’ll find delicious vegan maccheroni pasta, braised veal ossobuco, warm wasabi pea and scallop soup, sous vide salmon, as well as gluten-free focaccia bread, fresh watercress and vegetables grown in-house, and dairy-free desserts. What’s not to love?