For Lion City locals, eating is a national pastime – for a very good reason. Here’s how to touch some major culinary bases on a flying visit.
The best hawker breakfast
At the foreigner-friendly Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre there are so many good ways to start the day. Try the fried kway teow noodles at stall number 11, and the peanut porridge next door at number 10.
A lavish, all-you-can-eat Singaporean buffet
Colony restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Hotel does a heritage Singaporean buffet of Hainanese chicken rice, seafood laksa, satay and chilli crab, prepared at live cooking stations.
Best caffeine fix
Thanks to an influx of Australian and Kiwi expats, and Singaporeans returning from Australia universities, there’s a critical mass of good coffee shops now. Everyone has their favourite; 40 Hands in Tiong Bahru was a pioneer, while The Populus Coffee & Food Co leads the new wave.
The best Hainanese chicken rice
Thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s celebrity recommendation, everyone flocks to Tian Tian at Maxwell Food Centre. But savvy locals say the chicken rice at Lee Kuan Yew stall, so called because it has a big picture of Singapore’s loved former leader, is superior.
The best tapas
FOC by Michelin-starred Catalan chef Nandu Jubany brings the tastes of Barcelona to buzzing Hong Kong Street – expect padrón peppers, various paellas and crema catalana.
The most pimped-up pizza
Head to The World is Flat, a food-truck (actually a caravan) at the new Timbre Plus ‘gastropark’. Order a Fat Samurai pizza slice laden with confit duck, bacon, prawns, burnt onions, smashed US beef, roasted cabbage, konbu mayo, bonito flakes, mozzarella and Brie (!). Foie gras optional.
The most authentic mee pok noodles
For 70 years Hua Bee has served one dish daily to the residents of Tiong Bahru. Its flat egg (mee pok) noodles with fish balls, pork and vegetables are served with soup or ‘dry’, with a sauce of chilli, oil, vinegar and soy. Cult movie Mee Pok Man was shot here in the 1990s.
A modern Australian fix
Sri-Lankan born Australian Rishi Naleendra (ex-Tetsuya’s) heads the kitchen at mod-Oz bistro Cheek by Jowl, serving freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters and barramundi farmed right here in Singapore.
The best Singapore speakeasy
The Library lurks behind a Chinatown shopfront with access controlled by weekly-changing passwords (check Facebook and Twitter for coded clues, or book a table at The Study next door for guaranteed entry). It’s loud, lairy and wildly popular, with crazy cocktails served in tin cans and miniature bathtubs.
The best satay and street party
At 7pm nightly Boon Tat St beside Lau Pa Sat hawker centre is closed to traffic and opened to fire, smoke and satay as hawkers ply their charcoal-grilled meats till the wee hours.
The best house party
Potato Head Folk is a Chinatown mansion transformed (with help from Australian artist David Bromley) into a multi-level party zone of burgers, beers, cocktails, and even a rooftop Tiki bar.
The best rickshaw noodles
At Fullerton Bay Hotel’s glamorous Clifford Pier restaurant, chef Ken Zheng’s dish Two Generations of Rickshaw Noodles pays tribute to his grandfather, a hawker who used to sell soup noodles on this very pier.
The most authentic Thai food
The most glamorous high tea
Flaunting their finest heels and gowns, Singapore’s tai-tais (wealthy ladies of leisure) flock to St Regis Hotel’s light-filled Les Saveurs brasserie for the Grand Astor afternoon tea menu.
Rooftop cocktails with radical views
Suave new bar Smoke & Mirrors crowns the National Gallery of Singapore, serving novel and classic cocktails and a glittering panorama of major landmarks including the durian-shaped Esplanade Theatres and Marina Bay Sands.