There are two staples of a Singapore trip: the elegant afternoon tea and the long, lazy brunch. Here are some of the best options in the steamy city.
Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel and afternoon tea: there is no more potent way to illustrate Singapore’s colonial history. Raffles itself is not the sedate place it once was, having long since succumbed to a heavy retail presence, but the Tiffin Room’s white décor, wooden ceiling fans and waiters in white, starched uniforms will transport you to an earlier time. The menu is your classic assortment of delicate finger sandwiches and crumbling English cakes and scones, alongside a dim sum station.
National Kitchen by Violet Oon, National Gallery Singapore
For a local twist on afternoon tea, try National Kitchen on the second floor of the National Gallery Singapore. Chef Violet Oon is an icon of the Peranakan community (the descendants of early Chinese migrants). The three-tier high-tea set offers savoury favourites, including otak crostini, a spicy coconut-cream-and-fish topping served on bread. There’s also buah keulak, a Peranakan dish that combines minced prawns with a mix of spices. Sweet highlights include kueh lapis legit, a many-layered cake, and roti jala, a pancake in banana and coconut sauce. The restaurant’s dark, stately interior is beautiful, too.
Anti:dote, Fairmont Singapore
Fairmont Singapore is renowned for the way it presents its high tea. Instead of the classic three-tiered plate, food is served in a miniature white-leather chest of drawers. Within the drawers are fine things, such as black-truffle scrambled eggs, lobster rolls and Battenberg cake. The room is stylish and sleek with elaborate light fittings.
L’Espresso, Goodwood Park Hotel
The English Afternoon Tea at L’Espresso is the one most frequently recommended by expats. Located just off shopping hotspot Orchard Road, the café is a long-standing stop on the afternoon-tea circuit. Ask for seating on the terrace near the pool. The building itself, once a club for expatriate Germans, is gazetted as a national monument. As well as sandwich-and-scone classics, there is a buffet with more distinctive dishes, such as pork goulash and prawns wrapped in potatoes. The chocolate station is always popular.
Fresh Fruits Lab
This quirky restaurant in Singapore’s East Coast area, on Changi Road near Kembangan MRT train station, has developed a loyal following for its innovative approach. From Tuesdays to Fridays, Fresh Fruits Lab offers a bargain afternoon tea set for S$19 (about AU$18). It’s not served on tiered stands but instead, in a set-up that resembles a chemistry set: the orange juice comes in a test tube, gazpacho in a flask and tiramisu on a tripod that you would expect to have a Bunsen burner under it.
Brasserie Les Saveurs, The St. Regis Singapore
In Singapore, every five-star hotel worth its salt has a Champagne brunch and everyone has their favourite, whether it’s at Basilico at the Regent Singapore, Colony at The Ritz-Carlton, Equinox Restaurant at Swissotel The Stamford or The Line at the Shangri-La Hotel. But Brasserie Les Saveurs is the one to measure all others by. The setting is unbeatable: a high-ceilinged palace-like space with ornate chandeliers and red velvet-backed chairs and sofas. The savouries – chiefly French but with all tastes catered for – is as good as anywhere but the standout is the dozens of tantalising desserts. For the truly lavish, there’s the option of brunch with free-flowing Krug Champagne at S$395 (about AU$365) per person (that’s almost double the price of the regular free-flowing Champagne service).
Sunday brunch at the Hilton is a long-time guilty pleasure of many. The restaurant doesn’t boast dazzling décor or views but it is more reasonably priced than many of its peers and it excels when it comes to seafood, offering Maine lobster, Australian yabbies, Alaskan king crab and a range of oysters.
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Edge, Pan Pacific
This one stands out for two reasons: its length and the proximity to the chefs. Normally one is politely turfed out of a Champagne brunch after two-and-a-half hours or so, which is probably in everybody’s best interests. But at Edge you can keep eating and drinking (Veuve Clicquot) for four hours. There are seven “live-food theatres”, where chefs will cook anything from Wagyu steak to tom yam soup the way you want it and then will bring it to your table. Also worth noting is the corner where kids can watch DVDs.
Not every brunch has to be at a top hotel, with Champagne, on a Sunday. If you’re after a Saturday service, try lively Japanese option Kinki at Customs House next to Fullerton Bay Hotel (also exceptional for brunch). For just S$52 (about AU$48) a head, you’ll have your fill of 43 different dishes. Alongside beautifully presented sushi and sashimi standards, there’s snow crab with tofu, plus Wagyu and foie gras donburi. Oh, and you can get boozy here, too: S$35 (about AU$32) extra gets you free-flowing saké, shochu or Prosecco.
Wild Honey, Mandarin Gallery
There are times when all you want is a cooked breakfast. “We created Wild Honey because we simply love breakfast,” say the restaurant’s founders. There are three Wild Honey outlets, with Mandarin Gallery, on Orchard Road, the most popular. Breakfast here is extravagant: you can get your full English, no problem, but also anything from Greek (an omelette baked with lamb moussaka) and Norwegian (avocado, asparagus, poached eggs and salmon on wholemeal brioche) to good old Aussie (based on a sirloin) amid myriad other options.