48 hrs in Singapore: Cool shops, OG eats, friendly bars

Singapore has recently opened itself to tourists again, and it looks like a city waking up to a new morning. There are more people in the streets but it’s still not what one would refer to as “business as usual.” People still wear masks outdoors even when they’re already allowed not to.

Which should make the visitor a little more confident and comfortable going through the city again and taking a bite of all that it has to offer: the hawker centers, the designer shopping, the parks and museums. Everything you used to enjoy in Singapore and missed the past two years.

To guide you through present day Lion City, we visited it in early April and put together a list filled with OG haunts and recently opened attractions—a 48-hour guide curated with the help of locals and Singapore tourism peeps.

12NN, Lunch

Eggslut, Scotts Square, Scotts Road

The best place to kill time before the 3PM hotel check in: the Orchard-Scotts Road area where there’s plenty of shopping and eating to be done. Go straight to where young, trendy Singapore get a quick, fun meal: Eggslut, the eggs-obsessed franchise that began as an LA food truck and arrived in SG September of 2021. Order the Egg Salad Sandwich (soft eggs with honey mustard aioli in yummy brioche bun) and a side of cooked-in-duck-fat Truffle Hashbrowns. (Open 8AM-9PM)

Egg Salad Sandwich with Truffle Hashbrowns at Eggslut.

The Soup Restaurant, Paragon

If you want to dig into local flavors ASAP—chicken rice, laksa, oyster omelet, chai tow kway—there are excellent food halls at the basements of Isetan, Tangs, and Paragon serving these. The popular Soup Restaurant at Paragon (serving “Singapore Chinatown Heritage Cuisine since 1991”), however, offers a cozier, elegant, more unhurried setting just a few steps away from the busy foot traffic of shoppers. Order their terrific Samsui Ginger Chicken, a more indulgent version of your chicken rice without the rice—you can enjoy the slivers of poached chicken wrapped in the accompanying lettuce leaves, or with an order of Soup’s delicious Yong Chow Fried Rice. Best with a glass of Coke with ice.

2PM, Sightseeing

National Gallery, 1st St. Andrews Road

Most of the time being in Singapore is just really waiting for the next chance to sit down and have a meal. The best place to while away a couple of hours or three before your next restaurant reservation: the National Gallery. Marvel at the architecture—the entire 64,000-sqm space nests in two important Singapore monuments, the City Hall and erstwhile Supreme Court. Get lost exploring the artworks—it houses the largest collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian Art. Catch the ongoing show of Chua Mia Tee, the country’s most popular realist, and his observations of everyday Singapore life. The works are from the ’50s to the ’80s, which makes the exhibition a great way to see the city state in its younger times.

6PM, Dinner/Drinks

Cafe Utu, Jiak Chuan Road

This two-storey African café and lounge has a warm and welcoming vibe, just like the culture it pays homage to. No small thanks to the fabulous interiors—tribal art on the walls tempered by leather and wood furnishings all over (great for moody pictures). And then you have the very friendly and attentive staff, a few of them Filipino, in black tee and pants with touches of exuberant Senegalese prints.

Cafe Utu
African arts and crafts give Kafe Utu a warm, welcoming vibe.

The second floor lounge at Kafe Utu.
The second floor lounge at Kafe Utu.

Order the light and healthy but very flavorful Sunset Cauliflower and the delectably spicy Utu Wings. Come early for the happy hour discount on the brilliantly mixed G&Ts prepared by their Pinoy bartender. They’re so good you’ll have three minimum. Cap the evening with an order of Roasted Duck Noodle at the eatery Hwa Heng Kei down the street (Neil Road). Guaranteed to cheer you up in case the bar across named Heart or Darkness didn’t already.

Sunset Cauliflower for cocktail hour.
Sunset Cauliflower for cocktail hour.

10AM Breakfast

6th Avenue Wanton Mee, 24 Sixth Avenue

The idea came from Z Teo’s Instagram reel. Apparently, the doctor and CEO of the Aivee Group which has clinics in Singapore has been enjoying “auntie’s wanton mee for more than 35 years now”—and the noodles are still as good as the first time he had it.

6th Avenue Wanton Mee has been at it since 1980.
6th Avenue Wanton Mee has been at it since 1980.

So we took a Grab all the way to the Good Good Eating House hawker complex in Bukit Timah and there she was, Z’s “auntie” fixing the orders in front of their stall while her daughter prepared the wanton mee inside.

Chicken Feet Noodles for 4 SGD.
Chicken Feet Noodles for 4 SGD.

They’ve been in business since 1980 and have clearly built a good rep—it’s the only stall with a queue at 10 in the morning. They’re friendly to customers. And more importantly the food is good. We got the Chicken Feet Noodle (4 SGD)—light and springy noodles, chicken feet meat tender and just sweet enough—and found a lovely spot under a tree by the roadside. How old school Singapore can you get?

Late morning scene at Good Good Eating House.
Late morning scene at Good Good Eating House.

1PM Lunch

Candlenut, 17a Dempsey Road

One of Asia’s best restaurants and famously the first Peranakan restaurant to earn a Michelin star. Candlenut is run and founded by its very passionate chef Malcolm Lee (if you’re flying Singapore Airlines, try to catch the “Food Heroes” episode on his inspiring young career) who shares heritage dishes from his mother and grandmother’s kitchens but interpreted in his modern, refined style. Tasting his food is like going on a deep dive of Peranakan culture—a rich mix of Chinese, Indonesian and Malay influences—in the posh, lazy-weekend environs of Singapore’s Dempsey Road.

Candlenut at Dempsey Road
Candlenut at Dempsey Road. Photo from Candlenut Instagram.

3PM, Bird watching

Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill

Walk amongst some of the most beautiful, colorful rare birds in Asia—many of which you can encounter up close and sans cage screens between you. The sprawling bird park, the biggest in the world with a collection of 5,000 birds (SG has a penchant for having a claim on the biggest, the largest, the tallest attractions), also gives Filipino visitors a chance to see rare birds endemic to the Philippines: there’s the Rufous Hornbill, the Luzon Hornbill, the Mindanao Lorikeet, the Mindanao Bleeding Heart and Luzon Bleeding Heart, and the pair of Philippine Eagles, Geo and Sam, who were flown to Singapore in 2019 as part of a loan agreement between the Lion City and Philippines.

Jurong Bird Park.
Get up close with rare birds at Jurong Bird Park.

Jurong Bird Park.
Just one of the many aviaries at Jurong Bird Park.

7PM, Dinner

MacPherson Barbecue Seafood, 34 South Ridge Road

A trip to the Lion City is never long enough, so we always tend to over-order when confronted by a menu. This is not a problem though when you luck out on a good dining spot like the unassuming MacPherson Barbecue Seafood where all five dishes we placed our bets on were winners.

MacPherson at South Ridge Road.
MacPherson at South Ridge Road.

We were particularly proud about having picked the Crispy Century Egg with Pineapple and the Salted Egg Prawn Balls, thanks to the eye-catching photos by the entrance. But do order the Prawn Paste Chicken, too (sweet and juicy with a bit of crunch), and the BBQ Stingray (tender and fresh and just the right amount of spicy)—which was really the reason we picked MacPherson. Add their top notch Yang Chow Fried Rice and you’ve got an almost spiritual experience.

Crispy Century Egg with Pineapple at MacPherson.
Crispy Century Egg with Pineapple at MacPherson.

Stingray Barbecue at MacPherson.
Stingray Barbecue at MacPherson.

Follow up your big meal with a nice leisurely walk along Stamford Road where you’ll pass by the stately Parliament House, the nostalgic Capitol Theater, and the eye catching modernity of the Funan Building. Now that’s dinner and a show.

The Funan Building houses the WeWork HQ in Singapore.
The Funan Building houses the WeWork HQ in Singapore.

House of Parliament.
House of Parliament.

10PM, Drinks

Enclave, Golden Mile Complex

It might surprise people to find there’s an entire commercial complex in Singapore dedicated to everything Thai—from food supplies to services—and it’s called Golden Mile Complex. It’s like a Little Thailand on Beach Road (think Makati Cinema Square but a little busier), and on a Friday night, we found ourselves inside one of its two basement clubs: Enclave. It’s run by a pair of brothers who work the bar with their dad.

Surprises await behind this door at Golden Mile Complex.
Surprises await behind this door at Golden Mile Complex.

There’s a cool underground vibe to the place but the atmosphere is friendly and safe, welcoming and fun. The brothers make delicious cocktails and play a range of music you can dance to (although dancing is still not allowed in pandemic-era Singapore)—Cher’s “Believe,” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” something from Aqua. The track selection was so varied we started wondering what’s the common thread. “The 90s,” someone blurted out. So we waited for “Tubthumping.”

The brothers who run Enclave.
The brothers who run Enclave.

Whiskey sour at Enclave.
Whiskey sour at Enclave.

10AM, Breakfast

Mr & Mrs Mohgan Prata, 300 Joo Chiat Rd.

Our cab driver was so pleased we were having breakfast here. It’s clearly a popular prata place in Singapore, maybe even the best, and he’s had a few satisfying meals here in the past. He recommended I get the cheese prata and the coin prata (because they’re shaped like coins). A friend said the waiting time will be an hour at the least but our number was called in 20 minutes and we were enjoying our chewy, crunchy, delicious South Indian flat bread in no time across a lady too busy enjoying her food to mind the dorks sharing her table and taking pictures of their order.

Perhaps the most popular prata stall in the city.
Perhaps the most popular prata stall in the city.

An order of coin prata at Mr and Mrs Mohgan.
An order of coin prata at Mr and Mrs Mohgan.

11AM, Sightseeing/shopping

Hat of Cain, 12 Joo Chiat

Since you’re already in picturesque Joo Chiat area, spend the rest of the morning admiring the colors and architecture of Singapore’s famed shophouses, and maybe venture inside a few of the specialty stores. On our visit, we found Tiger and Arcadia, a charming lifestyle store offering a trove of home and fashion accessories from all over (we got a woven hat and coral necklace from Madagascar), and Hat of Cain which specializes in Ecuadorian hats with a bit of men’s apparel thrown in.

At Tiger and Arcadia in Joo Chiat.
Home and lifestyle accessories from all over at Tiger and Arcadia.

Hat of Cain at Joo Chiat.
Hat of Cain at Joo Chiat.

Ecuadorian hats at Hats of Cain.
Ecuadorian hats at Hats of Cain.

Changi Jewel, Terminal 1, Changi Airport

If you missed it going in, try not to depart Singapore without experiencing the grandeur of the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Surrounded by a lush forest environment, it’s a great, relaxing way to ease you into chill out mode before you board your flight back home.

The spectacle that is the Jewel at Changi.
The spectacle that is the Jewel at Changi.

For more information on traveling to Singapore, visit the Safe Travel page.

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