Some of the best places to dine in Singapore are our kopitiams (coffeeshops) and … I shall stop there first. We are starting to see more upmarket aka atas (meaning ‘high class’) coffeeshops and foodcourts appearing. Essen at Pinnacle, Salut at Bukit Merah, Bedok Marketplace, Palette and FIVE Square.
Many of these modern coffeeshops do not exactly serve the quintessential local hawker delights, but are moving towards selling restaurant quality European cuisine and unique offerings such as meatballs and localised tacos.
While the prices are higher than the typical kopitiam, customers watching their pockets are still willing to pay because a meal would generally still be cheaper than restaurant dining.
Another value-add is the mix of tenants, which can provide quite a unique dining experience.
5 Upmarket aka ‘Atas’ Coffeeshops and Foodcourts In Singapore
Essen at The Pinnacle
1 Cantonment Road 01-01 Singapore 08001
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 11pm (Note: Many stalls start only at 12pm and 6pm)
Located at the ground level of the Pinnacle @ Duxton, The Essen draws nearby residents and the working class around Tanjong Pagar.
Food tends to be Western-European selling pastas, duck confits, pizzas, and burgers, with the exception of a (yet-to-open) Thai stall.
I have personally been here quite a few times, the reasons due to its convenient location (10 minutes walk from Tanjong Pajar MRT up Craig Road), the choice of European cuisine in a food court, and local-style kopi from the coffee stall.
The Bedok Marketplace
348 Bedok Road Singapore 4694560
Stalls include: Uncle Chicken Rice (former Sin Kee chicken rice), Seng’s Wanton Noodle, The Chop Chop Selections (Western food), Ballistic Meatballs, The Burning Oak (yakitori), Huong Que (pho), Spice and All Things Nice (pastries), Menya (ramen)
The Bedok Marketplace took over the defunct Kampung@Simpang Bedok and offers a variety of international plus local stalls not found elsewhere, such as Ballistic Meatballs. The stall specialises handmade meatballs with pastas and sandwiches. We hear that Chilli Crab Meatballs with Mantou is one of their best-sellers, and ahem it was a suggestion we made in our previous blog post.
Another draw is Uncle Chicken Rice, formerly known as Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice at Margaret Rice. Opened by the son of the founder, the stall retails the old ways of poaching chicken and still serves homemade chilli sauce.
The Marketplace may need some publicity though, and having to travel the distance and climbing the stairs can be deterrence to some.
Block 119, Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore 151119 (near Alexandra Village Food Centre)
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm, Last orders 2:45pm, 9:30pm, Closed Mon
One of the most prominent hipster ‘ang moh’ coffee shops which got much media attention. Some stalls became successful and went on to open more branches – think Two Wings and Immanuel.
It is not uncommon to see customers ordering something from every stall. Thus you will see German pork knuckles, chicken wings, foie gras and mussels, on tables with that signature blue and white checked table-cloth.
Some of its original stalls have left though, and it does get very crowded and cramped during the weekends.
13 Stamford Road Capitol Piazza NEUE #B1-20/27 Singapore 178905 (City Hall MRT)
Tel: +65 6384 3359
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 10:30pm Daily
Stalls include: Ah Koong Restaurant (fish ball noodles), Hok Kee (Hong Kong style noodles), Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant, Yong Xin Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles, Balestier Bak Kut Teh, Hua Huat BBQ (chicken wings), IndoChili (Indonesian cuisine), Little Nanyang (local hawker food), Delhi 6 (Indian cuisine), 90 Gastro Bar (Asian-inspired desserts and cocktails).
While Palette at Capitol Piazza is named “Palette Restaurant & Bar”, it feels like high-end food court.
Opened by the Breadtalk Group, the pros are its cool air-conditioned environment, without the need to queue. You will be served to a table, then given an iPad to take orders, and choose from a menu featuring a variety of restaurant-stalls. Best suited for customers who rather pay more than join in a line.
Prices are easily 20-30% higher than the usual food courts, and there is additional service charge.
There are some stalls which are repeats from Food Republic. I wonder if Palette could have been different in the first place to create a more unique and upscale branding.
1 Pickering Street, Great Eastern Centre #01-03 Singapore 048659
Tel: +65 8798 0245
Opening Hours: 10am – 12am (Mon-Sat), Closed Sun, PH
Stalls include: Grub Noodle Bar, Gogibox (Quick-serve Korean food), Teppei Syokudo (Kaisendon), Cinqo Tapas, Omnivore (salads).
Taking over Han’s at the Great Eastern Centre, FIVE Square is a huge food hall which can seat 300, and known for affordable drinks for the after-office crowd.
The food stalls gathered caters to the CBD working executives, with quick-serve food and takeaways such as Teppei’s kaisendon, Gogibox’s rice boxes and hot dogs, and Grub Noodles bar Western-meets-local Beef Sirloin noodles. However, the main drawback is the lack of variety with only five food concepts.
The square runs on a self-service ordering system, and can even send an SMS when the food is ready.