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Elisabeth King

Singapore Swings – From the Revamped Raffles to the Best Bars

by / Comments Off on Singapore Swings – From the Revamped Raffles to the Best Bars / 15 View / March 3, 2020

Singapore's reputation as one of the world's leading foodie destinations dates back decades. There are at least 20,000 eateries from hawker stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants.

CUT-PRICE deals on plush hotels in Singapore have become one of the mainstays of Luxury Escapes, the hugely popular travel website with more than two million subscribers. Hardly surprising as the island city state can be a pricey destination. Last year’s bicentennial celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles was aimed at showcasing how far Singapore has transitioned from a colonial port on the crucial China-India trade route to the glittering metropolis of today. A transformation rubberstamped by the fact that the global smash hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians, was shot in its literary setting unlike many other film tie-ins.
One of the major highlights of 2019 was the re-opening of Raffles hotel in October. The venerable 132-year-old property is so synonymous with Singapore that it could afford to close its doors for over two years to complete a multi-million renovation. The revamped heritage grande dame now boasts 113 suites – up from 103 – and the coveted Personality Suites are named after former celebrity guests, including John Wayne, Rudyard Kipling and Elizabeth Taylor. The introduction of 24/7 butler assistance means that check-in and check-out formalities are conducted in the rooms, bypassing the need for a front desk in the lobby.
The new La Dame de Pic restaurant, under the aegis of celebrated French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, the fourth woman to gain Michelin 3 star status, is a crowd-pulling addition. Alain Ducasse, another highly decorated Michelin-starred chef, is behind the re-birth of The Bar and Billiard Room and is his first Mediterranean sharing and grill restaurant. And there’s no better place to enjoy a Singapore Sling than in its exact place of origin – the Long Bar.
With so many skyscrapers dotting the skyline, rooftop bars have become a mega-trend in Singapore. One of the best is called Vue, French for view, on the 19th floor of the OUE Bayfront building with floor-to-ceiling windows and overlooking the Civic District. Drop by during Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm for a Basil Spritz – a refreshing combo of dry gin, basil and lemon.
Located in Faber Peak and accessed by cable car, the Dusk Restaurant and Bar is another must-visit for a sundowner. With water views across to Sentosa Island, nitro drinks are the most dramatic cocktails to order from the smoking nitro margarita to the nitro-frost caviar martini.
Smoke & Mirrors in the spectacular National Gallery, with its unmatched views from the Padang to Marina Bay, is rightly considered an institution. The Illusions of Flavour drinks menu blends artistic licence and chemistry, showcasing distillation, preservation and fermentation in standout drinks such as the Heart of Vincent, a marine-flavoured, agave-based cocktail, and the Japanese Gang is Still Alive, an Asian twist on the whisky sour.
LeVeL33 is a microbrewery with an outdoor terrace in the Marina Bay Financial Centre. Wing by before 8pm to sample the craft beers brewed in-house for S$9.50 or check out the “flight” of beers, including blond lager, IPA, house porter and wheat beers.
Singapore’s artisanal cocktail boom took off 10 years ago and there are plenty of bars without a view to slake your thirst and fend off the sultry heat. Five of them are listed in the annual World’s 50 Best Bars, compiled by Drinks International. One of the most adventurous is Native, located behind a plain-looking facade, which specialises in cocktails made from locally-produced spirits and ingredients. Owner Vijay Mudaliar forages for much of the greenery and other flavourings to reduce the bar’s carbon footprint and the cocktail menu is printed on recycled paper.
Atlas, with 15 metre-high ceilings, claims to offer the world’s largest collection of gins. There’s no official dress code, but it’s best to glam up if you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. A martini is almost de rigueur amidst the Art Deco-inspired surroundings.
Spago Dining Room, overseen by American/Austrian super-chef, Wolfgang Puck, has been a raging success. Perched on top of the Marina Bay Sands Resort, the prices are exy but the gorgeousness of the decor and surroundings is worth every cent. A glass of the best Champagne you can afford will create the right impression.
Singapore’s reputation as one of the world’s leading foodie destinations dates back decades. There are at least 20,000 eateries from hawker stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants. Peranakan cuisine, the creation of Chinese immigrants who inter-married with the locals in Malaysia and Singapore, is the place to start. Candlenut is the first Peranakan restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin star. Chef Malcolm Lee has dipped into the family recipe book for contemporary takes on grandfather’s curry and chicken soup packed with crab and pork balls and sliced bamboo shoots.
Leaving Singapore without eating a laksa or three is not an option. Two places vie for the title of best in the city-state – 328 Katong Laksa on East Coast Road and Janggut Laksa, only a stone’s throw away. Warong Nasi Pariaman is Singapore’s oldest nasi padang restaurant, and has been dishing up the Indonesian rice speciality for over 60 years. Samy’s Curry also dates back six decades and third generation family members are in charge. All the dishes on the menu are served on banana leaves and there’s a sink in the back to wash your hands – the best “utensils” to use. Singapore’s best claypot pot liver can be found at the equally venerable Keng Eng Kee Seafood, a Michelin-starred traditional cze char eatery famed for its reasonable prices and fast service.
Newton Food Centre is very much on the hawker centre trail, but there’s plenty on offer even for food snobs. Chinatown Complex Food Centre is the largest hawker centre in Singapore with 260 stalls, selling everything from chilli crab to BBQ stingray for low prices. Other hawker centres worth the trip are: Old Airport Road Centre, one of the oldest, Maxwell hawker centre, Tiong Bahru Market and Chomp Chomp Food Centre, operating from 6pm to late and specialising in satay.
Jumbo Seafood has been serving chilli crab, the national dish, for over 30 years and is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. With five locations, the Riverside Point outlet offers great water views and crabs weighing at least 800g. The secret sauce balances on the knife edge of sweet and sour and is truly finger-licking good.