A Guide to Eating Local in Singapore
One of the best things about being in Singapore is undoubtedly the food. It is no secret that Singaporeans eat and drink with a passion. Volumesof eating guides have been published about the thousands of eating and watering spots on the island, all in the hope of making some sense of the madness.For the newcomer, deciding where and what to eat can be an intimidating,yet at the same time, exciting experience. Here, we provide a gastronomic guide to Singapore, what we think you should know about the tastes and the smells of the island’s food and drink. And don’t say we didn’t warn you about that chilli…
What exactly is great Chinese food?...a short but accurate list of Chinese restaurants that offer superlative Chinese cuisine can be found here.
Where you can eat your food:
Coffeeshops – These can be found in most housing estates outside the city and are usually located on the ground floor of apartment blocks or in 2-storey shophouses.Even till today, Singaporeans gather at coffeeshops not just to eat and drink, but also to chat or even play a game of checkers. Although the older coffeshops are slowly being phased out, they are still the place to go if you want to get cheap and good food served with a slice of true Singapore life, not forgetting the thick, black local coffee that comes in a porcelain cup.
Opening hours: Early morning to about 10pm, though some may be open 24 hours.
Hawker Centres – Probably the most distinctive eating places in Singapore, hawker centres house dozens of food and drink stalls under one roof. The best advice is, walk around the whole place and take in everything before ordering. Prices are cheap and comparable to those in coffeeshops,although tourist favorites like Newton Hawker Centre and Lau Pa Sat are more expensive. When ordering, tell the hawker your table number and you should get your food within 10-15 minutes.
Opening hours:10am to about 10pm, though the bigger ones like Newton open till about 4am.
Foodcourts – Together with hawker centres, food courts are the people’s main eating choice when dining out. They are usually found in shopping malls, and are air-conditioned and thus more expensive. For example,a plate of noodles that cost $3 in a hawker centre may cost $4 in a foodcourt. The choice of food is also more cosmopolitan, with some food courts even offering Italian, Korean, Japanese and Greek cuisine all in the same place. Be warned: at the more popular food courts, you could find people waiting behind you for your seat, so if you like to take your time, go during off-peak hours. Unlike hawker centres, you have to carry your own food to your table.
Opening hours:11am to about 10pm
Fastfood – A favourite with children and teenagers, fast food arrived in Singapore in the late 70s and is today a familiar sight everywhere.There’s McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Dunkin’ Doughnuts and much much more.
Opening hours:7am to about 11pm (weekdays); midnight (weekends)
Cafes - A growing favourite with the young working crowd. Designer coffee places like Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Coffee Club have become the "in" places to hang out with friends. Most cafes serve Western food like sandwiches, pizzas and pasta.
Opening hours:10am to about 11pm (weekdays); midnight (weekends)
Restaurants– These range from the cheaper and more informal, like Spaggedies or La Smorfia (Italian) and Ponderosa (Western) to the decidedly posh and budget busting, like The Pinnacle. Whatever the cuisine, the budget or the occasion, there’s definitely more than a few to choose from.
Opening hours:11am to about 11pm (weekdays); midnight (weekends)
Popular Local Food Haunts
Newton Hawker Center
(Take to Newton MRT station and follow signs)
Hours: 6pm - 4am (only some stalls are open for lunch
All types of cuisine, but well-known for seafood. Prices may be slightly more expensive than other hawker centers
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre (literally"Old Market")
(Take to Raffles Place MRT and follow signs)
Hours: Noon - 4am
Astonishing number of stalls to choose from. At night, al fresco satay stalls are open.
Clarke Quay Satay Club
Hours: 7pm - 3am
Many of the original Satay Club stalls moved here after they were relocated a few years ago. Most agree the best satay on the island can be found here.
Marina South Hawker Centre
(Take to Marina South MRT station and transfer to bus service 400; more convenient to take a taxi)
Hours: Noon - 2am
Well-known for both its seafood and steamboat stalls. Steamboat is a way of cooking whereby a pot of water is placed over a small stove on the table and brought to boil. You then cook your own food, buffet style, in the boiling soup, or fry meats on a hotplate coated with butter. Steamboat is popular at family and friend get-togethers.
Chinatown Food Centre
(Take to Outram MRT station and walk toward Chinatown)
Hours: 7am - 9pm
An excellent example of the wide variety of Chinese food that can be found in Singapore. Prices are ridiculously cheap but be prepared to bear with the heat and the crowds,especially during lunch. Take a walk around this huge complex to soak inthe atmosphere, including a wet market at the basement. Particularly well-known are the colourful Cantonese cold dessert stalls.
Be prepared to walkaround a bit as there is great food all over the area. The food outlets here range from cheap S$3-meal places to posh North and South Indian restaurants.The best bet is to start with the cheap places and discover what kind of food you prefer before "graduating" to the restaurants. The vegetarian food here is especially good.
East Coast Park Seafood Centre
(Not immediately accessible by public transport, best bet is to hop into a taxi; parking almost non-existent on weekend nights)
Hours: Dinner only
Many say the best seafood in town can be found here, whether you fancy a spicy black pepper crab or juicy lobster. You will see why when the crowd starts pouring in,especially on weekends. A big attraction here is that you can dine pretty close to the sea and enjoy the breeze. But as with most popular eating places in Singapore, prices can be slightly higher here.
Bencoolen Street 24-hour rotiprata
Located below a backpackers lodge and a popular haunt with both locals and foreigners in search of a 60 cent roti prata at 2 am in the morning. Don't forget to try the teh-tarik as well. After a late-night meal here, you are guaranteed to feel truly Singaporean. In the wee hours, this is also a great place to people-watch,as colourful Singaporeans from all walks of life converge here.
One of our members, Nosher, has kindly compiled the following list on some of the best brunches and buffets to try in Singapore. Some of the prices may have been altered since this list was made, so we suggest you call the Hotel / Restaurant beforehand.
The Fullerton Singapore - Gourmet Buffet Dinner
Where: Town Restaurant (tel: 6877-8128)
When: 6.30-10.30pm, Mondays to Saturdays
Cost: Starts from $28+++
What: Rolled out on April 8, the buffet allows diners to mix and match meals. They can pick from various main courses and help themselves to the Gourmet Appetiser Buffet and Gourmet Dessert Buffet, which cost $20+++ and $15+++ respectively on their own. There is also the Seafood Tower at $28+++ per person or $48+++ for two.
They can opt for the Appetiser and Dessert Buffet ($25+++),Seafood Tower and Dessert Buffet ($65+++ for two) and Seafood Tower with Appetiser and Dessert Buffet ($98+++ for two).
Conrad Centennial Singapore - Big Breakfast Buffet
Where: Oscar's Cafe & Terrace (tel: 6432-7481)
When: 7am-3pm every Sunday
Cost: $28+++ (adult); $14+++ (child)
What: Launched in March this y ear, it serves everything from muffins to dimsum and seafood fried rice. The highlight is the vitamin corner, which includes a juice bar. From 11am, pay $40+++ to combine the breakfast spread with the carving of the day.
M Hotel Singapore - Sunday High Curry
Where: Cafe 2000 (tel: 6421-6222)
When: Noon-3pm every Sunday
Cost: $28+++ (adult); $14+++ (child)
What: What started off as a pure curry buffet in February this year now includes a Western spread. This includes roast prime ribs and Yorkshire pudding. The fish head curry is highly recommended.
Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort - Brunch 'N' Plunge
Where: Sharkey's (tel: 6371-1071)
Cost: $39.50+++ (adult); children 12 years and below are charged half price
What: Enjoy a great sea view and free use of pool facilities as you tuck into the buffet introduced in June last year. Barbecue items such as pork ribs and tiger king prawns, and local favourites like fried oyster omelette and kueh, dominate the spread.
Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel - Children's Buffet
Where: Cafe Brio's (tel: 6233-1100)
When: Noon-3pm every Sunday
Cost: Free for kids aged 10 and below, accompanied by adults paying for the Sunday Brunch ($50+++ or $65+++ with free flow of champagne, wine and beer)
What: The spread made its debut last year and offers such items as mini hot dogs, burgers and chicken nuggets. There are also activities such as magic shows and balloon sculpting.
Raffles The Plaza - Plaza Market Peranakan Buffet
Where: Plaza Market Cafe (tel: 6431-6156)
When: Noon-2.30pm and 6.30-10.30pm daily; high tea from 12.30-5pm (Sat, Sun & public holiday)
Cost: Lunch costs $25+++ (adult) and $13+++ (child); dinner costs $30+++ and $15+++ respectively; High tea is $23+++ and $12+ ++ respectively
What: The showcase of authentic Peranakan cuisine was introduced last year and the ayam buah keluak and durian pudding have won fans.
The Fullerton Singapore - Chocolate Buffet
Where: The Courtyard (tel: 6877-8129)
When: 8-11pm every Friday and Saturday
Cost: $24+++ (adult); $12+++ (child)
What: Since 2002, chocolate lovers have been indulging in treats such as the chocolate mango yoghurt mousse. The drink station with its premium chocolate-blended drinks is the highlight.
Shangri-La Hotel - Coffee Garden's Seafood Extravaganza
Where: Coffee Garden (tel: 6213-4275)
When: 6.30-10.30pm daily
Cost: $61+++ (adult) and $31+++ (child). It used to cost less than $25.
What: The seafood buffet made its debut in 2000 as an occasional special and was made a daily affair in February this year. The over 100 items range from barbecue lobster to Norwegian salmon dishes. Italian, Indian and Japanese sections offer pizzas, curries and sashimi.
Meritus Negara Singapore - Local Delights Lunch Buffet
Where: Claymore Cafe (tel: 6831-6686)
When: Noon-2.30pm Mondays to Fridays, except public holidays. Brunch is served on weekends from noon-4pm.
Cost: $16.90+++ for weekdays and $19.90+++ for weekend brunch. Children pay $9.90+++ for both.
What: It started off as the Yong Tau Foo Buffet in 1997 but local favourites like laksa were added last month. The duck noodles and prawn mee soup are big draws.
Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore - Buffet Lunch & Dinner
Where: Ellenborough Market Cafe (tel: 6239-1848)
When: Noon-2.30pm, 6.30-10pm daily
Cost: $19.90+++ for lunch and $24.90+++ for dinner on weekdays, $25.90+++ for weekend dinner.
Children pay $11.90+++ for lunch, $13.90+++ for weekday dinner and $14.90+++ for weekend dinner.
What: This spread with a strong nonya component has gained fame since 1997 and the star remains the durian pengat, a yummy mousse. Other must-haves include the slipper lobster in black bean sauce and abalone mushroom noodles.
Four Seasons Hotel Singapore - Sunday Brunch At One-Ninety
Where: One-Ninety (tel: 6831-7250)
When: There are two sittings: 11am-1pm and 1.30pm-3pm
Cost: $ 68+++ (adult) and $30+++ (child); Pay $98+++ to add free flow of Veuve Clicquot champagne.
What: This eight-year-old brunch has 20 hot and cold stations offering fresh oysters, sukiyaki, dimsum and pasta. The sinful dessert buffet station carries 25 sweet treats. Kids get their own spread and activities.
Hotel Inter-Continental - Olive Tree Mediterranean Buffet
Where: Olive Tree Mediterranean Restaurant (tel: 6431-1061)
When: 11.30am-2.30pm for lunch (Mon-Fri) and 6.30-10.30pm for dinner (Sun-Thu)
Cost: $39+++ for lunch and $52+++ for dinner. Free for children under seven years. Those aged between 7 and 12 years will be charged according to their age. For instance, a seven-year-old will be charged $7+++ and a 10-year-old will pay $10+++.
What: It has attracted a strong following since 1995. The menu changes daily and offers more than 20 items, including the popular seafood on ice and pasta.
Copthorne King's Hotel - Penang Buffet
Where: Princess Terrace (tel: 6318-3168)
When: 11.30am-2.30pm (3.30pm on weekends and public holidays) and 6.30-10pm daily
Cost: $28+++ (adult) and $20+++ (child);
What: One of the best-known spreads around, this buffet used to feature 28 items but now offers about 40. These include must-have dishes such as Penang laksa, Penang Hokkien mee soup, and Penang char kway teow.
Grand Hyatt Singapore - The Pete's Place Salad
Where: Pete's Place (tel: 6416-7113)
When: 11.30am-2.30pm (Mon-Sat) and 6-10.30pm daily
Cost: $16+++; It costs $19.50+++ if you throw in soup and dessert, and $26+++ with the pasta main courses. Children pay $19.50+++ and get the whole works.
What: Toss your own greens from the fresh selection of 20 main salads, nine toppings and five dressings. If you are going for the pasta, try the signature dish, Cioppino, a tomato-base seafood pasta.
Royal Plaza On Scotts - International Buffet High-Tea
Where: Cafe Vienna (tel: 6589-7799)
When: 3-5.30pm (Mon-Fri); Noon-5pm (weekends, eves and public holidays)
Cost: $18.50+++ (adult) and $9.25+++ (child) for weekdays and $24.50+++(adult)and $12.25+++ (child) for weekends, eves and public holidays
What: Launched in the 1980s, the spread includes more than 80 Asian favourites and Western treats, of which the bread and butter pudding is most famous. It is also one of the few eateries in town that serve halal buffets.
Goodwood Park Hotel - Local High Tea
Where: Coffee Lounge (tel: 6730-1746)
When: 2.45-5pm daily
Cost: $18.80 +++ (adult) and $9.40+++ (child).
What: What started as a Straits Chinese spread now comprises more than 20 items, including dimsum and local and Western fare. There are also cooking stations that whip up roti prata and popiah. The apom berkuah with banana sauce, a Peranakan dessert, has been the hot favourite since day one.
Hotel Phoenix - International Buffet Lunch & Dinner
Where: Phoenix Garden Cafe (tel: 6233-6129)
When: Noon-2.30pm and 6.30-10pm daily; a Local Hi-tea Buffet is also served daily from 3.30-5.30pm.
Cost: $23+++ for lunch and $25+++ for dinner; children pay $16.50+++ and $17.50+++ respectively
What: There are about 50 items in the spread, more than double that when it made its debut. More soups and salads are now on offer, to suit the health-conscious palate of Singaporeans today. The signature dish - roti prata - is a must-try, as is the durian cake.
Hotel Royal - Tropical Peking-Style Steamboat Buffet
Where: Jade Room Restaurant (tel: 6251-8135)
When: 11.15am-2.30pm and 6.15-10.30pm daily Cost: $13.80+++ for lunch and $18.80+++ for dinner. Children pay $9+++ and $12+++ respectively. On weekends, eves and public holidays, adults pay $16.80+++ and $19.80+++ respectively.
What: The tangy dipping sauce, concocted from 13 ingredients including sesame, peanuts, chilli and vinegar, is the secret weapon here. Diners can take their pick from 32 items, including sea cucumber, fresh prawns and peking dumpling. There is also a choice of 10 cooked dishes such as fried chicken wings.
York Hotel - Penang Hawkers' Fare
Where: White Rose Cafe (tel: 6737-0511 ext 1156)
When: Held traditionally during school holidays in March and September for 17 days each time, the buffet sometimes has an extra run in December.
Cost: $21.80+++ (adult) and $17.80+++ (child) for lunch and dinner.
What: The first-come-first-served spread is one of the most widely-anticipated culinary draws here. Hawkers from Penang's Gurney Drive set up stalls offering perennial favourites such as Penang laksa, cuttlefish kang kong and crispy lor bak.
Raffles Hotel - International Buffet High Tea
Where: Tiffin Room (tel: 6331-1612)
When: 3.30- 5pm daily
What: The high tea has earned a name for its indulgent spread and service. The scones with jam, butter and whipped cream, chicken pie and dim sum are top draws. Tiffin Room is also famous for its curry buffets.
Meritus Mandarin Singapore - International Buffet
Where: Triple 3, The Buffet Restaurant (tel: 6831-6271/72)
When: Noon-3pm and 6.30-10:30pm daily
Cost: Lunch costs $41.80+++ (adult) and $24.80+++ (child), while dinner is priced at $52+++ and $32+++ respectively.
What: Formerly known as The Stables, the restaurant now offers more than 60 dishes, comprising 22 appetisers, 20 types of hot food and 20 choices of dessert. There is a different theme each month, but the baked honey-glazed ham, roast prime rib of beef, salmon sashimi and rock oysters are trademark items.
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