If you’ve got friends from faraway lands coming to visit, where should you bring them for lunch? The nearest hawker centre would be an obvious choice, but there’s just one problem: the sweltering Singapore heat doesn’t really help when you’re eating a spicy bowl of laksa.
Beat the heat and grab some local classic dishes at these upscale, air-conditioned restaurants! They offer mouth-watering, uniquely Singaporean hawker foods that have gotten an atas makeover. We’re also exploring two levels of fancy, so you don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet… unless you want to, of course.
Our mums and dads will love the chicken rice served at Privé Asian Civilisations Museum ($17). The chicken is slightly pink – trust us, it’s completely safe to eat – just the way it was in the good old days. You can be sure you’re getting quality chicken too, as the chickens are from Toh Thye San Farm, where they are raised without hormones or antibiotics and allowed to roam freely. The result is flavourful and succulent meat that makes this dish a resounding hit with both locals and tourists. Pro tip: there are only 20 portions prepared daily, so call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Located in the majestic Fullerton Hotel near the mouth of the historic Singapore River, Town Restaurant’s menu of local delights features their take on an iconic dish: the Fullerton’s Boneless Hainanese Chicken Rice. For $29, you’ll get a bowl of rice bursting with the fragrance of pandan and lemongrass, silky and tender chicken, and a flavourful soup with cabbages, tofu, and wolfberry. Trust us, it’s worth every cent. Best enjoyed at the breezy al fresco waterfront terrace.
You’ll never have a boring meal at Beast & Butterflies, a bold fusion restaurant with an adventurous take on the classic Laksa. The laksa ($16) features mee tai mak noodles in a creamy yet piquant broth, served with prawns, fishcake, and tau pok. Instead of cockles, cherrystone clams are used instead, giving a sweeter, less briny flavour. Another welcome twist is the deep-fried tau pok, which is delightfully crispy and makes for an enjoyable variation in texture.
Offering buffets showcasing cuisine from the Straits Settlement, the delectable spread at Straits Cafe features their award-winning laksa that is too good to be missed! The star of this dish is undoubtedly the laksa broth, which is rich, satisfying, and overflowing with classic Peranakan flavours. Be prepared to splurge a little as lunch starts at $42++, while dinner starts at $50++. On the bright side, you’ll get to stuff your face with as many local treats as you can handle, so the buffet’s definitely worth the price tag.
There’s only one word that comes to mind when you step into Sinpopo: nostalgia. However, the vintage furniture and retro interior isn’t the real gem of this throwback to the 70s. Sinpopo’s Nasi Lemak for Two ($28; so that works out to be $14 per person) is a masterful dish that will bring back memories of the Singapore of days gone by. Everything is cooked using traditional methods, from the coconut rice steamed in traditional muslin cloth to the homemade sweet onion ikan bilis sambal. Each portion of rice also comes with a soft-centre egg, Har Jeong Kai wings, pork belly marinated in lam yu, deep fried luncheon meat crisps, rojak slaw, and sambal fishballs.
For a uniquely Singaporean meal with a touch of class, look no further than Mandarin Orchard Hotel’s Chatterbox. The restaurant is a green and earth-toned oasis that offers a respite from the sweltering weather as well as upmarket versions of our local favourites, including a delicious Nasi Lemak ($26). Expect fragrant coconut rice, with crispy fried chicken wing, a fried egg, and an otah. You don’t need to worry about your ang moh friend either, as the sambal has a little less kick than what locals are used to, making it perfect for foreigners.
Bak Chor Mee
The Lobby Lounge at Shangri-La Hotel offers an enticing array of local heritage hawker dishes. However the Bak Chor Mee with Fish Maw Soup ($28) stands out as the star of the show. This noodle dish is inspired by the famous Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle, in Serangoon Gardens Market & Food Centre, so expect the noodles to be cooked perfectly al dente and the soup to be rich, filled with umami, and brimming with quality threadfin fish maw. It’s served in delicate porcelain bowls (the kind you can find in your grandmother’s house) as well, to give an extra serving of nostalgia and authenticity.
Presenting a feast of atas Singaporean food that’s a treat for all the senses, Restaurant Labyrinth deconstructs Singaporean classics and presents them in delicious, yet innovative ways. The Chef’s Tasting Menu (SGD$118) features Chef LG Han’s unique spin on Bak Chor Mee – the noodles are made from strips of squid while the pieces of fish cake are sliced Hokkaido scallops. With his adventurous expectation-defying dishes, you’ll soon come to realise that nothing is ever as it seems.
Nestled in a two-storey shophouse, Big Street Singapore is a local heritage restaurant that serves Singaporean staples like roti prata. Their prata sets give you plain or egg prata, with a choice between the fragrant Curry Chicken Thigh ($9) or the moreish Rendang Mutton Mysore ($11). If you prefer to customise your order, you can get two pieces of plain prata for $3, while a murtabak costs $10. They even offer innovative dishes incorporating local favourites like the Chilli Crab in a Prata Bag (market price) and Salted Egg Prata Bom ($6).
Although roti prata is commonly eaten for breakfast or supper, Singaporeans love their Indian food and can have it anytime. One of the best places to indulge in perfectly executed Indian cuisine is Zaffron Kitchen. The restaurant, awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2017, is a hip, modern space in Katong perfect for large gatherings. The Curry Chicken Prata Set ($12.90) features thick chicken curry with generous servings of meat and flaky prata you can mop up every last drop of curry with.