Once a hangout for small-time criminals, Keong Saik Road has slowly transformed from Singapore’s red-light district into one of the country’s most eclectic and experimental dining hotspots. From bold brunches to a nightcap at a speakeasy, this once seedy stretch now has tantalising dining options to suit all tastes.
Cutting through Singapore’s Chinatown, Keong Saik Road is a colourful one-way street of traditional colonnaded architecture. Originally made up of grocers, incense sellers and coffee shops interspersed with private homes, the area became notorious for prostitution in the 1960s as many of its beautiful two and three-storey shophouses were turned into brothels.
In 1991, the street’s transitional and art deco style shophouses were granted preservation status as part of the wider Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area, helping the area to attract fine dining restaurateurs, hip art galleries, boutique accommodation and old-school coffeehouses.
Today some of the best dining options in Singapore can be found along the short stretch of Keong Saik Road, offering everything from award-winning fusion feasts to signature cocktails in sprawling multi-level hangouts. From thick, drooling burgers to beef cheek bao (steamed buns), below are the best places to eat and drink along the street.
Bold brunches and cool cafes
LUXE Singapore (luxesydney.sg), housed in The Working Capitol (theworkingcapitol.com) shared work space, serves the road’s best breakfast. Channelling a touch of surf chic, this boisterous Australian café serves brunch until 4pm, plating up thick ricotta pancakes topped with juicy berries and cream or Tijuana breakfasts of pulled pork with poached eggs, potato hash and spicy chipotle cream.
Early risers should also try the bustling Neil Road for a caffeine fix. The Populus Coffee & Food Café (thepopuluscafe.com) is a specialty coffeehouse brewing local roaster Two Degrees North Coffee, while The LoKal (thelokalsingapore.com) does hearty comfort food like kaya toast or granola with roasted pumpkin and chia seeds and homemade vanilla yoghurt.
From fusion to slow food: stylish dining spots
For pure epicurean indulgence, head to Meta where South Korean chef Sun Kim prepares French-inspired cuisine with an Asian twist. The low-lit décor and bar-like seating is the work of award-winning designer Peter Tay, but it’s the artistic flair of the kitchen that turns the degustation menu (think: duck breast with kimchi and succulent lamb accompanied by Doenjang, a fermented soy bean paste) into imaginative works of culinary creativity.
Alternatively, chef Andrew Walsh has created the perfect slow dining experience at Cure (curesingapore.com), a relaxed and intimate restaurant with a fantastic five-course tasting menu. The food is seasonal, so expect anything from foie gras brûlée with cinnamon and barbeque sweetcorn to Australian wagyu ribs with burnt cabbage and chorizo. Wine pairing is available too. For something a little different, plump for the hearty Irish workers' lunch which showcases meals from Walsh’s home country.
Rooftop bars and other hip hangouts
Art deco meets playful modernism at Potato Head Folk, an infamous institution spread over four floors. A drinking den, burger joint and tropical rooftop bar in equal parts, the venue is the epitome of cool Singapore. Peppered with wicker furniture, strange artworks, disco balls and bunting, there are quaint colonial nods throughout this Alice in Wonderland-like playpen for all things food, drink, design and art.
Those after a late night tipple or bite to eat should wend their way to Don Ho (don-ho.sg) which shakes up a refreshing menu of fruit-based cocktails, or head to the Neon Pigeon (neonpigeonsg.com), a modern exposed-bricked izakaya (Japanese gastropub) that sells delicious crab cakes with avocado, wasabi and red sorrel, and has an honourable selection of fine Japanese whisky.