Our second day on the island of Singapore began with lunch at a Japanese restaurant called Tampopo found on the ground floor of the Liang Court Shopping Mall. Novotel Clarke Quay where we were staying was conveniently located next to the mall making it more than ideal for food before setting foot around the island for the day.
Dk ordered a steak bento box to satisfy his red meat craving and I, a Spider Maki roll. Our meal turned out to be slightly more expensive than back at home with the bento box costing SGD25.80 and the small Spider Maki roll SGD12.80.
On the way out of the mall we bought a pair of takeaway juices freshly blended from a place called Desserts. I could not consume enough of the delicious tropical and exotic fruit on our holiday in Asia, there are many varieties that rarely make it to the supermarkets back at home in Perth.
We shuffled into a taxi and headed to Duxton Hill in the Tanjong Pagar district, south of Chinatown. It is a quaint little hill dotted with charming Chinese shop houses, a little hard to imagine the area was once entrenched with a prosperous opium, sex and gambling trade in the early 20th century. Nowadays the area’s development is protected by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and deemed a conservation area, meaning the charm and historical architecture will stand still for generations to come.
There is a mix of places in the area and strolling around I observed a number of trendy establishments like the Latteria Mozzarella Bar that serve up over 10 different varieties of mozzarella to its patrons! One for the cheese lovers!
What bought us to Duxton Hill though was a Japanese Patisserie called Flor Patisserie. Prior to leaving Perth I jotted down the details in my little red notepad, an indication of my obsession with cakes and all things sweet. I find food bloggers are a great source in seeking out the local haunts and for our Singapore trip I took on two recommendations from a wonderful website called Lady Ironchef. I was very pleased with both our BBakery and Flor Patisserie visits. Brad is a resident of Singapore and his blog is testament to the fact that he knows Singapore very well and is able to capture and present to online readers almost perfectly.
I did write about our visit to Flor Patisserie previously and you can read more about it here. It was fairly easy to spot the blue and white shop front. The cakes were the first thing I saw when we entered the air-conditioned patisserie and without sounding over the top that afternoon they were visual pieces of edible art, colourful and detailed in appearance. Chef Yamashita Masataka is the man behind the French pastry recipes that also take on a beautiful fresh Japanese twist. He also has his own recipe book, Tanoshii: The Joy of Japanese Style Cakes & Desserts. Sponge cake, fresh fruit, cream and chocolate glazing appear to be the main features of all of the cakes. Inside the patisserie there are a few tables and chairs to sit and enjoy a coffee alongside cakes but we instead ordered a takeaway box.
We returned to the hotel with our cakes and spent the better part of an intensely humid afternoon lazing by the pool. I made a pod coffee from the complimentary coffee machine inside the room and we ate our Mont Blanc and Waguri Millefeuille cakes. The Mont Blanc was a Swiss roll sponge cake with Chantilly cream and finished with spaghetti strands of French chestnut cream and a piece of flaky puff pastry. The Waguri Millefeuille looked similar to a Vanilla slice with flaky dark puff pastry sandwiching a layer of sponge and Chantilly cream. The unique looking millefeuille was finished with spaghetti strands of Japanese sweetened chestnut cream that unfortunately melted in the taxi ride back to the hotel. The cakes were delicious, light and soft in texture.
As the evening appeared and feeling refreshed from our siesta by the hotel pool we walked along Clarke Quay in search for a place to have a cheeky drink before dinner. Happy hour springs to life before dinnertime and as Singapore is not exactly the cheapest place as it once was, a two for one drink special we felt was an opportunity to drink upon! Restaurants, cafes and bars line the promenade, the choices in and around the vicinity of Clarke Quay are many, all within a short walk from the hotel.
Momentarily we found a place in one of the colourful ‘open spaceships’ that protrude over the water, giving us a first class view of the night scene. For SGD5.00 we washed down a nice cold Sapporo each.
Unintentionally continuing with the Japanese theme we dined at an “All you can eat” buffet restaurant called Chiso Zanmai, Dk’s eye balls almost exploded in excitement when I mentioned casually in passing that such a place existed. We do not have an all you can eat Japanese restaurant in Perth.
To find Chiso Zanmai look for the Jumbo Seafood restaurant, Chiso Zanmai is located inside The Central Mall on level 1. (Take the escalators from the promenade). The Clarke Quay MRT train station is underneath the Central Mall. The North East MRT line passes through the station.
The restaurant overlooks the Quay all in the comfort of air-conditioning, we took our seats next to the large floor to ceiling window. The concept of an all you can eat restaurant encourages patrons to overeat and indulge. Want dessert first, no problems! Want dessert three times, can do! Chiso Zanmai on the other hand reminds its patrons through small signs placed on the table to be mindful not to waste food.
I have a bit of a loose strategy at these style restaurants in an effort to exercise a little restraint. I start with a light selection sampling the assortments of food. The next plate I pick my favourites from the first round and the third plate is strictly for dessert. I do not consume any sugary soft drinks during the meal, simply water or hot tea.
Surveying the array of food there was sushi, yakitori, okonomiyaki, ramen, noodles, hotpot, miso soup and desserts. The food staff continued to prepare food behind the counter throughout the evening.
There is a slight unfortunate chance of picking up luke warm or dry food when at buffet restaurants and that evening the quality and presentation of the food exceeded my expectations. The assorted sashimi and sushi rolls were fresh. The food was neatly presented on wrap around benches, all dishes clearly labelled. We did dine early at about 6:00pm and the bill for two people was SGD63.10 including free flowing drinks.
Utterly overfed and bursting at the seams we stepped back onto the promenade, the area was well and truly alive from all angles of a nightlife scene. A crowd was admiring a vivacious belly dancer performing in front of the Marrakesh restaurant, a light following her as she weaved around the tables of diners. A soft melody was drifting through the night air from a string quartet ensemble on a passing river taxi. Cutlery was clinking as hungry diners consumed their meals in the humid evening. We walked past retail vendors selling glow lights and could hear faint screams of excitement coming from across the river at the GX-5 Xtreme Swing.
Amidst music and lights there was more of a subdue scene on the steps of the river, people sitting and enjoying the cool breeze that was picking up. Kids running after each other and ‘Uncles’ selling ice cream from their karts at the end of the bridge. Clarke Quay is certainly the place for people watching and the lights at night add to the overall mood of the area. The previous night we sat on the bridge with our giant ice cream sandwiches watching that very scene.
As the evening progresses in the area the bars tend to attract the tourist drinkers and we decided to move on to see a different part of Singapore.
Little Arab Street and Haji Lane
A taxi trip later we found ourselves in a different world of Middle Eastern cuisine, shisha cafes and textile merchants at Little Arab Street and Kampong Glam. In the heat of the night restaurants and shisha joints were a brim with patrons, the tables encroaching the pedestrian path. One of the best things in Singapore is the ability to hop from one area to the next, all completely different from each other.
Not too far away is a narrow side street called Haji Lane, a place to find hip and trendy fashion clothing and items. The place is packed with little boutiques. Japan has Harajuku and Singapore has Haji Lane (on a much smaller scale though and minus the cosplay boys and girls). Haji Lane intersects with Baghdad Road and North Bridge Road. There is a great Mexican place at the end of the land.
First time advice to Singapore
We flew Air Asia stopping past Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for a few nights. Tiger Airways and Singapore Airlines fly directly from Perth to Singapore.
Singapore is a very easy city for holiday and business travel, first of all the Changi airport is only 20 km from the city centre and there are many hotels a mere 8km away. A stopover on the island is a great idea!
The variety of food and drink options are astounding, Singapore is truly an international hub. The city is clean and there are many activities for families which include the zoo, Jurong bird park (my personal favourite) and Universal Studios. The transport system is seamless and safe to use. The English language is widely used.
Since our last visit to the Republic of Singapore in 2005 so much has changed in the span of just over a decade, it was incredible to see and experience but also a little sad from my own perspective. I love heritage and tradition, I love walking outside. I sincerely hope places like Little India, China town and Kampong Glam are maintained.
Novotel Clarke Quay
177A River Valley Road, 179031 SINGAPORE
Liang Court Shopping Mall
177 River Valley Road, #05-17/18
Liang Court Shopping Centre
177 River Valley Road #01-23/24
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
The Central, #02-17