Singapore is arguably the best place to try the range of cuisines in Asia, which is saying a lot! Although it’s a tiny city state in comparison to its massive neighbours, it sits at a crossroads and has incorporated the best of Eastern and Western cuisine with a few of its own twists, too.
That said, Singapore can be an expensive city to visit, and if you don’t plan properly then you can easily find yourself overpaying for mediocre meals. This would be a tragedy when travelling to beautiful Singapore, so arm yourself with the knowledge you need to find the best gastronomy in town.
As an important seaport in Asia and a very wealthy micro country, Singapore has taken influence from China, Japan, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian food – not to mention European cuisine such as from Britain and Portugal. Singapore declares eating a national pastime, and if you speak to any locals, the topic of what’s for dinner later or that great restaurant they visited at the weekend, is likely to come up.
You may feel a little dazzled at first, but don’t fret, you just need to relax and get into the spirit of how Singaporeans eat. While the famous hawker markets give the impression of meals quickly thrown together with limited ingredients, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, what are these hawker markets? They’re basically food courts, like the ones you’d find in shopping centres back home. But, far from being filled with boring fast food joints, this is where Singaporean cuisine comes to life.
Even at the best food courts, you’ll pay as little as a couple of Singaporean dollars for a dish, which is less than £1 or $US2. You might think it’s impossible to get good quality at those prices, but you’d be wrong.
When you taste the delicious range of cuisines in the vibrant atmosphere of the hawker centres, you won’t be able to resist smiling as you get into the buzz of Singapore’s lively food culture.
Where should you head to try these affordable and delicious foods? Chinatown Complex Food Centre is the best for Chinese food, while Tiong Bahru Market is superb for trying the unique local dishes. Tekka Centre in Little India is ideal for delicious jalfrezi, madras and just about any other curry you could be craving.
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre is probably the most popular in Singapore, and it’s certainly the biggest. The range of cuisines here is remarkable, but expect it to be crowded and somewhat more expensive than the others (at least $S6, about £3 or $US4.50, so still hardly bank breaking!)
Although skipping these superb food meccas in Singapore would be a huge shame, there are alternatives if you’re not in the mood for casual dining. If you’re travelling with a generous budget or perhaps just want somewhere for a romantic meal or to spoil yourself, Singapore certainly provides with its high-end eateries.
Iggy’s, on Orchard Road in the Tanglin district, is one of the best places in the city for upmarket European food. Rang Mahal is a fine dining Indian restaurant, located in Marina East. For home-grown excellence you should check out Labyrinth and Flutes, both near River Valley. $S50 to $S100 (up to around £60 or $75USD) or more for a main course would be about average in these restaurants.
How about somewhere for a cocktail or just a few beers when out in Singapore? The Downtown Core is definitely the most popular place for drinks, with Loof, Manhattan Bar and Altitude being some of the trendier spots to grab a glass or two.
If you don’t want to spend a lot on your drinks, it pays to be more discerning and seek out the local neighbourhood bars. Next Door Bar & Café on East Coast Road has a familiar vibe for European and North American travellers. Get a taste of Vietnam in Little Saigon Asia, with a happy hour from 4pm-9pm daily (so more like a happy five hours!)
Singaporeans love their coffee, too. You won’t find it hard to spot cafés, ranging from the fancy to the trendily lowbrow, as you explore the city. You’ll often pay under $1S for a great cup of the local kopi. Its unique sweetness and full-bodied flavour could well inspire you to buy some beans to take home.
If you just want a familiar cup of joe to keep you going, there are familiar chains like Starbucks throughout town. However, you’ll pay a lot more and be missing out on trying something pretty unique if that's all you drink in Singapore