A local's guide to the new Singapore

A local's guide to the new Singapore

Like the sea around it, Singapore never stops changing. Here's how to change with it, at the best new places to spend, eat, drink and play

The Singapore you thought you knew is gone.

It changed yesterday. And it's going to change again tomorrow.

Our little red dot has seen a remarkable transformation in the last three years.  

The train of new drinking, eating, shopping and leisure offerings continues to roll in.

That means there are dozens of new venues worth checking out on top of the old favorites that merit revisiting. Here are the local faves of the day.  


It's called Pollen. But you can leave your antihistamines at home.


Pollen sits in a climate-controlled dome in one of the world's coolest venues –- the newly opened Gardens By The Bay.

The new restaurant serves Mediterranean-inspired modern European cuisine.

The setting is ace: diners are surrounded by temperate olive trees, herbs and vegetation, complete with a below 20-degree C (68 F) temperature. A nice way to escape Singapore's heat and humidity.

This is chef Jason Atherton’s second venture in Singapore -- see Esquina, below -- and it offers classics from his acclaimed flagship Pollen Street Social in London. 

18 Marina Gardens Drive, No. 01-09; +65 6604 9988; www.pollen.com.sg


Inspired by the colorful tapas bars of Spain, Esquina adds a European touch to Singapore's Chinatown area, surrounded by postwar colonial buildings, hip coffee joints and old school home-style restaurants.

It serves modern Spanish tapas. 

Leading the culinary direction is chef Atherton, a Gordon Ramsay protégé.

16 Jiak Chuan Road; +65 6222 1616 (enquiries only, no reservations); www.esquina.com.sg 

More on CNN: Tapas craze devours Singapore


The menu at this new Singapore restaurant reflects the diversity of Spanish cuisine, melded with the finesse of Asian hospitality.

The team was trained at elBulli, Santi, Drolma in Barcelona and Pierre Gagnaire’s acclaimed restaurant Sketch.

Designed by award-winning New York design firm AvroKO, the intimate Catalunya seats 120 and is located in a  glass-encased dome that floats atop the waters of Marina Bay.

The panoramic view of the city and Marina Bay Sands is a bonus. 

82 Collyer Quay, The Fullerton Pavillion; www.catalunya.sg

Just one spoonful won't hurt. Au Chocolat

This made-in-Singapore French-inspired concept store has a bistro and candy store.

It's the place to hit if you're after artisan chocolates, cakes and pastries -- all made right in front of you.

2 Bayfront Ave., Bay Level L1-03, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands; +65 6688 7227 (bistro), +65 6688 7557 (candy store); www.auchocolat.com

The Royal Mail Restaurant & Bar

The Royal Mail Restaurant & Bar is a 60-seat establishment in the historic Ascott Raffles Place. It serves modern interpretations of British cuisine, with roasts and prime rib taking center stage.

A vintage brass mail chute, which stands by the lift in the lobby of the Ascott, is the inspiration for The Royal Mail concept, which takes guests back to the days of letter writing, Doris Day, Grace Chang and policemen in shorts.

The Royal Mail serves breakfast seven days a week, lunch and dinner from Mondays to Fridays and dinner on Saturdays.

2 Finlayson Green, Ascott Raffles Place; +65 6509 3589; www.theroyalmail.sg 

Tiong Bahru Bakery

Tiong Bahru Bakery (TBB) is a collaboration between Cynthia Chua of the Spa Esprit Group, and celebrity French baker Gontran Cherrier.

Cherrier has two TV shows and nine baking books under his belt, and has been applauded for adding exciting touches to traditional French breads.

TBB’s croissants in particular have won rave reviews; the bakery also serves artisanal coffee. 

56 Eng Hoon St., No. 01-70; +65 6220 3430; www.tiongbahrubakery.com 


With an unparalleled, 70th-floor view of the city skyline, as well as an exceptional French artisanal menu, this award-winning restaurant is where you take guests you want to impress.

Derived from the ancient Sanskrit word for bowl, Jaan is an intimate, 40-seat restaurant with an ornate interior capped by a stunning Murano crystal and silver free-form chandelier that spans the length of the ceiling.

2 Stamford Road, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Swissôtel The Stamford; +65 9199 9008; www.jaan.com.sg

Lucky 13

Lucky 13 is a Miami-style diner, bar and club reminiscent of the bars in New York’s Meatpacking District or Amsterdam’s Jordaan. The interior features raw brick walls, vintage wood flooring and spacious double-height ceilings.

The menu includes pressed Cuban medianoche sandwiches, signature quesadillas, burger with chipotle onion relish, veal tongue sandwich with horseradish cream, grilled mahi mahi tacos with pico de gallo, Cuban-style chicken mojo drumlets and simple desserts such as churros con chocolate caliente.

111 Somerset Road, No. 01-02, TripleOne Somerset; +65 6733 9800; www.lucky13.sg


More than a thousand brands of whiskey are on offer at the Auld Alliance. 

Blu Jaz Café

This three-story hipster establishment offers soul food and drinks as well as jazz and R&B beats, all in a historic shophouse in the culturally rich Arab Street enclave.

There’s live music three times a week and you can sit indoors or outside in the courtyard.

11 Bali Lane; +65 6292 3800; www.blujaz.net 

The Vault

This New York-inspired, industrial steel-and-copper designed club occupies the premises of a 1930s bank (hence the name).

In Chinatown, its second-floor lounge offers a great view of the historic Sri Mariamman Hindu temple.

A casual bistro downstairs ensures partygoers won’t go hungry.

Reservations highly recommended. 

237 South Bridge Road; +65 6222 5001; www.thevault.com.sg

The Auld Alliance 

The largest whisky collection in Southeast Asia features a thousand varieties from all the Scottish distilleries, as well as vintages from 1936 to 2000 and 120 Japanese whiskies.

There's also an extensive champagne selection of Billecart Salmon, Cristal Louis Roederer, Dom Perignon, Krug and Salon in many vintages, as well as a range of 40 absinth varieties.

30 Victoria St., Chijmes, No. 01-08; +65 6337 2201; www.theauldalliance.sg 

City Space

City Space achieves a rare balance of sophistication and relaxation, offering innovative cocktails, extravagant spirit selections and impeccable service.

Guests can sip wines and champagne complemented by freshly shucked oysters or Iberico ham from the raw bar menu, or grab a burger, sandwich or pizza. 

2 Stamford Road, Level 70, Equinox Complex; Swissôtel The Stamford; +65 6837 3322; www.cityspace.com.sg


Stocking a range of fragrance, skincare, hair care, bath and body care products, Escentials has your exterior maintenance covered.

Shop Wonderland

This little store in Haji Lane started out as a supplier of floral décor and Tiffany chairs for parties and events.

It's since expanded and now sells quirky décor, like placemats and cutlery, for those who want to add a funky twist to their home interior. 

53 Haji Lane; +65 6299 5848; www.wonderland.com.sg

Front Row

Opened in December 2005, Front Row was one of the first multi-label stores to stock Singapore designers next to regional and international labels.

Set in the Raffles Hotel Arcade, Front Row has exclusive labels from around the world, including Greyhound from Thailand, Christophe Lemaire from France, General Idea from South Korea, Cosmic Wonder Light Source from Japan, Cash Ca from Japan, Pettifogr from Indonesia and The Only Son from the Unites States.

It's also the exclusive retailer of Singapore brands Demisemiquaver, Fake and iamwhoiam. 

No. 02-09 Raffles Hotel Arcade, 328 North Bridge Road; +65 6224 5501; www.frontrowsingapore.com

The Reckless Shop

With shops in two locations -- Orchard Central and Vivocity –- The Reckless Shop features outfits from local label Reckless Ericka.

The sensibility is risky, fun loving and adventurous.

While the brand is completely Singaporean, the concept is Euro-centric, with a focus on balancing classic tailoring with the edgy use of silhouettes and colors. 

No. 02-08/09 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road; +65 6338 8246 
No. 02-201 Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Wall; +65 6376 8246; www.recklessericka.com


Blackmarket is a multi-label boutique supporting emerging designers from Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Founded in November 2008, it's the brainchild of Singaporean Jasmine Tuan and Quincy Teofisto from the Philippines.

Both grew tired of mass-produced clothes and were frustrated that commercial considerations were killing independent talent. Blackmarket was created as a space to showcase innovative ideas and work, whether they be in fashion, design or art.

Singapore brands of note here include Ling Wu, FruFru & Tigerlily, evenodd, JASON and Mystic Vintage.

No. 02-10 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road; +65 6634 5201; www.theblackmarket.sg 


One of Japan’s most popular lifestyle stores, Francfranc has brought its hip, quality furniture and accessories to Singapore.

Francfranc offers a wide range of products from eight categories -- kitchens, curtains, hobby and culture, kitchen fabric, beauty and health, furniture, lighting and interior accessories. 

Best of all, it's actually affordable stuff. 

1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity, No. 02-41/42; +65 6376 8077; www.francfranc.com


Escentials is a niche multi-brand retail concept that carries a specially selected range of beauty brands from around the world, including Annick Goutal, By Terry, Creed, diptyque and Eve Lom. 

It offers fragrance, colors, skincare, hair care, tools and bath and body care in a retail space resembling a well-appointed Parisian loft.

There are two Escentials standalone stores -- at the Paragon shopping mall on Orchard Road and The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands -- as well as a store-in-store branch at the newly refurbished Tangs Orchard department store.

Escentials at Paragon; 290 Orchard Road, No. 03-02/05; +65 6737 2478
Escentials at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave., No. B1-142; +65 6688 7372
Escentials at Tangs Orchard, 310 and 320 Orchard Road, Beauty Hall Level 1; +65 6734 2122; www.escentials.com.sg

Woods In The Books

Woods in the Books is an independent bookshop specializing in picture books for all ages, including classic and new titles, as well as comics and graphic novels.

Here you'll find the complete Tintin series as well as books by French cartoonist Sempe and graphic novels by Joe Sacco, Adrian Tomin and such.

The store also stocks pop-up books, drawings, paintings, prints and plush toys made by co-owner Mike Foo.

58 Club St.; +65 6222 9980; www.woodsinthebooks.sg

Trolley Singapore

Trolley specializes in fun lifestyle products like side tables, handmade cushions, mirrors and consoles designed by the owners themselves, who believe functional things must also be good-looking and developed from good design concepts.

There are also a few international brands, including Elmar Flototto, Stadler Form and Duo Design.

88 Club St.; +65 6220 6898; www.trolley.com.sg 

Artisan Cellars

Artisan Cellars sells fine wines, often partnering with small estates to feature rare bottles.

The brand offers a non-traditional, all-inclusive wine service that's more than just a retail front.

Artisan Cellars often hosts tastings and offers advice for wine lovers who seek the extraordinary.

390 Orchard Road; No. B1-01 Palais Renaissance; +65 6838 0373; www.artisan-cellars.com  

Museums and culture

Singapore's colonial Gillman Barracks has been transformed into a S$9.76 million hub for contemporary arts.

MINT Museum of Toys

MINT (Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys) is the world's first purpose-built private museum for toys.

It's collection of vintage toys, including rare and one-of-a-kind pieces, is considered the largest of its kind within Southeast Asia, with more than 50,000 vintage toys and childhood memorabilia from more than 40 countries, including Singapore, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and even Bulgaria.

The collection ranges from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.

26 Seah St.; +65 6339 0660; www.emint.com

Tan Swie Hian Art Museum

Opened in 1933, Tan Swie Hian Art Museum is the first museum in Singapore dedicated to a living Singaporean artist.

Spread across 300 square meters, the highlights are the 40 pieces of Tan’s works from the 1960s to the 1990s.

These include oil and acrylic paintings, calligraphy, ink and color paintings and prints.

The museum also displays collectibles such as Tan’s published books, manuscripts, seals, book certificates and medals.

Visits are by appointment only. 

460 Sims Ave.; +65 6744 0716; Tanswiehian.sg

Space Asia Hub

The showroom of Southeast Asia’s largest retailer of luxury contemporary design spans 3,700 square meters in the heart of the arts and civic district of Singapore.

There are five showrooms, showcasing some 30 leading international brands of furniture, lighting and accessories, including B&B Italia, Fritz Hansen, Maxalto, Giorgetti, Ingo Maurer, Poliform and Moooi.

77 Bencoolen St.; +65 6415 0000; www.spacefurniture.com.sg 

Gillman Barracks 

Singapore's newest art hub, Gillman Barracks opened to the public in September 2012.

A colonial-era structure, the barracks was transformed into a S$9.76 million (US$8 million) hub for contemporary arts, another step in a government-driven development of Singapore into an Asian arts center. 

A 15-minute drive from Singapore's central business district, the refurbished former barracks, which date from the 1930s, is set among tropical greenery. 

Art galleries alone occupy about 4,200 square meters. Artist studios, an art research center and restaurants and cafés take up another 4,800 square meters. 

Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road; Gallery opening hours, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Mondays and public holidays; www.gillmanbarracks.com