Gone are the days when Bras Basah was a lagoon, where rice from cargo boats were dried on the banks–giving rise to its name, which literally means wet rice in Malay. Today, the Bras Basah precinct houses colonial landmarks, plenty of schools and arts centres, and of course more than a few foodie spots.
Named after the owner Charles Robert Prinsep, Prinsep Street lies on the periphery of a former nutmeg plantation in the mid 1800s. Now, the space has been taken over by hipster hangouts in shophouses–from F&B restaurants to entertainment venues.
Mackenzie Rex Restaurant (#01-01, 66 Prinsep Street)
Some of you may have already guessed, this oriental restaurant has its origins at the old Rex cinemas along Mackenzie Road back in 1966. Tuck into all-time favourites such as Hainanese chicken rice ($4.30) and other tze char dishes–think black pepper crab (2kg for $56) and crispy cereal prawns ($25) in a contemporary, casual dining space. Tel: 6336 1702 www.macrex.com.sg
Curious Palette (64 Prinsep Street)
Founded by the same folks behind Strangers’ Reunion, this café bistro arouses curiosity with its bare looking entrance, but pays attention to aesthetics behind doors. Capture Kodak moments of their rustic interior and bask in sunny days with the famed berry ricotta hotcakes ($14.90). Tel: 6238 1068 www.facebook.com/curiouspalette
The Mind Cafe (60A Prinsep Street)
Relive your childhood days with an extensive library of board games–from the classic Reversi, to newly launched Tem-purr-a for Catlovers and our favourite, Daybreak (aka Werewolf)! Feel the adrenaline rush with the Happy Gaming package that includes three hours of gaming and free-flow of house pour drink ($7.80 on Mon-Thu, $11.80 on Fri-Sun, PH). If you get peckish from all the excitement, there’s beef lasagna ($10.90), as well as pies and muffins (from $2.90). Tel: 6334 4426 themindcafe.com.sg
Strictly Pancakes (44A Prinsep Street)
As its name implies, this cosy two-story cafe fluffs up pancakes throughout the day. From garlic-buttered prawns ($14) to caramelised bananas ($10), there’s a taste for everyone. Don’t forget the maple syrup and specialty butter paired with each pancake order! Tel: 6333 4202 www.facebook.com/strictlypancakes
Captain K Seafood Tower (#01-02 INCOME@PRINSEP)
Sign us up for the nine-layer seafood tower. Steam your crustaceans with your choice of soup base–dashi stock, house-made kimchi stew or ginseng broth ($298.90 for eight person), and devour the flavorful stock combined with seafood juices. Tel: 6255 2270 www.captainksg.com
SUNSHINE PLAZA (91 Bencoolen Street)
Built in 2001 and known as the go-to place for all sorts of printing services, Sunshine Plaza is an eclectic foodie destination on its own.
Merely Ice Cream (#01-13)
There’s no secret to this one–natural ingredients only. Earl grey, salted butterscotch, Hokkaido milk, Valrhona chocolate ($3.50/scoop and $6/double scoop)…the list goes on at this handcrafted ice cream parlour. As flavours are constantly rotating, get a head’s up at their Facebook page to avoid disappointment. (Psst… don’t forget to grab a messy munchies ice cream sandwich ($4.90) on your way out!) Tel: 6238 0890 www.facebook.com/Merely.Ice.Cream
Thai Gold Food (#01-14)
Run by Thais, you can expect Thai Gold Food to serve up authentic strong flavours. Feast on classics such as tom yam goong ($10), BBQ pork ($10) and green curry ($7). Tel: 6883 1575
Victor’s Kitchen (#01-49)
Helmed by a chef from Hong Kong, Victor’s Kitchen boasts to have the best custard buns ($4.80) in Singapore. The only way to believe it is by biting into one—beware, the greasy golden lava may splatter. This popular lunch spot also offers steamed carrot cake with XO sauce ($4.80) and soup dumplings (aka xiao long bao, $5.20). Tel: 9838 2851 www.victors-kitchen.com
Oven Marvel (#01-51)
Located just a unit away from Victor’s Kitchen, grab a couple of freshly baked chicken pies ($3.80), curry puffs ($2.80) and satisfy your sweet-tooth with muffins ($2.50) made by chef Johnny Ngiam, former pastry chef of Hilton Hotel. Tel: 9636 1503
Formerly known as Church Street, Waterloo is named after the victory of Napoleon, following the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Today, it houses a cluster of cultural landmarks that signify religious harmony–such as Sri Krishnan temple and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple. The pre-war bungalows now house arts organisations like Dance Ensemble Singapore and Singapore Calligraphy Society, preserving Singapore’s architectural heritage.
Leong Yeow Famous Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-29 Nan Tai Eating House, 261 Waterloo Street)
Traditional Hainanese fare prepared by the Loy family since the old days. Although taken over by the third brother, Leong Yeow draws a fleet of loyal customers for their oily rice, tender chicken and fragrant self-made chilli ($4). www.facebook.com/leongyeowfamouschickenrice
Sabeena’s Indian Cuisine (#01-29 Nan Tai Eating House, 261 Waterloo Street)
Famed for their Indian rojak, be greeted by vibrant colours of items displayed! Plain flour, vegetable, egg, prawn and even ’ngoh hiang’ (from $0.80 to $3 per item), it is almost impossible to try them all in one sitting. Tel. 8139 5647
Crossings Cafe (#01-01, 55 Waterloo Street)
Eat with a cause at Crossings. While profits are channeled to charitable organisations or in support of social causes, the humble café also paves the way for students of Assumption Pathway School by providing jobs. The menu comprises appetisers such as chicken quesadilla ($9), mains like their signature chilli crab pasta ($16) and desserts (from $3)! Tel: 6336 6203 crossingscafe.com.sg
Just slightly less than one kilometer, this road served as enclaves to three ethnic groups. Other than Hainanese contributions to the F&B industry, the Japanese were famed for their textiles and garments, while the Jewish were commonly seen as businessmen.
Artichoke (161 Middle Road)
Tucked beside the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation (SCWO), look towards funky Middle Eastern dishes you would least expect–slow-roasted lamb shoulder ($38) smothered in garlic sauce and served with mezze as well as pita breads. Next door is Neh Neh Pop, selling double-coated ice-cream popsicles. The winner? Mango sticky rice ($7) –coconut sticky rice pudding ice cream with mango chunks and coated with white chocolate, coconut flakes as well as rice crispies. Tel: 6336 6949 www.artichoke.com.sg
On the art trail
Bask in the creative buzz of the arts in various ways and forms. Take up painting, dance and music through courses at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), or educate the young through installations and exhibits at the learning gallery of Singapore Art Museum (SAM). If you’re looking for something more therapeutic, why not try your hand at calligraphy for a month (from $140) at Singapore Calligraphy Centre?
Street art stop: Graffiti
Snap an OOTD by the graffiti wall, down an alleyway that connects Queen Street with Waterloo Street.
Art stop: Objectifs (155 Middle Road)
This peppy visual art centre is all about photography and film. Discover your artistic genes with part-time courses or immerse in the works of visual artists at frequent exhibitions and screenings. Tel: 6336 2957 www.objectifs.com.sg
Sport stop: Camper’s Corner (51 Waterloo Street)
Opened since 1989, this one-stop outdoor gear store is a favourite with the sporting community. Check out their range of bags from a 10-litre backpack ($150) to a 100-litre duffel ($320) while suiting up with Marmot winter apparels (from $45) and camping food rations such as organic clif bars ($5). Tel: 6337 4743 camperscorner.com.sg
BRAS BASAH ROAD
Found by G.D. Coleman in 1835, Bras Basah Road was once spelled as “brass bassa” and used as a site for laundry in yesteryears due to its prime location as the suburb of our city centre.
7Kickstart Museum Cafe (Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road)
This coffee roaster is bound to kick-start any morning with decadent brews served either hot or cold. If you like your coffee thick and milky, stir in a frozen coffee popsicle into your cup of ice coffee with the 7th Heaven ($7), or settle for the nitro ice drip coffee ($7) if you need a strong boost! Tel: 8389 7877 www.facebook.com/7kickstart
Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Cafe (#01-01 Rendezvous Hotel Gallery, 9 Bras Basah Road)
Experience German traditions in a themed café with waitresses decked in dirndls. If it’s your first time here, don’t miss out on roast pork knuckle with crackling crispy skin ($19.80), specialty sausages ($18.80) served on mash and sauerkraut, as well as “the best black forest cake in Singapore” ($12)–chocolate sponge with intense flavours from Kirsch soaked cherries. Tel: 6336 8675 www.scafe.com.sg
Switch by Timbre (#01-02, 73 Bras Basah Road)
After a long trail around the precinct, bask in a bilingual music experience as Switch by Timbre turns the beat up with nightly live performances. If you’re famished, go for the highly raved-about thin crust roasted duck pizza ($21) alongside cocktails and good happy hour deals (from $14). Tel: 6336 7739 www.facebook.com/SwitchSG
While Catholic churches like Church of Saint Peter and Paul still remain since 1870, schools formerly located along this stretch–such as St. Joseph’s Institution (currently Singapore Arts Museum) and Raffles Girls’ School–are now historic sites.
Mary’s Kafe (Kum Yan Methodist Church, 1 Queen Street)
Just like going back to grandma’s, warm your stomachs with Eurasian comfort food like braised pork ribs or beef rendang that comes in a set ($8.50). Prepared by owner Mary Gomes–author of two cookbooks on Eurasian food and Singaporean fare, the dishes on the menu rotate daily. Tel: 9852 0348
Standing Sushi Bar (#01-03 Singapore Art Museum, 8 Queen Street)
‘Eye for a Guy’ contestant Howard Lo’s establishment (first outlet opened in 2009 in Raffles Place) is known for serving Japanese cuisine at pocket-friendly prices. With daily promotions such as $3 salmon sashimi on Mondays or 50% off sushi rolls on Wednesday, it draws students as well as the working crowd. And don’t worry, you won’t have to stand like in the Tokyo originals; there are seats here. Tel: 6333 1335 standingsushibar.com
Asanoya Bakery (#01-03, 15 Queen Street)
Founded in 1933 in Karuizawa in Japan, this popular bakery offers shelves of rustic Japanese-European bakes such as their flagship fruits rye bread ($12.50) with rum infused raisins that has been in production for 20 years. Sandwiches and even Karuizawa beer and wine are served in the 80-seater space. Tel: 6703 8703 www.asanoya.asia
Tanuki Raw at Kapok (#01-05 National Design Centre Singapore, 111 Middle Road)
A popular spot during happy hours for freshly shucked oysters ($2) and affordable chirashi dons! If you love red meat, onsen eggs and the fragrance of truffle oil, you won’t regret the truffle yakiniku don ($14.80). Tel: 6636 5949 tanukibar.com