Just minutes away from Bugis MRT is the historic stretch of Bussorah and Baghdad street. Often overlooked for the trendier Haji Lane, the ethnic enclave leading up to the iconic Masjid Sultan is a treasure trove of Middle Eastern delicacies, independent boutiques and heritage stores.
Formerly known as Kampong Kaji (pilgrim village), many Southeast Asian pilgrims, particularly from Java, would park themselves here while waiting for the kapal haj (pilgrim ship) to Jeddah. Most notable were the prayers and elaborate send-offs at the nearby Masjid Sultan. Today, the street has transformed into a melting pot of Singapore’s various cultures, from Peranakan to Middle Eastern.
What started out as a hobby became Robert Sng’s lifelong passion to share Peranakan culture. He can be found within the quaint shophouse sewing elaborate designs inspired by wall tiles or kam cheng (Nyonya antiques) onto a traditional frame. Many come here for the handmade bracelets and knick-knacks but are often enamoured by the vibrant kasut manek (beaded slippers) sewn by Sng. They start at a whopping $1,200, but Sng also offers one-on-one beading workshops ($370/seven hours, inclusive of materials).
43 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6295 2328
From the people who brought you Aryaa Kitchen comes Beirut Grill. Located at the quieter end of the street, it is our pick for a cosy Lebanese meal with friends. Perfect for sharing are the Beirut Mezze Platter ($22), which comes with a mouthwatering selection of their best dips and appetisers, as well as the Mixed Grilled Meat Platter ($36). The latter includes a flavourful lamb chop in a bright, red marinade that will have even the pickiest of diners scraping the meat off the bone.
72 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6341 7728
The Vogue Atelier
Channel your inner starlet with the glamorous ensembles at The Vogue Atelier. This independent label is popular among locals for their modern take on Indian fashion, including everything from lace lenghas to glittery crop tops. Don’t forget to complete your look with their many embellished necklaces, bangles and clutches.
38 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6398 0943
Jamal Kazura Aromatics
Like Aladdin stepping into the Cave of Wonders, you’ll be entranced by the library of scents, essential oils and colourful stained glass bottles at Jamal Kazura Aromatics. This family-run business dates back to 1933 and is a popular fixture along Bussorah Street. 10 minutes or so is all you need to create your very own scent. Store it in one of the many beautiful glasswares sourced from U.A.E., Turkey and Czech Republic, as a unique gift idea.
21 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6293 2350
A treasure trove for fashionistas. Bold, vibrant prints are fashioned into kebayas or eye-catching maxi skirts or peplum tops at Ratianah. The shop also boasts an array of statement costume jewellery to accompany the seemingly endless outfits. Keep an eye on their Facebook for the latest collection.
23 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6392 0323
Rather than a classic negroni, this drinking hole offers cocktails with an Indian twist. The Goa Mamma Lassi ($18) combines vodka and rum with a creamy blend of tropical fruits and yoghurt for an invigorating after-work tipple, while the Yo Yo Mani ($18) is a rum-based cocktail with five-spice Kerala rice syrup.
67 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6291 0695
Catch up on the latest Bollywood news and films over at Café Bollywood. A big screen within the premise screens Bollywood movies, from action and rom-coms to horror. There is also a wide selection of magazines on the films to browse through while Hindi music plays in the background.
67a Bussorah Street. Tel: 9482 6916
Like the nearby streets, its name reflects the influence of early Arab migrants who lived there. The colourful shophouses are now home to small, local business or hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Love your old-school kuehs and desserts? Julie Bakes offers classic cakes inspired by Bandung and Chendol as well as local fruits like cempedak. While the soft coconut cream and pandan sponge of the Ondeh Ondeh is a crowd favourite, we can’t get enough of the less common Badak Berendam ($8). It comes with a pot of coconut cream to drizzle over, adding a soft tropical flavour to the rich gula Melaka filling.
14 Baghdad Street. Tel: 9647 9027
Beat the scorching heat with Overrun’s Chendol Soft Serve ($6). A husband-and-wife duo runs the show here, serving snaking queues generous cups of soft serves, topped with gula Melaka, pandan jelly and coconut shavings. There’s
also the Durian Chendol ($7) which comes with a dollop of durian pulp. Come early as the ice cream runs out fast.
18 Baghdad Street.
Boasting a traditional Turkish wood charcoal oven, the restaurant serves some of the best kebabs and koftas in the vicinity. Grab a plate of Bulgur Pilaf ($2.50) or homemade Balloon Bread ($3.50) to go with the Patlican Kebab ($20) of chopped eggplants with chargrilled lamb. Those looking for a quick bite will enjoy the Spinach Pide ($15.50), a Turkish pizza topped with a moreish combination of spinach, onions, tomatoes and cheese.
17 Baghdad Street. Tel: 6635 3482
No Name Teh Sarabat
Since 1956, this humble Teh Sarabat (milk tea) stall run by two eldery Bengali men has been pulling Ceylon tea, condensed milk and milk into a frothy cup of Teh Tarik ($1.30). There is no kitchen but an oven warms up curry puffs and packets of nasi sambal goreng.
21 Baghdad Street.