(main image: Sinpopo Brand)

Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall

Creative cocktails for adults

Opened: Aug 2013
Now: A locally adventurous cocktail bar

Grit factor: Named after the bartender, Sam Wong (formerly from Jigger & Pony), this cosy old-school bar has a loyal following of regulars and other bartenders–who also do guest stints. Looking a lot like a hawker centre cold drinks stall, they serve upmarket classics done right–from po (thin) to gao (thick), just like the terms for our kopi and teh.

Address: 60A Boat Quay. Tel: 6535 0838

Opening hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-12mn, Fri-Sat 6pm-3am

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

So alternative even the entrance is alternative

Opened: Aug 2012
Formerly: A hardware store

Now: Papa Palheta’s specialty coffee roaster and café space

Grit factor: A 360 ° coffee bar is the perfect spot to see and be seen as masterful baristas churn out cup after cup (lattes $4-5.50). Fill up with simple bites such as smoked salmon sandwich ($11) or something more substantial such as The Huat Breakfast ($17). Slip to the adjacent space which doubles as event space and merchandise shop but don’t expect to find anyone named Chye Seng Huat – it’s a made up name.

Address: 150 Tyrwhitt Road. Tel: 6396 0609

Opening hours: Tue-Fri, 9am-7pm, Sat-Sun, 9am-10pm


Your daily dose of caffeine and sugar

Opened: Sep 2013
Formerly: An old Chinese medicine hall

Now: Dispenses caffeine fixes

Grit factor: In what is arguably the most hipster neighbourhood in Singapore, partake in a myriad of cupcakes ($3), macaroons ($2) or a cold mocha ($7.50) amid the Chinese medicine cabinets, old school coffee shop tables and chairs. Everything exudes a relatively authentic vibe from the past.

Address: 69 Tiong Bahru Road. Tel: 6536 0225

Opening hours: Sun-Thu 9am-9pm

Dong Po Colonial Cafe

Not so oldie but goodie

Opened: Apr 2013
Now: Selling drinks and desserts of our childhood

Grit factor: With many local confections going the way of the dodo and being replaced by cupcakes and doughnuts, Dong Po Colonial Café stands as a bastion against the tide of change. It looks like a little slice of the 1950s, with vintage memorabilia galore, and serves childhood snacks such as butter cream cakes and traffic light cookies.

Address: 56 Kandahar Street. Tel: 6298 1318

Opening hours: Tue-Thu 9:30am-8:30pm; Fri-Sun, 9:30am-9:30pm

Kam Leng Hotel

True vintage

Opened: 1927, reopened 2012
Formerly: Kam Leng Hotel

Now: Kam Leng Hotel

Grit factor: The identity of the original owner is shrouded in mystery, but this small gem of a hotel has re-opened since 2012 in ’new’ hipster district, Jalan Besar. Rooms and the public space have been cleverly restored with Nanyang and Chinoiserie influences, appearing like a time machine of past splendours–flooring and walls have been left in their original state. For eats, try American-inspired diner Suprette on the ground floor.

Address: 383 Jalan Besar. Tel: 6239 9399

My Awesome Cafe Singapore

Really rather awesome

Opened: Feb 2014
Formerly: Chung Hwa Free Clinic

Now: Clinical execution of retro chic

Grit factor: The Chinese-wording exterior has not been changed, adding a layer of true grit to the hipster interiors. Crammed full of re-purposed antiques and recycled parts, the décor has a rustic, karang guni feel. There’s a full menu of bistro food, locally roasted coffee (latte, $4.50) and bakes such as quiche and brownies. Take time to look around, and tilt your head back to admire the custom LED lights specially imported from Guzhen, China.

Address: 202 Telok Ayer. Tel: 6222 2007

Opening hours: Mon-Tue 7.45am-9pm; Wed-Fri 7.45am-12mn; Sat-Sun 10am-3pm

Sinpopo Brand

Old name, new vibes

Opened: May 2013
Formerly: Another bistro

Now: Blast from the past

Grit factor: Take your taste buds (and eyes) on a trip through time. Stepping past the bright red grills, find yourself greeted by an old school television and grey mosaic floor tiles, with old vinyl covers on the walls. The menu items, of course fit in right in, with the ais bor ($3.90), a shaved ice ball with sugary syrup, and sng muay pop ($3.90) served in enamel cups. What does the name mean? Apparently, Sinpopo was a nightclub/cabaret in the Tanjong Katong area in the past.

Address: 458 Joo Chiat Road. Tel: 6345 5034

Opening hours: Sun, Tue-Thu 12noon-10pm; Fri-Sat 12noon-12mn

Sin Lee

A book by its cover…

Opened: July 2014
Formerly: Beloved lor mee coffee shop since 1963

Now: A hipster coffee shop

Grit factor: Aside from its original signboard, the food as well as drinks bears little relation with the past. The space is divided into indoors (chic cement flooring and exposed brick walls) and outdoors (a charming seating area with black-and-white blinds). One of their signature dishes is the fried chicken with waffles ($21.90) a sinful marriage of sweet and savoury for the camera-totting crowd.

Address: 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, #01-164

Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10am-9pm

Tian Kee & Co.

Passing time till 2016

Opened: June 2014
Formerly: A 54-year-old provision shop

Now: A purveyor of fine brews and true old-timer feels

Grit factor: In an estate about to be en-blocked, you will find the Yuan Yang Cheesecake, ($6.50), named and flavoured after the drink that is a mix of coffee and tea, and coffees made from Dutch Colony beans (lattes $5) as you soak in the ambience. It’s the most atmospheric of all the cafes, having barely undergone any slick renovation–shutters, grills, formica-topped tables and stools all remain, and wouldn’t look out of place in the 1950s.

Address: 12 Dakota Crescent. Tel: 6344 8527

Opening hours: Tue-Thu 12noon-7pm, Fri 12noon-9pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm