Themed restaurants are enjoying a resurgence in Singapore, and Picnic is looking to get in on the action. An assortment of ferns and succulents hangs from the walls of this park-themed restaurant, and there’s even an Astroturf lawn in the middle of the space that’ll make you feel as though you’re really picnicking in the park. The plants change in accordance with the seasons and the lighting adjusts with the time of day, so you can catch the ‘sunset’ while indoors. There are multiple tables for groups – we recommend zooming in on the one near the bar with a built-in ice-bucket for drinks – so head down early to picnic at the best spot.THE FOOD
Order from any of the 13 stations that are set up as independent food trucks. Ezo is a Japanese concept that serves Hokkaido-inspired eats like butadon ($14/lunch, $19 dinner), a rice bowl with three cuts of pork (belly, collar and loin) all marinated in a sweet and savoury tare sauce and grilled to order. If you’re looking to share, go for the rotisserie half chicken ($23/lunch, $26/dinner), that’s served with your choice of mash potatoes or ratatouille.
Go loco for tacos and all things Mexican at Super Loco Customs House. The contemporary Mexican Cocina Y Bar, located in the vicinity of The Fullerton Heritage, has stunning views of Marina Bay Sands and the waterfront. For groups of ten or more, grab a seat outdoors under the fairy lights. Smaller parties of up to eight can be accommodated indoors, but it’s best to book in advance as the restaurant fills up fast, even on weekdays.
In a group, small plates are way more fun. Specialties include tlayuda cecina ($20) – a Mexican flatbread topped with black bean hummus, fresh queso Oaxaca, rocket and wagyu that’s been air-dried for three months – and de cangrejo ($14), a taco filled with soft shell crab, barbecued pickled pineapple, radish and lime mayo. If you’d prefer larger dishes to share, order the pescado asada con chile rojo y perejil ($46), a barbecued, locally sourced sea bass served with red and green salsas.
Tambuah Mas has been serving its loyal customers quality Indonesian food since 1981. Its main outlet at Tanglin Shopping Centre boasts a larger space than the one at Paragon, and has a private room that can hold a party of 22. A partition adorned with Balinese wood carvings sections off another area. Here, you’ll find bigger tables that can house groups of eight to 12, giving your gathering some privacy even if you don’t hit the minimum spend of $600 for the room.
Expect traditional Indonesian cuisine done to a tee here. Take a quick glance around the room and you’ll find gracing every table a beautifully golden tahu telor ($10.50) that, despite being deep fried, isn’t overwhelmingly greasy. The fork-tender rendang lembu ($10.50) completely absorbs the flavours of the spices after hours of stewing. And heap everything over a mountain of nasi kuning ($2.50), yellow rice cooked in coconut milk and spices, to complete the experience.
What started out as a humble zi char stall in a coffee shop along Defu Lane has mushroomed to over 30 restaurants in Singapore and dozens more across the globe. Its new flagship has also moved from the dingy industrial estate to the glittering hallways of Marina Bay Sands. The 177-seat restaurant has eight private rooms and is elegant without being intimidating – after all, this is a place to tuck into crabs with your hands. The main private dining room can hold 15 people, but can be combined with another room to seat 30, and the tables in the main hall can fit eight to 12.
Even though you can’t go wrong with local classics like the chilli Sri Lankan crab, try some of Seafood Paradise’s other crab offerings, too. The creamy butter Dungeness crab, topped with coconut crumbs, is a popular choice – but our favourite has to be the fried bee hoon with Sri Lankan crab, kissed by a smoky aroma from the wok.
For 15 years, Sawadee Thai has been serving legit Thai food in Singapore – saving you a trip to Bangkok when cravings strike. Fresh Thai produce lands in the restaurant every day, ensuring all its dishes deliver a genuine taste of the Land of Smiles. The recently renovated restaurant is modern and comfortable, letting you enjoy a fleet of dishes in a relaxed setting. While the dining area clocks in at a relatively paltry 1,389 square feet, the staff are cool with squeezing three tables for eight in the middle of the restaurant. And smaller tables flanking the dining room can also be combined for bigger groups.
You’ll find tom yum soup and mango sticky rice here, but why not try something different? Meat lovers will enjoy the pan-seared black Angus beef rib-eye ($32) that’s served with a homemade green curry sauce. Thais like their beef medium to well-done, though, so let your server know your preference when you order. End the meal with the mao shan wang durian sticky rice ($12) that’s available all year round.
Inspired by the beaches of Barcelona, FOC Sentosa is the sister outlet to the popular restaurant on HongKong Street, but with a more laid-back vibe. The two-storey beach house is split into two wings. On one side there’s an open-air bar that overlooks the pool and on the other is the restaurant that can easily fit groups of up to 18. For even bigger gatherings, book the private party spaces above. It holds up to 240 people standing or 150 seats for a sit-down meal.
Get the king crab cannelloni ($22) to start. The classic Italian dish gets a Mediterranean twist, where zucchini ribbons replace pasta to wrap around sweet slivers of Alaskan king crab. Also try the cod fish and spinach caldoso rice ($36-$72), a variation on the traditional paella that’s cooked over a low fire on a cast iron pan. Unlike the Spanish rice dish, which has a crispy base of slightly burnt rice, this dish has a creamy, almost risotto-like texture that soaks up the flavours of the cod tripe.
There’s no denying you’ve stepped into a Peranakan Restaurant when you enter Chilli Padi. Red batik cloth drapes over the tables, a framed kebaya hangs on the wall and the restaurant is even located in a heritage shophouse from the pre-war era. Awards and media accolades line the walls beside colourful Peranakan art, enticing you to order more than you can manage, because you know you’ll be getting the legit stuff. Some of the tables come with a Lazy Susan, so no one will have to stretch to reach that claypot filled with ayam buah keluak. Whether it’s to entertain friends from out of town or an inter-generational gathering, Chilli Padi is definitely a top pick for a cosy gathering.
It won’t be a proper Peranakan meal without ayam buah keluak ($12.80/$17.80) at the table. Chilli Padi’s rendition comes the closest to what you’ll find in the home of a Nyonya grandmother, with generous chunks of chicken and whole kernels of buah keluak that have been conveniently cut to fit the length of your fork. Another must-have is the cabbage roll ($5). Homemade otah is wrapped in Chinese cabbage and then steamed before it’s covered in a rich and spicy coconut curry.
Although most hotpot spots are fit for large groups, LongQing stands out for its homely atmosphere: owner James Chiew tends to each table personally, and a portrait of his wife and son is painted on the wall. As old-school Mandopop plays in the background, settle down by a wooden table – they’re suitable for eight – to share one hotpot. Even the smaller tables, which seat four each, can combine to form a longer table. Alternatively, book out the whole restaurant and throw a hotpot party for up to 40 friends.
Instead of bogging down customers with too many options, LongQing keeps its menu simple. There are only four types of soup available: the signature pork bone soup, mala, tomato and wild mushroom ($18 for a choice of two). After spending years living in Shanghai and learning from his wife – a native of Chong Qing – Chiew has perfected his soup base recipes to appeal to both traditional Chinese and Singaporean palates. Premium ingredients like the Mangalica pork collar ($30), US short rib ($22) and Canadian scallops ($12.80) are delivered daily while specialty pork balls ($12) and prawn paste ($14) are made fresh every afternoon.