This OG kopitiam has been a breakfast institution for generations. Nothing much has changed over the years: it’s still toasting kaya buns ($1) over a charcoal fire and using a sock to pull kopi ($1.10). Even the interior has remained the same. The kitchen occupies half the shop, giving the aunties who run the show ample space to bake. Every 15 minutes or so, you’ll see one of them emerge from the back to put out a tray of freshly baked cupcakes. So if you ever see a batch of chocolate cupcakes ($1), grab them before they’re all snapped up by bulk orders.
The queue at this nasi padang restaurant stretches out the door even before lunchtime hits. We can’t blame the crowd, though, as only the early birds get the worm. Or in this case, stellar beef rendang and sambal goreng. There are only limited quantities of each item, so hot favourites like the tauhu telor sell out fast. Aside from quintessential Malay dishes, there are also rarer ones like lemak siput sedut, or sea snails swimming in a coconut-rich broth. And be sure to scream ‘yes’ when asked if you’d like a dollop of sambal with your rice.
Dining on an actual road is all part of the charm at JB Ah Meng. Despite its bare-bones setup, the crowds keep coming back for its unbeatable zi char dishes like the san lou bee hoon ($7-$14). It appears simple enough, but the pancake-resembling seafood noodle dish is the joint’s star. Charred and crisp on the outside but soft on the inside, each strand of bee hoon is coated with a smoky wok hei. JB Ah Meng also does a killer rendition of white pepper crab (from $24) – the dish is only mildly spicy and lets the natural sweetness of the crustacean shine.
Far from the sorry selection of your school canteen, The Tuckshop serves café fare by day and craft beer by night. (Even if you want booze in the afternoon, we – and The Tuckshop – don’t judge.) With over 40 types of bottled beers (from $14), the owners are serious about their hops. And the tasting notes they’ve written in the menu will help even the most novice of drinkers decide on the right beverage. Grab a cold one before planting yourself in the al fresco area to watch the traffic zoom by.
Many people don’t know that chendol actually refers to the green jelly ‘worms’ and not the dessert itself. Cendol Geylang Serai takes us back to basics by making bowls and mugs (yep, it’s also available as a drink) of this Indonesian dessert the old-school way: with just pandan-flavoured jelly, coconut cream, gula Melaka and crushed ice – red beans and attap chee be damned. The coconut cream dominates each spoonful, with only a hint of pandan in the mix.
Neat, clean and a little too sparse – we had hoped it would be brimming with cheeses – this gourmet shop is still a cheese lover’s paradise. It stocks a select variety of soft cheeses like brie and truffles ($9/100g) and gorgonzola dolce ($6/100g), along with hard cheeses like 36-month-old VSOP gouda ($7.50). You’ll never be outdone at a dinner party if you stop by – The Cheese Shop also sells a range of premium jams and crackers so you can easily craft the perfect cheese board.
More places to eat and drink
Guan Hoe Soon is one of the last few bastions of authentic dining in the historically Peranakan neighbourhood. Open since 1953, the shophouse dining room stocks a mini-museum of vintage tableware at the back – but, of course, we’re here for the food. For some pre-meal snacking, we’re presented a plate of too-fresh achar ($3) curiously spiked with the livery notes of chicken gizzards. But as the weathered marble tables start to stack with dishes, the chunky otah-otah ($8) becomes a fast favourite, as is the imposing, must-share portion of tangy assam pedas pomfret ($38). And unlike the soya-rich chap chyes ($10) found elsewhere, Guan Hoe Soon’s tastes almost Sino, with strong tones of shitake and oyster sauce. And if you’re ever tempted to order the fried bakwan kepeting ($12) creation, don’t – Guan Hoe Soon’s forte is in its classics.
Gone may be the '60s-inspired interiors, but remnants of it do remain – particularly in the signage and the 'kopitiam floor tiles'. Though its old-school coffeeshop bar stools have been replaced with polished wooden tables and seats that came straight out of IKEA's catalogues. You’re given a small paper menu with a short selection of hot savoury dishes, drinks, hot and cold desserts and ice-cream; tick off your choices and pay at the cashier.