Stock up on used books, nosh on Teochew pastries and shoot a few arrows in this quaint neighbourhood. Read on for our guide on the things to do, where to eat and the shops to check out while in the Beauty World area.
Restaurants and cafés
Ng Kim Lee Confectionary
This family-run confectionery dates back 55 years and gives a nod to the good old days with its retro-tiled floor and antique cabinets. Egg tarts, bite-sized muffins and tau sar pia are among the Teochew-style pastries churned out at Ng Kim Lee Confectionary. The 63-year-old bakery’s well-loved butter cakes sell out fast, too, so go early.
Ajiya Okonomiyaki Restaurant
For a hands-on meal, Ajiya Okonomiyaki Restaurant’s the place to grill the Japanese pancake any way you like. The menu is split into three categories: starting with the Veggie Delight ($12) up to the $15 okonomiyaki, which lets you pick from pork belly, kimchi, squid and tobiko.
Despite its secluded location at the top of Beauty World Centre, Dulukala has high aspirations to become the name 'synonymous with Peranakan dining'. To help you draw your own conclusions, the restaurant's helpfully put together weekday lunch sets of cuisine staples ($12.90-$14.90) and dinner dish permutations for groups of four ($79.90) and six ($108.90) to suit the heartland crowd that arrive as a clan. Skip the darkish, too-sweet chap chye ($10.90) and bakwan kepeting soup ($12.90), which harks of a hawker fishball noodle broth, and instead gun for the stewed dishes. The babi pongteh ($11.90) is a lighter, less cloying version than its rivals, while the fragrant sambal is a lovely complement for fried and salty ikan selar fish ($15.90). And the scrambled egg-wrapped chinchalok (fermented shrimps, $9.90) – also rarely found elsewhere – is another full-on experience of smell and pungent flavour. For more, check out our Best Peranakan restaurants in Singapore feature.
The folks behind the defunct Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar, and Henry Congressional partner to provide the Toh Tuck area a triple threat that is a coffee shop, restaurant and bar. Getting here is tricky if you don’t live in the neighbourhood. But it’s worth a try, if not for its laid-back atmosphere and floor-to-ceiling glass panels that let you steal a peek into the kitchen, then for the café’s popular ragu pasta ($17). Ribbons of homemade tagliatelle are cooked al dente then thinly coated in a minced beef and pork tomato sauce before shavings of Parmigiana on top give the dish a sharp punch. It’s easy to see why this one’s a crowd-pleaser. But because lunch only starts at 3pm (we’re not sure what time zone these guys are in), there are only chalkboard specials to order if you’re here early. You have your basic sandwiches such as Croque Monsieurs ($12) and a rosemary chicken sarnie with meat roasted in-house. But pass on the sambal fried rice – it’s too liberal with chilli and, at nine bucks, you’re better off hitting up your favourite zi char stall. The coffee beans here are roasted on-site, and the brew experiments plenty. Necessary Provisions was probably the first in the city to pioneer iced coffee cubes for its chilled drinks (from $5.50), and we've heard of the team barrel-ageing brews to taste wood's effect on coffee. And the café's exquisitely poured, crema-topped espresso-based drinks (from $5) are no swill either.
Ham Bao Bao
Affordable yet shiok is what Ham Bao Bao aims for. It serves five different types of burgers, from pork to beef to fish. On your what-to-eat-list, opt for the Ayam Buah Keluak Burger. It's ($5) a juicy affair with a minced chicken patty laced with buah keluak and homemade rempah, and your choice of chap chye gravy or Nyonya vegetable stew. Complete your meal with the raved-about handcut fairy fries ($1 with burger; $1.50 à la carte).
The injeolmi bingsu ($14.90) is good to share among three and comes with finely shaved ice that only tastes milky when you get to the bottom. It’s also topped generously with soybean powder, rice cakes and almond powder, so we recommend you mix everything in before you start eating, otherwise you will, like us, eat plain milk ice once the delectable toppings are finished.
Elsewhere in the Beauty World area...
Beauty World Book Centre
Beauty World Book Centre surely isn’t the most creatively named, but the tiny bookstore stocks a well-curated selection of secondhand books, of which most are bestsellers or classics – like the works of Lang Leav or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Rent a title for up to three weeks, then drop the book off to get back a portion of what you spent.