It's that time of the year when the Christmas lights are rolled out and Orchard Road puts on it's glitziest best. This year's Disney theme (10 Nov-1 Jan 2019) sees the 2.2km stretch split up into four zones - Disney Princess, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Frozen (of course) and Toy Story - which like it or love it, will bring a lot of joy to young and old. Expect pretty Elsa blue lights and pink arches, 3D Disney characters, illuminated cartoon icons and a Great Christmas Village (15 Nov-26 Dec) situated outside Ngee Ann City with a festive-themed carousel and amusement park rides. While you're there, don't leave without checking out these restaurants, bars and shops.
What to do
Millennial pink is everywhere but you probably won’t find another store that’s more pink than Love Bonito’s flagship outlet – no, seriously. Dubbed the ‘pink room’, the aesthetically pleasing clicks-to-bricks space is where you can browse the local label’s first-ever capsule collection and join in styling workshops with like-minded women. Of course, you’ve got to take #ootd shots against their Instagram wall plastered with hundreds of intricate dried flowers.
Locally owned Surrender is the top choice among tastemakers here. This hipper-than-thou store stocks a slew of obscure brands including Fxxing Rabbits, Denim by Vanquish and Fragment, Mindseeker, Readymade and A-Cold-Wall among others, making this quiet boutique a heavy-hitter in the youth culture scene. The store gives off the air of ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ – but spend enough time browsing its racks (or its site online) and you’ll discover gems.
The brainchild of American music producer Virgil Abloh (perhaps better known as the art director of Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne album), Off-White can be described as a gallery space, party area and shopping destination rolled into one sleek architectural package designed in collaboration with architects Dong Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu. Come for the clean, minimalist design which boasts concrete walls and floors in the heart of Orchard Road, but stay for the myriad of possibilities this space offers and the one-off special releases.
Born from a strong legacy of stationery makers celebrating the joy of traditional bookmaking and leather craftsmanship, Bynd Artisan has grown from strength to strength opening stores around the island - their latest at ION Orchard - and chalking up collaborations with some of Singapore's coolest design talents: Larry Peh, Ong Shunmugam, Olivia Lee, Cherin Sim, just to name a few. Beyond offering luxurious paper and leather accessories in the form of notebooks, card-holders, greeting cards and the like, it provides services for customisation. Choose from an overwhelming array of coloured and textured options for clasps, elastic bands, rivets, buttons, wires and covers. Pick your ingredients before a skilled craftsman makes the notebook on the spot in under 30 minutes. Bynd Artisan also holds enriching bookbinding and leather crafting workshops for aspiring artists conducted by its master craftsmen.
Make this giant flagship store your go-to for all things Apple. The Apple store offers a complete range of Apple products – including desktops, notebooks, displays and software – together with the full range of iPads, iPhones and phone accessories. The double-story space also hosts a regular calendar of events, talks and workshops which are free for the public to attend.
The brainchild of local retail pioneer CK Tang remains a shopping mecca for tourists and locals alike. Housed in the iconic Tang Plaza on Orchard Road, the original department store can be a rather nostalgic place for many Singaporeans and is still fit to boast the Tangs slogan ‘All The Best Under One Roof’. That said, they're far from being stuck in the past. Keeping their eye focused on championing Asian fashion talent, their second level space is home to a number of fashion-forward local brands like In Good Company, Ling Wu, Aijek and Elohim. Both the VivoCity and Orchard locations feature a hotel delivery service, which allows shoppers to send packages back so they can continue shopping handsfree.
Armed with only $3,000 and a bedroom-turned-office, founder Dennis Tay started Naiise in 2013 with the simple goal of making good design more accessible to the public. This lifestyle store now stocks over 1,000 local and international brands selling cute stationery, household items, local books and a wide range of local-inspired knick-knacks (Merlion salt and pepper shakers, kueh tutu sling bags, Peranakan tile coasters) which have surprisingly found favour with both locals and tourists.
Rhythm cycling, Pilates reformer and yoga come together for a holistic fitness experience at Absolute You. This marks the Thailand-based boutique fitness brand first international foray and naturally, Orchard is where it's located. Take time out of your shopping schedule to join in one of Absolute You's many exercise classes. Psst, we hear the rhythm cycling is a really cardio intensive workout that have you 'dancing' on a stationary bike to high-octane music.
At Sephora, you'd find cult brands like Fenty Beauty and Anastasia Beverly Hills on display next to renowned hair products by Frédéric Fekkai, award-winning make-up bareMinerals by Bare Escentuals and not forgetting the highly lauded in-house Sephora brand itself.
We'll be honest, sometimes we pop into Illinois-based Crate & Barrel's five-level Orchard Gateway store just to play house. After all, each floor is themed after a particular room type. The sprawling store packs the brand's much-loved and manufacturer sourced range of kitchen-, glass-, and serve ware, as well as a range of eco-friendly furnishings and carpets. The local store stock 80 per cent of the US chain's home goods, and features twice-yearly drops of seasonal goods. Prepare to spend yourself silly.
What to eat
That Orchard Road has no decent food options is something you hear uttered too often. Newly-opened Halcyon & Crane at The Paragon aims to change that phallacy. Sister restaurant to Birds of a Feather, the menu is made up of fresh, full-flavoured dishes with a touch of trademark Mala heat, but in small doses. The King’s Chicken Benedict Hash turns the usual boring eggs benny on its head with the inclusion of kung bao chicken and the crunch of peppercorns and cashews, while the Cured Sausage Shakshuka adds a spicy mala pork sausage to the mix, making this Mediterranean favourite a more well-rounded order. That the setting exudes a pretty and minimalist vibe (ergo, great for Instagram) is another feather in its cap, so next time you're out shopping along Orchard Road, don't complain that you've got nowhere to grab a bite.
Cocktail lovers, do yourself a favour and make tracks to the top of Orchard Road. There lies Manhattan Bar (no. 3 on the World's 50 Best Bars list) with its own inhouse rickhouse holding 106 American oak barrels, all ageing spirits, bitters and cocktails. In the Ingredients Room opposite the rickhouse, bell jars of herbs, spices, fruits and roots in various stages of drying, pickling and brining line the shelves – all used in their range of craft cocktails that are among the best you'll find anywhere in the world. The menu, whose categories reference the neighbourhoods of the bar’s namesake borough, has an extensive selection of all-American dishes from lobster rolls ($26) to apple cheesecakes ($10). But if its drinks you're focused on, just order any whisky-based tipple, you can thank us later.
Decorated in grand shades of gold and red, this upscale hotpot restaurant comes with plenty of bells and whistles – hot towels, plastic covers to protect your phone, and even glasses cleaners are all politely proffered by the attentive staff. But the tots are well looked after here, too: the restaurant offers a small play area for younger kids to burn off excess energy, and accommodates them during the meal with high-chairs and easy-to-use utensils, plus, a performance by a resident noodle master that is sure to delight both children and adults. And if they get tired, borrow a baby cot so they can nap while you finish off your meal.
An oldie but a goodie, No. 5 on Emerland Hill remains an any day of the week favourite of those in the know looking for a cold draft beer or a decent beer bucket deal (two bottles of Carlsberg or San Miguel for $12 s not unusual). The European-style pub situated in a restored 1910 Peranakan shophouse also gets marks for its unassuming ambience - the peanuts accompanying your drinks? the floor is littered with the empty shells – and let's not forget its addictive fried chicken wings. If sitting and sipping isn’t quite entertaining enough for you, there is a busy pool table upstairs where you can rack up, and shoot a ball or two.
Tucked away on the second floor of Scotts Square where it is almost lost in the dazzlingly expensive and colourful shoe shops of fellow Hong Konger, On Pedder, the café for coffee nerds is an Instagram-ready space with its paraphernalia of a high-tech coffee laboratory displayed in all their brewing glory. While there's a variety of preparations on offer – Clever Cup, Chemex, Ice Drip, and AeroPress – sticking with a lively café latte ($6.50) is good enough.
One of Bangkok’s most beloved cafés has finally made its way to our shores. The brand first launched in 1980 selling men's casual wear but has since expanded into women's wear, leather goods, accessories and food. There are 14 Greyhound Cafés in Bangkok and you can expect the same recipes and quality of food at its Singapore outpost. Greyhound Café serves Thai food with a twist like spicy spaghetti ($26) seasoned with fresh peppercorns and holy basil as well as more traditional dishes like Tom Yum Soup ($18). Don’t miss its famous chicken wings ($14) either, each wing is split into two for your snacking convenience and is marinated in fish sauce before being deep fried ‘til golden brown.
Bright colours with earthy hues of green and beige welcome all come here to taste the famous Hainanese chicken rice ($27++), made from bigger and heavier 65- to 75-day-old broiler chickens. Only four chicken rice servings are made out of each one. The famous dish is marked by marvellously oiled rice and softly poached chicken paired with the classic trio of dark soy, garlic-infused chilli and grated ginger dips.
The Japanese advocates for thoughtful living, MUJI, brings its Cafe&Meal concept to Singapore after feeding fans in Hong Kong, China, Japan and Taiwan. The woody space at Paragon is a chance to temporarily live life their way, sat with its clean-lined furniture while digging into the mix-and-match rice plates, desserts and cold drinks. The standard meal set ($12.80) offers one hot and two cold deli options with rice (add $1 for ten-grain rice) from a selection of cooked meats and salads at the self-service counter while the 4 Deli set is priced at $16.90. Tea time options like the Honwakatou custard pudding, popular at their other outlets, also feature alongside their fair trade coffees and teas, and iced drinks.
With a sky-high view of Orchard Road, no other restaurant along the stretch boasts a better view. Not that Chef Jake Kowalewski is banking on that to bring in the crowds. The menu showcasing modern Australian fare with Asian touches includes dishes like the Geraldton Kingfish with Yarra Valley Salmon Pearls ($32++), or the Westholme Wagyu Rump Cap 200g, MBS 3-5+ ($68++) a quirky ‘surf and turf’ with a prawn-infused butter. Paying homage to its Aussie roots, end the meal with the Ondeh-Ondeh Lamington ($9++) which marries the rich flavours of pandan and gula melaka with a classic lamington cake.
If you're looking for a Halal eatery along Orchard Road, the Mezza9 does not disappoint. Situated on the mezzanine level of Grand Hyatt Singapore, this semi-casual space showcases nine unique dining concepts (thus the name) – namely the western grill and rotisserie, sushi and sashimi bar, yakitori grill, the steam basket, the European deli, Thai deli and crustacean bar, the patisserie, the martini and cigar bar and a gourmet boutique – in a contemporary environment for lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch.
The small menu has barely changed in years, but why fix what ain’t broke? The warmly lit, dark-timbered space is perfect for a session with the girlfriends or a business meeting. There are daily specials but it’s the standards like a hearty pesto laksa and a stack of seared tofu sandwiching chicken pieces that keep loyal fans coming back. Especially winning is the wall of current fashion, lifestyle and glossy magazines: perfect for sitting alone and sipping a herbal tea while digging into their superb steamed lemon pudding.
Hailing from Sapporo in Hokkaido, the Japanese pastry shop – takeaway only – is famous for its soft and oozing cheese tarts, revolutionising the traditional way of eating cheese tarts cold. Though they are baked here, the cheese tarts ($3.50) sold are made in Hokkaido and flown in to ensure authenticity in flavour. Look for the twice-baked pastries filled with three different types of cream cheese (Hakodate, Betsukai and French cheese) – the tarts are said to be rich in flavour yet light in texture with a crunchy base. Cheese tart lovers can buy a box of six for $19.50, but take note: each person can only take home two boxes. Bake now has a second outlet in Westgate.
There is plenty to enthuse about Akashi. The service staff is well informed, while the menu is a comprehensive blend of fresh seafood paired with a satisfying mix of fried meats and soupy noodles. Better yet: orders arrive at a clip, even during busy periods. The smokyscented, fatty tuna belly sushi – both the fresh and seared versions – melts in the mouth like top-grade foie gras. Garlic fried rice dazzles with its heady flavour and golden specks of egg, while a thick side of grilled mackerel, its thin skin lightly charred, astonishes with simple sweetness.
For OverEasy's Orchard Road digs, the Lo & Behold Group references the raucuously fun '80s – think pastel palettes and a menu that owes a debt to the classic American diner. Signatures like Reuben pastrami sandwiches, waffles and wings drizzled with honey maple syrup, and popcorn chicken with salted caramel popcorn are the highlights of the all-day dining menu. Drinking is a similarly happy affair, with picklebacks and bacon-infused piggybacks, cocktails, and a slushie machine loaded with alcoholic jungle juice. Save Orchard Road Campaign OverEasy Orchard is handing out free glasses of lemonade to parched shoppers along its stretch of shops. Show up with your shopping bags as shopaholic evidence everyday before 6pm, and trade your efforts in for a refreshing drink. Come October 24th, the shopper with the most number of bags will receive a hamper loaded with a pair of Superga sneakers, a prep blowout and gift vouchers from PVS, Benjamin Barker and Rockstar.