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Telok Ayer Green
Photograph: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock

The ultimate guide to Telok Ayer

The shophouse-lined streets of Telok Ayer are filled hip cafés, restaurant and bars – even the CBD crowd can't resist

By Time Out Singapore editors and Cam Khalid
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Similar to Ann Siang Hill and Club Street, Telok Ayer has transformed itself into a buzzing lifestyle district, teeming with hip cafés, restaurants and bars to feed the CBD office crowd. But before it became one of the coolest 'hoods in Singapore, it was the coastal road situated along the island's old waterfront (before land reclamation), which explains its name which translates to 'bay' and 'water' in Malay, respectively. The area was mainly populated by Chinese immigrants back in the day.

Today, it's a lively rendezvous for people from all corners of Singapore, as well as tourists. Pay a visit to one of the museums around the area or pop into the lean shophouses that dot the strip, where boutiques, fitness studios, and even speakeasies are tucked away.

RECOMMENDED: Ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods and the ultimate guide to Chinatown

Do

Telok Ayer Green
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Telok Ayer Green

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

Sandwiched between two national monuments, the Thian Hock Keng temple and Nagore Durgha Shrine, Telok Ayer Green sits hidden from the usually busy main streets. Telok Ayer used to be the landing site for immigrants in Singapore and the park is also designed after the original shoreline. You'll find some sculptures in the park which pay tribute to its history like a sampan used to carry goods, a Chinese lantern procession and an Indian milk trader. 

Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre
Photograph: Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre

Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

With more than 180 years of history, the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre sits at the site of the Nagore Dargah shrine, which was built between 1828 and 1830 by early immigrants from South India. It was originally a memorial known as Shahul Hamid Durgha, named after a saint from India who helped propagated Islam through his noble work and curing the sick. Today, it showcases Indian Muslim culture, diaspora and heritage through interactive exhibitions.

 

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Thian Hock Keng Temple
Photograph: Hit1912/Shutterstock

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

A century ago, Telok Ayer Street was right up against the sea. And this temple, known as the Temple of Heavenly Happiness, was popular with newly arrived immigrants, who came here to burn incense in thanks to Ma Cho Po (a Taoist deity and protector of seafarers) for their safe arrival. Some of the materials used in the temple were taken from the boats, including the rooftop mosaic. Inside, the main altar features a statue of Ma Cho Po, and other deities of luck, war and punishment.

Singapore Musical Box Museum
Photograph: Singapore Musical Box Museum

Singapore Musical Box Museum

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

Be enchanted by tinkling musical boxes in a museum dedicated to these delightful trinkets. Hidden behind the museum's doors are centuries' worth of history, with each antique musical box telling a unique story of the craftsmanship of yesteryears. Learn about the popularity of musical boxes throughout the years, how they first came to Singapore, and how the city played a pivotal role in bringing musical boxes to Southeast Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum aims to upkeep the preservation of these artefacts, and its collections hail mainly from Switzerland, Germany, and the US.

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Level
Photograph: Level

Level

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

Fitness is taken to a whole new level at this gym – forget typical classes and instead go hard with a specially tailored fitness regime using barbells, ropes and rings. Level Gym emphasises workouts that incorporate daily movements, making exercise more relevant and integral to one’s life rather than a chore. Located in the heart of the CBD, Level Gym also provides nutrition consultations and physiotherapy.

The Yoga Mandala

Sport and fitness Yoga and Pilates Tanjong Pagar

This yoga sanctuary makes it the perfect spot to unwind after the working grind in the CBD. Spearheaded by founders Jessica Sinclair and Nicole He, and backed by their team of yoga gurus, The Yoga Mandala offers a comprehensive list of group classes that transform your mind, body and soul through the practice of asana, pranayama, dharana and dhyana. Whether you’re just starting to improve your body flexibility or a master at all twists and bends, this friendly studio is here to help you with your yoga flow.

Eat

Park Bench Deli
Photograph: Park Bench Deli

Park Bench Deli

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

An establishment on Telok Ayer, this sandwich joint takes Singapore's sandwich game to levels beyond your sad ham and cheese bagged lunch. Think layers of generous servings of meat and savoury sauces. Throw in that serving of tater tots on the side if you're feeling a bit naughty. A word of warning: these sandwiches are messy, over-the-top affairs, so have a pack of napkins at the ready.

Meatsmith
Photograph: Meatsmith

Meatsmith

Restaurants American Tanjong Pagar

There's no need to guess what this place is known for – it's in the name. Meatsmith is a modern smokehouse in Telok Ayer where you can get real-deal American barbecue. Some of the things you'll find on the menu are its meat platters, house-made sausage, tangy vinegar slaw, juicy burgers, brisket, burnt ends, smoked ribs, craft beer, bourbons and aged cocktails. 

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Plain Vanilla Bakery
Photograph: Plain Vanilla Bakery/Facebook

Plain Vanilla Telok Ayer

Restaurants Bakeries Tanjong Pagar

Plain Vanilla is anything but plain. Step into the café, and you'll find platters of pretty made-in-house pastries and cakes on display, all ready to tempt your taste buds. Choose from a dozen flavours ($4.50 each): red velvet’s made with Valrhona chocolate and capped with a thick cream cheese frosting; cookies and cream’s a chocolatey affair with smashed Oreos weaved into its frosting. There’s also a deli section with wholesome options like granola bowls, toasties, and sammies if you're feeling something savoury.

Shake Farm
Photograph: Shake Farm

Shake Farm

Restaurants Tiong Bahru

If you're in the heart of the CBD and looking for really healthy food, Shake Farm serves up healthy juices, protein shakes, acai bowls, super toasts, pita pockets and salads you and mix yourself. Healthy eating comes with a cost of course, as salads start from $10 for a regular bowl. Shakes and juices start from $8 but it is packed with natural superfood ingredients like bananas, spinach, almond butter and more. Eating clean? Walk away from the greasy plate of char kway teow and get on the health train at Shake Farm. 

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The Market Grill

Restaurants Grills Tanjong Pagar

Get your grill on at this shophouse restaurant, which serves up fresh cuts of smoky meat. Carnivores will want to stick their forks in the Black Angus prime beef rib ($150/serves up to three) or roasted bone marrow ($25). A selection of burgers, crafted by chef Colin West, also features prominently on the menu – go for the breakfast stack, replete with bacon, eggs and cheddar ($24-$33).

Moosehead

Restaurants Mediterranean Tanjong Pagar

The kitchen-bar went through a revamp for its third anniversary, roping in Scottish chef Seumas Smith of Michelin-starred restaurants Lords of the Manor and Dinner by Heston. Moosehead serves up Mediterranean cuisine with influences from South-East Asian street food, such as slow-cooked pork belly with roast turnips and cavolo nero ($31), and bone marrow with anchovies on sourdough ($10)

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nasi padang
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nusantara Cuisine

Restaurants Indonesian Tanjong Pagar

Spice up your lunch with Indonesian dishes that are rich in flavour and not in its price tag – a bowl of spicy beef noodles sets you back less than $5, even with an added begedil (deep fried potato patty). For over 36 years, it has been a great little place for nasi padang as well as other Indonesian classics such as nasi goreng cabe hijau (green chilli fried rice). Most diners complete their meal with its homemade teh tarik for the extra kick.

Chuan Hung

Restaurants Chinese Raffles Place

This small noodle shack tucked away from the busy stretch of Telok Ayer Street feeds the spice-seeking CBD crowd with Sichuan cuisine. It's decked out in bamboo poles, rattan chairs, hanging pendant lightbulbs and noodles drying out in the open – all adding to its cosy, hole-in-the-wall ambience while you dine in. There are eight varieties on its menu including the signature braised beef ($12.50), and Australian ox tongue with vine pepper ($14.50) which delivers a seductive balance of spicy, aromatic and fresh Sichuan cookery.

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biryani
Photograph: Raveen Wijetiileke/Shutterstock

Market Street Interim Hawker Centre

Restaurants Hawker Tanjong Pagar

Conveniently located right next to Telok Ayer MRT station, Market Street Food Centre (previously known as Golden Shoe) has most of the stalls from its previous address at Raffles Place transferred to its new digs here. A short walk from the touristy hawker centre of Lau Pa Sat, this food spot has a cheaper variety — even a cup of hot teh tarik costs less than $1! Whether you’re craving for nasi lemak, hor fun, chicken biryani or fruit smoothies, you can easily find them here, under one roof.

Drink

Free The Robot
Photograph: Free The Robot

Free The Robot/Bitters & Love

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

Café by day and cocktail bar by night, this outfit serves up coffee and brunch-style meals for the working crowd. Get the avocado toastie ($8) for a quick, healthy lunch, or load up on the chicken meatball pasta ($13) if you're feeling hungry. Pair your meals with a cuppa or a glass of cold-pressed juice. After hours, watch it transform into Bitters & Love, shaking up specialty cocktails and bar snacks for you to unwind with. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for Free the Robot’s mascot, Baileys, who sometimes makes an appearance in the day.

Sarnies
Photograph: Sarnies

Sarnies

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

If it's coffee that you want, pop by Aussie-style café Sarnies. Opened by Australian Ben Lee, this sandwich shop lives up to its name with rustic ’wiches like chicken schnitzel ($14.80) and smoked salmon ($15). But it's the coffee that steals our hearts. Sarnies’ cuppas have made it to Lonely Planet’s list of best coffees – choose from an exhaustive list of brews including flat whites, macchiatos and mochas.

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Eliza

Bars and pubs Tanjong Pagar

Eliza is no run-of-the-mill bar. In fact, hers tells a story of snazzy parties complete with classic cocktails and Shanghai bites set to the grooves of live pop jazz or something a little more energetic spun by the resident DJ until the early hours (when possible once more). This lush concept is the brainchild of Coterie Concepts, spearheaded by Eu-Yen Tay and Sandara Sam, a restauranteur in Shanghai. Together with Group Chief Bartender Sam Wong, former Managing Director of Shanghai Dolly Gordon Foo and DJ Aldrin of Zouk fame, let Eliza help you unwind after a long day.

Telok Ayer Arts Club
Photograph: Telok Ayer Arts Club

Telok Ayer Arts Club

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

Part art gallery, part restaurant, part bar, and part after-work party space, Telok Ayer Arts Club makes for the most interesting addition to the CBD. Brought to you by the same people behind SPRMRKT, expect good vibes on the dance floor (when possible), French-Mediterranean cuisine from the kitchen (currently for takeaway only), Asian-inspired drinks and a revolving series of art exhibitions at this space that refuses to be pigeonholed.

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Napoleon Food and Wine Bar

Bars and pubs Tanjong Pagar

In an intimate 54-seater space, this food and wine bar places proud emphasis on vino from the Old World, with European wines rotated every week alongside a Grands Crus selection – the highest level of vineyard classification in Burgundy, France. Owner Jean-Christophe Cadoret works closely with his team based in France to select wines for import. And diners may want to indulge in a glass of 2000 Château Latour or 2005 Mouton Rothschild (from $18/glass), or the 2014 Domaine Heimbourger Chablis ($16/glass, $80/bottle). You don’t have to commit to a full glass, either – there are tasting (25ml) and half-portions (75ml) available, which start from $10.

SunMoon

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

In the mix of cafes and eateries in Telok Ayer, Sun Moon is a fruit shop and grocers in the hip neighbourhood. You might mistake it for a fruit stand from the outside but step inside to check out what they have stocked. Besides fresh fruits and vegetables, there are also fruit bowls, freshly-made smoothies and also a salad bar in-store if you need a healthy lunch option in the CBD. 

Shop

Perk by Kate
Photograph: Perk by Kate

Perk by Kate

Shopping Lingerie and swimwear Tanjong Pagar

After years of operating as an online store, Perk by Kate now has a brick-and-mortar store at Telok Ayer Street, carrying all its delicate intimates and garments, including its signature lace bralettes. Besides offering lush intimates for ladies, the local lingerie brand also carries dreamy loungewear – think two-piece silk PJs, comfy chemises, lacey slip dresses and soft robes that’ll be giving you sweet dreams.

Q Menswear

Shopping Tanjong Pagar

Get your bespoke menswear at Q Menswear, which provides both ready-to-wear and tailoring services to create that perfectly fitted suit. The local outfit also stocks a slew of accessories such as lapel pins, pocket squares, and everything in between so that you can look your spiffiest in the shortest amount of time.

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Ed Et Al Shoemakers

Shopping Shoes Tanjong Pagar

What started out as a bespoke-only outfit, has now grown to offer more made-to-order services, ready-to-wear shoes, as well as shoe repairs and servicing. For a touch of exclusivity on your feet, book an appointment and the team can set you up with a handcrafted, quality leather pair that’ll make Cinderella’s glass slippers jealous.

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