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Tanjong Pagar
Photograph: Shutterstock

The ultimate guide to Tanjong Pagar

Tanjong Pagar is known for a myriad of dining options, cocktail joints hidden in back alleys, and majestic cultural monuments that have stood the test of time

By Nicole-Marie Ng and Dewi Nurjuwita
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There’s no other neighbourhood that captures Singapore’s transformation from fishing village to major trading port to modern metropolis like Tanjong Pagar. Meaning “cape of stakes” in Malay, Tanjong Pagar was once a small town by the shore home to fishermen as well as agricultural plantations. Today, wooden huts by the sea have been replaced by tall, glossy skyscrapers that make up Singapore’s Central Business District.

During the weekdays, Tanjong Pagar is crawling with white-collar workers dressed in sharp attire flitting from meeting to meeting. But this neighbourhood hasn’t lost all its old-world charm. Traditional nineteenth-century shophouses line the street, walls decked in street art hint at its history and hawker stalls dishing out classics from yesteryear remain. They thrive alongside swish new restaurants gunning for Michelin stars and accolades, as well as underground clubs and bars locals gather at to unwind.

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods 

Do

Thian Hock Keng
Photograph: Shutterstock

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

Wander around Tanjong Pagar and you'll find intriguing cultural monuments that have stood the test of time, a testament to Singapore's rich and complex history. On Telok Ayer Street, you'll find one of the oldest Hokkien shrines in Singapore. 

For the uninitiated, here's a brief history. 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.

CruBox

Sport and fitness Boxing and kickboxing Tanjong Pagar

Put on your boxing gloves and get ready to punch like a celebrity. A favourite of big hitters like the Kardashians, Usher, Hailey Baldwin and Nicole Scherzinger, the LA-based fitness studio CruBox is one of the hottest boxing gyms in town. No matter your fitness level or boxing ability, you're bound to get a good sweat session at its minimalist industrial-chic space along Duxton Road. 

The studio offers a unique and intense full-body workout that choreographs elements of high-intensity cardio, strength training and boxing to the rhythm of an energetic playlist. For those who prefer spinning, sister studio CruCycle can be found on the first floor. 

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Soloha Hotels
Soloha Hotels

Hotel Soloha

Hotels Boutique hotels Outram

Staycations are all the rage these days. And if you prefer chic boutique establishments, the coolest new kid on Keong Saik might just be your cup of tea. The intimate 45-room Hotel Soloha evokes tropical modernism that fits perfectly into the charming street and puts you within walking proximity to Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar's best restaurants, cocktail joints, boutique shops and more.

Swing through the wooden panel doors of the white and blue facade, and you'll be greeted by witty and bold interiors and artisanal furnishings. Art lovers will appreciate specially commissioned works from local artists like Ethrisha Liaw, who dreamt up a three metre-wide pop art mural in the main areas, as well as dynamic artworks in the guest rooms. In the lift shaft, you'll find a 13-metre painted art piece by Danielle Tay.

Tanjong Pagar
Photograph: Shutterstock

Shophouse gazing

If you're a self-professed architecture geek – especially when it comes to heritage structures – Tanjong Pagar is the district to be. Grab your camera and take a walk along places like Duxton Hill, Peck Seah Street and Neil Road, where you can find one of the oldest conservation shophouses in Singapore. You might just learn a new thing or two about the different shophouse styles that are prevalent in Singapore. 

Eat

Maxwell Food Centre

Restaurants Hawker Raffles Place

Home to a plethora of food stalls that champions different local fare – from flavourful Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak to wholesome porridge and mee pok – Maxwell Food Centre stands amongst the favourites for lunchtime nosh in the CBD. The chicken rice hype is real here: you can’t leave this hawker centre without ordering from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice where Michelin-starred heavyweight Gordon Ramsay and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain were impressed with its take on the national dish. 

Try Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice’s signature dish — it’s blend of garlic and chilli sauce goes well with the fragrant rice and deboned chicken smothered in light soy sauce. For something less intense, check out Zhen Zhen Porridge where its steaming hot bowls of chicken and fish porridge topped with ginger shreds will leave you satisfied for cheap.

Cloudstreet
Photograph: Cloudstreet

Cloudstreet

Restaurants Tanjong Pagar

Rishi Naleendra is a prodigy among chefs. His restaurant on Amoy Street, however, breaks away from the modern-Australian cocoon he was known for at Cheek by Jowl. The menu at Cloudstreet showcase progressive dishes that take inspiration from Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world.

Order a grilled Coffin Bay oyster wrapped in betel leaf swimming in a pool of coconut milk and finished with citrusy pops of finger lime; or savour the Western Australian marron served with millet cooked in a mellow Sri Lankan yellow curry. But in our opinion, the most understated star comes in the form of a loaf of bread. Rye flour is mixed with local stout to make a dense, almost cake-like bun that’s glazed with molasses. 

Its wine programme, curated by sommelier Vinodhan Veloo, is just as impressive. You'll find over 350 labels of mostly small, independent winemakers as well as classics. Tasting menus at Cloudstreet are priced from $68 during lunch and $168 for dinner.  

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Kueh Ho Jiak
Photograph: Fabian Loo

Kueh Ho Jiak

Restaurants Hawker Tanjong Pagar

Helmed by a mother-daughter duo, Kueh Ho Jiak is your one-stop-shop for your traditional kueh needs, with a twist. Young hawker Elizabeth Chan presses ang ku kueh into shapes of teddy bears and koi fishes, using sweet potato to create adorable variants of the traditional treat. 

At the stall, you'll find colourful balls of ondeh ondeh ($3), rice kueh in a rare hue of orange ($3), and even ang ku kueh with unique fillings of cempedek ($2) and spicy shrimp ($2). Got a special celebration? Kueh Ho Jiak also does kueh dessert tables and other custom-shaped treats. 

Thevar
Photograph: Thevar

Thevar

Restaurants Indian Raffles Place

For a taste of experimental Indian cuisine beyond thosai and butter chicken, definitely do not miss this contemporary Indian restaurant along Keong Saik Road. Chef Murugan Thevar serves up creative yet satisfyingly delicious plates inspired by his travels around South Asia and his Penang heritage. 

Start your meal with plump Canadian oysters topped with rasam granita ($28/5 pieces). The spiced potato chips ($10) is so addictive on its own, you don't need the tamarind dip it's served with and the grilled octopus ($36) served on a bed of smooth masala lentil puree is topped with a tomato chutney for a burst of acidity. The star of the show here is the pork ribs glazed with medjool dates ($35), best served with a plate of berry pulao ($12). 

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Whole Earth
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Whole Earth

Restaurants Vegetarian Tanjong Pagar

This Michelin Bib Gourmand winner on Peck Seah Street is out to prove that going plant-based doesn't mean you have to give up your favourite Southeast Asian dishes. Whole Earth serves up a curious mix of Thai and Peranakan vegetarian dishes. But here's a twist: Everything on the menu is cooked using plant-based ingredients. 

Order a bunch of dishes to share – but be sure not to miss the Nonya curry ($21). The hearty Peranakan style curry is served with minced mushrooms that resemble meatballs and potatoes. Other vegetarian takes on zi char staples include sweet and sour ‘pork’ and crispy handmade yam rings stuffed with treasures.

Drink

Native

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Tanjong Pagar

It's time to leave your comfort zone and head up this cosy establishment on the second storey of a shophouse along Amoy Street. After all, it did clinch a spot on this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars. At Native, head bartender Vijay Mudaliar showcases spirits from around the region and occasionally deploys foraged ingredients to add pep and zing to his cocktails. 

A favourite on the menu, Chasing The Dragon ($23), has been given a little more fizz to beat the island's heat and is now lightly carbonated with the addition of Japanese Sorachi Ace Hops. Guava ($25) is a new cocktail on the menu, a marriage between Compendium's honey vodka with pink guava distillate, laksa leaves and a curry leaf twig from Native's in-house garden. Feeling peckish? Order up some bar snacks, like the Appam Jala ($8) and Moonlight Fried Rice ($8). 

Junior
Photograph: Junior

Junior

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Tanjong Pagar

For something more intimate, navigate Tanjong Pagar’s back streets to Junior, a pocket bar that holds no more than 20. It's the first bar in Singapore with a rotational concept that changes every six months or so. Previous iterations include nods to tiki bars of the 30s and 40s in America and Alpine retreats, but the current Washi theme is inspired by Shinjuku's Golden Gai bars. Let head bartender Peter Chua shake up an Origami cocktail (from $25), or sip on a refreshing Oshakawa Highball (from $25) while snacking on Japanese street food like Aburi-Tori ($9) or a Katsu Sando ($17). 

Junior is moving out and expanding into a bigger space at the end of September, so make a booking and check out its original digs while you still can. 

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Luat
Photograph: Laut

Laut

Bars and pubs Tanjong Pagar

A new addition to Stanley Street, this restaurant and bar concept opened during Singapore's semi-lockdown. Laut celebrates the heritage of the indigenous orang laut – Malay for 'sea people' – nomads who lived on the coasts of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1800s. 

The ingredients are the star here. Seemingly simple and familiar elements are transformed into bold concoctions in its bottled creations. Try The Soy ($88/500ml), a mix of clarified fermented soy with gula Melaka arrack, spiced mango, tamarind and chrysanthemum; or the Kumquat ($88/500ml), a fresh burst of citrus tempered with Malaysian molasses, root tincture and aged Vietnamese sweet potato. 

Like the bar, the kitchen takes everyday dishes and turns them into something new. Laut's take on thunder tea rice ($29) is a comforting, risotto-like dish of thunder tea butter stirred in with century eggs and petai topped with plump king prawns. There's also the Laut curry ($33) a lightly spiced seafood broth reminiscent of zi char-style fish head curry, but without the fuss. 

IB HQ

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Tanjong Pagar

Yet another new entry to the buzzy Tanjong Pagar area, IB HQ has just recently moved into the Duxton neighbourhood from its former home in Kampong Gelam. Helmed by husband and wife team Kamil Foltan and Zurina Bryant, the space is a brick-and-mortar manifestation of the duo's Indigenous Bartender platform, created for like-minded bartenders looking to explore the creative usage of locally sourced ingredients in culinary concepts. 

The cocktails (from $22) here are heavily inspired by the flavours and produce of Southeast Asia, with concoctions of Kopi-O Negroni, ​Uji Martini, Pandan Sazerac, and Stars & Bars made with green mango gin and starfruit honey.

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Tong Ah Eating House
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Tong Ah Eating House

Restaurants Chinatown

There's nothing quite like a comforting hot cup of kopi to start your day – and Tanjong Pagar is the place to be for OG coffee spots. Quite arguably the most iconic Kopitiam in Singapore, Tong Ah Eating House was once located at the triangular building at the junction of Teck Lim and Keong Saik Road (now home to Potato Head Singapore) and has since moved a few stalls down away from its original spot. But it's still a local favourite for super crispy kaya toast, French toast and kopi, the beans for which are even roasted in-house.

 

 

Shop

Epigram books, bookstore
Photograph: Time Out Singapore

Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

Shopping Bookshops Raffles Place

If all you want to do is bury your nose in a good book, Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop will be your sanctuary. Immerse yourself in Singapore literature at Epigram Books' physical store on Maxwell Road. Bookworms will be spoilt for choice with more than 400 titles on offer and 90 percent of its books are written by SingLit authors, such as Sonny Liew, Amanda Lee Koe and Jeremy Tiang.

You might just lose track of time as you spend your afternoon browsing the books in the store while you sip on a latte – don't say we didn't warn you. 

Tong Mern Sern

Shopping Tanjong Pagar

They say one man's junk is another man's treasure. And for antique collectors, Tong Mern Sern is a haven right in the heart of Singapore. This long, three-storey shophouse on Craig Road is the only one on the block that’s not been refurbished, and for good reason.

It is lined and packed with trinkets and treasures – from jade cabbages in cabinets, porcelain plates on the walls and typewriters lining the stairwells, to old Chinese dressing tables and an ancient music player that looks like an oversized, numberless grandfather clock with the functions of a pianola. Spend your afternoon leisurely sifting through the store – who knows what treasures you might find? 

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Perk by Kate

Shopping Lingerie and swimwear Tanjong Pagar

You don't need a special occasion to treat yourself to gorgeous lingerie – especially when they're as dreamy and comfortable as the bralettes from local lingerie brand Perk by Kate. Originally an online store founded by Singaporean Kate Low, the brand now can be found in a physical studio on Telok Ayer Street. You'll have to make an appointment before you drop by though, but it's worth your while. After all, lingerie shopping is the epitome of self-care.  

Ette Tea - Nasi Lemak
Photo: Louis Kwok

ETTE Tea

Restaurants Tea rooms Chinatown

Nasi lemak, spicy fortune cookies and silver dust aren't usually the words you find on a packet of tea, but ETTE's blends are daring enough to bring these flavours to its brews. Step into its retail store at Kreta Ayer Road and be wowed by the pretty caddies and sachets that come in a variety of locally-inspired flavours like Chicken Rice. The Pandan Chiffon evokes memories of the childhood snack, while the Kris Grey spikes Earl Grey with South-East Asian ingredients. All tea blends cost $28 for 50g, but you can grab a five-sachet sampler for $9. 

 

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