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Siglap Park Connector
Photograph: Facebook/NParks

The ultimate guide to Siglap

Despite its spooky secrets, Siglap is far from a ghost town with its cool eateries and shops

By Cam Khalid and Delfina Utomo
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It's been said that Siglap is a hotspot for pontianak sightings. Legend has it that its name is derived from the Malay phrase ‘si gelap’ – which means ‘the dark one’ – given to it by a Sumatran prince who arrived during an eclipse. It was also a massacre site during the Japanese Occupation. But beyond its morbid past, this quaint and tranquil ’hood is home to a plethora of restaurants, cafés and pubs where Easties rock up for afternoon brunch, late-night supper or a yoga sesh without the crazy crowd.

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods 

DO

Siglap Park Connector
Photograph: Facebook/NParks

Siglap Park Connector

Things to do Marine Parade

Feel the fresh breeze through your hair as you whizz through the park connector, which forms the gateway to the Eastern Coastal Loop. The path leads you towards the Tampines and Bedok Park Connectors if you want to pay these bigger ’hoods a visit. Make a pitstop at East Coast Park or Telok Kurau Park to rent a bicycle or rollerblades if you don’t have your own set of wheels.

Art of Yoga
Photo: Shawn Khoong

Art of Yoga

Sport and fitness Yoga and Pilates Bedok

Find your zen at this minimalist boutique yoga studio that runs over 60 classes in various styles, from Ashtanga Mysore to classic Hatha. After your satisfying stretches, pick up some artisanal products from homegrown brands such as Homemade Handmade and The Mala Company from its shelves.

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Kubur Kassim
Photo: Shahril Azlan/Kubur Kassim @ Siglap

Kubur Kassim Cemetery

Things to do Bedok

Located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood in Siglap, the old Muslim cemetery Kubur Kassim has been a source of ghost stories and urban legends. With tombs dedicated to 'orang bunian' – a sort of supernatural human-like being – it's easy to see why these stories persist. Kubur Kassim is one of the oldest burial grounds in Singapore and was established way back in the 1920s on a piece of land in Siglap owned by a Muslim entrepreneur. The first thing you'll notice before entering the grounds is the striking yellow and green gates. The cemetery is the final resting place for many Muslims living in Siglap during the kampung days and other well-known community leaders.

Little Artists
Photograph: Facebook/Little Artists

Picasso at Little Artists Art Studio

Art Bedok

2B or not 2B? Sharpen those pencils and get your creative juices flowing at Little Artists Art Studio. Not just for kids, the studio believes that you’re never too old to learn the works of sketching, painting, clay-making, printmaking, photography and digital art.

EAT

Plank
Photograph: Plank Sourdough Pizza

Plank Sourdough Pizza

Restaurants Pizza Bedok

This pizzeria sees Baker & Cook’s Dean Brettschneider flexing his dough-making muscle to dish out thin-crust, sourdough pizzas. The wild yeast dough ferments for up to 18 hours before toppings like tomato, eggplant, mozzarella and chorizo, or smoked salmon, sour cream, dill, prawns and capers are tossed on and baked in a brick oven.

Eat First

Restaurants Chinese Bedok

Eat First serves up old-school Singaporean Cantonese dishes. Standouts include the steamed fish head and tofu with prawns.

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Kota 88
Photograph: Kota 88

Kota 88

Restaurants Indonesian Bedok

Straight out of Glodok (aka Jakarta’s Chinatown), this retro-inspired restaurant serves Chinese-Indonesian cuisine till the 3am – all you supper- seekers take note. Try its signature nasi campur babi, a bowl of assorted pork bits served with fragrant chicken rice. Feeling crabby? Cheer up with the kepiting saus padang complete with Sri Lankan crab smothered in Kota 88’s special spicy sauce.

Pasta Fresca
Photograph: Pasta Fresca

Pasta Fresca

Restaurants Italian Bedok

Pasta Fresca was not created with the aim of being a destination fine-dining establishment, but rather to be your reliable neighbourhood restaurant, with a menu that offers the same comfort – like an old friend. There are no surprises in store, just solid cooking of some Italian classics alongside a range of fresh pastas, tasty risottos and crispy oven-baked pizzas.

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Al Forno

Restaurants Italian Raffles Place

Nothing brings people together like hearty Italian food. Bring the family out for an authentic Italian buffet spread that boasts a delightful range of antipasti, a quality range of cheeses, a wide selection of pasta, and oven-cooked pizzas. The menu may change every week but your appetite for Italian food and all things carbs won't. Best to book ahead!

Chat Masala
Photograph: Chat Masala

Chat Masala

Restaurants Indian Bedok

A favourite with many East Coasters since opening three years ago, Chat Masala wins big points for both the consistent quality of its pan-Indian fare and the knowledge of the friendly serving staff. Among the top dishes to try are the Keralan fish curry (succulent chunks of red snapper in a fragrant sauce) and bindi masala (a spicy mix of okra, turmeric, coriander, cumin, tomatoes and chilli, served in a crisp poppadum basket).

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Springleaf Prata Place
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Springleaf Prata Place

Restaurants Indian Bedok

Perhaps more famous for its Plaster Blaster ($5.50), an eggs Benedict-inspired prata topped with ham, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce, Springleaf still does the classic roti prata ($1.20) right. Everything’s still cooked to order, ensuring that you’re always served piping hot prata that’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. If the original is too plain for you, Springleaf is also known for its variety, coming up with all kinds of wacky creations like the Prata Goreng, its take on mee goreng that swaps noodles for strips of prata, as well as the Umami 50, an egg prata with luncheon meat, cheese, chicken floss and mayo.  

DRINK

Dutch Colony Coffee Co

Restaurants Bedok

Yes, it’s all about the beans at Dutch Colony Coffee Co. But you’ll want to balance out the caffeine with this quaint Siglap café’s breakfast and brunch menu. There are hearty platters with scrambled eggs, sausages and turkey bacon ($16), and a Colonial Beef Burger ($19), which slathers mango chilli aioli and melted Emmenthal over a juicy patty. Take note that the kitchen closes at 3pm, so if you’re planning to have a meal with your espresso, you best head down before the chef hangs up his apron for the day.

If the breakfast is enough to get you out of bed nice and early, the coffee will do an even better job. Dutch Colony expertly pours its brews (from $6) – you can choose either manual pour-over or by machine – into glassware more befitting of a science lab than a coffee shop (fortunately, the drink is served on a wooden tray with a normal cup). And you aficionados better not miss out on its espresso flights (from $6).

Penny University

Restaurants Cafés Bedok

Taking its name from the 18th century term for coffeehouses in London – noisy, men-only affairs which cost a penny to enter and where coffee was served up along with the latest news and gossip – this new East Coast coffee joint (two blocks away from I12 Katong mall) is owned by 35-year-old F&B greenhorn Mustafah Kamal (who goes by Mouss and previously worked in the energy sector) and offers a 21st century update to the formula (both men and women are welcomed).

The space is a charming mashup of the rustic and the eclectic: a non-descript shopfront set further back allows space for a bike stand by the door and a cute take-out counter, but the interior channels industrial chic, with bare designer lightbulbs, cosy booth seats, a bar counter made from recycled railroad ties and a communal table (a la indie joints like The Plain in Tanjong Pagar and Carpenter & Cook in Bukit Timah). Much of the wood-heavy furniture is sourced from Basman Johari, an elderly local restorer who owns the Changi Junk Store at 125 Joo Chiat Road.

True to the origins of its name, Penny University is aiming to be as inviting and dynamic as possible. A pop-up by Joo Chiat-based cookie bakery My Lovebites has just ended, but there are plans for more: a mini-market space for local farmers to showcase their produce, for instance, and a permanent art installation area for a couple of artist friends.

The enticing glass display – usually bursting with pies and pastries from local startup Windowsill Pies – was almost stripped bare when we arrived after lunch. You’ll need to get there early to snag one of the popular homemade red velvet nutella cupcakes ($4); we settled instead for a slice of s’mores pie ($6.50), topped with marshmallows and graham crackers, and a crumbly cranberry scone ($2.50) to satisfy our sweet cravings. There’s also a simple one-page menu with a few all-day brunch items like Turkish eggs ($8.60), a full English breakfast set ($16) and Spanish omelette ($7.50).

Mouss received some ‘informal training’ at London’s famed Flat White and Prufock Coffee (he’s friends with the owners); he’s clearly serious about his brews. A no-frills wooden menu above the shiny FB 80 (it’s the Ferrari of espresso machines) lists only classic espresso, with blends from local stalwarts such as Oriole Coffee Roasters’ seasonal Raven (Brazil/India) and Nylon’s El Primero (Brazil/Nicaragua) customised according to the amount of milk you want (zero to seven ounces, $3.50- $5.50). 

It’s obviously not an actual university, but this shophouse space fills the niche for a much-needed decent coffee joint around Joo Chiat. With its friendly indie vibe and solid cuppa, we hope it’s on its way to becoming a coffee institution in the East. Just get there early for the cupcakes. Lee Min Kok

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Craftsmen Specialty Coffee
Facebook/Craftsmen Specialty Coffee

Craftsmen Specialty Coffee

Restaurants Cafés Bedok

The strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee is the ideal antidote to lazy mornings. Whether your first order of the day is a flat white or cold brew, the coffee connoisseurs here make your Java the way you like it. And if you’re hooked, you can find a selection of single-origin coffee beans sitting on its shelves ready for you to bag home.

Stamping Ground Coffee

Restaurants Cafés Bedok

Relocated from Club Street to along the east coast with a brand new concept, Stamping Ground Coffee is now a co-sharing cafe space together with a florist, Petite Fleur SG, as well as East Mezzanine – an event venue space. Imagine Stamping Ground Coffee’s signature rustic wooden chairs and marble tables along with the rich aroma of coffee together with gorgeous blooms all around the space and you've got the perfect weekend café spot. Enjoy artisanal coffee from local brands to overseas brands where blends are on rotation and are constant switched up once in a while. Stamping Ground Coffee also has an all-day menu where everything is below $15nett, with options like smoked salmon pate bagel ($14) and belgium waffles ($13) with a scoop of cinnamon caramel ice cream.

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The Dog & Bone Pub

Clubs Bedok

This family-run business is a casual and laidback pub that attracts a crowd of loyal regulars who live around the East Coast area. Its quirky name was inspired by the owner’s previous career in the communications industry, as ‘dog and bone’ means ‘telephone’ in cockney rhyming slang, which originated from the east end of London. Live sports matches are constantly being played on the TV screen, and whenever there’s a huge sporting event going on, you can be sure to see the place filled with throngs of merrymakers. A wide selection of drinks is served here, with beers, house pours, martinis, margaritas, premium pours, wines and more for you to choose from.

The Dog & Bone Pub was featured in Convival Pursuit: Lazy East Pubs.

BarRoom
Photograph: Clement/BarRoom

BarRoom

Bars and pubs Pubs Bedok

Looking to have a quiet pint or cocktail in the neighbourhood after dinner? Pop by BarRoom which serves great drinking deals and bar snacks. Grab draught beers for $6 each, two half-pints for $10 and if you come by on Thursdays, you can get two cocktails for $15. Make it an early drink though – no alcohol will be served after 10.30pm.

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Next Door Café

Restaurants Bedok

This unassuming café on Arab Street has quietly established itself as a popular hangout to down quality pints, and with over 50 varieties of beer on offer, you can see why. Two outstanding examples are the caramel-like Asahi Black, a dark lager brewed from three roasting malts, and the wickedly good, oak-aged Green Goblin cider. Complementing the assorted ales are finger foods, salads and mains with a Mediterranean flair.

SHOP

Coast Cycles
Photograph: Facebook/Coast Cycles

Coast Cycles

Sport and fitness Bedok

Score the perfect two-wheeler at this industrial-chic store. It carries a range of quality bikes including the sleek Coastliner designed by ex-national cyclist Jansen Tan, which allows you to navigate through the city with ease. The store also doubles as a workshop where you can bring your bikes for a tune-up or to pimp your ride.

Peter's Butchery
Photograph: Peter's Butchery

Peter's Butchery

Shopping Grocery stores Bedok

Meet the freshest and finest cuts of beef, lamb, pork and chicken at this east-side butcher. Besides the usual suspects, it also offers marinated meats and Aussie beef sausages, as well as a range of seafood products. It doesn’t stop there either – quality wines from South Australian wine regions like Wrattonbully and the Limestone Coast also line its shelves.

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