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Knots Cafe and Living
Photograph: Knots Cafe and Living/ Facebook

The ultimate guide to Tai Seng

There's more to the industrial hood of Tai Seng than meets the eye

By Iliyas Ong and Fabian Loo
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Once a vibrant kampung area rife with gang wars, Tai Seng has cleaned up pretty well. The place takes its name from Tai Seng Rubber Factory which was constructed in the area in 1917. Although it is known for being a dusty industrial estate, Tai Seng now shines with cafés, shops and even an art gallery. Make a trip down to this neighbourhood for venerable char siew, go crate-digging and shop for vintage furniture. Read our guide to discover the things to do while you're in the 'hood.

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DO

Boulder Movement
Photograph: Juan Chan/ Boulder Movement

Boulder Movement

Sport and fitness Climbing Hougang

Boulder Movement, a climbing gym, opens a second outlet outside of the CBD. In its latest heartland outlet, the space is almost twice as big. And with it comes more square footage to fit more climbing surfaces – for both novices and expert climbers alike. Spot a special climbing cave, which promises a steep challenge for those looking for a good workout. Not a fan of facing the four walls? Not to worry, this outlet features plenty of windows that let in natural sunlight, so it feels bright and airy. 

At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy
Photograph: At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy

At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy

Things to do Hougang

Interested in a career in cooking? This culinary school provides courses that will level up your kitchen competencies – from cooking to baking. Just a leisure cook? At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy also organises ad-hoc workshops for those looking to pick up some new skills. 

EAT

The Boneless Kitchen
Photograph: The Boneless Kitchen

The Boneless Kitchen

Restaurants Toa Payoh

If you cannot think of Korean fare without barbecued meats and fried chicken, a visit to this meatless Korean restaurant will change your mind. Here, sauces and bases like kimchi and gochujang are made from scratch and ingredients are flown in from Korea to keep flavours authentic. Its dolsot bibimbap ($9.90) tastes decidedly healthier as it's packed with raw veggies and the jajangmyeon ($10.90) is still umami-laden even though it's meatless. Note that the restaurant uses eggs and dairy in its dishes.

The Good Boys
Photograph: The Good Boys Cafe/ Facebook

The Good Boys

Restaurants Cafés Toa Payoh

This small cafe in the east is a surprising contender for the best place to get your affordable healthy food fix. Tuck into one of their hearty bowls from $9. A favourite is the Japanese Fusion, served with Japanese rice, smoked duck, cherry tomato, wakame seaweed, onsen egg, furikake, and spicy mayo. If you're craving for a bowl of superfood magic, order one of their super bowls such as Viva Amazonia ($12) – made with acai, banana, rice milk, raw cacao, strawberry, kiwi, blueberry, granola, mixed seeds, coco flakes, and goji berry. 

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Kay Lee Meat Roast Joint
Photograph: Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint

Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint

Restaurants Toa Payoh

You might know Kay Lee Roast Meat for its roast meat – a recipe that was sold for over some four million dollars. The meat-specialist started out in the 1970s, and till today, the cooking method remains unchanged. Most flock to this store for its stellar cuts of roast duck, char siew, and roast pork. And the best part? There's no need to choose between the three; order its three combination roast meat to sample them all. 

Jie Traditional Bread Bakery
Photograph: Jie Traditional Bread Bakery/ Facebook

Jie Traditional Bread Bakery

Restaurants Bakeries Toa Payoh

The name says it all – Jie Traditional Bread Bakery has been baking loaves of fluffy bread for over 30 years. Its humble storefront comes lined with endless golden brown loaves of bread. Preparation for these traditional bakes begin at the crack of dawn, and are best enjoyed with a slather of kaya and butter. 

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The Boiler
Photograph: The Boiler

The Boiler

Restaurants American Toa Payoh

Crabs, prawns and clams bulging in a bag – that’s what you’ll get at The Boiler, a Cajun-style seafood joint. Pick from the signature sauces like The Works (Mild, Medium, Ragin’ Hot) Garlic Butter, Peppa’ Butter and Sauce of the Month; and a handful of sides inspired by the American South including Louisiana crab cakes and spicy wings. 

DRINK

Knots Cafe and Living
Photograph: Knots Cafe and Living/ Facebook

Knots Cafe and Living

Restaurants Italian Geylang

There’s more to this café than just warm brews and bakes. The furniture and decoration you see splayed out in the space are all for sale – a perfect excuse to squeeze in some retail therapy as you knock back a flat white ($4.60) or salted caramel latte (from $6.50). There’s a clear botanical theme going on in this garden café, too. Lush potted plants, moss art pieces, and wooden furniture help create a soothing, tranquil atmosphere for you to escape the concrete buildings and unwind. 

Prodigal Cafe
Photograph: Prodigal Cafe/ facebook

Prodigal Cafe

Restaurants Cafés Geylang

This quiet café, tucked within the neighbourhood of Macpherson, is filled with warm service, coffee, and bakes. Drop by and sip on its rotating selection of beans. There’s the filter coffee ($6), alongside espresso-based drinks of black ($4), white ($4.50), and more. Cold brew coffee by the bottle is also available, along with unique concoction s of ice miso caramel latte ($7). Hungry? A lean selection of brunch plates and tarts baked in-house can also be ordered. 

SHOP

Hock Siong & Co
Photograph: Hock Siong & Co

Hock Siong and Co

Shopping Toa Payoh

With attitudes loosening around lounging around on second-hand furniture, stores like Hock Siong and Co are suddenly top-of-mind to score home goods at a steal. New-gen co-owner Brillyn Toh and the shop’s sales team do a brilliant job of infusing their cheery personalities and good eye for products into Instagram and Facebook updates, which send customers flocking to the space. The products are hand-me-downs from hotels and show flats, furniture shops that have closed down, and the occasional beautifully appointed home.

Red Point Record Warehouse
Photograph: Red Point Record Warehouse

Red Point Record Warehouse

Shopping Music and entertainment Toa Payoh

It’s a crate-digger’s wet dream: more than 10,000 vintage vinyl stack up at this out-of-the-way joint. Red Point is known among music geeks for its varied selection – you’ll find records from ’50s Chinese divas to the golden age of rock ’n’ roll to contemporary indie to bygone Singaporean hits. There’s no question here: if you own a player, you owe it to yourself to check Red Point out.

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BreadTalk IHQ
Photograph: BreadTalk IHQ

BreadTalk IHQ

Things to do Hougang

Built to the tune of $64.08 million and located right outside Tai Seng MRT station, the kueh lapis-shaped international headquarters of one of the Little Red Dot's most internationally successful homegrown brands has a 500-seater F&B zone on the ground level that houses dining outlets owned by the group – BreadTalk, Din Tai Fung, RamenPlay, Toast Box and Food Republic, and more. A slew of other lifestyle shops are also housed within. 

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