Welcome to Asia’s Food Capital! Singaporeans spend a large proportion of their time eating, exacerbated by the ubiquity of food options from various different cultures and 24-hour hawker centres. Before delving straight into the must-visits and must-eats, you’ll need to be familiar with the various levels of dining in Singapore. It is possible to spend as little or as much as you like and still have a good meal anywhere in Singapore! At a hawker centre or coffee shop, a hearty meal (main meal with a drink) will cost you less than S$5 per person most of the time. On the other hand, choosing to dine in a fine restaurant could have you forking out S$100 per person.
Hawker centres or kopitiams (coffee shops) are uniquely Singaporean and found just about anywhere around the island. These places are open-air, so be prepared for a hot and noisy affair, considering that some house hundreds of hawker stalls and are thronged with locals. Meal standards do not differ much from place to place, though well-known stalls serving great food tend to attract perpetual queues.
1. Make sure to reserve a table before ordering your food, so that the vendor will know where to serve you. However, certain stalls are “self-service”, meaning you’ll have to wait for your food at the stall before returning to your table. You can reserve a spot by leaving 1 member of your group behind to “stake your claim to the table”.
2. You are free to order from any stall within the hawker centre. Most stalls display their menus on pinboards above the stall front in English. Though some stalls may not list their prices, most do. You are free to ask the price of any food item. Subsequently, let the vendor know your table number. Ensure you settle the final price that you are paying before food is served. There have been cases of visitors being fleeced over the price of seafood at hawker centres.
3. Generally, you pay upon ordering. Rule of thumb here: Self-service stalls accept immediate payment. Non self-service ones accept payment upon serving you your food. Older hawker centres might have drink store owners coming to you asking for your order. It is entirely alright to decline ordering. In most other cases, you will have to go to the drinks store to place your order and give your table number.
4. Due to the confluence of many cultures, there is no prevailing eating etiquette in Singapore. Do not feel pressured if you see an Indian eating with his/her hands, or an old Chinese man drinking beer with his legs raised on the seat next to him.
5. Lastly, while the ambience might be uninviting at first, most visitors cite hawker visits to be their most memorable dining experience. Soak in the heat and noise whilst enjoying the wide varieties of food! That’s the hawker way.
|Hawker Centre||Getting There|
|Newton Food Centre||Alight at Newton MRT station.|
|Chomp Chomp Food Centre||Bus 315 & 317 from Serangoon Bus Interchange takes you to Serangoon Gardens, where the food centre is located. The interchange is a short walk from Serangoon MRT station.|
|East Coast Lagoon Food Village||Refer to “Getting To” East Coast Park|
|Old Airport Road Cooked Food Centre||Take Bus Service 16 from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, alight at bus stop “Old Airport Road Blk 39”|
Aside from hawker centres, there are countless restaurants, both mid and high-end ones littered all around Singapore. High-end restaurants tend to open from noon till 2.30pm for lunch, before reopening from 6pm till 11pm for dinner. Mid-range ones may open throughout the day, with chain cafes such as Starbucks or Coffee Bean opening till past midnight. Hawker centres are usually open the entire day, with some opening 24 hours or as late as 4am. Not forgetting fast-food outlets like MacDonald’s, which operate 24 hours.
While it may be the norm to tip the waiter or the restaurant in Western societies, it is certainly not the case here. Unless otherwise stated, dining at any restaurant will have customers incurring a 10% service charge, 7% goods and services tax (GST) and a 1% government tax. A whopping 18% altogether over and above the prices on the menu. Service standards are still notoriously poor in Singapore, with only the top restaurants providing excellent service. However, should you feel obliged to tip a particular service staff for excellent service, feel free to do so.
Of late, certain restaurants have omitted the 10% service charge altogether, opting to accept tips from customers.
Top-end restaurants most often require prior reservations to guarantee a seat. However, in general, if you intend to visit any particular restaurant, especially on Fridays and weekend evenings, it is advisable to reserve a table (either through your hotel concierge, or simply calling the restaurant yourself from details obtained through brochures or online). Public holidays should see a spike in restaurant attendance, so it is highly advisable to reserve beforehand.
Dining Hot spots
In the past decade, besides the more well-known Orchard or Marina Bay waterfront areas, many other dining precincts have sprouted up in suburban areas, ex-colonial barracks and even within parks. Below is a non-exhaustive list of the popular dining areas definitely worth a visit while in Singapore.
|Clarke Quay||Clarke Quay is one of the most popular and well-known nightspot in Singapore. There is a wide mix of restaurants, sports bars, pubs and other eateries all along the Singapore River.|
|Boat quay||This part of the Singapore River is fronted by high office buildings and an iconic row of well-preserved shophouses now transformed into restaurants and bars. Seafood restaurants and Middle Eastern bars are commonplace.|
|Robertson Quay||Considerably quieter than Clarke and Boat Quay, Robertson Quay has recently been rejuvenated and now attracts expatriates and locals with numerous Western and Asian restaurants, together with the odd pub.|
|East Coast Seafood Centre||Major seafood restaurants have outlets at this 3-block food centre located within East Coast Park. Most of the restaurants have similar menus, though standards may differ. Speciality dishes here include the Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab.|
|Chijmes||Located within Singapore’s downtown core, this Gothic-style chapel and its grounds have been converted into a hub for nightspots and chic restaurants. You’ll find all sorts of cuisines here, including Japanese, Chinese, American, Spanish, Italian etc.|
|Dempsey Hill||Amidst the lush greenery, Dempsey Hill was once a British army barracks back in the 1950s. Restaurants, bars and gourmet groceries populate this area.|
|Club Street & Far East Square||Well-conserved shophouses line club street, populated with galleries, bars and cafes. Catering more to the yuppie and business executive crowd, this nightlife area is a notch more expensive than other districts.|
|Esplanade Waterfront||Within the Esplanade Theatre grounds is an array of restaurants and an outdoor food centre – Glutton’s Bay. After a meal, you can enjoy strolling along the waterfront promenade and soak in the sights of the iconic Marina Bay area.|
|Vivocity Harbourfront||Singapore’s largest shopping centre boasts a fantastic harbourfront view of Sentosa Island and the newly opened Resorts World Sentosa. Choose from many restaurants after a day of shopping, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.|
|Cuppage at Somerset||Boasting a tantalising array of 15 alfresco outlets, Cuppage terrace opens up another option for late-night dining for office workers and tourists alike. Located along the popular Orchard Road, why not drop by after an entire day of shopping?|
|Changi Village||Situated far away from the hustle and bustle of city life, this precinct on the North-Eastern part of Singapore is famous for its hawker centre and the Changi Boardwalk. Bumboats to Pulau Ubin, an offshore island, depart from the Changi Ferry Terminal.|
|Rochester Park||This 1930s colonial house has been spruced up into a trendy dining and entertainment hotspot. Choose to dine alfresco amidst the lush greenery, or opt for a comfortable indoor table.|
|One Fullerton||A new vibrant and entertaining dining option along the Marina Bay waterfront. Connected to the luxurious Fullerton Hotel, the alfresco outlets along the waterfront offer a great view of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort.|
Fine dining in Singapore has garnered a reputation for being rich and inventive. Due to the cultural diversity here, you will find a huge array of fine dining cuisines serving some of the most exquisite food!
Check out our list of some of the best fine dining establishments.