A Girl’s Guide To Singapore’s Hidden Gems

Forget about seeing the Merlion statue or an obligatory photo of the Marina Bay Sands. If you think that Singapore is what you see in Crazy Rich Asians, believe me, the one you see on screen is just another Hollywood fantasy.

Deep inside the Lion City’s dense concrete jungle, there’s a buzzing energy that sweeps beyond the MRT. Inside the packed streets, there’s always a new café or art gallery popping around the block or a mere tap away thanks to Instagram. Given that it’s so easy to walk past anywhere in the +65, the best experiences are always from the hidden hotspots. 

Must you go to any coffee shop (not the Amsterdam kinds, mind you!), bar, restaurant or club, sometimes, a little post on the ‘gram is all it takes to immortalize the experience and tell all your friends about it.

Since Singapore’s been through 1,001 face lifts every year, here are some hidden gems that you need to add on your bookmark ASAP:  

The Coffee Crave 

I cannot tell you how many times I love coffee. As someone who grew up in a household full of coffee drinkers, being extra caffeinated is a priority to get by among the intense humidity coupled with the hot, hot heat. I honestly cannot recall a day when I went without coffee in Singapore (except when I did a 10 day cleanse!).

Based on all of my coffee jaunts around town, here are a few that you must bookmark ASAP:

  1. Common Man Coffee

Located deep in Robertson Quay, Common Man Coffee is the go-to spot for yoga moms, dog walkers and businessmen squeezing in for an afternoon joe. While it’s quite far from Orchard, what I love about this coffee shop is that it’s got AMAZING brunch and hella strong coffee! 

2. Parallel 

 

Deep in the heart of the CBD, this niche coffee shop is great for on-the-go flat whites and acai bowls! Never too hot nor too cold, this spot knows how to pop it like Goldilocks. Most importantly, it’s got THE best prices in town as no cup goes above $5! 

3. Plain Vanilla Bakery

A little bit more pricier than Parallel, Plain Vanilla’s one of my go-tos smack in the middle of Orchard. If you’re looking to rest from a shopping haul, this place has tons of options to go for! While most coffee/tea spots don’t include dairy-free alternatives, Plain Vanilla offers oat and soy milks to amp up your coffee or tea!

P.S. My sister introduced me to this place! 

Where To Drink And Know Things

If I cannot be bothered to have piles of solid foods inside my body, I treat myself to a little tipple. Preferably a sweet nightcap to wrap up my dinner and start my evening. If you believe that I’d treat myself to go to Clarke Quay, chances are that you ain’t EVER gonna catch me treating myself to a good tipple there as most bars I’ve been to over there have crappy booze. 

However, here are some few spots that you must write down on the list!

  1. The Other Roof

While on the hunt to pre-game before Emo Night, one of my friends suggested this little gem. Although I never set foot at Ann Siang Hill much, this rooftop spot changed my life. Tea is usually a PG-type of drink, but when you mix it with the booze, BAM! You’ll go b-a-n-a-n-a-s over the strength and flavor of your drink. 

If you have friends who teetotal, this bar’s also got an amazing selection of non-alcoholic mocktails and tea! 

2. Operation Dagger

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F R I D A Y

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If you want dessert in a glass, Operation’s the place for you. Located deep inside a basement, this little hole in a wall has very limited seating and a super intimate atmosphere that makes you wanna pull out your Polaroid. In spite of limited seating, you can make a new friend there while waiting for your drink! But most importantly, the service is tops as the bartenders know what’s good. 

P.S. Shoutout to my cousin who took me there! 

3. Bar Stories

If you’re more adventurous, its time to make your Friday night here. My family friend took me and my best friend there a couple of months ago. Upon our discovery, there was literally NO menu! While menu-less places tend to give us nightmares, the bartenders there love to treat us in for a little surprise of crafting your own customized drink! Whether you’re feeling fruity or chocolate-y, this one is the place for you. 

4. Native

Sick of Cosmos? Treat your girls (guy friends included!) to this cute little hotspot! The same friend who took me to The Other Roof brought me along to this lil’ joint a couple of weeks ago and I was MIND BLOWN. Over there, the entire menu listed out Southeast Asian-inspired cocktails with flavors that felt reminiscent of culinary staples like rojak (fruit salad with shrimp paste and peanuts). With its unconventional spin on cocktails, you’ll be in for a treat of sake (that’s meant to be drank first before the main drink) and a complimentary shot (a.k.a. the goodbye drink). Trust me, THIS is where you wanna treat yourself in for the most unusual culinary adventure! 

5. Loof

How the heck am I not in Loof with this bar?! Situated on a rooftop nearby Raffles City, this bar has great views and perfect walking distance between the best attractions in the CBD. While their drinks are on the pricey side, you need to die die for their happy hour deal! However, there’s no other bar that can replicate their aesthetic. 

While it’s super modern, Loof offers local-inspired drinks such as tequila-infused bubble tea. If you find that most heavy liquors are too strong, I highly recommend the Innocent Bystander moscato! 

For anyone who doesn’t drink, their bar food selections are SUPER DUPER deelish! It might be small, but it’s ridiculously filling!! 

The Taste Bud Tantalizers

Mmmmmm…..*inhales* nom nom, munch munch! As the city of foodies, restaurants tend to pop up and drop like flies. Despite the heavy competition, you can’t beat the fact that some places are really here to stay.

In spite being the only non-foodie among my foodie friends, I’m just super impressed by the extraordinary meals and good ol’ decor. Here are my top faves:

  1. My Cosy Corner

Tucked inside Coronation Plaza, this spot literally lives up to its name thanks to the compact space and campy religious decor. As much as I like my local food, this mom and pop shop has classic dishes that tastes better than any hawker stall I’ve visited around town. If you’ve never tried Singaporean food before, their mee siam (spicy prawn with vermicelli noodles and lime) and laksa (coconut curry with prawn soup) are the best in town! But if you want something less spicy, their popiah (spring roll) is equally tops!

2. Artichoke

Middle Eastern food is my kryptonite. A couple of months ago, my family friend took me there and never did I think that I’d fall in love with this gem! If you love to load up on hummus, vegetarian dishes and increase your carb intake, then this is the place for you. Shall you go in for the full Singapore experience, sit outdoors.

3. Papi’s Tacos

I’ve been to countless Mexican restaurants in Singapore and none of them made the Cali girl in me dance until I went there. Packed with great deals, Impossible meat and Spanish-speaking staff, Papi’s Tacos is the closest thing I can get to an actual taqueria in LA and NYC. Cooked by a Mexican chef, the flavors of each taco bring in a LOTTA punch, kick and texture to the tongue. If you haven’t been to a real Mexican taqueria yet, Papi’s will be your training ground. 😉

4. Jaggi’s

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North Indian cuisine

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Straight inside the heart of Little India, Jaggi’s isn’t like the Indian food you see at most hawker stalls. Less oilier and creamier, yet flavorful, the curries you’ll get at Jaggi’s will melt in your mouth like butter. Every single dish is served with the perfect amount of warmth that doesn’t feel too hot for the tongue to handle.

5. JUMBO Seafood

Eating anything with gluten is so off-brand for me; however, you can’t beat the dang chili crab! If you have been living in Singapore AND you never tried the national dish, IDK if I should call you a Singaporean. JK! 😛 Jokes aside, this chain has THE BEST chili crab in town as it’s neither too sweet nor spicy. If you can’t handle chili, their black pepper crab is also highly recommended as well.

6. Suigei

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Chirashi – Tan Hsueh Yun #st #st1845

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Most Japanese restaurants in town are either expensive or mediocre. In this case, Suigei balances the perfect trio: price, taste and service. The waiters are very attentive and they won’t keep you waiting for your happy meal. If you have a friend who’s a pescatarian, this place is the one for him/her! Compared to most spots in town, the fish has a rich flavor, yet chewy texture. (Also, my dad taught me the importance of fresh wasabi as it’ll enhance the taste of sashimi!) While it’s easy to pass by it inside the Marriott, just pop in there and give it a try!

7. COMO Cuisine

If you like brunch, clean eating and going plant-based, then COMO is the place for you. As one of the hottest spots at Dempsey Hill, everyone goes there to treat themselves for family-friendly breakfast. My dad highly recommends the ricotta pancakes as they’re fluffy and soft. While you have the option to sit indoors, the outdoor seating area is equally stunning, too!

8. Straits Clan

As Singapore’s answer to Soho House, this members only club has a restaurant that’s open to the public! As an eclectic mix of local, Mediterranean and clean eating American food, every taste bud is balanced thanks to a healthy mix of salty, sweet and savory. Over here, their brunch and lunch options are phenomenal as you can go hard with an Eggs Benedict or light with a tuna carpaccio salad. While their otah (fish) sandwich is famous, it’s also something to try out! You can top off your meal with a coffee, juice or locally brewed kombucha at the side. Oh! If you or your friend are intolerant to gluten, there’s a bunch of wheat-free options, too.

Dance My Pants Off

I don’t know what is a good night without dancing and wine. If I must dance the night away, there’s a chance that you won’t catch me sweating it out at Attica, Bang Bang or Fashion Club.

  1. LuLu’s Lounge

A little more snazzier than your average club, this lounge has a grown-up vibe that meant for anyone 21+. Filled with rich decor, comfy seating and yummy G&Ts, the music is where you’ll feel comfortable. As the perfect mix between jazz, R&B and hip-hop, you’ll be able to dance along to old school classics that will never bore you.

P.S. Just bring in a friend who can help you name half the songs without you Shazaming it as it doesn’t have phone chargers!

2. Kilo Lounge

While there is not much room for seating, what you can get out of this sitch is to dance all the booze calories away! Compared to most hotspots around town, you can catch the coolest shows and themed nights. If you are sick and tired of EDM, Kilo hosts Emo Night, which always plays rad throwbacks from Fall Out Boy to Taking Back Sunday alongside some heavy metal. Trust me, this place is THE SHIT! ❤

3. Capital At Zouk

The hustle and bustle are real. If you’re dying for good music AND hot people, then Capital is the place for you. Inside the club, you’ll find yourself dancing to good EDM, sipping on some watermelon flavored booze and ‘gramming it on IG stories. Although I haven’t stepped foot in ages, this place is where thirst traps bloom. HOWEVER, you gotta be 26+ to get in (NOTE: another reason why you gotta keep your fake ID!).

Other Secret Gems

If you want that photo of the Merlion or get a view of the entire town at Ce La Vi, forget it! If you wanna see the other marvels of Singapore, here are some go-to places that I won’t keep under wraps for longer:

  1. The rooftop at the Esplande

Don’t wanna deal with the crowds and bad lighting? Treat yourself to a little post-dessert #ootd photos at the top of the Esplanade. Over there, you can get amazing views of the island’s landmarks. Trust me, it’s the country’s best kept secret!

2. Outside the Esplanade MRT

If you want an industrial-style #ootd to match a monochromatic outfit, you must sneak out of the Esplanade MRT and have your friends take a photo of you there. Seriously, the lighting is magical, especially in the evening!

3. The steps of the National Gallery

Alright, nobody bothers to go to the other side of the National Gallery because it’s where the artifacts of the Old Supreme Court are. However, their black and white steps are iconic! Since Gossip Girl taught us about the value of #ootds at museum steps, you must give this one a try, too.

4. The side of the Anderson Bridge

You know that one bridge that has all the pretty lights? Well, it’s the Anderson Bridge and every wedding shot takes place there. If you go to the side, you will get KILLER angles for every #ootd shot. When I was temping at a museum, I used to sneak there just to squeeze in an #ootd. ;P

5. Any Rippleroot wall mural

Singapore’s street art is not to be missed out. If you haven’t seen good street art, it’s because you haven’t been to the good parts of SG yet. Whenever you’re in Chinatown, you’re likely going to see murals by Rippleroot, a group of local artists who paint the most beautiful rainbow-rich scenes. I can’t live without some color in my life and TBH, you will HAVE to get a photo whenever you see a Rippleroot wall!

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Michelle Varinata

Lapis - (n.) a layer Shrek once said that "onions have layers" as he was peeling one. Like an onion, I have layers. Born in Jakarta and raised in Singapore, I grew up being surrounded in a multicultural environment. Then, I moved to the States, where I lived in NYC and L.A. The creativity, hustle, bustle and vibe of those cities inspired me to become a blogger, journalist and influencer. Writing by day and living it up by night, I slay in the streets one OOTD at a time. Full-face makeup included, too. ;)

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