The New Breed Of Kopitiam
Everyone recognises the ubiquitous kopitiam here in Singapore. It’s our bread and butter, as much as durian and complaining about train breakdowns.
Recently, we’ve discovered a spate of unique coffeeshops, hawker centres and food courts that push the boundaries of what a kopitiam is. This new breed combines indie style with traditional flavours, or old-fashioned decor with modern twists. It’s a mix of old and new, history and modernity, much like Singapore itself.
So where can you find these new-age kopitiams? Here’s our list of 11 you need to check out ASAP.
1. Salut - the atas German & Italian kopitiam
At first glance, this place looks like your regular neighbourhood coffeeshop, with red plastic chairs and large table. But look closer, and you’ll discover that it’s not your average kopitiam. Rather than serving up traditional hawker fare, this little enclave in Bukit Merah is home to a host of affordable gourmet Western fare.
Indulge in a Duck Leg Confit ($14.90) from Immanuel French Kitchen, or sink your teeth into a crispy, succulent Pork Knuckle ($15 for half, $25 whole) from Stew Küche.
Salut also has a huge variety of other delicious food, like beef bulgogi ramen burgers and fish and chips slathered with cheese, along with an impressive selection of desserts and drinks. The best part? The prices are affordable, and you can show up in your slippers and shorts.
This the only kopitiam in the world you need to make a reservation at, so be sure to call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Stalls To Try:
- Immanuel French Kitchen - Their duck confit and foie gras are restaurant quality, for a fraction of the usual price.
- Stew Küche - For authentic German food that won’t break the bank, Stew Küche is the place to go. Be sure to try their crispy, succulent pork knuckle.
- Two Wings - This is the original branch of this well-known chicken wing joint, famous for their crispy, succulent meats.
Address: Blk 119, Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore 151119
Opening Hours: 11 am - 10 pm, closed on Mondays.
Tel: 6276 6445
2. The Bedok Marketplace - vintage-themed kopitiam from the 80s
This particular hawker centre is a confusing one. Combining vintage furnishings and modern touches, it looks like old and new rammed into each other and fused into this quirky joint that will delight anyone.
With kitschy storefronts and old-school ornaments decorating the stalls, there’s lots to see and even more to eat here. Have some authentic Vietnamese Beef Noodles ($5.50) from Huong Que, or juicy Crispy Crab Balls ($10.90 for 4 pieces) from Ballistic Meatballs. They’ve also got traditional hawker fare like chicken rice and wanton mee, so there’s something for every palate.
Source Crispy Crab Balls
Source Crabmeat Linguine
Combining the indie eclectic decor of a hipster cafe with food that appeals to everyone, The Bedok Marketplace is a 21st century take on the classic hawker centre experience.
Stalls To Try:
- The Burning Oak - Tuck into delicious yakitori skewers and Japanese-inspired bites for when you’re in the mood to snack.
- Huong Que - If you love Vietnamese pho, their beef noodles are light and flavourful. With beef balls and perfectly-done beef slices floating in a tasty broth, it’ll leave your belly happy.
- Ballistic Meatballs - Meatballs are the best balls. Choose from a whole variety, ranging from your regular beef meatballs to ones made from crab. Definitely a great appetiser.
- Seng’s Wanton Mee - For more old-school hawker, Seng’s serves up a tasty wanton mee that is not only yummy, but also super value for money.
The Bedok Marketplace
Address: 348 Bedok Road, Singapore 469560
Opening Hours: Varies by stall, usually 10 am - 10 pm
3. Alibabar - hawker favorites and craft beer in one place
Magic words aren’t needed to access this unique joint, nestled in the foodie haven of Joo Chiat. While it looks like a typical restaurant from the outside, wandering in opens you up to a treasure trove of delicious food and a unique concept that combines two places I love - coffee shops and bars.
Styled as a ‘hawker bar’, Alibabar is coffeeshop by day, and bar by night. It’s home to a variety of cuisine, from char kway teow to Filipino delights. Partake in traditional Fried Kway Teow ($4) from Yong Huat Char Kway Tiao, or Foie Gras ($7.90) from Le Petit Paradis.
The drinks stall goes from a typical kopi-making, kaya toast-producing stall to one serving up beer and tipples when night falls, making a visit to Alibabar something one-of-a-kind.
Address: 125 East Coast Road, Singapore 428810
Opening Hours: 8 am - 11:30 pm (Sun - Thu), 8 am - 1 am (Fri - Sat).
Tel: 6440 6147
4. New Ubin Seafood - zi char restaurant meets American steakhouse
Contrary to it’s name, there’s no need to hop on a ferry to visit this particular shop. New Ubin Seafood is less of a kopitiam and more of a zi char joint, but it’s a zi char joint taken to a whole new level.
While it’s no longer located on Pulau Ubin, their seafood is still freshly caught daily from the island. Short of actually fishing yourself, this is the freshest fish you’re gonna get.
Nestled among the auto workshops of the Sin Ming industrial estate, New Ubin Seafood is the ultimate mix of old and new. Imagine your typical zi char restaurant, with mismatched chairs and oriental decor, alongside giant chalkboards proclaiming the menu.
Besides selling your usual zi char fare like Har Jeong Kai ($10 for a small plate), and Black Pepper Crabs (seasonal price), you can also get scrumptious Western food. How about pairing those chicken wings with BBQ Spare Ribs ($35 for a full rack) and US Angus Rib-eye Steak ($12/100g)?
They’ve even got this divine Poached Egg and Foie Gras Special ($9) that combines a gooey egg yolk with the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of foie gras. Mmm.
I don’t know about you, but this fusion of American steakhouse and Singaporean zi char sounds like the perfect mix of both worlds.
If you’re looking for a funky place to hold a get-together, New Ubin Seafood has a private dining room for up to 24 people… that also functions as their wine cellar. Care for some vino with that chilli crab?
This place is insanely popular and gets crowded quickly, so it’s best to make reservations before heading down.
New Ubin Seafood
Address: 27 Sin Ming Road, #01-174, Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A, Singapore 575680
Opening Hours: 11 am - 2 pm (Tue - Fri), 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (Sat, Sun & PH), 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm (Daily)
Tel: 6466 9558
5. Bincho at Hua Bee - BCM stall by day, yakitori bar by night
This particular establishment is an eclectic integration of the old and the new, a traditional bak chor mee stall existing in the same space as modern Japanese joint Bincho.
The bak chor mee stall is run by the folks of Hua Bee coffeeshop fame, and is where Eric Khoo’s 1995 film Mee Pok Man was filmed. Their Mee Pok (from $3) comes with a light soup filled with fishcakes, fishballs and a fish dumpling, and you can opt for a variety of noodles, such as mee kia or kway teow.
Bincho serves up delicious Japanese food, like yakitori, sashimi and katsu don. You can choose from a variety of donburi (rice bowl) sets if you visit during lunch, or from an extensive seasonal set menu during dinner, such as the Kei Set Menu ($120). They also have an a la carte menu on hand if you only want to sample specific dishes from their repertoire.
Bincho at Hua Bee
Address: 78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19, Singapore 162078
Opening Hours: Mee Pok: 7 am - 3 pm (Tue - Sat), closed on Sundays and Mondays, Bincho: 12 pm - 3pm, 6pm - 12 am
Tel: 6438 4567
6. Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen - the most hipster yong tau foo stall in town
This place takes yong tau foo to new heights. Yong tau foo bar by day and Asian tapas bar by night, this place combines two things that give us comfort in life.
With prices starting from $6 for 6 items, along with their signature noodles, get your yong tau foo fix with a side of booze to take all the morning’s stress away.
When the sun sets, indulge in Asian-inspired tapas like Dali’s Pork Feet ($12) and Iberico Steak ($23), or sit back with a glass of Young Tau Foo ($18), a special cocktail made with pressed beancurd and Snow Leopard vodka. Mmm, tasty.
Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen
Address: 127 Telok Ayer Street, S(068596)
Opening Hours: 10 am – 3pm, 5 pm – 12 am, closed on Sundays
Tel: 6423 0311
7. FIVE Square - CBD food court reinvented with a bistro concept
Fancy food courts are taking over our malls, and FIVE Square may very well be the fanciest of them all. With a large variety of international cuisine filling their stalls, along with a bar, wine cellar, and whisky bar, this is a whole new breed of dining.
Fill your tummy with Beef Noodles ($8.90) from Grub Noodle Bar, or a Grilled Meat Platter ($16.80) from Omnivore. Cinqo Tapas serves up two different kinds of Paella (from $9.50), with Asian-inspired flavours like Hainanese chicken rice or Thai pineapple rice.
Grub’s beef noodles Source
You’ll definitely be spoilt for choice, and this is one way to eat in style without breaking the bank.
FIVE Square is also pretty high-tech for a food court, as Keiji found out when he paid a visit:
Stalls To Try:
- Grub Noodle Bar - You can never go wrong with a filling bowl of beef noodles to warm your soul.
- Cinqo Tapa - Feel like you’re relaxing somewhere in Europe without having to get on a plane. Pizza, paella and beef carpaccio are just some of the things you can indulge in from this stall.
- Omnivore - For the meat lovers who feel morally obliged to eat greens as well, this stall makes eating a balanced meal less of a chore and more of a joy.
- Gogibox - Like a bento box, but better. Filled with freshly-grilled bulgogi that smells amazing and served with flavourful kimchi rice, this is an easy way to have a great lunch on the go.
Address: Great Eastern Centre, 1 Pickering St, #01-03, Singapore 048659
Opening Hours: 10 am - 12 am, closed on Sundays.
Tel: 8798 0245
8. Palette Restaurant & Bar - most instagrammable food court in town
Capitol Piazza is lighting up City Hall with all the glitz and glam of 1960s Broadway, and their food court is one of the coolest in town.
Run by the BreadTalk Group, Palette features stalls from Hong Kong and Malaysia, along with homegrown brands. Slurp up some Balestier Bak Kut Teh ($9.50) or Fishball Noodles ($7.90).
With other dishes like baked rice, North-Western Indian cuisine and even BBQ delights like chicken wings, this is all the joy of a hawker centre wrapped up in a beautiful package and tied off with a lovely bow.
Stalls To Try:
- Ah Koong - Hailing from Malaysia, this stall is known for their delicious, handmade fishballs and fishcakes, made from ikan parang (wolf herring).
- Balestier Bak Kut Teh - Spicy and peppery, this is authentic bak kut teh at its finest. You can also get kidney and liver soup, for those who like offals.
- Delhi 6 - Get great Indian food in comfort, with everything from paneer to tandoori chicken to biryani.
- 90 Gastro Bar - Have a mid-day tipple or an after-work drink to accompany your meal!
Palette Restaurant & Bar
Address: Capitol Piazza, 13 Stamford Road, #B1-20/27, Singapore 178905
Opening Hours: 11 am -10:30 am
Tel: 6384 3359
9. Essen @ The Pinnacle - atas food court tucked in an upscale neighborhood
Everyone knows about The Pinnacle @ Duxton, the fanciest HDB estate in Singapore, and their beautiful sky gardens, but did you know that they’ve got a food court that specialises entirely in Western food?
Essen @ The Pinnacle is a similar concept to Salute, except with air-conditioned comfort. You can get hearty French fare at affordable prices at Garcon, with their 12-hour Belly of Pork ($16.90) and Black Miso Foie Gras ($16.50), as well as other restaurant-quality dishes from a variety of other stalls. Pizzas from La Stalla and Thai cuisine from Kin Khao are just some of the things this food court has in store for you.
If you’ve always wondered what to eat after soaking in a view of the Singapore skyline, this is it. Eat and be merry.
Stalls To Try:
- Garcon - French cuisine done up to perfection, but not likely to burn a hole in your wallet. Their 12-hour Belly of Pork is an absolute must-try.
- La Stalla - For the pizza lovers out there, La Stalla uses handmade crusts that lend a rustic feel to their pizzas. They mainly serve up traditional pizza favourites, but they’re still scrumptious.
- Kin Khao - There’s no need to hop on a plane to Bangkok - Kin Khao has us covered with offerings like tomyum soup, green curry, and mango sticky rice,
- Wild Wild Catch - Tuck into fresh seafood with everything from your basic fish & chips, to mussels in wine broth. You can try them with chilli crab dips and salted egg prawn dips too! Definitely worth the indulgence.
- Two Wings - Chicken wing lovers rejoice. Wit their juicy and succulent meat, you'll feel like you're in heaven.
Essen @ The Pinnacle
Address: 1 Cantonment Road, #01-01, Singapore 080001
Opening Hours: 10:30 am - 11: 30 pm
Tel: 9297 3285
10. Third Place - industrial zi char find hidden in the west
Industrial estate food courts get a bad rep, but Third Place, which has three outlets, is probably the coolest thing to happen to that side of the west. It’s a food court by day, but by night, it’s a zi char bar. That’s right, a zi char bar. It already sounds amazing.
With dishes like Salted Egg Cheese Crab (seasonal price), Beancurd with Hon-Shimeji Mushroom ($12), and Fried Prawn Ball with Macadamia Nut in Orange Sauce ($18), you can pig out to your heart’s content, and indulge in some booze as well.
Beancurd with Hon-Shimeji Mushroom ($12) Source
Third Place takes your typical industrial food court to greater heights to prove that delicious food does lie off the beaten path.
JTC Cleantech One, 1 Cleantech Loop, #02-32, Singapore 637141
JTC Medtech One, 2 Lorong Tukang Satu, #01-01, Singapore 618878
18 Tuas Avenue 7, Singapore 639272
Cleantech: 7 am - 7 pm (Mon - Fri), 7 am - 2 pm (Sat)
Medtech: 7 am - 8 pm (Mon - Fri), 7 am - 2 pm (Sat)
Tuas Avenue 7: 6 am - 8 pm (Mon - Fri), 6 am - 2 pm (Sat)
Tel: 8182 5043 (Medtech), 8182 3471 (Tuas)
11. Day & Night Bistro
This place goes through not one, not two, but three different iterations over the course of a day. By light, it seems like a modern-day kopitiam. In the morning, it’s an old-school yong tau foo place for a delicious, cosy breakfast, and past noon it’s helmed by the folks of Ah Bong’s Italian.
Come nightfall, though, it’s home to Day & Night, a trendy bistro for you to chill with your friends and have some bites over beer and conversation.
They’ve got dishes like Tom Yum Pasta ($18), classic Har Jeong Kai (prawn paste chicken, $10) and their Day & Night Burger ($20). Pair those bites with draft beers on tap (from $10 for a half-pint) and specialty drinks like their Yellow Submarine ($5), featuring sour plum, lemon and lime juice.
Definitely a unique place to just sit back, relax, and have a great night with people you love.
Day & Night Bistro
Address: 56 Eng Hoon Street #01-46
Opening Hours: Day & Night: 5.30 pm -11 pm (Tue-Thu), 5.30 pm - 12 am (Fri-Sat), 10 am - 10 pm (Sun)
Tel: 6222 6881
A Fusion Of Old & New
These funky kopitiams are the epitome of modern-day Singaporean dining, combining traditional flavours with modern decor, or housing fancy food in comfortable, familiar environments.
These are the places you can go to to eat wanton mee in your fancy suit, or to tuck into fancy foie gras while clad in a t-shirt and slippers. It’s a new age, and as times change, so does the world around us. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of these unique coffeeshops popping up.
Visit these new-age coffeeshops for an alternative kopitiam experience to remember, as well as good food at an affordable price. Your tummy will be very happy.