The New Breed Of Kopitiam
Image adapted from: The Bedok Marketplace
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 8 you need to check out ASAP.
1. 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. They’ve also got traditional hawker fare like chicken rice and wanton mee, so there’s something for every palate.
Burning Oak's Slow-cooked Beef Cheeks ($15)
Image credit: @theburningoaksg
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.
The Bedok Marketplace
Address: 348 Bedok Road, Singapore 469560
Opening Hours: Varies by stall, usually 10AM - 10PM
2. Alibabar - hawker favorites and craft beer in one place
Image credit: @thegaltravels
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.
Char Kway Teow
Image credit: @operangela
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 such as Yong Huat Char Kway Tiao's Fried Kway Teow ($4).
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: Mon - Thur: 9AM - 11:30PM |
3. New Ubin Seafood - zi char restaurant meets American steakhouse
Image credit: @rueyjiun
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 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.
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: 63 Hillview Avenue, Level 6 (Canteen), Singapore 669569
Opening Hours: 11am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 10pm (Fri - Sun), 5.30pm - 10pm (Monday), 11am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 10pm (Tue-Thu)
Tel: 6466 9558
4. Bincho at Hua Bee - BCM stall by day, yakitori bar by night
Image credit: @binchosg
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.
Image credit: @binchosg
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
5. 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 Chicken Yakitori ($5) and Iberico Pork ($15), or sit back with a glass of Blue Nippon ($13), a special cocktail made with rum, blue curacao, lemon, and egg white. Mmm, tasty.
Address: 127 Telok Ayer Street, S(068596)
Opening Hours: 11am - 11:45pm (Mon-Fri), 5 - 11:30pm (Sat, Sun)
Tel: 6423 0311
6. FIVE Square - CBD food court reinvented with a bistro concept
Image credit: Five Square
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.
Image credit: @fem2femme
Fill your tummy with Rice Noodle w Sliced Beef Soup ($8.80) from Just PHO Fun, or a Mixed Grill Platter ($25.80) from The Grill Knife.
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:
- 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.
- The Grill Knife - 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.
Address: Great Eastern Centre, 1 Pickering St, #01-03, Singapore 048659
Opening Hours: 10 am - 12 am, closed on Sundays.
Tel: 8798 0245
7. 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?
You can get hearty French fare at affordable prices at Garcons, with their 12-hour Belly of Pork ($17.90) and Classic Foie Gras ($17.90), 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: 00 pm
Tel: 9297 3285
Somewhere hidden in the wilderness of Ayer Rajah exists a ball of hipster-dom that nightlife giants Timbre created. That's right, they weren't happy with their 5 bars located islandwide, and decided to open a cool hawker centre too.
The place is huge, featuring 35 restaurant brands and hawker stalls over a 24,000 square foot area. Most stalls are housed in repurposed containers splashed with graffiti, while others serve fare from stationary food trucks.
After dark, Timbre falls to doing what they do best, turning the hawker centre into a giant bar, complete with live music from local bands.
Address: 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139957
Opening Hours: Mon to Thurs: 6 am - 12 am, Fri to Sat: 6 am - 1 am
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.