Pasar Bella is a wholesome food market, which contains a whole chain of different food stores, from little cafe and restaurant joints parked in the beautifully designed interior of the market to bakeries and artisan stores.
Pasar Bella- A Farmer's Market
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I daresay Pasar Bella is a pioneer in the farmer's market or organic market industry in Singapore. First off, one plus point is the convenience - I always take the frequent shuttle bus from Botanic Gardens MRT to The Grandstand where Pasar Bella is located.
The interior of Pasar Bella is very welcoming. The lights are soft, unlike the harsh lights of department stores, and the wooden furniture lends the place a rustic charm. One thing that I think deserves a special shout-out though, are the restrooms! There are quirky paintings pointing you in the direction of their location, and the interior is absolutely stunning. The mirrors seem to be taken straight out of the Victorian Age and there are plush armchairs available for you to lounge on.
Now coming to the food, arguably the most important part. My favourite is the organic grocer, which stocks all kinds of healthy, organic produce from overseas that you probably can't find anywhere else. There is a cheese-tasting place, gelato, macaroons, a Japanese eatery and Gastronomia also has a branch here, and many more! Plus, the place is fully air-conditioned, so you don't have to worry about sweating in our hot weather. Definitely a must-go!
My father was originally the one who enthusiastically urged our family to visit Pasar Bella for a quick lunch, I was rather skeptical about the whole affair to be honest. A farmer's market? In Singapore? We don't even have the land space for enough shopping malls, let alone have a thriving agriculture business to warrant a "farmer's" market. Nevertheless, the trip down to Pasar Bella did indeed confirm my suspicions, it was hardly a farmer's market after all, but more of a conjugation of artsy alfresco dining.
The area was really packed when we went there on a weekend, so there was a lot of jostling and prodding to get seats. We eventually managed to grab some pretty good seats on a couple of high tables. The whole venue was packed to the brim, however the dim lighting managed to set the mood to something resembling a cozy eatery. That being said, I did notice certain parts of the venue had people eating in almost total darkness due to the bad lighting! The seating arrangements were very haphazard and closely packed together, however that added somewhat to the alfresco and almost westernised dining atmosphere. I didn't feel like I was in a "farmer's" market in Singapore anymore, I felt like I was dining in a bar in Perth! Live music was also available, where there was even a live singer and a band banging out some sultry jazz tunes as patrons milled around the various food stalls. The entire ambience was very enjoyable, even with the din of the crowds, and it was hard not to just soak in the relaxed and lighthearted dining atmosphere of Pasar Bella.
There was an array of different food stalls at Pasar Bella, notably almost all of them were more European-based foods, such as chowder soups, turkish kebabs, roast beef and much more. My family ordered a small pizza to share as well as two soups, the crab chowder and the tomato minestrone soup. The pizza was decent but not amazing, it tasted nearly the same as it did elsewhere. However, the first spoonful of the crab chowder made me wince - it was cold. Thus, my dad had to make another trip down to the stall, just to get them to reheat the soup before any one of us got salmonella poisoning from drinking unheated chowder. It tasted much better after being reheated, but we had to wait around 15 minutes before my dad could even come back with the reheated soup due to the crazy volume of people lining up in a very erratic fashion.
Unfortunate dining experience aside, I would not recommend actually buying the seafood from Pasar Bella. The prawns on display were marked up much higher than what you would get in the local wet markets, and they looked rather unfresh and limp-looking on the ice display. The fish on sale also looked like it was going bad, and the eyes had glazed over slightly, which is usually a big sign that it has gone bad.
Overall, while I really enjoyed the lovely alfresco atmosphere of Pasar Bella, with its artsy tables and loft area, the food there is decent at most (although I have not tried all the stalls) and I would highly recommend not purchasing any live seafood whilst there either.