Lau Pa Sat Festive Market, previously known as Telo Ayer Market, has a history of more than 150 years, back to the days of Raffles, and is now a national monument.
Lau Pa Sat Festive Market Hot
Overly commercialized food centre
I think this market can be renamed to "Market for Tourists". It is a tourist infested hawker centre and it does not reflect what the 'real' heartland hawker centres are. Yeah... they added a touch of so-called heritage with the architecture and all but seriously, we Singaporeans want nice tasting food with a budget friendly value. Not being in a hawker centre that's trying hard to be 'atas' (a Singlish slang for 'high class). The whole place just feels very fake and unnatural to me. Gave it 1 star for its effort in architecture. After all, we all know that white paint is really hard to maintain!
The only nice thing about here is the smell of satays. I've had satays there and it doesn't even taste as good as it smells. The perk of this place is that it opens till wee hours so you could possibly get your supper fix. But if there are other places to go to, I wouldn't recommend coming to Lau Pa Sat. For genuine hawker food, head down to heartland hawker centres, I promise a satisfying meal! (of course it also depends on what you choose... :P)
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Ordinary food but unique experience
I definitely recommend going in big groups - because Lau Pa Sat is extremely huge. It is extremely easy to get lost; and there are just so many stalls to choose from! I suggest taking a walk around the entire centre because deciding what you want, or whether you even want to stay there. It really is nothing much; the food is not exactly special or unique to the place - ti is merely an average hawker centre with stalls selling ordinary or common food that can be found easily anywhere else in neighbourhood hawker centres.
It might, however, be an interesting experience to eat there because of its location. It is a prime location to see festive celebrations happening in Singapore, although it is most crowded during such times. It is also a popular tourist attraction because the hawker centre itself does have unique interior design which places it far above ordinary hawker centres.
I need good company.
This place is lovely in the night - with the bright lights coming from all the different hawker stalls, there is myriad of food choices that I'm always faced with. With the large place that is available for seating, this is one place I love to come to for late night suppers - I never have to worry that I won't be able to get a place due to the crowd. More often than not I am faced with so many empty seats - better for me, at least I can casually stroll and decide what I want to eat before finding a seat. I can already taste the crispiness of the Roti Prata and the sweet juiciness of the satay in my mouth.
On certain nights, there are perks for staying a little later in this place. The reason being that sometimes, live bands do come down to perform, jazzing up the rather noisy place with some local talent. Who says a hawker centre can't actually be a place to be? With the local music scene in check, with the local food in check, all you need (or all I need) is some really good company and the night is good to go.
I caught sight of Lau Pa Sat festive market rather frequently whenever our car speeds towards the Central Business District area. It was teeming with human beings on such a regular basis, regardless of the time, even on weekdays. I was curious as to what mysterious concoctions were sold there hence I prowled into that vicinity with a growling stomach after a trip to a nearby gym.
I discovered the key to why this particular market magnetized many. The food variety there was tremendously impressive. It was certainly a venue that thrives due to it's veritable smorgasbord.
Unfortunately, apart from the wide array of food palettes offered and it’s strategic location, there didn’t’ seem to be anything else that caught my eye. The food tasted ordinary. They were neither bland nor spectacular. I didn’t feel like dashing towards the stalls to interrogate for any secret recipes of those food after tasting them.
Additionally, the ambiance there was like an echo of the Lagoon at East Coast Park.
I would be extremely happy indeed, not as a customer of Lau Pat Sat, but as one of the hawkers there. Located in Telok Ayer, which is a mandatory pitstop for me when I visit a friend who lives nearby, the place sees me there relatively frequently. Seeing the masses of people milling around, I suspect that quite a number are in the same situation that I'm in and not instead lured by the fame and popularity of the place. Strategic indeed.
The atmosphere on the place was one that exhibits some tension, being gazetted as a national monument. The presence of the government is noticeable here in which the market looks presentable. Which is totally wrong. A hawker centre, left in its natural state, should be allowed to run amok for all the pleasant surprises all hawker centres has to offer to turn up. A clean hawker centre is not natural. Indeed, much effort has been put in to de-hawkercentre it, seeing the nice architecture, ambience of the lights and modern designs and fittings. As such, the atmosphere feels really weird.
However, I cannot deny that the place is good for tourism and tourist bucks do indeed flow in. Thus, assurance of tourist inflows and its strategic location may have induced the hawkers to become complacent over time, not putting too much effort into their cooking as well as in innovation of new dishes, thus I do not find the fare here exceptional for a place that preaches exceptionism.
Architecture over food
In my opinion, this food centre does not garner its traffic from excellent or cheap food, but rather that it is the only hawker centre that retails food close to hawker prices in the CBD area. That being said, the food is still overpriced compared too that of normal hawker centres. The food there is either average or below the quality of hawker food in other hawker centres, so I would not reccomend anyone who wants to try true local hawker food to go there.
The place is relatively clean and has unique, tasteful architecture, but the ambient environment does not compensate for the not so extraordinary food, and the environment is far from being a true representative of Singapore Hawker culture, hence i suggest to tourists looking to experience eating Hawker food in Singapore to go to the other hawker centres found in the heartlands instead.
White and Clean
I went there once because I was nearby doing a shoot for a competition. I think it is an advantage for the hawker centre to be plastered right in the middle of the central business district as it is easy for people to locate it.
I find most of the food so-so but what really brightened my day was the satay. Perhaps because I am all along a huge satay fan and having to taste such nice satay made me so happy.
On top of that, I seldom see hawker centres or any public eateries as huge as this, to have the entire building painted white. It must have been quite a hassle for them to clean the place frequently but it is also a good practice as it helps to uplift the good name of what people see Singapore as- a clean and green city.
average food at a great location
The best thing about this hawker centre is its location, right in the middle of the CBD. It's such a shame because its huge and there is so much wasted potential. If only they could rent some stalls out to famous hawkers, something like what KF Seetoh did with Makansutra. Then this place would be a easily accessible food heaven.
As Chloe works near here, I've been here plenty of times and each time trying a different stall. I have yet to find a single one I would wish to return to. Can you name any? We only eat here if we have too since its so convenient and our meal is usually unsatisfying.
It is nice to be able to find reasonably priced food in the middle of a business district, and this is what Lau Pa Sat offers. I went there on a weekday night and it was extremely quiet. Many of the stalls were closed as well.
My friend and I tried the fried carrot cake and hor fun, as well as some satay. The food was average, but the satay was rather interesting as they had duck meat, something I haven't seen anywhere else. The meat is really little though, and each stick is quite pricey, at 50-70cents a stick.
Nonetheless, great place to eat for the price!
Reminds me of JC days
Thinking of Lau Pa Sat, reminds me of an incident back in my JC days. It was pretty hilarious, and thinking back now, I find that I was probably just being petty. In short, my friends and I meet at Raffles Place MRT and were supposed to be head towards Victoria Theatre. Initially I guided them in the right direction, and then someone said that I was wrong and it was in the opposite direction. Worse, a few others claim that I was wrong as well. I was pretty pissed and I decided not to argue, and I followed. Of course, we happily walked until we reached Lau Pa Sat before they realised we were walking in the wrong direction, and I went I told you so.
Since then, I only went back to Lau Pa Sat a couple of times. It was not really for the food, but I just happened to be there. Frankly, Lau Pa Sat, despite as long history, looked basically just like a typical food court, with one difference. The prices were much higher than others yet the food quality was about the same. It used to be a place I would go for nice satay and good local food, but this had largely been taken over with bigger and air-conditioned places such as Food Republic.
It's being a long time since I went back there, and I wondered if the place still looks the same and whether there is still a resemblance of satay club there in the evening. It's probably one of the oldest building still there since Raffles developed the area.
Heritage adds to food quality? Nah.
Lau Pa Sat reminds me of Covent Garden, slightly. It is a pity there is no opera house nearby. I suppose you could walk a few blocks to either the Esplanade Theaters or the Singapore Chinese Concert Hall, but this place is here because of food, tourists and nearby office workers on high salaries.
Is the food better than anything else in Singapore? No. Is the experience better? I suppose it depends on what you want. If you want to eat with tourists, fine. If you want real hawker food in a real setting, go elsewhere. But then, if you were a tourist, you probably wouldn’t. For reasons that I partly understand, most westerners take a look at a hawker centre and scream: hygiene, before running back to the Fullerton for high tea. Which is a shame. These places are strictly controlled for hygiene by the NEA so the chances of food poisoning from smelly thumbs in your laksa bowl are rare.
At best, Lau Pa Sat is a food court which has some charm, but if it is real food you are after, it is no better, and indeed more expensive, than almost any other hawker centre or coffee shop in the heartlands where at least you might meet some real locals.