Tiong Bahru

 

Dubbed by CNN as ‘Singapore’s oldest and hippest ‘hood,’ Tiong Bahru is a mix of retro and cosmopolitan. Built in the 1930s, Tiong Bahru is Singapore’s first housing estate. The cast of Tiong Bahru is an eclectic mix of young and old, local and foreign, from those who love their kopi and the ones that prefer to sip house blended coffee.

I zero in on Yong Siak St., a 10-minute walk from Tiong Bahru MRT. Get to know the residents that line this street – specialty coffee bars, concept restaurants, and lifestyle shops all brimming with flavor.

 

Forty Hands

From the philosophy of the third wave coffee movement that refers to how many hands coffee beans pass through, from planting them to reaching your cup, that’s where this specialty café gets its name. Forty Hands is a joint venture between the Spa Esprit Group and Australian, Harry Grover.

 

I went with Z to Forty Hands last Sunday. And although the menu is not as extensive, it’s quite popular for its brunch offering so it was already crowded at 9 a.m. Ordering is at the counter and you get your drinks shortly after you land on your table, and your food, just a few minutes after so I must say they do have quick service. The place was fully staffed, which was good, but there’s also a drawback as the narrow layout makes moving on a packed Sunday a little challenging.

 

Harry who moved from Australia to Singapore in 2010 started out in the business with what he learned from being a barista and he admits that there’s still more to learn. But a tip from him I which I read – buying coffee beans in small batches and using them up in 3 weeks, and if not then you can freeze, defrost, and then use them once and not the process all over again because of condensation of the beans, tells me he’s been on his toes in coffee academy, which makes a cup of  freshly roasted beans at Forty Hands worth the try, if not to satisfy curiosity. Z tried their latte and he liked the richness of the milk, aroma, and the fact that the coffee was strong. At $5, it was certainly a good cup.

This is what Z ate – the Big Boy Breakfast which is one of the usual suspects when dining at Forty Hands. It comes with spicy chipolata sausages. grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, bacaon, bolognese, and flat bread with sour cream – all for $18. I had a taste of the bread, and it would have been much better had there been more of the sour cream as the portion was barely there. But all in all, Z was a satisfied boy, and he especially liked the sausages.

 

Mediterranean Lamb, $11

 

I’m picky when it comes to sandwiches – I don’t like mayo, hate mustard, not a fan of big slices of fresh tomatoes, prefer them chopped to tiny pieces or mixed into a sauce etc. etc., but this Mediterranean Lamb scored big with me. I loved everything on it – from the spiced minced lamb, herbs, basil, red onion, feta cheese, and yes, even the tomatoes!

 

We had to rush off and the queue was getting long, so we decided to head out to free up some tables for the other eager diners. But next time we’re there, we will definitely try the Tau Sar Pau, at $2.50 a piece. When we ordered our food, the cashier was actually insistent on us trying it but we weren’t just up for it then.  But word around town is it’s the ‘best’ – from its light and fluffy bun to its fine red bean paste inside. So sounds like I got myself some unfinished business. Have you tried this, what did you think?

 

 

 

Strangelets

It’s one of those stores I love, where you go in and you just don’t know where to start looking. Strangelets is a brainchild of a group of interior designers, architects, and a banker. It houses a lot of beautiful pieces from all over the world – carefully selected, tastefully displayed, and all deserving your attention. The store can seem intimidating from the outside, like a gallery of all things expensive which quite frankly most of the pieces are, but curiosity found myself quickly inside. The staff were so welcoming whether you’re there to just look around or make a purchase. Of course the latter would be much better for business. 🙂

 

Everything in the store has a statement to make – one’s quirky and others just strangely cute. There are stationery products from Postalco, ceramic tableware by Paris’s Astier de Villate, and creations from designers Nils Holger Moormann and David Restorick among others.

 

Of course there are pieces for fashionistas as well. Strangelets is an official stockist for The Cambridge Satchel Company, in the photo above you can see their Batchel collection. They don’t have the full range, but you may be able to order from them if you’re eyeing a particular satchel.

 

And to finish satisfying your senses at Strangelets, one can have a healthy and delicious ice pop from Popaganda – known for its refreshingly organic and local make. Pure Coconut and Mixed Berries are the best sellers, at $4 each.

Although items aren’t necessarily friendly on the pocket here, I’d say you get what you pay for if you’re looking to score functional or design pieces that’s specially curated from around the world, aren’t mass-produced, and come with a whole lot of charm and whimsy.

 

 

Bhutan Shop

What do we know about the country Bhutan? It’s been said that it’s one of the happiest places on earth as the only country in the world to use Gross National Happiness as its primary yardstick for progress. As for Bhutan Shop, well it’s a playground of a variety of things for some fun shopping on impulse.

 

Given its name you’d expect to see all things Bhutan. But this shop has evolved into a lifestyle store offering other pieces from homeware, accessories, handmade bags, organic teas, and other one-off items that are not necessarily from Bhutan. But there is a dedicated space in the store if you’re out for authentic Bhutanese pieces – from contemporary art, jewelry, soaps, to the traditional dresses.

 

Oh and yes, there are aromatherapy goods which I’m definitely into – be it oils, incense, or what have you. And entering Bhutan Shop, you get enveloped with a soothing and calming aroma which fortunately are for sale too. And the owner Pin is very welcoming too, and as its namesake country, I’d say there are more than just knick-knacks of happiness to be found at Bhutan Shop.

Books Actually

Nook, Kindle, iPad… the literary world has gone digital for years now and consumption of the written word has certainly changed for a lot of people. But local bookstores still hold their charm and I’d say Books Actually has been riding on a lot of it since it opened for business in 2005. Books Actually is an independent bookstore, specializing in Fiction and Literature. It’s a brainchild of Karen Wai and Kenny Leck who are not only driven by their passion for books but are very supportive of local writers as well. Read this article from Singapore Entrepreneurs and it’s unfortunate I wasn’t able to meet them when I visited the store as I certainly would have wanted their personal recommendation for an interesting read to bring on an upcoming trip. It’s people like them that make going to bookstores extra special. I mean they certainly know what they’re talking about and are surely happy to help whether you’re one already with a book collection or just starting out, but they have that excitement in them to share their discoveries.

 

And when you’ve had your reading selection sorted out, head on to the back of the store for a whole lot of nostalgia. Books Actually also sells a lot of vintage items. It’s a room full of things from the past that never fails to spark a conversation or even a memory of the days that were. I was just going around the back trying to recall where or what year I’ve seen all the things on display, or if I was even born yet when they came out.

Books Actually is a wonderland. As a book can easily transport you to places or let your imaginations run, Books Actually has this atmosphere that nurtures it. Will certainly be visiting again, excited for a personal recommendation as it’s been a while since I got immersed in a book. Bad!

 

Ikyu for fine Japanese creations, and Social Haus for happy hour, and Open Door Policy for a western fare dinner date perhaps?
Yong Siak St. has got you all covered with these other residents I’m excited to step foot in next!

So if this suburb is what you’d define as far from where you’re reading this, then let me guarantee you that it’ll be worth your time to go the distance. And come on! No place is really far in Singapore. And it’s certainly a better option than hitting the malls right? Oh my, did I just say that?!? So do discover this packed street, and get taken by Yong Siak St., Tiong Bahru. Have a curious weekend!

 

Be fierce,

 

Jakeena 🙂