A new wave of food centres by innovative hawker-preneurs is on the rise in Singapore, offering gourmet delicacies, competitive prices and Instagram-worthy settings.
TEXT: MANDY LIM BEITLER
This is a halal culinary destination, whose menu features some of the best-selling creations from a number of The Blackhole Group’s outlets such as Tipo, Working Title, Afterwit and Stack, among others. From tantalising tacos to succulent burgers and its hugely popular Tomahawk steak the restaurant offers something for everyone. While its outlet in Tampines offers freshly made pasta, diners can also savour unexpected flavours such as tom yum lasagne.
WHERE: 2 Bukit Batok West Avenue 7, #01-07 A/B HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok; 1 Tampines Walk, #03- 04 HomeTeamNS Tampines, Our Tampines Hub
As it utilises a centralised kitchen and ordering point, Hawkerman isn’t quite a full-fledged hawker centre. However, it does offer some of Singapore’s best heritage street food recipes in a hip, no-frills environment. The signature Bao Ka Liao sharing platter features tender-fresh half spring chicken, ’60s Hokkien mee, Ah Boy’s Hokkien popiah, XO carrot cake and more – ideal for trying a bit of everything. The anime-themed wall-tiled murals at The Seletar Mall outlet make for fun Instagram backdrops too.
WHERE: #B1-128/129 Singpost Centre; #02-14/15/16 The Seletar Mall; #B2-18 Funan Mall
ESSEN @ THE PINNACLE
The Pinnacle@Duxton isn’t only a landmark in local public housing, it also houses an unconventional food centre that’s popular with the office crowd, local and expat families alike. You’ll find stalls offering French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese and more, but one of the most popular food items at Essen is the mushroom chicken burger from Burger Buddies. Pair it with an iced tea or the cool selection of craft beers from the in-house bar.
WHERE: Level 1, The Pinnacle@Duxton, 1 Cantonment Road
YISHUN PARK HAWKER CENTRE
This well-ventilated makan space boasts dedicated areas for bar hoppers and children, as well as community events on weekends. Must-tries include Smokin’ Joe’s Josper-grilled Western delights, the first in a hawker setting; the rich seafood broth of Seafood Pirates; and the eponymous Nasi Lemak Ayam Taliwang, a marriage of Indonesian and local cultures. Perhaps the most unique fact about Yishun Park Hawker Centre is the average age of the “hawker heroes”, asa they are known here – just 38 years.
WHERE: 51 Yishun Avenue 11
PICNIC FOOD PARK
Always imagined having a picnic amid lush greenery, but in cooler climes? Head to Picnic Food Park where the outdoors comes inside, and even the lighting changes from day to night, and from spring to winter. Popular “picnic” foods from foodtruck style stalls include Omakase Burger’s applewood smoked bacon cheeseburger and Impossible chilli cheese fries. With live music, retro arcade games, karaoke booth, Playstation and ball pit, there’s plenty to entertain everyone in the family.
WHERE: #03-15 Wisma Atria Shopping Centre, 435 Orchard Road
DISTRICT 20 HOT MELT COLD BREW
Located across from Marymount MRT station, District 20 offers a surprisingly wide variety of local mainstays and hipster nosh. The vintage bistro décor and wooden furniture add to the chill factor, as does the wide range of cold brews available here, making it a popular after-work social space. Besides ‘zichar’ favourites and artisanal burgers, a must-try is the crispy pork knuckle from MELD.
Where: 38 Jalan Pemimpin
A pioneer in the hipster hawker centre trend, Timbre+ made quite the stir when it opened in 2016. The old Ayer Rajah Hawker Centre was converted into an open-air urban food park featuring graffiti-adorned shipping containers and food trucks. Try Filipino lechon (roast pig) from Iskina Cebu, and Gubak Bao (a beefy version of the traditional ‘kong bak bao’ or pork belly bun) from Gubak Kia. Live bands also accompany the dining experience every night.
Where: JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent
THE BEDOK MARKETPLACE
Tucked into the second floor at Simpang Bedok is the quirky Bedok Marketplace, with stalls modelled after old shophouse fronts. For a hearty meal, try The Burning Oak’s foie gras and beef don, or tom yum hotpot from Khao Thai Food. Or catch up with your buddies over Bistro Ave pints, paired with crispy spam fries with cheese and sriracha from The Chop Chop Selections. The Bedok Marketplace is essentially a curation of trendy restaurant-quality cuisine at pocket-friendly prices.
Where: Level 2, 348 Bedok Road
PASARBELLA @ SUNTEC CITY
With every surface covered in graffiti and energetic music blasting, you’d be forgiven for thinking PasarBella was a gamers’ haunt or happening club. What this dynamic neon-lit space offers, however, is gourmet street food and food truck favourites from all over the world. All-time favourites include Wolf Burger’s Wolf Wagyu and the Iberico char siew bowl from Hou Hou. New additions include Meisterstück’s healthy German fare, froyo with artisanal toppings from Froyolo, and Coffee Story that brews fresh local kopi and artisanal lattes to suit every Joe.
Where: #01-455 North Wing, Suntec City, 3 Temasek Boulevard
FAREGROUND @ PASIR RIS CENTRAL HAWKER CENTRE
Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre packs the best of both worlds into two levels. If you don’t get distracted by old-school hawker fare on the first floor, head upstairs to the hip and happening Fareground. Marked by fun pops of colour and wooden bar tables, contemporary grub highlights here include cheesy tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes) from Seoul Shiok and Prawnaholic’s traditional prawn noodles with onsen egg and Kurobuta pork belly for a delicious Jap-fusion twist.
Where: 110 Pasir Ris Central
Eateries going blue – Once rarely used outside of Peranakan cuisine, the butterfly pea flower has gone mainstream, thanks to its Insta-worthy blue tinge. From dim sum to desserts, here’s where you can get your fix of some Avatar-hued delights.