Bored of malls? Have a bite at these places
THE conventional restaurant space is so last year. Unique settings and ambience are what some new eateries are banking on to woo diners.
1 Park Road, People's Park Complex rooftop carpark
Open Tue to Fri, 4pm-11pm;
Sat & Sun, 11am-11pm;
Closed on Mon
Although Lepark spans over 62,000 sq ft, it is hidden away in plain sight on the previously deserted rooftop carpark of the People's Park Complex in Chinatown.
The weekend before last, some 2,500 to 3,000 people made their way there for Come Lepark With Us, a two-day event marking the eatery's soft launch. The event featured a pet adoption drive, charity car wash, outdoor movie screening and concert by local bands.
Says Carmen Low, one of the people behind The Anglow Group, which runs Lepark: "Our grand plan is to make use of this space to carry out a lot of content that will bring the youth back to Chinatown.
"A lot of young people don't come to Chinatown unless it's with their parents, and we think People's Park Complex...has a lot of stories worth telling."
At Come Lepark With Us, Lepark served Asian tapas and about 80 different bottled beers and four craft beers on tap.
Some items on the menu that weekend were deep fried otah bombs ($8), chicken rice sushi ($8), wonton mee sliders ($9), salted egg yolk soft shell crab sliders ($12) and sambal butter slipper lobsters ($18). The items are rotated every week, so don't be surprised if you see a whole different menu the next time you pop by.
In fact, Lepark itself might be unrecognisable if you drop by in the following months because, according to Ms Low, it is only in phase one of renovations. Eventually, the entire rooftop will be covered with tables and chairs, plus some tentage and greenery for shelter, while the kitchen runs kiosk-style so people can buy their food and take it outside.
119 Tyrwhitt Road
Open Tue to Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat, 2pm-midnight; Sun, 2pm-11pm; Closed on Mon
When Corrine Chia first peeked into the window of 119 Tyrwhitt Road last year, she was merely a curious passer-by who wanted to find out what was going on behind the doors bearing the sign "Singapore Chinese Druggists Association".
But looking into the shophouse space dimly lit by red light from a religious altar, she immediately recognised it as a perfect location for a food and beverage (F&B) establishment.
Some negotiation and a few months later, Druggists was born. It officially opened its doors in February and is the first restaurant by The Drinking Partners, a nine-year-old craft beer distribution company co-founded by Ms Chia. It also runs The Great Beer Experiment at PasarBella and a small bottle shop at a cafe in Pasir Panjang.
Walking into Druggists, the first things you may notice are the old-fashioned floor tiles and dark wooden plaques hanging on the walls - all of which belong to the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, which has owned the 80-year-old building for the last six decades and still operates out of the second floor.
Says Ms Chia, 40: "We've left this place largely untouched, except for adding a bar counter and chalkboard. The flooring, wooden doors and plaques, all these are very original as we left them as they were. There was no need to restore much except some aesthetic paintwork. What you see is what has been here for the last 60 years."
The food at Druggists fits the theme well, as it offers a simple menu of Asian dishes such as sambal fish ($10); coffee pork ribs ($9); lotus chips with sweet chilli dressing ($6) and a sharing platter of pork roll ngoh hiang, saba with grated daikon, radish cake and chicken wontons ($30).
Block 45, Malan Road, Gillman Barracks
Open Tue to Fri, 10am-5pm; Closed on Mon
The Gillman Barracks arts enclave has gained a reputation for having low foot traffic. While this poses a challenge for most potential F&B owners, Tham Wai Hon saw it as a blessing in disguise for his month-old cafe, Red Baron.
"I like this location because it's not a mall, it's like an anti-mall. Although malls are very crowded, Singaporeans are getting sick of malls because every one is kind of the same," says the 34-year-old, who has a day job as a freelance designer on top of running the cafe.
It's a similar mindset that he applies to both the design and food at Red Baron. He actively avoids the typical cafe decorations and the menu does not carry the usual eggs Benedict or waffles.
Instead, the cafe has a simple menu of breakfast items, salads, pastas and sandwiches, as well as homemade cakes and tarts ($7) and some bottled beers ($12).
The two most popular items are actually dishes with a bit of a Middle Eastern influence (thanks to their half-Egyptian manager): the RB breakfast ($12) of two eggs, hummus, roasted vegetables and lamb sausage, and a vegetarian spiced avocado sandwich ($12) with feta, radish and Dukkah spice.
Red Baron is one of the newest eateries to open at Gillman Barracks, as part of the Economic Development Board's attempt to add life to the area by injecting a stronger F&B presence.
According to Mr Tham, his partner Prashant Somosundram was approached to take on the space as he co-owns Artistry cafe in Kampong Glam, which is known for its art exhibitions, comedy nights and live music.
That's the plan for Red Baron as well - to help pull in the crowds by supporting events such as the next Gillman Barracks-wide Art After Dark on May 29, and holding their own events such as a fair with pop-up stalls that's coming up next month.
THE BUSINESS TIMES