New grub raises the bar in Geylang
LATE-NIGHT supper haunts, roadside durian sellers, old hardware businesses and "pop-up" sex-pill stands - these are common sights when strolling around Geylang in the evening.
But also scattered among the nightclubs and brothels that line Singapore's infamous red-light district are new condominiums popping up on every other street corner. Along with them, new modern eateries catering to a growing residential crowd have also mushroomed.
Monkswood By Char
393 Guillemard Road
Open Tue to Fri, 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm;
Sat to Sun, 11.30am to 10pm
Ever since Anthony Ung came back from Britain almost two decades ago, he has missed British food, especially its meat pies. When he could not find many existing options out there to satisfy his cravings, he decided to just do it himself.
Only two months ago, he opened Monkswood By Char - a British bistro in Guillemard Road. He runs the restaurant with wife Karan Low and elder brother Alvin.
Said Ms Low, director of Monkswood: "The pies in Singapore have things like peas, carrots and potatoes but the UK pies have pure meat, and maybe just a bit of vegetables to add sweetness.
"That's what he missed."
The range of pies on the menu includes a steak-and-ale one ($19) that is made with beef, ale, Worcester sauce and thyme; a fish pie ($18) made with white fish, smoked haddock and a creamy sauce; and the more unconventional pork pie ($16) made with pork and pork stock and served cold.
They also have traditional English mains such as fish and chips ($22) with optional malt vinegar, and Toad In The Hole ($18), which is pork and beef sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter.
Blanco Court Beef Noodles
92 Guillemard Road
Open 7am to 3pm,
6pm to 11pm daily
The Blanco Court Beef Noodle brand has been in Mike Loh's family for over three decades.
But the 24-year-old did not find it easy to convince his aunt to let him take over the eatery about three years ago.
"I did a proposal and gave it to my dad and my gu ma (aunt) and said I wanted to maintain this heritage and brand, and continue the family business.
"It was only after two years of washing bowls, scrubbing floors and making gravy every day, that my gu ma saw that I was serious and let me open my first outlet," said Mr Loh, who opened Blanco Court Beef Noodles in Guillemard Road last December.
There, he serves traditional Hainanese beef noodles made with a recipe that his aunt picked up after many years working as a helper at a roadside stall during the 1960s.
Mr Loh tries to stick as closely to his aunt's recipe as possible. As for what makes a bowl of Hainanese beef noodles authentic, he says it can be distinguished by the use of specific ingredients such as peanuts, salted vegetables and chinchalok, as well as some secret spices in the soup.
Builders At Sims
53 Sims Place, #01-160
Open Mon to Sat, 11am to 9pm
Tucked away in a Housing Board block at Sims Place, opposite the bustling Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, is an unassuming eatery that sells ratatouille and carbonara.
The Builders At Sims cafe offers a quiet, cosy respite from the hive of activity that is Geylang.
Owner Joey Lim acknowledges that his French-inspired cafe stands out in a neighbourhood filled with coffee shops and old-school eateries.
But he appreciates the crowds that spill over from the market and offices around.
"The light industries nearby provide us with our customers," the 29-year-old said.
"The fact that our cafe is air-conditioned also means that office workers like to have meetings here with their clients."
While Mr Lim knows that his prices cannot compete with the market just across the road, he tries to keep most of the items on his menu below $16.
The cafe is Mr Lim's first business venture into the F&B industry.
Previously, he was head chef of Tiong Bahru Bakery.
Having seen many cafes popping up and then shutting just as quickly, Mr Lim knows that the challenge is in maintaining the business.
"I have to stay in the game, and offer quality food and service," he noted.
The Skewer Bar
489 Geylang Road
Open Mon to Thur, 6.30 pm to
1.30 am; Fri to Sun, 6.30pm to 2.30am
The Skewer Bar operates out of an ordinary-looking coffee shop along Geylang Road.
But pop in and you will find Japanese craft beer and grilled oysters being served.
Opened earlier this year by a group of five friends, the bar is based upon the Japanese ya-kitori concept of fresh meat grilled on skewers.
Co-owners and chefs Tan Jun Ann, 33, and Vincent Low, 32, spent seven years as suppliers before they felt they were ready to open their first stall.
It might be an unusual choice to run a bar in a coffee shop.
But Mr Low said: "Unlike shopping malls, the coffee shop operates round the clock and there aren't restrictions on opening hours."
Specialities include grilled Canadian oysters with citrus sauce at $11 for three pieces.
They also have homemade skewered meatballs at $2.40.
Mr Low said 80 per cent of their food items are homemade. They have created their own chilli sauce which is "a bit like sambal" but "more to the Peranakan Nonya style".
To complete the bar experience, the Skewer Bar serves Sapporo on draft and other Japanese craft beer.
"The hole-in-the-wall concept makes you feel as if you're not even in Geylang but in a little stall in Japan," said Mr Low.
THE BUSINESS TIMES