More than vestiges of the past, Singapore’s historic buildings are being reinvented as hotbeds for restaurants, al fresco bars and indie markets.
The Oval @ Seletar Aerospace Park
Former military airbase
The next big foodie haven, a 320ha aerospace park that surrounds Seletar Airport, once housed a British military airbase. Inside, 32 recently restored black-and-white colonial houses reside in an 11ha field and provide customers with a view of jets taking off and landing as they dine.
Among the first restaurants to open here is Wheeler’s Estate (above; 2 Park Lane, Tel: 65 6293 6008), by the same people behind bicycle-themed cafe Wheeler’s Yard in Balestier. Its first floor houses a cafe and grill house, while guests can tuck in to Australian cuisine upstairs.
If you fancy a picnic on the lawn, grab a mat and basket from the cafe, along with food and drinks.
Wheeler’s Estate plans to lead a cycling group on a 33km ride from its Balestier outlet to Seletar in early 2017.
Also occupying a two-storey bungalow, The Summerhouse (3 Park Lane) focuses on produce grown by farms locally and in the region. Other eateries on the estate include Youngs Bar & Restaurant (above), which serves modern European fare such as flank steak on mashed potatoes, and Di Wei Teo Chew Restaurant (1 The Oval), which offers traditional Teochew dishes such as braised duck and yam ring with seafood and vegetables.
In the coming months, families can look forward to a new playground and tennis court, as well as bazaars, Zumba classes and other sporting events.
Former army barracks
A nutmeg plantation in the 19th century, this verdant area near the Singapore Botanic Gardens was home to British troops during the colonial era.
It was only in the late noughties that the maze of old barracks in Dempsey Hill was reinvigorated. The charming architecture of the soldiers’ quarters has remained, with black-beamed ceilings, wide verandas and stout brick columns. Antique and carpet shops now sit side by side with upscale restaurants and bars along tree-lined roads.
Thanks to child-friendly eateries, families also gather here. Open Farm Community is flanked by vegetable and fruit gardens, with a space for lawn bowls. The farm-to-table restaurant, which has a menu of inventive dishes such as mud-crab pappardelle with Thai curry sauce, also holds farmers’ markets.
And there’s more to come. The keenly watched Como Dempsey luxury lifestyle hub (17-18 Dempsey Road) is set to fully unveil five concepts in 2017, such as cult multi-label store Dover Street Market. At time of press, only one restaurant had unlocked its doors: the world’s only Michelin-star Peranakan (Straits Chinese) restaurant, Candlenut (above).
In the heart of the Civic District, Chijmes is a beautifully preserved former chapel and convent that dates back to 1854.
Where students in pinafores and nuns in wimples once strode through the hallways of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, people now gather during happy hour at Chijmes’ many fine restaurants, bars and clubs.
A S$45 million facelift from 2013 to 2014 breathed new life into the venue, where eateries – old and new – have earned a solid gastronomic reputation. Modern Australian fine-dining restaurant Whitegrass (above), by Tetsuya-trained chef-owner Sam Aisbett, is highly acclaimed for its experimental tasting menus. Think slow-cooked Mangalica pork, Hokkaido scallops with dashi jelly, and roasted-beetroot salad with smoked eel.
Chijmes is also a popular spot for events, such as live music performances and pop-up markets.
Written by Denyse Yeo for Silverkris