Long touted as the successor to the admittedly cool enclave of Tiong Bahru, the Jalan Besar area is its grittier cousin. Public housing blocks rub shoulders with hardware stores, industrial goods merchants and shophouses, and while it may have a reputation for being rather seedy, the Jalan Besar district is also rampant with cafes, bars and restaurants galore!
We’re here to show you the best of the neighbourhood…
Chye Seng Huat Hardware
With its intentionally misleading name, this cool coffee shop has raised the status of the dingy Jalan Besar area from questionable to cool. Before enjoying a well-brewed cuppa or two, indulge in some retail therapy in their concept store, Tyrwhitt General Co where you can pick up uber-cool accessories and hipster bric-a-brac. You can always carry on with the shopping downstairs too as Chye Seng Huat Hardware has enough caffeine-brewing toys to excite any hardcore coffee snob.
Recommended: At $10, the coffee and cake set is good value for money. It’s pretty hard to go past the Crème Brulee — the fact that it comes in a large ramekin is just an added bonus!
Chye Seng Huat Hardware
150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563
Need foreign currency, dishwashing liquid, a Rolex watch and a cheese prata at 3am? Get them all at Mustafa Centre — the veritable candyland for insomniac shoppers. They stock almost everything you may need (no pork products or alcohol though) and have some pretty good bargains available in the electronics department. There’s a ton of cheap plastic toys too – good for stocking stuffers or birthday party goodie bags.
Sassy tip: Get there early! Mustafa is a haven for bargain hunters so get in early if you want any chance of getting around without having to elbow your way through the aisles.
145 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207704
The grande dame of the Jalan Besar gentrification, the French restaurant and patisserie, Antoinette is a pioneer of the neighbourhood. Her elegant shopfront is a welcome sight amidst the glumness of the surrounding neighbourhood and her offerings provide the perfect haven for a girl to dine in peace! Start with a savoury blini or four, proceed with either a hearty Boeuf Bourguignon or “Grandma’s Stuffed Chicken Leg” and end with a plate of sinful Macarons (hint: the legendary Pierre Herme himself has given these guys the thumbs up!).
30 Penhas Road, Singapore 208188
Windowsill In The Woods
For those who have been wanting, needing (or even begging) for a place that serves only sweet pies, look no further than this charming little outfit. Owner Sean Gwee is passionate about the purity, consistency and flavour of his beloved artisanal pies and tarts. Each one is created with love and precision, from the measured thinness of the piecrust to the bursting goodness of the vodka jello-bits (the star ingredient of their Lime Vodka pie!).
Recommended: The Lime Vodka or Lemon Strawberry Pie. Oh forget it – get a slice of each one (you can have it to go too – in the most cunning takeaway pie box ever created!).
Windowsill In The Woods
79 Horne Road, Singapore 209078
Fresh from their successful venture at Changi Airport’s T3, Butter Studio has set up shop in Jalan Besar, rubbing shoulders with hardware stores, hawker corners and ahem, shops with a slightly more nocturnal beat. No matter; owner-proprietor Shannon Lua’s warm personality is as sunshiny as her buttery cakes. Her shop – so named in memory of her childhood mornings waking up to baked smells emanating from her kitchen – was her husband’s grandfather’s photo studio, so you still see vintage lights decorating the space.
Recommended: Their special nights that feature dance, drama groups and sharing from women! Besides everything’s better with cake.
147 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208865
Sharing a space with the three-star Aqueen Hotel hasn’t dampened the spirit of this ambitious little bistro, which has the aim of “(re)fining dining”. A lovely little place for some peaceful dining, expect to find truffled starters and “hazelnut soil” on your plate. Still, it’s quite comfy on the pocket for a chef who trained with big local culinary names like Saint Pierre and Restaurant Andre, so it’s definitely worth a looksee.
139 Lavender Street, Aqueen Lavendar Hotel Level 1, Singapore 338739
Tel: 6395 7782
While it may not be in Jalan Besar proper, Ture is definitely in the neighbourhood, located just across from Lavender MRT (it’s only a brisk 5 minute walk away). Ture is a hub of sorts, its name a suffix and reference to all things ending with “ture” — think nature, culture, adventure — you get the picture (pun intended!). There’s Loysel’s Toy on the ground floor for caffeine fiends, while Ukulele Movement has you sorted for some ukulele lessons.
66 Kampung Bugis, Singapore 427072
Top image sourced via Flickr by Kifo