Monday, 4 January 2021

The best experiences in Singapore’s Holland Village neighbourhood

Known for its plethora of dining establishments, iconic black-and-white low-rise apartments, speciality stores and overall community vibe, the neighbourhood of Holland Village is a leafy and laid-back enclave in the south-central part of Singapore. Established in the early 1900s by the local Dutch community, the district was formerly home to various nurseries, plantations and colonial estates and functioned as a housing area for British Army personnel and their families. It derives its moniker from the nearby Holland Road, which was named after the architect and actor Hugh Holland who once lived in the area.

Over the years, an increasing number of creatives have set up shop here, including fashion labels Ong Shunmugam and Our Second Nature as well as leather goods atelier Bynd Artisan. The district is also particularly known for its sheer range of F&B options, which run the gamut from cosy Italian joints and quaint bakeries selling fresh pastries to casual watering holes and al fresco Mexican restaurants. Indeed, Holland Village truly comes alive at night, when much of Lor Liput (where many popular restaurants and bars are located) is closed off to traffic; or on weekend afternoons, when the neighbourhood’s residents flock to the cafés at Chip Bee Gardens for a spot of lazy late brunch or relaxing afternoon tea. Here’s our guide to experiencing the best of this charming enclave.

Little Farms keeps the community fuelled with fresh produce

Healthy and delicious groceries at Little Farms

For fresh and colourful produce, healthy snacks to stock your pantry and all-natural artisanal treats, make your way to Little Farms at Holland Piazza. The popular neighbourhood grocery store aims to build and inspire a happier and healthier community by facilitating wholesome and nutritious food choices. Indeed, Little Farms is known for its impressive range of organic, all-natural, gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based and keto-friendly products, which are sourced from top independent producers around the world. For instance, fruits and vegetables are flown in daily from regions such as Australia and Europe, so you know you’ll be getting high-quality grocery items to nourish you and your loved ones.; +65 6365 2557

roy's master tailoring
Roy’s Master Tailoring brings personalised services to your doorstep

Customised apparel at Roy’s Master Tailoring

Since founding Roy’s Master Tailoring in 1985, Roy Sabnani has been crafting impeccably tailored clothing for ladies and gentlemen, both within Singapore and internationally. After years of operating out of his iconic storefront in Holland Village Shopping Centre, he’s decided to go mobile. Now, instead of having to make your way down to his shop to get fitted for a suit or to alter a pair of pants, you can simply book an appointment and he’ll come to your doorstep (hotel or home). Roy’s Master Tailoring offers tailoring and alteration services for everything from suits and tuxedos to shirts, slacks and skirts. Not sure exactly what you want? Let him know of your preferred colours and he’ll bring a range of swatches for you to choose from.;; +65 9677 6140

chip bee gardens
A verdant stretch at Chip Bee Gardens. Photo credit: Aaron Low

Charming architecture at Chip Bee Gardens

One of the neighbourhood’s key architectural gems is the series of black-and-white apartment buildings at Chip Bee Gardens, which can be found along the verdant Jalan Merah Saga at the quieter end of Holland Village. These low-rise walk-up apartments were constructed around the mid-1960s to house members of the British Armed Forces (and their families) who were stationed in Singapore at the time. While the upper floors of these flats still function as residential units, most ground-floor spaces have been converted into commercial properties that are occupied by fashion boutiques, cafés and independent businesses. Grab a croissant or some ice cream and enjoy it at one of the picnic benches lining the stretch.

Tuck into a healthy acai bowl at Project Acai

Colourful acai bowls and smoothies at Project Acai

For an icy treat to combat the sweltering weather, there’s Project Acai, one of the city-state’s pioneering acai establishments. The brand was founded back in 2015 with the aim to share acai with and offer a wider variety of healthier options to people in Singapore. They first opened in a bright and airy space along Lor Liput in Holland Village, and have since expanded to VivoCity, Katong and Ngee Ann City. Standouts on the menu include the signature Original Flower Bowl (a blended acai base served with topping such as bananas, strawberries, grapes and granola) and the Where My Chocolate Abs? (a smoothie made with organic acai, chocolate oat milk, banana and peanut butter and topped with crunchy raw cacao nibs).;;

Lim’s Holland Village has an extensive collection of vintage-inspired, Asian-style furniture and homewares

Quality furniture at Lim’s Holland Village

With working from home likely to continue in some format in the coming year, why not take the opportunity to spruce up your living space with some new furniture and home accessories? Lim’s Holland Village, a homegrown furniture and homewares boutique, houses all manner of eclectic items that are sure to bring new life into your abode. Pieces are individually sourced from various regions across Southeast Asia, and range from dresser drawers and throw pillows to porcelain items and antique statues. The family business has been operating since 2016, and is committed to preserving and promoting the value of traditional crafts. Besides their Holland Village location, you can also check out their Great World outlet.; +65 6466 3188

holland village food centre
Lunch hour at Holland Village Food Centre. Photo credit: Aaron Low

Cheap eats at Holland Village Food Centre

For affordable hawker fare that tastes delicious as well, head to Holland Village Food Centre, located smack-dab in the middle of the district. The open-air food court is home to a plethora of stalls that dish out delicious local delicacies: from wanton mee (dumpling noodles) and nasi padang (Malay mixed rice) to soya bean milk and freshly squeezed fruit juices. If you’re here in the morning, we recommend heading to the economical fried bee hoon stall, where you can order up a plate of rice vermicelli stacked high with a chicken wing, fried egg, fishballs or other fixings of your choice. Spice-lovers can patronise the mala xiang guo stall to get their fill of assorted ingredients stir-fried in the piquant Sichuan pepper-laced sauce.

Some of the beautifully plated desserts at Sunday Folks

Sweet treats at Sunday Folks

When you’re craving a decadent dessert, there are few things that hit the spot quite like waffles and ice cream. One of the city-state’s top purveyors of this popular dish is Sunday Folks. The spacious dessert parlour is situated along Jalan Merah Saga and offers ample indoor and outdoor seating. Their waffles offer the perfect balance of chewiness and crispiness, while the ice cream is done soft-serve style and comes in flavours such as Earl Grey Lavender, Madagascar Vanilla and Roasted Pistachio, and you can mix and match various base, ice cream and topping combinations to create your desired treat. There’s almost always a long line during peak hours, so we suggest coming in the late afternoon if you don’t fancy waiting around too long.;; +65 6479 9166

A collection of good reads at Thambi. Photo credit: Aaron Low

Magazines and broadsheets at Thambi

While many newsstands have sadly shuttered over the past few years, Thambi is still going strong today. The retailer has been a mainstay in Holland Village for decades, selling international newspapers, hard-to-find independent magazines from the United States, Europe and Australia as well as popular fashion tomes. The stall is currently being run by Sam Thambi, who is the third generation of Thambis involved in the trade: his grandfather used to peddle newspapers to the area’s expatriates back in the day, while his father began importing foreign magazines that appealed to the district’s then-British residents. As can be expected, business hasn’t exactly been easy for them, so do drop by to show your support and pick up a title or two.

Some of these images were shot before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With thanks to our advertisers, Little Farms, Lim’s Holland Village and Roy’s Master Tailoring.

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