Thursday, 8 April 2021

A great day in Singapore: April 2021 edition

Watch: Here’s how you can spend April in Singapore. Credit: Produced by SilverKris

Given that international leisure travel has been put on hold for the time being, there’s no better time than now for residents of Singapore to get out and rediscover their own backyard. In this series, we have put together a timely, varied and action-packed monthly guide to having the perfect day in the Lion City.

The places on this sprawling list offer something for everyone: spanning various sights and attractions, from nature trails and foodie gems to fun workshops and swish watering holes. While those who are feeling particularly ambitious can aim to follow the itinerary to a tee, you can also pick and choose your spots as you wish.

This April, join us on a springtime exploration of Singapore, complete with traipsing around the Singapore Botanic Garden’s newest extension, indulging in sumptuous alfresco dining and picking up fresh skills through a flower-arrangement workshop.

Begin your morning with a spot of breakfast at Micro Bakery & Kitchen at Serene Centre. The popular hole-in-the-wall bakery doles out amazing sourdough offerings and colourful breakfast plates that can be enjoyed while soaking up the sunshine in its outdoor patio area. Try the fluffy scrambled eggs on sourdough toast; signature House Ricotta Tartine with creamy house-made ricotta, roasted tomatoes, basil and fresh greens; or Grilled Cheese Sandwich that’s crafted with three types of cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella and brie) and served with sauerkraut and a dollop of zesty tomato jam. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, you can top up your main with a coffee and cinnamon roll.

Follow your meal – and get your blood pumping – with a brisk walk over to the new Gallop Extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Opened just last month, the eight-hectare addition consists of two conserved colonial-era buildings that have been transformed into an art gallery; discovery centre that showcases the country’s forest ecosystems; and play yard for kids that encourages children to connect with nature. Those who want to work up a sweat can explore the Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge: a steep series of steps and connected hiking trail where you can catch a glimpse of endangered plant species such as the Spike Oak (Lithocarpus elegans) and Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis).

Diners having lunch at the gorgeous Hathaway

The nature theme continues with lunch at the forested Dempsey Hill area, accessible from the Gallop Extension via a quick cab ride. Pop into Hathaway to savour Modern Asian cuisine in a tranquil setting, complete with large windows, brass accents, terrazzo counters and warm wooden and rattan furniture. The menu features playful takes on local cuisine that come deftly plated like culinary works of art. Try the Pengat Pisang French Toast (caramelised bananas stewed in coconut milk, ice cream, assorted berries and brioche French toast) or opt for the hearty Octopus Bakar & Sambal Udang (smoky grilled octopus, sambal king prawns and charred polenta served with a refreshing coriander lime relish).

Alternatively, if you’re feeling Modern European cuisine with an Asian twist, you can check out recent arrival Moonbow, also at Dempsey. Helmed by chef Heman Tan (fun fact: he’s also a ceramicist and triathlete), the restaurant serves set lunches on weekdays and a special brunch selection on weekends, on top of a regular a la carte menu. On the latter you’ll find gems such as the Wagyu Carpaccio, comprised of gently seared beef slices served with purple mustard and truffle shoyu; the Cauliflower Bloom, which features seemingly endless renditions of the coniferous vegetable (in the form of warm florets, pearly cous cous, as a purée and dehydrated); and the Crème Brûlée Cempedak that’s accompanied by a fruity compote.

After lunch, why not try your hand at a floral-arrangement workshop? You’ll get to learn a nifty new skill, plus have a lovely bunch of blooms to take home with you when you’re done. There are a number of establishments and academies offering workshops in the city-state, including Charlotte Puxley Flowers at Outram Road. Classes on offer here include putting together a spring-inspired bouquet with green foliages and wild flowers, as well as creating your very own vase arrangement using either fresh or dried blooms.

Other great options include Poppy Flora Studio, Ask A French and June Floral Art School. The latter offers a range of courses to suit everyone from beginners with no previous floristry experience to those who get hooked and are after higher-level certification training. If you’re interested, you may book a single trial class, where you’ll learn how to construct a simple and sweet floral arrangement.

Take a break and head back to the greenery-filled Duxton Hill, where you can indulge in a sweet treat at Flor Patisserie. The bakery specialises in fluffy, pastel-hued Japanese-style French pastry: think mille feuille slices, airy chiffon cakes, petite financiers and delicate tarts. If it’s available, we recommend going for the Sophie: a tart with almond cream filling, fruit jam and alcohol-soaked grapefruit pieces; or the Opera Pistache, a decadent layer cake with chocolate ganache and pistachio buttercream.

For a caffeine jolt, make your way over to Parallel Coffee Roasters located just across the street. The popular café is known for being one of the best (and most reasonably priced) places in the CBD to grab a cup of specialty coffee – indeed, it was founded in 2017 by two brothers who couldn’t find a good cup of joe in Singapore for less than S$5. You’ll find the requisite espresso-based beverages, which you can get black or served with dairy, oat or soy milk. We highly recommend the velvety cold brew coffee with oat milk or the fizzy-fresh espresso and Fever Tree tonic, both of which will keep you going for the rest of the afternoon.

The Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay is a perennial favourite for flower-gazers, and with good reason. The striking indoor conservatory houses all manner of plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions, and is where you can find novel species such as the African Baobab, Wooly Cactus and Pomegranate Tree.

If you visit on or before 11 April, you can check out this year’s edition of Sakura Featuring Hello Kitty. Whether or not you’re a fan of the cartoon character, chances are you’ll appreciate getting to witness cherry blossoms and peach blossoms in bloom – especially since none of us are hopping on a plane bound for Japan anytime soon. Wander through the traditional torii gates and explore a gorgeous springtime flower display, complete with an appearance by Hello Kitty herself. If you use your imagination, you can almost pretend that you’re actually in Japan.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and safe-distancing restrictions, there has been a clutch of notable new restaurant openings in Singapore worth highlighting: including Clos Pasoh, which doles out classic French bistro fare in a tropical-chic space (think indoor plants, rattan-backed chairs courtesy of Ong Shunmugam, marble tables and rich dark-green furnishings). The establishment along Bukit Pasoh Road is helmed by chef Louis Pacquelin, formerly of the now-defunct BBR by Alain Ducasse and, as expected, the food here is prepared with the same consideration and measured flair. We recommend the Trippes et Caviar (braised and fried beef tripe and caviar in Noilly-Prat sauce) and Bisque Coco-Homard (delicate steamed lobster dumplings in a coconut and lobster bisque). Finish with the Mont Blanc, a unique chestnut dessert served with blackcurrant.

Another fresh face is acclaimed chef Rishi Naleendra’s Sri Lankan restaurant, Kotuwa. Paying homage to Naleendra’s heritage, Kotuwa’s offerings feature plenty of colourful, flavourful and soulful dishes that won’t burn a hole in your wallet (unlike, say, a meal at Naleendra’s other ventures, Cheek Bistro and Cloudstreet). Begin with starters such as panko-crumbed spiced mutton rolls, Sri Lankan-style crab cutlet served with spiced crab meat brandade and the street-food classic Polos Kottu (chopped up rotti with jackfruit, vegetables, egg and gravy). For mains, we like the Poricha Erachi, which consist of fried beef cheek in sweet tamarind, chilli and lime; and the Yellow Curry of Sea Bass, in which a crispy fillet is served with a rich coconut gravy. Be sure to order some tangy sambols and fluffy hoppers to complete your meal.

Cap off your night by heading down to one of Singapore’s top gin bars to sample different variations of spring’s refreshing spirit of choice, with flavour profiles that run the gamut from floral and citrusy to spicy and herbaceous. Those who dined at Clos Pasoh can take a short walk over to Oasia Hotel Downtown’s resident watering hole, Cin Cin. Besides a recently refreshed signature cocktail menu, you’ll also find over 500 artisanal gin labels that you can order as single servings accompanied by either East Imperial or Double Dutch tonic.

Try the innovative Gin-Tea-Ni, which is made with Brass Lion Distillery gin infused with White Gingerlily tea, Aperol, Mancino Secco and ginger cognac from Hedonist. Those after something a bit stiffer can opt for the Cin Cin-exclusive Kyrö Helsingin that’s made from 100% Finnish whole-grain rye and features over 20 handpicked Finnish botanicals such as pineapple weed and meadowsweet. Pro tip: you can top up S$5++ to get an additional 15ml of gin added to the regular 45ml serving.

If you’ve picked Kotuwa as your dinner venue, venture over to the nearby ATLAS at Parkview Square. Its gilded Art Deco interior – complete with jewel-toned velvet upholstery, leather seats and gold accents – makes for an elegant end to the evening. Peruse their gin menu for your poison of choice: there are over 1,300 variations in total, so try your best not to get overwhelmed.

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

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

SEE ALSO: Hidden speakeasy-style restaurants and bars in Singapore to uncover

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