INTO THE HEARTLAND – SERANGOON

Hot Hoods | Written By, NOW!Singapore | November 5th, 2015

Singapore is not exactly a large island… but we never fail to be surprised at just how many little neighbourhoods there are. This issue, we headed for the heartlands and toured the district of Serangoon New Town, only to discover far more than we initially bargained for.

The pillars at NEX shopping mall.

The pillars at NEX shopping mall.

Located right between Ang Mo Kio and Hougang, Serangoon New Town sits in the Northeast region of Singapore. As it is roughly split into three separate ‘zones’ (Serangoon Central, Serangoon Gardens and Upper Serangoon), many might shrug this area off as being no more than a ‘residential heartland’, offering little else beyond a few local coffee shops and HDB blocks.

As we discovered, that’s where they would be mistaken. Serangoon is one of the most accessible neighbourhoods on the island and the public bus interchange and two MRT lines (Circle and North East) mean you can get to and from the area in a flash, with no more than a couple of taps of your EZ-link card.

Above the MRT station stands a new retail goliath in the form of NEX shopping mall (23 Serangoon Central), which has everything from a cinema, arcade and pet shop to a medical clinic, 24-hour gym and public library. Global brands fill the shops with favourites like Sephora, Uniqlo, Cotton On, Charles & Keith and H&M, so no matter what you’re looking for, chances are you can find it here.

Breakfast at A for Arbite

Carrot Cake

For something with a more ‘artisanal’ feel, head north and wander along Upper Serangoon Road, the home of many independent shops and cafes. Get your brunch fix at Sunday Market (22 Lim Tua Tow Road) and order their famous Bangkok Toast before browsing their eclectic home deco shop neighbour, Alice In The Wonderland (14 Lim Tua Tow Road). Otherwise, let your nose lead you to the fresh baked goods a little farther down the road at The Bread Table (1010 Upper Serangoon Road). Either pick up a loaf to go or stay a while in their café while tucking into their sandwiches and pizzas.

Breakfast at A for Arbite

Breakfast at A for Arbite

Other delectable treats are not too far away. Deep within the residential streets off Serangoon Avenue 3 lies a small street known as Jalan Riang. This petite little enclave punches above its weight in terms of its dining offerings, with an Australian bistro, Rokeby (15-9 Jalan Riang), a top-notch Louisianan seafood restaurant, The Cajun Kings (15-1 Jalan Riang), and for dessert, a rustic and charming café, Wimbly Lu Chocolates (15-2 Jalan Riang), that puts together a pretty decent waffle as well as plenty of cocoa-centric desserts.

If you’re a little hesitant to get lost amongst the houses, there are plenty of alternatives a little farther south at the much-loved Serangoon Gardens area, which is home to plenty of international offerings from local to Korean, Japanese and even French.

Chicken wings at Chomp Chomp Food Centre.

Chicken wings at Chomp Chomp Food Centre.

Set around a roundabout, this area sees plenty of expats and locals alike and for very good reason. At its epicentre is CHOMP CHOMP Food Centre (20 Kensington Park Road). Constructed of tight alleys filled with hawker stalls serving up everything from national favourites like black carrot cake (stir-fried radish cake in sweet soy sauce), satay and chicken wings, it can feel a little claustrophobic. It is absolutely packed out with diners every night, so expect to stand in line for your food and even your table. When you do come across a free seat, be quick to chope (reserve) it with a customary tissue packet! Regardless of what you choose to order, add on a plate of BBQ or sambal stingray. This sweet, salty and spicy dish is one of the best on the island, especially when paired with a plate of kangkung belacan (stir-fried water spinach). Extinguish the fire on your tongue by washing it down with plenty of fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, served in mammoth-sized mugs that would rival a German beer stein!

Shoppers at myVillage.

Shoppers at myVillage.

If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, head to myVillage (1 Maju Avenue), a shopping centre that is home to Little Wimbly Lu (#01-09/10, myVillage) (the smaller sister outlet of the original café) as well as Relish by Wild Rocket (#02-07/09, myVillage), serving plenty of classic and specialty burgers like their quirky Japanese Curry Chicken Katsu burger and even a Soft Shell Chilli Crab burger. Offering similar fare nearby is A for Arbite (66A Serangoon Garden Way), a hidden little bistro offering up a mix of small and big plates like a Deep-Fried Brie Salad and Asian Spiced Lamb Shank. And for dessert, tuck into Singaporean renditions of European classics like a Gula Melaka Tiramisu or a Horlicks Panna Cotta.

A selection of cheese at La Petit Boutique.

A selection of cheese at La Petit Boutique.

A somewhat surprising discovery in this neighbourhood is the amount of Korean joints that have popped up in recent times. If you’re craving a bit of kimchi and bulgogi, head to Hanwoori Korean Restaurant (76 Serangoon Garden Way) for plenty of hearty mains and of course, infinite banchan (side dishes). Can’t decide on just one dish? Make a beeline for SYNC Korean Tapas Bar (12 Maju Avenue) and get a bite of it all! For dessert, make the trek to Nunsonyee Bingsu Café (45 Burghley Drive). Literally translated as ‘snowflake’ in Korean, this spacious little den booms K-Pop tunes and serves up sweet treats constructed of shaved ice or milk, with seasonal fruits and other toppings like sweet red bean paste, black sesame and even rice cake bites. A little like Singapore’s ice kacang, it’s perfect on a hot day.

Shopfront at Wimbly Lu.

Shopfront at Wimbly Lu.

Beyond these much loved establishments, a personal favourite spot that deserves a mention is La Petite Boutique (4 Kensington Park Road), a quaint French gourmet grocer. Step in and get a good long whiff of their incredible range of pungent international cheeses before browsing their range of wine, beer and their tempting window displays of sweet, buttery croissants and pastries. While they may not be the easiest items to transport in your luggage, our bet is you’ll munch through it all before it comes time to leave.

With so many options, it’s true to say that Serangoon New Town is an international foodie haven. Covering a much larger area than many expect, this neighbourhood is definitely worth a look when planning your next meal out!

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