With its artisanal coffee houses, numerous dining spots and lively atmosphere, Keong Saik Road has developed from a notorious red-light district to become one of Singapore’s hottest lifestyle destinations.

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

When one thinks of Keong Saik Road, the images that usually come to mind are cool bars, amazing restaurants, hipster cafés and trendy boutique hotels. Not many would believe what this picturesque area, with its colourful two and three-storey shophouses, was like a few decades ago.

Before 1926, Keong Saik Road was an unnamed residential street where wholesalers of charcoal and groceries stood side-by-side with coffee shops and incense retailers. The road was later named after Tan Keong Saik, a prominent businessman and community leader, in 1926.

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Later in the century during the 1960s, Keong Saik Road evolved into a red-light area with many brothels housed in the three-storey shophouses that line both sides of the street. The clean-up of the Keong Saik area only started after Singapore’s independence in 1965, and by the 1980s, most of the brothels had moved out of the area. During the early 1990s, Keong Saik Road was given conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), together with neighbouring streets like Bukit Pasoh and Cantonment Road.

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

During that time, the URA also put up several old shophouses for auction so that they would be conserved and modified for commercial use. Since then, the streets more salubrious tenants have been replaced with a growing number of high end establishments and it now offers an eclectic selection of boutique hotels, restaurants, offices and cocktail bars. With its gorgeous architecture – like many designated conservation areas – it presents an intriguing blend of past and present, which should definitely be explored. Old Chinese and Hindu temples, traditional coffee shops and hawker stands sit alongside new age cafes, chic restaurants and some of the city’s more charismatic small hotels.

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

The restaurants, bars, and cafes along Keong Saik offer a multitude of dining options ranging from Malay and Chinese to Mexican and Caribbean, and everything else in between.
Housed in the most iconic building in Keong Saik – at the former Tong Ah Kopitiam – Potato Head Folk (36 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6327 1939, pttheadfolk.com) is the first international venture for the creative Jakarta-based Potato Head restaurant and lifestyle group. With its four-in-one dining concept, diners can choose either to indulge in gourmet burgers at Three Buns – located on level one and two – or head up to the third level and enjoy a few cocktails at the artsy cocktail club – Studio 1939. There is also a bar on the building’s lovely open-air rooftop. Touted as a meat lovers’ haven, the modern Australian barbeque, Burnt Ends (20 Teck Lim Road, tel: 6224 3933, burntends.com.sg) is located just off Keong Saik Road on Teck Lim Road.

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Keong Saik

Images by Justin Eeles

Part owned by Chef Andre Chiang (of award-winning Restaurant Andre on Bukit Pasoh nearby) and hoteliers Mavis Oei and Loh Lik Peng, Burt Ends was one the first restaurants that really sparked the foodie revolution on Keong Saik (alongside the opening of Jason Atherton’s Esquina, also part-owned owned by Loh Lik Peng.) The speciality here is their extensive selection of delicious meats, cooked in scorching ovens that can go up to 700 degrees Celsius. The menu at Burnt Ends is seasonal – some of our past favourites include the Pork Tomahawk, Apple and Bourbon Glaze, the Rump Cap Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow, the Alfonsino Red Bream and the King Crab and Garlic. Other must-try dishes include the Pulled Pork Burger on Brioche, the Smoked Quail Egg and Caviar, and the Oven-roasted Fennel.

Opened by chef-owner Andrew Walsh, previously the head chef at Jason Atherton’s Esquina around the corner, Cure (21 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6221 2189, curesingapore.com) offers affordable yet exquisite monthly tasting menus that put the spotlight on seasonal ingredients. Seating just 40 guests, including a Chef’s Table, this intimate restaurant is popular for both the three-course lunch menu, priced at $75++ and the five-course dinner tasting menu at $115++. A seven-course ‘Chef’s Table’ tasting menu is also available at $150++. For March, this gastronomic journey included dishes like Scallop Sashimi, Venison Dumpling, Foie Gras Brûlée, Warm Crab Salad, Flame Grilled Mackerel and Lamb Loin with BBQ Belly, rounded off with Cure Chocolate and Orange. Also part of the Jason Atherton/Loh Lik Peng empire of local eateries, The Study (49 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6221 8338, the-study.sg) compliments the speakeasy The Library at the same location. Diners can expect a creative take on British dishes from Chef Danial, such as an Iberico Pork Scotch Egg, Grilled Mackerel with Gooseberry and Red Cabbage and White Chocolate Cranberry Bread and Butter Pudding. Pop in for one of their affordable set lunches between Tuesday and Friday, offering a two-course menu at $25++ and a three-course menu at $30++. Wash it all down with their selection of delicious cocktails, craft beers or fine wines.

Opened by Sydney’s Luxe Brand, LUXE (1 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6221 5615, luxesydney.sg) offers contemporary Australian fare with subtle Asian touches. Helmed by chef Chui Lee Luk, who’s had experience working with Australian chef Kylie Kwong, highlights from the menu include the pork sausage roll with fennel salad, the handmade buffalo mozzarella ravioli and the Luxe Burger, comprising a perfectly-cooked grass-fed beef patty topped with melted cheese and spicy mayo. Singapore’s first Caribbean restaurant, Lime House (2 Jiak Chuan Road, tel: 6222 3130, limehouse.asia) is located along the same stretch as Esquina, just off Keong Saik Road. Opened by Trinidadian Chris Morris, this bar/restaurant offers an array of Caribbean classics such as Jerk Beef Carpaccio, Caribbean Fish Cakes, Jerk Chicken and Red Snapper Escovitch. This casual three-story establishment also houses a dedicated rum bar, an outdoor garden bar and a new breezy rooftop lounge. For those seeking something potent, the ‘Zombie,’ comprising four types of rum, tropical liquers, fresh lime and fruit, is a must-try cocktail. Also located on Jiak Chuan, The Cufflink Club (6 Jiak Chuan, thecufflinkclub.com) is a stylish cocktail bar that was opened by British mixologist Joel Fraser in 2012. At the time there were very few high-end nightlife opportunities available in the area so what could have been seen as a gamble on a quiet street has definitely paid off! Whether you pop in for an aperitif before dinner or a nightcap on the way home, this popular bar is guaranteed to serve some of the best cocktails in the city. We love it for the great drinks and bar snacks and the quirky Alan Partridge radio broadcasts in the toilets.
The perfect place for a quick-fix lunch, Muchachos (22 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6220 0458, muchachos.sg) dishes out some of the best burritos on the island. Here diners get to put together their ideal burrito from a selection of proteins, such as grilled chicken, pork, beef, and lamb, and they get to pick toppings like assorted greens, guacamole and Monterey Jack cheese. Treat yourself to a bottle of craft beer or a glass of wine while you enjoy your burrito bliss.
Designed like an underground bar, Neon Pigeon (1 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6222 3623, neonpigeonsg.com) is a modern izakaya offering Japanese-inspired sharing plates such as Tokyo Hummus, Chilled Cucumber, Tuna Tartare and much more. Must-try dishes here include their Hamachi Crudo, with Grapefruit, Pomelo, Fried Shallot and Shiso, and their Pan Roasted Grouper, with Sweet Potato Puree, Sesame Soy and Wakame. Don’t miss their House Smoked Bacon Rice, with Crispy Pork Skin, Spring Onion and Egg Yolk. On the drinks front, the establishment offers a wide range of cocktails, sake and Japanese beers and whiskies. Other restaurants and bars worth checking out here include Lollapalooza, Bread & Hearth, Esquina, Restaurant Ember, Afterglow, Taratata Bistrot, Meta and Five Nines (see our reviews).

While Keong Saik Road seems to be an area that has it all, offering a wide variety of dining and lifestyle options, it is set for more buzz in 2016. In March, the area was transformed into a hive of activity with interactive installations, art performances and creative workshops. Titled Urban Ventures @ Keong Saik Road (urbanventures.peatix.com), the event is part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Streets for People programme, aimed to open up the road for the public to enjoy, providing a more human, playful and friendly face to the city. Activities and events for this ongoing programme include music performances curated by Getai Group, yoga classes conducted by Yoga Movement, as well as art installations and video art by local emerging artists from LASALLE College of the Arts. The project is strictly non-commercial and will comprise a series of ongoing monthly road closure events held in April and May. This will see Keong Saik Road transformed into a platform for arts and culture, another great reason to explore this historical neighbourhood.

Visitors looking for a place to stay within the area have a good choice of boutique hotels to choose from including :
Hotel 1929
50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154
T : (+65) 6347 1929

Dorsett Hotel
333 New Bridge Road, Singapore 088765
T : (+65) 6678 8333

Naumi Liora
55 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089158
T : (+65) 6403 6003

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  Michelle Yee

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