There are those who think Singapore begins at Marina Bay and ends at the Sentosa beachfront. But while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with giant light-up trees or cable cars, those people are wrong. The Lion City may be petite, but it’s far from pocket-size and packs a cultural punch that’s well above its weight.
Why not take the weekend to look beyond the obvious and savor the city’s quirk?
Dinner: Sell the Farm
A restaurant with a focus on homegrown produce is far from what you’d expect in Singapore, Earth’s third-most densely populated nation. Feast on local fare, from Jurong frog legs to spring chickens at Open Farm Community, an eatery that puts the focus on farmers with locally sourced ingredients and its own edible garden.
Drinks: Get Ants in Your … Cocktails
Staying with the locavore vibe, head into town to Native, where Vijay Mudaliar majors in Asian ingredients — from Thai whiskey to ants foraged from the streets of Singapore. From rotary evaporator to liquid nitrogen, high-tech trickery abounds.
Craving more of a speakeasy vibe? Make your way to The Other Room, tucked inside the Marriott Singapore Tang Plaza. Look for the “secret” door in the hotel lobby and give it a knock. You will most definitely not find a back office. Instead, you’ll enter a world where cocktails feature in-house finished liquors, and are expertly mixed with all manner of quirky ingredients: from spices and roots, to teas, herbs and even wood.
Morning: Crawl the Walls
For fresh eyes on the technicolor gem that is Little India, structure your stroll with some street art. Start with the funky cows at exit E of Little India MRT station. Then snap the crazy bus on Baboo Lane, stroll past the Bollywood murals on Hindoo Road, and savor U.S. artist EL MAC’s work on Rowell Road.
Lunch: Thank God for Biryani
For an upgrade from the stalwart flaky prata bread and dal, opt for the surprisingly dry — and 1,000 percent delicious — biryanis at Bismillah Biryani. The ingredients are cooked together for a lighter affair than the versions you’ll find down Mustafa Centre way.
Afternoon: Bliss Out in the Boutiques
Step away from the city’s Orchard Road malls for a moment and head to Haji Lane, where you’ll discover more than candy-colored shophouses. Shop indie mags and interior treats at Mondays Off, get your K-fashion fix at Tangers, or stock up on teeny-tiny retro fashion at Moodswings Vintage.
Dinner: Go Beyond the Barbecue
Make like Asia’s finest chefs and head to Burnt Ends, which centers around a 4-ton beast of a kiln. Between the ovens and the grills, chef (and owner) Dave Pynt works the heat to bring out secret flavors in ingredients from langoustines to fennel.
Drinks: Sip Singapore
Yes, yes, there are cocktails more Singaporean than ye olde Singapore Sling. Slurp ’em up at Nutmeg & Clove, which reinvents the classics with a Singapore spin— and oodles of spices and herbs.
Morning: Journey into the Underworld
Ever wondered what a theme park looked like in old-time Singapore? Wonder no more as you wander among the 1,000-odd statues that litter Haw Par Villa. The self-proclaimed cultural park and outdoor art gallery is the brainchild of the brothers who invented Tiger Balm. The park’s 10 Courts of Hell are 1937’s answer to the movie “Saw.”
Lunch: Say Chin Chin at Tian Tian
Before Liao Fan noodles won their Michelin star, there was Tian Tian Chicken Rice, purveyors of Singapore’s quintessential comfort food to the stars (and everyone else). Follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain and pop down to Maxwell Food Court for succulent chicken and fragrant rice.
Afternoon: Explore a Living Museum
Book ahead with owner Peter Wee (+65 6345 8544) to tour his private home, the Katong Antique House. Delve among handmade shoes and vintage portraits into the vanished world of the Chinese-Malay Peranakan people. Still have time before your flight? Unleash your inner child with a sandcastle session at Castle Beach.