Feasting in the City

Capitol Piazza is home to eateries such as modern sake bar and restaurant Zaku.
Capitol Piazza is home to eateries such as modern sake bar and restaurant Zaku. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

As the City Hall area comes alive with new dining options, customers are spoilt for choice and F&B players are kept on their toes

The competition is heating up among the food and beverage players that have set up shop in malls around the City Hall area.

A slew of new-to-market brands have opened in the past three months at Capitol Theatre, while Suntec City's refurbishment sees new players entering the scene. New restaurants are still opening at Chijmes, even though its overhaul was completed last year.

Business owners and property experts say the City Hall area not only has a good catchment of tourists staying in the hotels there, but also caters to a strong weekday working crowd and families on weekends.

However, it has been cut-throat competition for eateries there.

Part of Marina Square's revamp was the $15-million food wing, The Dining Edition, which focused restaurants in one area of the mall.


Two years on, Lady M cafe, a New York import that specialises in mille crepes, and Japanese-Italian restaurant Nuvo, both under Caerus Holding Group, have closed. Lady M has outlets at Orchard Central and One Fullerton.

At Suntec City, casualties of its earlier revamp include contemporary Chinese restaurant Le by Paradise Group and Akashi Group's Oushin Japanese Steakhouse.

The mall is still amping up its F&B offerings. Farmers' market PasarBella opens in September and there are new restaurants at its Sky Garden.

PasarBella director Clovis Lim, 26, says: "We chose to open at Suntec City because it's not easy to find a space on the ground floor with a road frontage and high ceilings. Suntec City has a good mix of the office crowd on weekdays and families on weekends. Our prices will also not conflict with the more upmarket brands in the mall."

It is business as usual at the flagship PasarBella at The Grandstand, and he adds that the 30,000 sq ft market is adding an extra 13,000 sq ft of space in the coming months.

Even underground mall CityLink, which connects Suntec City to the other malls, has not been spared.

Sandwich shop Quiznos and ice- cream parlour Cold Stone Creamery closed in December, while coffee joint Dr Cafe Coffee's last day is Wednesday.

But foodies can look forward to the opening of popular dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan and The Rotisserie Express there.

Food companies which have outlets in more than one mall say it is important to understand the different customer profiles.

Ms Joyce Koh, BreadTalk Group's senior vice-president of brand development, says: "For example, at CityLink, where the traffic is transient and fast-moving, our BreadTalk store appeals very much to commuters on the go, who look for fuss-free takeaway options.

"At Capitol Piazza, the audience is discerning and in search of new experiences. Our new brands, Palette and 1933, are designed to give this target audience dining experiences that they would not find elsewhere."

Palette Restaurant & Bar houses food operators from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, while 1933 cafe serves dishes from South- east Asian countries.

Mr Eugene Lim, key executive officer for real estate agency ERA Realty Network, says older malls such as Marina Square, Raffles City and Suntec City require sprucing up occasionally.

He says: "In an effort to reposition itself, Marina Square has become a more F&B-centric mall. The F&B shops are clustered to make it convenient for shoppers looking for a place to eat."

He adds that prime rental rates in the City Hall area are lower than those in Orchard Road and comparable with those in suburban malls, making the area relatively attractive to business owners.

With the rise of the area as a dining destination, Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia at property services firm CBRE, says that restaurants in Orchard Road would also be affected by the competition.

He says: "Restaurants in the Orchard Road belt are under more pressure because they face higher rental, but people are diverted to areas such as City Hall and suburban malls.

"You need a captive crowd and that is what the City Hall area has - tourists and the working crowd. More landlords are using F&B to attract crowds because people are meeting to eat."

Senior retail adviser Melanie Lim, 42, who likes to shop and dine in the City Hall area, says: "I prefer coming here because I find it is less crowded than Orchard Road, and the malls are all connected underground.

"I like that there are many new places to dine at in Capitol. Maybe now that there are so many dining options, the malls will also spruce up their retail offerings."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline 'Feasting in the City'. Print Edition | Subscribe