New food offerings in the CBD

A slew of new restaurants at new and existing complexes has beefed up the food options in the Central Business District

The Central Business District (CBD) is not just Singapore's financial hub, it is also a bustling food haven.

Food and beverage businesses cater to busy executives and office workers grabbing a sandwich for breakfast, chowing down on poke and salad bowls for lunch, and kicking back with colleagues for after- work drinks and dinner - not to mention the multiple coffee runs throughout the day for a caffeine boost.

And recent F&B openings continue to whet the appetite.

A slew of food options has opened up in the new Tanjong Pagar Centre at Tanjong Pagar MRT station. These include Spanish restaurant Pura Brasa, ramen chain Ippudo and gastropub Starker Signature.

A stone's throw away at Downtown Gallery, which is part of new integrated development OUE Downtown, there are more choices. F&B concepts make up 30 per cent of the tenant mix there. These include Lunar Coffee Brewers and Vietnamese restaurant Pho Stop.

Ms Patrina Tan, senior vicepresident of retail, marketing and leasing of OUE Limited, wants OUE Downtown to be a "seamless communal ecosystem".

The management is looking to boost traffic on weekends, when the CBD typically gets very quiet, with themed pop-up events called The Gallery Experiences. This weekend's theme is fitness.

At Tanjong Pagar Centre, 70 per cent of the tenants are F&B, catering to the estimated 30,000 people working or living in the surrounding area, says Ms Valerie Wong, 46, GuocoLand Singapore's general manager, commercial.

She adds: "Foot traffic has been encouraging so far with month-on- month growth since we opened the retail element of Tanjong Pagar Centre in November last year. On average, 1.7 million people have visited the development every month."

The street-level Urban Park, Wallich Residence and Sofitel Singapore City Centre hotel will also open there in the second half of this year.

Closer to Raffles Place MRT station, the recently refurbished GSH Plaza has also introduced more food options, such as chic cafe Mo-ii and Hantol Korean Restaurant.

Likewise, One Raffles Place is adding more food outlets, including a Food Junction foodcourt.

Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South- east Asia at property services company CBRE, says the CBD is a good area to introduce new food concepts because of the catchment of affluent, well-travelled diners.

He says: "What may be more challenging is that you have limited seating and time to turn around tables. Business at dinner can be tough, too. There has been a lot of push for work, live and play in the CBD, but it hasn't been naturalised yet.

"New concepts will always draw people, such as Venue by Sebastian restaurant at Downtown Gallery, which has created a huge buzz. But one must always look to evolve and revise concepts if necessary. After all, many have opened and many have closed, too."

Business development manager Timothy Loke, 33, who works in the Tanjong Pagar area, is slowly ticking new restaurants off his growing list of CBD eateries to try.

So far, some of the places he has dined at are Kuro Maguro restaurant at Tanjong Pagar Centre and Chen's Mapo Tofu at Downtown Gallery.

He says: "We're really spoilt for choice now and my friends who don't work in the CBD are coming here to eat with me. It's been fun checking out a new place every week.

"I'm also looking forward to the opening of hipster cafe Omotesando Koffee at Downtown Gallery."

•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ


Tanjong Pagar Centre


Spanish omelette with chorizo and aioli from Pura Brasa. ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

Where: 1 Wallich Street

Info: tanjongpagarcentre.com.sg

With 70 per cent of the retail space set aside for food and beverage outlets, one is certainly spoilt for choice at Tanjong Pagar Centre.

The latest openings include the first branch of Pura Brasa (01-16, tel: 6386-9678) from Barcelona; the ninth outlet of ramen chain Ippudo (01-15, www.facebook.com/ippudosg); and My Banh Mi Saigon (B2-23, www.facebook.com/MyBanhMiSingapore), a banh mi grab-and-go brand set up by Frank Chinn, father of celebrity chef and television presenter Bobby Chinn.

The one-week-old Pura Brasa specialises in dishes cooked in the Josper grill. Highlights include Spanish omelette with chorizo and aioli ($15), grilled octopus on mashed potatoes and red pepper ($33); wagyu tomahawk steak ($18 for 100g); and charcoal seafood paella ($28).


Spicy Black, a seasonal ramen creation from Ippudo that is inspired by bak kut teh and features a housemade miso paste. PHOTO: IPPUDO

At Ippudo, exclusive side dishes for the Tanjong Pagar Centre outlet are the aburi beef sushi with ikura ($18); teppan chashu hamburg topped with raw egg yolk ($15); and salmon katsu ($18).

Three seasonal ramen creations have returned - Spicy Black (S$19), inspired by Singapore's bak kut teh and featuring a housemade miso paste; Chuka Soba ($16) with pork belly and loin in chicken broth; and Hakata Niku Soba (S$17), which showcases Hakata-style noodles served in a rich, blended broth with thin slices of pork belly.


Roasted pork banh mi from My Banh Mi Saigon. PHOTO: MY BANH MI SAIGON

My Banh Mi Saigon offers a small selection of signature banh mi with lemongrass chicken ($7.50) and roasted pork ($7.50), as well as bun thit nuong (Vietnamese cold rice- vermicelli noodle dish topped with pork, $8.50).

Another new opening last week is Babuxiaomi (B2-30), a casual eatery that specialises in Yunnan- style rice vermicelli and rice bowls. Prices start at $9.80 for spicy pork rib mixian and $8 for braised pork rice.

These new players join the likes of early birds, such as Hattendo (01-05, www.facebook.com/HattendoSingapore), known for its Japanese cream buns; tuna specialist Kuro Maguro (01-04, www.facebook.com/KuroMaguroMD); cupcake store Lamb Cupcakery (B1-09, www.facebook.com/lambcupcake-rysg); and Makai Poke (B1-08, www.facebook.com/makaipokesg), which serves popular poke bowls.

Adding to the smorgasbord of food options are the 116-seat Blue Lotus Chinese Grill House & Bar (01-13) and tapas bar Shard (01-12).

Pura Brasa Singapore's director Dane Lim, 48, says: "We were looking for a space in the Central Business District and it's great that we have a standalone space at Tanjong Pagar Centre. Our food is not the usual traditional Spanish food and we want to cater to locals and expatriates alike."


Downtown Gallery


Patisserie G’s owner Gwen Lim with white chocolatecovered cranberries, part of her new range of chocolates. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Where: 6A Shenton Way

Info: downtowngallery.com.sg

Since last month, a slew of eateries have opened at the new Downtown Gallery, which is part of integrated development OUE Downtown, comprising serviced residences and retail and office space.

The food options kicked off with the bustling Venue by Sebastian (01-02, tel: 6904-9688), which marked the return of Sebastian Ng, 42, chef of the defunct Ember restaurant, to the food and beverage scene.

Other casual restaurants that have opened include Express by Chatterbox (01-04, tel: 6220-0758), an offshoot of the cafe at Mandarin Orchard Singapore known for chicken rice; Chen's Mapo Tofu (02-29, tel: 6221-3206), a spin-off concept championing the two- Michelin-starred restaurant Shisen Hanten's signature mapo tofu dish; and Vietnamese eatery Pho Stop (02-28, www.facebook.com/PhoStop), previously in Tanjong Pagar Road. Express by Chatterbox's signature chicken rice is priced at $8, while Chen's mapo don costs $8.80. At Pho Stop, prices start at $10 for a bowl of chicken or beef pho.

Among the concepts expanding to the Central Business District (CBD) are Lunar Coffee Brewers (01-49, www.facebook.com/lunarcoffee-brewers), which is by Atlas Coffeehouse founder Daphne Goh, 26; and Patisserie G (01-30, www.facebook.com/PatisserieG), known for its delicious cakes, sandwiches and galettes.

The menu at the one-week-old Lunar Coffee Brewers includes food such as lu rou (braised pork belly) don ($14.50), beef rendang don ($16) and miso-nori salmon soba ($14.50). For dessert, try the Earl Grey or Milk Way soft serve ($5.90 each). The latter is made with the cafe's milk cold-brew coffee.

Patisserie G's owner Gwen Lim, 43, will launch a new range of chocolates, with flavours such as Sichuan Peppercorn and Roasted Melon Seed, and a menu that pairs sake with desserts on July 15. To cater to busy office workers, she offers pour-over coffees made with the automated Poursteady machine.


Saybons’ beetroot beef risotto. PHOTO: SAYBONS

Saybons (01-24) sports the brand's new look and menu designed to mark its 10th anniversary. Besides its popular soups and a D.I.Y. salad bar, there is also a range of risotto, such as beetroot beef risotto ($17.90) and tomato salmon fillet risotto ($14.90).

More openings are in the pipeline, including a 15,000 sq ft farmer's market by The Providore (B1-07 to B1-17); the highly anticipated Japanese cafe Omotesando Koffee (04-09); The Whisky Distillery (01-11); and Food Anatomy (01-44), which serves food in cubes.

On opening in the CBD, Lunar Coffee Brewers' Ms Goh says: "We decided to challenge ourselves to try something different and appeal to a new crowd. Our customers here are mostly working adults looking for a satisfying cup of coffee. Speed, consistency and customer interaction are vital here."


One Raffles Place


Familiar brands such as Jewel Coffee and Twelve Cupcakes are opening at One Raffles Place. Food Junction will also open a foodcourt. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Where: 1 Raffles Place

Info: www.onerafflesplace.com.sg

Even though One Raffles Place has been plagued by retail woes recently, with a number of shop tenants closing or moving out, the mall is continuing to beef up its food options.

Next month, familiar brands opening there will include artisan coffee chain Jewel Coffee and cupcake chain Twelve Cupcakes, alongside salad shop Happy Tummy (www.facebook.com/happytummysg) and Parallel, a new concept by Ho-Jiak that sells acai bowls and coffee.

Food Junction will also open a foodcourt in the mall on June 27.

Popular salad shop The Daily Cut (B1-31) is undergoing renovation.

They add to existing tenants, such as Scandinavian deli Smor (B1-23, www.facebook.com/smor.sg), pho shop Ngon (B1-17, www.facebook.com/ngonsingapore) and Wheat Baumkuchen (B1-32, www.facebook.com/wheatbaum).

Wheat Baumkuchen specialises in soba and brown-rice dishes. Diners can also customise their salad bowls (from $10).

The chain started at One Raffles Place in 2012. Now, it has four more outlets in the Central Business District (CBD) - at Asia Square, Republic Plaza, Raffles Place MRT and International Plaza. There is one more outlet at Raffles City Shopping Centre and a seventh will open at integrated development Marina One.

Despite having many outlets in the CBD, Ms Lilian Lee, 46, Wheat Baumkuchen's managing director, is cautious about business there.

She says: "It is difficult to survive in the CBD as there is very little weekend business, which can contribute to a substantial percentage of sales.

"So most restaurants do not open as sales will not be able to cover cost.

"Not all eateries do well, which results in closures."


GSH Plaza

Where: 20 Cecil Street

Info: www.gshplaza.com

After a recent refurbishment, GSH Plaza, formerly known as Equity Plaza, now boasts two floors of retail space with a selection of food and beverage options.

These include new entrant, minimalist cafe Mo-ii (say moh yee, 01-07, www.facebook.com/moii.singapore), which is Japanese for "that's enough". The menu features a range of avocado toasts ($5.50 to $8.50) with rye sourdough from French bakery Maison Kayser; Mo-ii Powerhouse acai bowl ($6.90 to $10.90); and mains such as Pacific Rim ($13.50), with salmon, quinoa salad and basil aioli.


Mo-ii’s consultant MinJu Choo with the cafe’s Pacific Rim (salmon with quinoa salad and basil aioli). ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Many food items, such as the basil aioli and granola, are made in-house.

Mo-ii's consultant MinJu Choo, 35, says opening in the Central Business District is the only option to cater to expatriates who would be familiar with items on her menu.

She says: "Those working in the CBD don't have a lot of time to cook and they eat out a lot. Like the cafe's name suggests, when they eat our food, it is enough."

Other eateries in the building include Hantol Korean Restaurant (01-03, www.facebook.com/bestkyk), Asian restaurant Chomp Kitchen (01-06) and local coffee chain Coffee Break (02-09, www.facebook.com/coffeebreakamoystreet).

Last month, F&B chain Ministry of Food also made its foray into the CBD, with three concepts on the second floor of GSH Plaza. They are Tensho (02-01), which serves tempura donburi; Chinese restaurant Ju Hao (02-03); and Kaisen Tei (02-03), where diners can customise their donburi and salads.

MOF's chief executive Lena Sim decided to open in the CBD following requests from customers. Her other restaurants are in locations such as Orchard Road, Bugis, Punggol and Jurong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'CBD, food central'. Print Edition | Subscribe