We ask our insider-y friends to divine what eating, boozing, shopping and travel winds are blowing this way.
Food and Art
Dual-concept stores seem to be all the rage these days— there’s home décor store and bakery Carpenter and Cook and now Shinkansen, a Japanese eatery that transforms into “underground” bar The Secret Mermaid by night. But the combo du jour is food and art. More and more restaurants are distinguishing themselves by using their walls as a gallery space. Artistry and Elffin & Elffin are prime examples, and more recently, there’s Alpine restaurant Zott’s on Amoy Street, as well as soon-to- launch Buttero, a new restaurant and bar on Tras Street serving Italian grub with strong street art leanings.
Artichoke Café + Bar, Singapore
Move over wine dinners and guest chefs, because themed dinners and other unique concepts are the next big thing. Ethel Ong at Peatix, thinks so too: “As a ticketing portal, we’re seeing a rise of such events. For example, Culture Kitchen gathers people from all walks of life, all nationalities, cultures, languages and beliefs, to bond and celebrate Singapore’s diversity over a meal [visit their website for updates on their next event in June]. Also, the recent Rock Out With Your Pork Out event by Artichoke presented participants with a ‘lardcore’ feast— seven dishes, each featuring pork as either a main ingredient or a tasty addition.” We also recall the Game of Thrones-themed dinner a few weeks ago, organized by Geek Crusade. Expect more to come as the team's currently working on more exciting events. Harry Potter, maybe?
Wide-eyed, fresh-faced hawkers
“The next big thing is not a dish, but the buzz about a new generation of trained and schooled hipster hawkers [read our story on this topic at is.gd/hiphawkers] coming on board to carry on the mantle of our exciting street food culture,” says KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra. And we agree: with newcomers like Socks & Pans (#01-23 Golden Shoe Car Park, 50 Market St., 6536-3310), who serve up handmade pizzas paired with local coffee a.k.a. kopi, as well as Bokky Curry, run by a young couple who specialize in the fiery local favorite, shaking up the scenes. Singapore’s well-travelled youth will dish out more comfort food with a twist, borrowing from chefs worldwide. How about some sous-vide chicken rice next?
Farm to Table Dining
“I believe ‘real’ food offerings won’t be limited to just expensive dining but move increasingly downstream to casual dining and fast food concepts,” says Wee Teng Wen, founder of The Lo & Behold Group. Karen Cheng of The Travelling Cow has noticed it, too. “We are seeing a growing number of restaurants and local producers embracing this same movement, with restaurants like Pidgin, whose menu is predominantly locally-sourced.” We feel that this movement is only going to get bigger, because if we can find locally-farmed raw oysters here from Hai Loong Mariculture, who knows what’s next.
The third wave coffee movement was championed by Assembly Coffee and Chye Seng Huat Hardware, but dessert cafés are the next big thing. Java aside, these hangouts are focusing on elaborate sweet offerings, including Waffle Slayer (with their main star: the red velvet waffle) and Hatter Street and owner Yvette Chua’s unusual creations like popcorn mousse cake. As popular food blogger Daniel Ang of Daniel’s Food Diary puts it: “Coffee seems to take a second fiddle to dessert offerings in these cafés, and brunches appear to be a been-there-done-that.”
With its arid steppes and deserts, Central Asia isn’t usually at the top of most Singaporeans’ bucket lists, but all that looks set to change. “I think the next big travel destination for Singaporeans would be exploring the ancient Great Silk Road, especially with Uzbekistan Airways flying into Changi,” Rosemarie John, co- owner of award-winning travel blog Travel and Beyond, tells us. Next stop: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and all the other stans!
Grand five-star hotels are beginning to feel a bit stale. Jia Jih Chai, Managing Director (Southeast Asia and India) of Airbnb says, “We see a growing trend of travelers opting for more unusual spaces like castles, boats and igloos. This shift is ultimately changing the way people travel—as people get more adventurous, they search for more authentic local experiences.” And it’s true, really—we wouldn’t say no to that gorgeous underwater bedroom at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Hotel or a three-night stay at South Africa’s Tsala Treetop Lodge. Now, if only prices weren’t a factor.
Just about anything can be done on the go these days. And hotel bookings are no exception. According to Katherine Cole, Regional Director of Hotels.com, there has been a growing trend of mobile bookings made the day before the trip. “In fact, 70% of global mobile bookings are for same or next day travels.” For last-minute accommodations, download Airbnb’s app if you’re looking for affordable apartment rentals, and the new Smiths hotel app that’s chockfull of gorgeous boutique hotels worldwide.
More boutique gyms are opening in the heartlands, offering better proximity and lower rates. “If there’s a gym near my place that provides sufficient facilities and equipment, I wouldn’t see the need to travel to a mega gym in the city center,” says Umar Faruq, of Gymm Boxx. Indeed, Gymm Boxx’s success is testament to this new trend—the gym chain has eschewed the CBD area and has instead set up outlets in the suburbs, including one at #04-01/02 Bishan CC, 51 Bishan St. 13, 8499-4897. Also, don’t forget Anytime Fitness—the 24-hour fitness chain—launched its first outlet here in Woodlands (ACE The Place Community Club, 120 Woodlands Ave. 1, 6893-3083) last October, and has gone on to open four more since then.
ViPR at Fitness First
Loaded Movement Training
Think traditional weightlifting is boring? Well, loaded movement training is coming soon to a gym near you. Instead of, single-plane exercises like lats pull-downs, it incorporates transitional movements that engage more muscles effectively. Currently, most big gyms here offer loaded movement training (see our list)—ViPR, Kettlebells and TRX. According to Tommy Yau, National Fitness Manager of Fitness First Singapore, “Such exercises have been proven to be at least 50% more effective than fixed machine training for strength, speed, endurance and flexibility.”
If 2013 was the year of the gin, then we’re headed into the swashbuckling era of dark rum. “I believe that it will be taken as seriously as whisky, especially Jamaican rums or very special bottlings of rums,” says Louis Tan, head bartender of L’Aiglon. Others think the time has come for mescal and tequila. “People often don’t realize that it’s complex. It can be smoky, spicy, and even neutral,” says Nicholas Quattroville of the password-only bar, The Library. We’ve had our fair share and can safely say that Plantation Rum (from L’Aiglon) and Del Maguey Mezcal Vida (from The Library) are foolproof choices. Whichever it is, you’ll find us thoughtfully sipping spirits from now on.
Why taste one label, when you can taste five? Flights of spirits—small tasting portions, not shots!—are getting increasingly common in cocktail joints stocking boutique labels. “There are so many small distilleries putting out great products but not getting the recognition they deserve due to their lack of branding power. We want to educate people to make them understand that small-batch doesn’t mean bad,” says Howard Lo of The Secret Mermaid, which specializes in craft American spirits. Most good barkeeps agree that if a guest requests an impromptu flight, they will happily accommodate, and places like House of Dandy and The Spiffy Dapper plan to introduce it as a mainstay on their menus.
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall, Singapore
If your favorite bartender seems impervious to your slurring charms, try the visiting guy. With guest bartending, barkeeps do a shift at a bar other than their own. It not only breathes new life into tried-and-tested menus, but also showcases their unique skills. “This year will see a lot of bartender exchanges where the best bartenders from all over the world do a shift at one of our local places,” says Michael Callahan of 28 HongKong Street. The place is also hosting a monthly competition, The Bartenders’ Allowance, that allows local bartenders to judge their counterparts’ drinks. “It’s a small industry, and we’re all friends at the end of the day,” says Sam Wong of Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall.
First there were pop-up restaurants, followed by shops. Now it’s pop-up bars. Mars Bar, housed in The Duxton, was one of the first. Head barkeep Louis Tan says, “We’re only here until October, when the hotel undergoes renovation, but now that we know it works, we’re looking at our options.” This trend is definitely here to stay with all the international bartenders and brand ambassadors coming to town for one-night-only shifts. “We’re always thinking of ways to up the ante. I think we should just erect a tent somewhere and tell people the venue on the day,” jokes Lee Ying Zhi of distribution company William Grant & Sons, who have been hosting international bartenders at various local bars like ANTI:DOTE and Jekyll & Hyde but are now also exploring the pop-up route.
“Art isn’t just for grown-ups anymore, more people are becoming engaged and realizing that you don’t have to have a major piece of art to become a collector,” says Camilla Hewitson, Director of the Affordable Art Fair. Art Loft, a gallery that promotes the renting of artwork. Starting at $25 a month, it gives potential collectors the opportunity to test their taste and gives them confidence with future choices. “It’s equally important to support emerging artists as they’re the ones who are going to become major players in the future,” adds Hewitson. To read the rest of our chat with her.
Made in Singapore
“The ecosystem for local talents is growing fast as more consumers are becoming more receptive to homegrown brands and products,” says Amanda Eng, marketing director of Naiise.com, an online lifestyle store that consolidates locally-made and designed products. “It reflects a shift in consumers’ preferences for unique items versus mass-produced stuff, which gives the average shopper a chance to support local ventures.” Flea markets and bazaars, such as MAAD, Public Garden and The Made in SG Market have been integral in pushing this trend forward together with cool shops including BooksActually and Threadbare & Squirrel.
“Singapore has the highest density of Bitcoin vending machines in the world right now at 32, and the number of merchants accepting bitcoins as a form of payment has been on a climb,” says Zann Kwan, director of Bitcoin Exchange. Essentially, it’s an electronic decentralized peer-to-peer payment system without middle men like banks and monetary authorities. Prices (often volatile, ranging from $100-1,000) are determined by supply and demand, but this hasn’t fazed too many.
Stage productions are evolving to become more interactive and participatory. Take The Inside Job (happening every Saturday and Sunday, through July 13), for instance—part theater, part treasure hunt, you weave through neighborhoods, landmarks and restaurants to solve a staged mystery, helped along by various actors. One of the show’s producers, Pooja Khetan, says, “Theater in the future would challenge the traditional boundaries of space & distance—instead of enclosed spaces, it’ll be held at ‘real’ locations and it’ll encourage interaction between audience and actor.” Then there’s also The Hideaway, a hush-hush, pop-up dining event that combines food, theater and art at a secret location.
Music (Festival) Apps
The live music scene is in ruder health than it’s ever been, with big-name festivals, regular gigs and pop-up showcases happening every other week—and the impact is trickling down into your smartphone. Clarence Chan, founder of website Bandwagon, says, “More event organizers and music collectives are now developing mobile apps to give audiophiles a more seamless live music experience.” ZoukOut, Laneway, and Future Music Festival Asia are already on this trend, developing apps that include festival lineups, venue maps and other essential information. (We personally wish to see these apps integrate music streaming, though.)
Check out what's hot in the cinemas this summer.