The sense of history is pervasive in the East Coast neighbourhood. Distinct pre-war Peranakan terraces, pastel-hued and trimmed with mosaics, still line Koon Seng Road. Conserved terrace houses – built on raised platforms to protect against high tides when the area was still a beach – remain along East Coast Road. Even the diverse places of worship, such as the Kuan Im Tng Temple Temple and the Church of the Holy Family, have outlasted the war and are still standing today. The neighborhood’s historic Peranakan presence has landed it in many a guidebook, sure. But with new eateries popping up all the time, and old ones giving themselves rad makeovers, there’s always something to discover.
For baked goods of another ilk, head to Firebake, a spanking new wood-fired bakehouse. Headed by Swiss F&B veteran Konstantino Blokbergen, the bakery turns out impeccable European-style sourdough loaves made on the premises in wood-fired ovens. All breads are made with organic flours, and come in white, wholemeal, rye and fruit varieties. The menu here offers a range of dishes from tartines, sandwiches, salads, and stews, to grilled and smoked meats and fish. For now, it’s opened from Tuesdays to Sundays, 6 to 10pm. Lunch and breakfast will be launched soon.
237 East Coast Road. Tel: 6440 1228. www.firebake.sg
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
Locals and tourists alike throng this Hainanese coffee shop – opened in 1925 by current owner Tan See Fang’s father – for its exemplary breakfast trifecta of kopi, soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast. The toast here is the draw – instead of crisp sliced bread, CMC’s kaya is slathered on round toasted buns, which are deliciously crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Other homemade baked goods that await under old-fashioned glass counters include the cream puffs, egg tarts and cupcakes. Here, the old school ambience is complete with whirling ceiling fans, marble-top tables and perennially grumpy staff (who probably don’t realise how Instagram-worthy their joint is).
204 East Coast Road. Tel: 6345 0419. 8.30am-3.30pm, closed Mon
Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique
Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique was opened mid-2016 by Edwin Lim, 35, who’s lived in the East Coast area his whole life. This tiny shop just next to the former Katong Bakery & Confectionery (popularly known as the Red House Bakery) purveys a range of “botanically inspired” gelatos with a local twist. Think flavours such as basil strawberry, lemongrass ginger and pandan, or ginger and lemongrass – all distilled naturally through infusions of flowers, fruits, herbs and spices. The home-made thyme-flavoured cones are particularly interesting. “It’s all part of the botanical theme,” says Lim. “We spent a lot of time working on our thyme-flavoured cone, and it’s been very well received.”
#01-05, 63 East Coast Road. Tel: 9678 6092. 12pm-10pm, closed Mon
Rumah Bebe’s owner Bebe Seet is one of the few remaining local experts on Peranakan beadwork, making kasut manek (beaded slippers with floral motifs) and teaching classes on making them. Her store, which she opened in 1999, functions as a sort of Peranakan museum too, with traditional kebaya and sarongs, embroidered handbags and carved furniture on display. And don’t forget the food. Made in-house and from scratch, Seet’s menu ranges from baked curry puffs and brandied sugee-almond cakes during weekdays to more hearty fare on weekends. Call to enquire about the day’s menu, but expect Peranakan favourites such as mee siam, ayam buah keluak and popiah.
113 East Coast Road. Tel: 6247 8781. 9.30am-6.30pm, closed Mon
While most of the stop are clustered along East Coast Road, there’s more to explore in this neighbourhood. Turn off the main drag into Joo Chiat Road, and breezy suburban bliss segues into an edgier, grungier vibe. While Joo Chiat is another foodie universe unto itself, we’ll just highlight one gem: Long Phung. Bypass the bars and pubs for this no-frills haven of Vietnamese cuisine, where generous portions of beef slices adorn bowls of pho; bun thit (dry rice vermicelli) comes slathered in grilled pork slices, herbs, and crushed peanuts; and the lemongrass clams are plump and sweet. Don’t forget to pair everything with the thick sweetness of cafe sua da, Vietnamese iced coffee.
159 Joo Chiat Road. 12pm-10.30pm, daily