Sitting inside a ferris wheel, which sits inside a nightclub, which sits inside a shopping mall, which sits on an island, there was a realisation that Singapore really did have a world of socialising options which a lot of people might not know about.
That epiphany came while getting a look inside Marquee, a megaclub kitted out with said ferris wheel, as well as a slide which goes down its three storeys of party levels.
It wasn’t really my cup of tea – that was reserved more for the plethora of high-quality restaurants dotted about the island nation – but it offered an insight into a city which offers just options to just about every taste.
Whether it’s a classy, cavernous bars, or a rooftop cocktail joint, or a Michelin star restaurant, or a traditional Singapore dining experience, the country has a lot to offer.
I didn’t know how much I loved duck until I ate at Ibid. The Michelin-listed restaurant is the brainchild of the inaugural winner of MasterChef Asia, Woo Wai Leong. Woo showcases his modern French cooking, informed by Chinese traditions and Nanyang twists, which really comes through in his roast duck, which was the perfect mix of juicy and crispy.
Up there with Ibid was Cheek Bistro, although it was more catered to the Australian, and by proxy, New Zealand, market. Their smokey duck was also fantastic, but I would definitely recommend the Iberico pork chop as the standout.
The Quarters had a nice feel of an authentic Singaporean meal out, with the fusion of all the culinary influences that have come into this migrant nation. The salted egg tabasaki was a particularly sultry flavour delight.
Going even further down the authenticity spectrum was to dine at the home of food writer Annette Tan and her FatFuku experience. She was a pioneer of the private dining movement in Singapore and shares her Peranakan family’s favourite recipes, while telling stories of how food supports local businesses.
This is where Singapore really starts to shine, with a bit of everything, depending on what sort of beverage-consuming mood you are in.
Rooftop bars have become the craze all around the world. Singapore is no exception and a nice wee joint called The Other Roof is a laid-back way to enjoy Singapore’s nightlife. They also offer a unique flavour as their more than 400 different spirits are all created in-house and finished with tea. The result is a refreshing blend of your favourite tea flavours and favourite cocktails.
Perhaps you might then move on to Atlas – which has all the hallmarks of an evil lair in a Batman movie, or a scene from a James Bond film. It’s a throwback to the 1920s European Art Deco movement– and you just feel classier once you enter. Perhaps that’s because any man who tries to wear shorts inside – no matter how hot and humid outside – will be given a pair of long pants to get changed into. At the No.8 ranked bar in the world, it’s the sort of place a humble Kiwi might feel a bit out of place in – unless you’re rich and/or famous – but it was nice for a gawk and one drink, chosen from one of the 1300 gins which sit inside a daunting gin tower.
If you’re a party animal, or just like gawking at bizarre stuff, the aforementioned Marquee Nightclub is a sight to see, or a place to be. First, it’s set inside Marina Bay Sands Mall, with the walk past closed retail stores an odd appetiser for what’s to come. Inside is 2300 square metres of party areas spread across three floors. There are dancers standing on tables for, uh, entertainment. There is an excruciatingly slow-moving ferris wheel to go on and the three-storey high slide. Again, inside a mall. It’s insane and inane, but if you like to party, then give it a look.
The next day brunch/lunch
For those who enjoy a big night out, recovery the next day is important. A solid brunch or, depending on the lateness of the previous night, lunch, sets you up for the rest of the day and next night ahead.
Let me preface this section by saying I’m a big believer in brunch. It’s my favourite meal of any weekend. I have high standards, but they were well and truly met at Manhattan and Clifford Pier.
Manhattan is ranked at No.11 in the list of the 50 best bars in the world. It’s got more than 200 American whiskies, the oldest of which is 103 years old. Inside, it’s like walking into a scene from a 1930s American gangster film. You’re half expecting someone to light up a cigar in a corner.
On top of all that, they put on an adults-only Sunday cocktail brunch, complete with boozy milkshakes. After dining on the wide range of food there, and downing said boozy milkshake, I was still full about five hours later.
Over at Clifford Pier at the Fullerton Hotel in Marina Bay, it’s a lighter look as you walk in, particularly because of the imposingly beautiful chandelier in the entranceway.
The food on offer for their heritage dim sum is also another chance to test the strength of your belt, with cuisine from across Asia and the world. The bottomless champagne is also a nice touch, if you’re flush with cash.
Those two options sit at the upper-tier of the budget, but for that more authentic, Hawker-style lunch, head over to Keng Eng Kee Seafood (commonly referred to as just KEK).
The open air and plastic chairs give that “eat like the locals” feel. The coffee pork makes you wonder if you’ll ever taste anything as good as that again. I also hear the crab was fantastic, if you’re seafood-inclined.
If after all that, you’re still looking for another drink, then Brass Lion Gin is a cool place to head. A tour of distillery was an interesting adventure and, on Sundays, you can have a crack at making a small brew of your own at their gin school (bookings are a must).
This is just a small taste of the nightlife and vast array of eating options available in Singapore. You could spend a week there, eat and drink well, and still not end up at any of the places listed above. That’s what makes it great – and also a little under-rated, if you’re from this part of the world. For more information, go to visitsingapore.com
Getting there: Singapore Airlines (codeshare with Air New Zealand) fly direct from Auckland, with flights from $529 one-way. A return trip for one passenger in economy class flying from Auckland to Singapore would generate 1.2 tonnes CO2. To offset your carbon emissions head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset.
Staying there: Parkroyal on Pickering, rooms from NZ$335 per night, including a full buffet breakfast.
Staying safe: Check safetravel.govt.nz prior to travelling to stay updated on the latest travel advisories.
Liam Hyslop visited Singapore as a guest of the Singapore Tourism Board.