Just a few decades ago, hanging out along Keong Saik Road at the edge of Singapore’s exhilarating Chinatown would have been a no-go for all but the seediest of travellers. Today, the story’s a tad different.
The former red-light district of Keong Saik Road has done a remarkable job of cleaning up its act. In the process, it’s become one of Singapore’s hippest corners. Its elegant heritage shophouses, once home to brothels and other seedy establishments, now house some of Singapore’s trendiest restaurants, cafés, bars & places to stay.
Explore Keong Saik Road Singapore to your heart’s content with this guide on where to eat, drink, and stay…
A brief history lesson
To say the history of Keong Saik Road is—ahem!—colourful is under statement. During in the 1930s, Keong Saik Road began to sprout up brothels among the area’s heritage buildings. It proved a profitable enterprise for locals suffering after the losses of the Great Depression. The red-light district boomed into the 1960-70s, gaining a not-so-pleasant reputation as one of the Singapore’s shadier corners.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that Keong Saik Road began to reverse its fortunes. As the brothels fell out of favour, restauranteurs and hoteliers saw an opportunity to take advantage of its outwardly-handsome appearance and revitalize the neighbourhood with a slew of eating & drinking establishments.
Today, Keong Saik Road is one of the most vibrant hotspots for eating & drinking in Singapore. Locals & travellers alike love to wander about area, admiring its pastel-hued Peranakan shophouses while searching of the best food in Singapore and an unwinding at some of the city’s hippest after-work bars.
Where to eat
By day or night, one of the best reasons to head over to Keong Saik Road is to eat. The road is home to a splash of superb restaurants covering the whole gamut of flavours & budget from affordable Singaporean favourites to upscale Euro-inspired dishes.
Here are a few places to check out…
- Cure: One of the most popular restaurants along the strip, Cure serves up unique dishes meticulously prepared with the freshest of seasonal ingredients in a classy and intimate setting. The five-course menu and chef’s tasting menu are both big hits here.
- Meta: Thanks to stuffing a coveted Michelin star under its belt, Meta has become one of Keong Saik Road’s top culinary hotspots. Chef Sun Kim throws influences from his native South Korean into the restaurant’s French-inspired dishes for a completely unique Singapore dining experience.
- Neon Pigeon: This hip izakaya serves up Japanese pub-style food from duck tonkatsu to crab cakes amidst an underground industrial vibe.
- Three Buns: Located in Potato Head Folk (more about it later), this burger joint delivers meaty happiness in, what many would consider, the best burgers in Singapore. Their main signature burger offers—Bun DMC, Baby Huey, Smokin’ B-Boy—all use prime grass-fed Australian Black Angus and are mouth-wateringly juicy & delicious.
- Afterglow by Anglow: This contemporary eatery is one of the best places to grab fresh vegetarian food in Singapore. There’s a wide variety of Asian and international favourites here whether its a spicy Korean bibimbap or veggie burgers.
- Keong Saik Bakery: Feeding your sweet-tooth is never a problem along Keong Saik Road. This bakery is one of the best places to do it. The menu is eclectic, blending Singaporean bakery favourite with Western influences. Try out their popular green egg bun, spinning together a matcha egg filling in a sweet bun or their XO Lup Cheong, a French pastry with sausage and mozza, for a more savoury option.
- Bread & Hearth: Another popular Keong Saik Road bakery featuring a wide away of pastries, bread, and tarts.
- Kok Sen Restaurant: With its recent nod in the Singapore Michelin Bib Gourmand Guide, this unpretentious decades-old family-run restaurant went from local to international favourite. It’s the most popular place for eating zi char (made-to-order) Cantonese-influenced cuisine along Keong Saik Road. While you can’t go wrong with much here, the claypot yong tau foo and big prawn bee hoon Soup are favourite dishes here.
- Thevar: Located in Meta’s original location, this restaurant by Chef Mano Thevar will forever change your appreciation of Indian cuisine. This isn’t the place to go for classic dishes like butter chicken or tikka masala, but rather experimental ones like a crispy Pork Jowl, slow-cooked and deep-fried in sambar spices; or berry pulao, a biryani infused with lemongrass, cranberries, and pistachios.
- Gaston Burgundy Bistro & Wine Bar: For French food along the strip, you can’t go wrong with the Gallic flair of this popular bistro where you’ll find classic Burgundian dishes like beef Bourguignon and escargots de Bourgogne.
- Taratata Bistrot: Another option for authentic French dining, this bistro offers French classics like coq au vin in a welcoming and laid-back atmosphere.
- Pasta Bar: Get your Italian fix along Keong Saik Road at this open-concept kitchen, serving up a variety of unique twists on pasta. The pumpkin and sage tortelli and vegan lagane with chickpeas and chilli garlic oil are worth a taste.
- Butcher Boy: This fusion bar & grill serves up innovative grilled meats with unmistakably Asian inspiration. Taste their popular baos stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken and yuzu kosho mayo to see what the fuss is all about.
- Olivia Restaurant & Lounge: You don’t need to visit Barcelona to experience Catalan-inspired cuisine at its best. The hearty dishes here fuse most Asian and Spanish flavours for a truly mouthwatering experience. There’s also a fantastic selection of Spanish and international wines to pair with your meal.
- Man Man Unagi Japanese Restaurant: As you’d guess from the name, this Japanese restaurant specializes in unagi (freshwater eel) grilled and spiced to perfection.
Where to drink
Many locals and visitors alike feel Keong Saik Road is at its best in the evening. After spending a few nights wandering about the area, I would tend to agree!
Whether you’re looking for a hip place to sip lazily on a craft beer or a more raucous night of slamming cocktails on a rooftop, place your night out at one of these top places to drink along Keong Saik Road…
- Potato Head Singapore: Although it’s only been around half a decade, the Singapore location of this legendary Bali institution has become a favourite in the Chinatown area. Besides its popular burger restaurant, Potato Head draws in partiers with its third-floor cocktail club, Studio 1939, and its top-floor tiki-inspired Rooftop Bar.
- Neon Pigeon: Aside from its food, Neon Pigeon is a fantastic place for wetting your whistle along Keong Saik Road. The bar’s claim to fame is its vast selection of Japanese whiskey, sake, and Tokyo-inspired cocktails.
- DON HO Social Kitchen & Bar: Located in the The Working Capitol, this Hawaiian-themed bar & restaurant tickles the tastebuds with a blast of fresh & fruity tropical cocktails Their Australia-inspired food menu is also a hit among foodies.
- The Old Man: With its original Hong Kong location listed among the best bars in Asia, The Old Man certainly had some large shoes to fill when its Singapore location on Keong Saik Road opened up its doors. We’re happy to report that its Hemingway-themed cocktails, ranging from the gin & tonic-based Islands in the Stream to the Gruyure cheese & raspberry-infused The Snows of Kilimanjaro, are staggering winners that even the old man himself would approve of.
- The Guild: Harbouring the location of a former speakeasy, this beer bar is the best place along Keong Saik Road to tame your thirst with an eclectic selection of craft brews. The food menu, fusing hints of American cooking with Singaporean, is as creative as it is delicious.
Where to stay
While there’s only a small selection of hotels on Keong Saik Road itself, the area is home to plenty of top-notch accommodations. If you want to stay nearby, look into some of the top hotels in Chinatown or Tanjong Pagar including these popular gems…
- Q Loft Hotel 1929: The best pick for budget travellers on Keong Saik Road, this hotel features cozy modern rooms and a sun terrace with great views over the city.
- Hotel Soloha: A brand-new hotel located on Teck Lim Road adjacent to the KS area. The rooms here offer stylish contemporary designs and are spacious by Chinatown standards.
- Kesa House: The top choice on the street, this mid-range hotel delivers clean & comfortable modern rooms within a wonderfully restored heritage shophouse. Upgrade to one of the roomy suites for a full self-catering option.