A few decades ago, hanging out on Keong Saik Road at the edge of Singapore’s exhilarating Chinatown would have been a no-go. 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. Once home to brothels & other seedy enterprises, its elegant heritage shophouses got a much-needed refresh. Today, they 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…
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A brief history lesson
To say the history of Keong Saik Road is—ahem!—colourful is under statement. During the 1930s, Keong Saik Road began to sprout up brothels in the area’s heritage buildings. It proved a profitable enterprise. For locals suffering after the losses of the Great Depression, it was a much-needed shot in the arm.
The red-light district boomed into the 1960-70s. Keong Saik Road developed an unpleasant reputation as Singapore’s shadiest corners. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the area began to reverse its fortunes.
As the brothels fell out of favour, restauranteurs and hoteliers saw an opportunity. They leveraged Keong Saik Road’s handsome appearance and revitalized the neighbourhood. Soon, a slew of eating & drinking establishments replaced the seedier 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.
It’s impossible not to admire the pastel-hued Peranakan shophouses of Keong Saik Road. The neighbourhood’s become a favourite for searching out the best food in Singapore. It’s also the perfect destination to unwind at some of the city’s hippest after-work bars.
Where to eat along Keong Saik Road
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. They cover the whole gamut of flavours & budget. You’ll find everything from affordable Singaporean favourites to upscale Euro-inspired dishes.
Here are a few of the best places to eat along Keong Saik Road:
- Cure: One of the most popular restaurants along the strip, Cure serves up unique dishes. They’re meticulously prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The setting is classy and intimate. 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 is favourite in the area. With Chef Sun Kim at the helm, Meta has become one of Keong Saik Road’s top culinary hotspots. He melds influences from his native South Korean into the restaurant’s French-inspired dishes. It’s a completely unique Singapore dining experience.
- Neon Pigeon: This hip izakaya serves up Japanese pub-style food. You’ll enjoy a wide variety of unique dishes here from duck tonkatsu to crab cakes. The chilled underground industrial vibe is über-cool, too.
- Three Buns: Located in Potato Head Folk (more about it later), this burger joint delivers meaty happiness. Many would swear Three Buns delivers the best burgers in Singapore. All their main signature burgers—Bun DMC, Baby Huey, Smokin’ B-Boy—use prime grass-fed Australian Black Angus. They’re 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. Try out their 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. It spins together a matcha egg filling in a sweet bun. Or, for a more savoury treat, taste their XO Lup Cheong, a French pastry with sausage and mozza.
- 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, fortunes shifted for this family-run joint. This unpretentious decades-old restaurant sky-rocketed from a local to an international favourite. It’s the most popular place for eating zi char (made-to-order) Cantonese cuisine along Keong Saik Road. You can’t go wrong with much here. Favourites include the claypot yong tau foo and big prawn bee hoon soup.
- Thevar: This popular Keong Saik Road restaurant is located in Meta’s original location. 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. Rather, this restaurant offers innovative experimental dishes. Try their crispy Pork Jowl, slow-cooked and deep-fried in sambar spices. Or for an exotic treat, indulging in 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 here. With Gallic flair, this popular bistro cooks ups classic Burgundian dishes. You’ll have no problem enjoying classics like beef Bourguignon and escargots de Bourgogne.
- Taratata Bistrot: Another option for authentic French dining on Keong Saik Road. This bistro offers French classics like coq au vin. The atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back.
- Pasta Bar: Get your Italian fix at this open-concept kitchen. It serves up a variety of unique twists on pasta. The pumpkin & sage tortelli and vegan lagane with chickpeas & chilli garlic oil are worth a taste.
- Butcher Boy: This fusion bar & grill serves up innovative grilled meats with unmistakable Asian inspiration. The baos are particularly popular. They’re stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken and yuzu kosho mayo. Give them a taste 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. It’s truly a 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). They’re grilled and spiced to perfection.
Where to drink along Keong Saik Road
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’d agree!
Looking for a hip place to sip lazily on a craft beer or a more raucous night of slamming cocktails on a rooftop? Start your night out at one of these top places to drink along Keong Saik Road…
- Potato Head Singapore: It’s only been around half a decade. But the Singapore location of this legendary Bali bar has become Chinatown area favourite. Besides its popular burger restaurant, Potato Head draws in partiers. It’s home to a third-floor cocktail club, Studio 1939, and a 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 Working Capitol, this Hawaiian-themed bar & restaurant tickles the tastebuds. DON HO’s menu is adorned with a blast of fresh & fruity tropical cocktails. Their Australia-inspired food menu is also a hit among foodies.
- The Old Man: The original Hong Kong location of The Old Man is listed among the best bars in Asia. When its Singapore location on Keong Saik Road opened, it certainly had some large shoes to fill. We’re happy to report that it did. The bar’s Hemingway-themed cocktails are staggering winners. They range from the gin & tonic-based Islands in the Stream to the Gruyure cheese & raspberry-infused The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Even the old man himself would approve.
- The Guild: This popular beer bar harbours the location of a former speakeasy. It’s the best place along Keong Saik Road to tame your thirst with an eclectic selection of craft brews. The food menu fuses hints of American cooking with Singaporean. It’s as creative as it is delicious.
Where to stay
Although 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: This hotel is the best pick for budget travellers on Keong Saik Road. It features cozy modern rooms and a sun terrace with great views over the city.
- Hotel Soloha: This brand-new hotel is located on Teck Lim Road next to the area. The rooms here offer stylish contemporary designs and are spacious by Chinatown standards.
- Kesa House: This mid-range hotel is the top accommodations choice on the street. It delivers clean & comfortable modern rooms within a wonderfully restored heritage shophouse. Upgrade to one of the roomy suites for a full self-catering option.