Singapore can lay claim to having one of the best rail transport systems in the world, but there have always been some places which were a little out of reach. Sure, buses or cabs were options, but without a speedy, reliable MRT trip, many of us never bothered to make the trek. When Stage 4 and 5 of the Circle Line open on October 8, we’ll have easier access to places along the West Coast, the ultra-modern Buona Vista sector, Holland Village, Bukit Timah and Thomson. There’s a lot to discover along the line, and we’ll make sure you don’t end up visiting a block of flats or a disused cemetery.
CC28 Telok Blangah
One stop west of HarbourFront, Telok Blangah brings you closer to the Henderson Waves, the Keppel Club and Telok Blangah Hill Park. Plus, it’s close to one of our favorite brunch places, Privé, and the little known Peranakan restaurant Peramakan, which serves one of the best babi pontehs in town.
CC27 Labrador Park
As the name suggests, this is where you alight to visit the place once known as Fort Pasir Panjang, a British coastal battery completed in 1878. Labrador Nature Reserve still holds many relics from the colonial days, from those famous tunnels to old artillery guns—a must for history and nature lovers.
Chill out at the Eco Gourmet Café after that, a relatively secluded restaurant-bar that serves a veritable selection of Asian and Western cuisines and over 50 types of wine. We recommend lounging on its alfresco area where many plush ottoman chairs can be found.
Down the road is open bar The Training Shed and Labrador Seafood. While these joints only come alive in the evenings, their laidback kampong vibe is definitely worth a visit. The former especially, which occasionally holds dance parties and barbecue sessions for Singapore’s creative types. The next one is scheduled for October 9, 3pm-midnight.
If you choose to head up to Alexandra Road instead, you’ll find the upcoming Alexandra Retail Centre, a proposed shopping mall by the Mapletree group. Slightly further up is Vineyard, which serves contemporary European cuisine amid a lush landscape. We’re sold.
CC26 Pasir Panjang
A name synonymous with food, Pasir Panjang is filled with places to eat and architectural relics which offer glimpses of a simpler time—both hip and otherwise. At Lorgan’s The Retro Store, you can dig through a wide selection of vintage goods spanning furniture, clothing, posters, typewriters and radios at a premium, while architectural fans must check out Reflections at Bukit Chandu, a beautiful black and white bungalow, also a memorial to the men of the Malay Regiment. There’s even a museum here that preserves their stories.
While local foodies swear by the Pasir Panjang Food Centre for the barbecue seafood, there are other standouts here, including Cantonese establishment Manhill Restaurant, great for tasty and affordable quickie lunches (we recommend the wrapped chicken and fu-yong egg) and Thai joint E-Sarn Thai Cuisine. The phad thai here is fiery.
CC25 Haw Par Villa
If Haw Par Villa’s famous recreations of the Chinese mythology of diyu or the Ten Courts of Hell are not enough to scare you off, the throngs of tourists found here will. Thankfully, just across the road from this infamous attraction is new live music bar and restaurant Good ‘Ol Café. This spacious joint evokes vintage Americana with a local twist. Steaks, beers and wine permeate the food and drinks selection here, with local dishes like laksa and nasi lemak thrown in for good measure. If you’re in the mood for Korean, hop on to Ju Shin Jung, which specializes in charcoal barbecue dishes just next door.
Take a short 15-minute walk after that to the charming shophouse neighborhood dubbed The Village Centre, where a slew of old-school backpacker-type bars like Parrot Bar, Bojangles and Barrels are, for a couple of beers. Here, you can while the day away at its secluded back-alley area listening to retro radio tunes and do absolutely nothing. Still hungry? Have a quick bite at the cozy corner restaurant The West End or steak specialist HooHa Café.
*Haw Par Villa is also the closest station to West Coast Park, the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre and the quaint cluster of shophouses at the junction of Pasir Panjang Road and South Buona Vista Road.
CC24 Kent Ridge
It might’ve been built mainly to cater to the National University of Singapore, the National University Hospital and the Science Park, but Kent Ridge is also close to Kent Ridge Park, two lesser known museums and a cool bar-restaurant. The NUS Museum is home to extensive collections of Southeast Asian art and artifacts, while the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is Singapore’s only museum devoted to natural history. Although quite the trip, The University Club is a welcome respite for its casual chic dining concept, with a rotating repertoire of local specials such as beef rendang and tandoori chicken. The club also boasts a lounge/bar that carries a wide range of beers and a well-curated collection of single malt whiskeys.
The “–polis”-suffixed buildings here next to the train station seem to be modeled after what people in the 1950s thought 21st century moonbases would look like, but behind their unnervingly modern facades are restaurants, cafes and lifestyle outlets, including My Wine Shop, which sells whiskey shots (hooray!) and mammoth Penang food specialist Penang Place—the char kway teow here is tops.
One-North also puts you within walking distance of Wessex Estate, but expect to walk at least 25 minutes to reach the popular Colbar, Laurent’s Café & Chocolate Bar and month-old Chuck Wagon for some homestyle burgers and buffalo wings. Also nearby, Melburnian Michael Ryan’s jimmy monkey, a great place for addictive coffee, drinks and other good stuff.
CC22 Buona Vista
Quite a hassle of a walk really, and your best bet is still to drive or take a cab. Also modeled after the spaced-out design concepts found at one-north, notable eateries here include North-Indian restaurant Khansama Tandoori Castle, salad and wraps joint Squeeze ‘N’ Toss, contemporary European place Infuzi and organic food spot Onaka Healing Kitchen.
CC21 Holland Village
A place that needs no introduction but one which we can now explore like locals to uncover its lesser known charms and the kind of quirky randomness associated with the neighborhood (there’s no need for us to recommend another Haagen Daz or Coffee Club, right?). At the top of Holland Road Shopping Centre at its rooftop is the well hidden 211 Rooftop Terrace Café, which serves unpretentious local chow and Spin, a five-month-old lifestyle store which specializes in contemporary designer ceramics.
If you’re a culture vulture, you must check out the recently renovated Taksu—you can’t miss its new all-glass entrance. Currently on show are the artworks of local street artists like Trase One in the exhibition The Resistance Movement. The little-known Diana Francis Studio is also where prints and editions by the American expat can be found, featuring beautiful Asian-inspired oil paintings.
Don’t miss the Circle Line Carnival happening here!
CC20 Farrer Road
Unless you’re visiting someone in the area or looking to find some faith (the Catholic Church of St. Ignatius and International Baptism Church are located here, with the requisite condo and HDB flats, although none truly noteworthy), there really is not much here. Get off at your own risk.
CC19 Botanic Gardens
More than merely a stop for the northern part of the Botanic Gardens, this train station is the first stop connecting us to the food, flora and feel-good vibes of Bukit Timah. Those who have always moaned about the inaccessibility of Adam Road Food Center will be glad to know that Botanic Gardens station is located just right across the road. Ditto gourmet burger place Relish, now within reach more than ever. Also in the same building is Mu Dan, where we spotted some gorgeous one-off furniture and chandeliers peppe red throughout the second floor area. Prices are ridiculously steep, though.
The foodie neighborhood is also home to La Petite Cuisine, a cozy, unassuming French nook most notable for its pan-fried foie gras with orange confit, another new burger place Burger Shack, a hit among the locals in the area, and smaller, older establishments like En Japanese Dining Bar and Penang Kitchen, and even O’Riordan’s Irish Pub—an unpretentious beer joint.
CC18 Bukit Brown
Those looking to explore the century-old Bukit Brown Cemetery and the surrounding black-and-white bungalow estates will be disappointed; the station won’t open until the area gets developed.
The big name when it comes to Singaporean media (MediaCorp have their offices here), Caldecott is also known for its flower gardens and its close proximity to MacRitchie Reservoir. Don’t miss Hawaii Landscape, a chilled-out, indie sort of flower garden (if there is such a thing), which will give you some pretty good ideas on how you can turn your space into a Balinese dream, and Island Landscape & Nursery, which proves to be quite trippy with its contemporary sculptures and water features. One of them is a five-foot-tall limestone penis.