Streetwise: Novena & Balestier

There are more than a few reasons why we love Novena and Balestier. Sandwiched between the city center, Bukit Timah and Little India, these neighbors are the city’s most accessible and interesting “suburbs,” with a myriad of shopping, dining and leisure options for those who stay around the area. But for those who don’t live in the hood, it’s worth venturing down to soak in the eclectic atmosphere, especially for Balestier’s ghetto-like street offerings, while the more contemporary Novena has some pretty interesting shops that rival those on Orchard Road. It’s the wonderful contrast between the two that draws us back there time and time again—perhaps it’s time you visited too.

Square 2

10 Sinaran Dr.
Although known predominantly for Korean fashion, there is a slew of other cool shops here like music store The Attic and countless choice boutiques that will win you over with their quirky charm spanning four floors.
18 Karaats
#01-13, 6397-6430.
Never mind that they are simulated diamonds—the rings, necklaces and pendants found here ($300-2,000) are gorgeously set.
The Attic
#01-64, 6235-0165.
Owner Bobby Yeo, a veteran in the local music scene, specializes in rare imported CDs and vinyls spanning rock, jazz, R&B, folk and oldies. Some of the gems found here include a limited edition Bob Dylan box set ($200) and Japanese import albums by Jethro Tull and Joni Mitchell ($50 upwards).
#02-68/69, 6397-7358.
This chocolate specialist offers a welcome respite after a hard day’s worth of shopping in the mall. We recommend the gelatos here—from pistachio to rum & raisin to caramel—for just $4.90 per scoop. Or if you like your chocolates purer, try the Venezuelan and Caribbean Islands chocolates by the piece.
The Clothier Place
#01-50, 8228-2289.
If you’re a self-confessed cool kid looking for that elusive rag, then you’ve come to the right place. This place stocks affordable clothes from underground local label Men-Da. We especially dig the trendy hats ($29), and the shirts are a steal at $39-89 (various designs).
Fravis Array
#02-41/42, 9844-3398.
This month-old boutique features a selection of classic dresses and jackets with a modern twist imported mostly from Hong Kong and Taiwan. We like the navy drape wrap dress ($54.90) with its cut and carefully layered drapes, and the taupe corduroy jacket with round bronze buttons down the front ($44.90).
Girls Over Flowers
#03-114/115, 6397-2678.
Girls Over Flowers imports apparel and bags that are often seen on Korean girl groups or boybands. We fell in love with a pair of washed-out slim cut jeans ($59) and a Marilyn Monroe graphic cotton long-sleeved tee ($25).
Han Sang Korean Family Restaurant
#03-32-35/40-44, 6397-6752.
Tying in with the Korean-inspired concept of Square 2, Han Sang Family Korean Restaurant is one of the better Korean restaurants here. We like the Samgye-Tang or Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup ($23), one of their signature dishes, a delicate and clear broth which complements chicken bits, ginseng and glutinous rice stuffing—yum.
#01-70, 6397-6568.
Specializing in imported fashion from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Italy, some of the highlights here include the silk ruffled shorts ($59), red-with-a-tinge-of-leopard-print dress ($99) and the genuine leather tote bags ($59) in brown, orange and aquamarine blue.
Kimi Organics
#03-47, 6397-6890.
Founder Alicia Tan is an advocate for healthy eating, so she set up this store which specializes in organic foods imported from the US and Australia. It is the sole distributor and retailer of One Healthy Habit’s 100% Organic Mangosteen Juice ($50 for 700ml), a refreshing drink that boasts antioxidant properties. If you prefer to snack, check out the Sensible Foods Organic Crunch Dried Snacks ($5).
Mama Patisserie
#02-06/07, 6397-6789.
Mama Patisserie bakes all bread and pastries daily with premium Japanese flour and no preservatives. Some of their loaves like black sesame ($2.30) and pain de mie ($1.90) contain no egg, making them healthier options. Their signature bread is the Chocolate Bowl ($2.50), a dome-shaped fluffy chocolate confection studded with dark chocolate chips. For something savory, try the wasabi mayo crayfish bread ($1.80).
#02-70, 6397-6009.
One of the better street style boutiques for men, the store is chock-full of men’s shirts ($39.90 upwards), trucker caps ($29.90 upwards) and belts and accessories. One for the young or the young at heart.
Merry Mary
#02-62, 6397-7009/9772-4107.
With an array of toga dresses ($20-30) and prom dresses ($39,90), this treasure trove carries so many items, you’ll really need to dig to find the good stuff. Our picks: A fashionable and functional fishnet grey knit vest ($25) and an ethnic apple green embroidered tote bag imported from Vietnam ($25).
Ns’ Boutique
#01-168/169, 6397-2628.
A hot favorite among tai-tais in the area, the inviting interior is where standout pieces like studded heels ($99 upwards) and “cut” designer labels ($150 upwards) can be found. You’ve got to dig through the racks for your favorite as pieces are very limited, but well worth the effort.
natalie e
#02-03, 9748-0824.
Tastefully furnished by proprietor Shirley Chew with miniature paintings of Paris and antique-looking wallpaper, Natalie e houses two brands: Natalie e is a collection of classic styles for workwear, such as a black-and-white sleeveless shift dress ($97) and a coral pink capsleeved shift dress ($95), while Nicole David’s range of clothes features richer fabrics, such as a beautiful lilac lace overlay dress ($159) and a unique black polyester mix dress with curly white embroidery ($209).
Polish The Nails Room
#04-06, 6397-6597.
The first thing that attracts you about Polish is the red chinoiserie decor and plush armchairs. The next thing you notice is the warm, friendly attitude of the nail technicians. Offering over 400 nail colors from OPI to China Glaze, Polish is known for its hygienic pedicures and patient service. A usual express manicure or pedicure here costs $12.
#01-47, 6397-2420.
We love the healthy portions of the premium sandwiches found here, which are a step up from the usual Subway variety. Try the spicy beef & cheddar with bacon or the smokey chili turkey ($6.90 for 6”, $10.30 for 12”), best with savory soups of broccoli cheese and chicken noodle ($3.50 per bowl).
ResearchBooks Asia
#03-22, 6252-5575
This is the place to go for science and health and fitness books. The collection here is almost as astounding as the various anatomical models and skeleton replicas which could make cool interior objects. They also take special orders—yes, even for non-science related books.
#03-04, 6397-2616.
Come here for the varied ties, which are currently on sale for just $35 per piece, or $60 for any two designs. Selected shirts are also at 40 percent off—the classic white pieces are definitely good bets.
Silence Concept
#01-153/154, 6222-1128.
Don’t let its simple facade fool you. Targeting PMEBs, Silence Concept sells tops and dresses that are pretty fashionable: The lace kimono top in white or yellow ($89.90) is a nice dress-down Friday separate, while the white lace overlay dress ($71.90) and muted red shiftdress ($89.90) both deserve a place in any office wardrobe.
#01-31, 6397-6505.
Owner Joanie Lee sources all the pieces in her store from Hong Kong and Korea. Apart from the quality leather bags under her own Carry N Wear label ($150 upwards) and emerging regional brands like Gisele and Paisley, some of the highlights here include the one-off frilly silk dress ($169) and other rare finds.
Urban Tool
#02-60, 6397-7069.
Catering to those who wish to travel light, the range of bags here is affordable and stylish. The slotBar ($75) comes in six colors and can be used in three ways: As a sling bag, waist pouch or mini handbag. The style-conscious can even custom-make their very own with embroidered Swarovski crystals ($52-189, depending on the complexity of the design).
Zen Beauty
#03-88/106, 6397-7168.
This place offers facial/spa, nails, foot refloxology and eyebrow services in a luxurious and intimate setting.
NEXT: Goldhill Plaza-Centre / United Square / Novena Square-VeloCity

SKIP to Balestier