If you paid attention in class, you’ll already know about the history of the Singapore River. Interesting though it is, we tend to let our hunger not our textbooks guide us, and fortunately there’s a multitude of dining options along the banks. We started our food trek at the understated Robertson Quay area, past the crowds in Clarke Quay, and wound up at the iconic Raffles’ landing site. Here are the pick of establishments worth docking at.
#01-12 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6887-4344.
A relaxed bistro offering courtesy of Belgian celeb chef and yoga guru Emmanuel Stroobant, located in what’s arguably our favorite part of the stretch (Robertson Quay). It’s just busy enough to be buzzing but not so much as to be off-putting. We’re all about the mussels (done in 25 possible ways). For a clear option, order them a la Leffe Blonde—coriander, butter, celery, onion and parsley in Leffe Blonde beer. And if you need an extra hit of seafood, give their creamy ostendaise a go. Asian flavors make an unexpected appearance with lobster consommé base tom yam, all the usual suspects, and imperial ginseng, red dates and wolf berries in a double-boiled chicken stock. Starter portions go for $18.50, while mains are $38.50. Both are accompanied by free refills of fries. All the better to soak up the obscene amount of beer you’ll be drinking. Oh wait, that was us. There are only 120 different ones to tickle your fancy, so make sure you set aside some time to work your way through the lot. Brownie points (and a ridiculous bill) if you manage it all in one sitting.
Fremantle Seafood Market
#01-05/06 Traders’ Market, Blk. 3E Clarke Quay, River Valley Rd., 6337-1838.
Set in the bustling Clarke Quay area, this dedicated seafood specialist channels the vibrant yet carefree vibe of Freo, Perth. They’re all about the freshest seafood, flying it in thrice a week from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Alaska and, of course, Australia. Sure, there’s the quintessential fish ‘n chips ($19), which are always good with a lavish squeeze of lemon juice and vinegar, if you please. But for something a little different, try their whole fish, such as snapper baked in paper with a medley of different herbs or barramundi in a sea salt crust (from $55). We reckon their Sunday brunch ($58), with its spread of king fish Hamachi, yellow fin tuna, chilled shrimps, half-shell scallops and mussels with lemon cocktail sauce, is an ideal weekend option. Be sure to guzzle down some freshly shucked oysters with spicy soy mirin or garlic aioli.
Octapas Spanish Tapas Bar
#01-08 Blk. D, Clarke Quay, River Valley Rd., 6837-2938.
Also in the vicinity, is Octapas Spanish Tapas Bar, one of the newest restaurant-bars. While the indoor setup is made for cozying up with a special someone, that pretty much defeats the purpose of riverside dining. The alfresco area, like the rest of the lot here, is modeled after the deck of a ship. So you can’t take yourself too seriously if you want to enjoy it (the other option, which we always endorse, is to drink heavily). The flavor here is distinctly Spanish, so be prepared for an onslaught of tapas. We strongly recommend kicking things off with some blackberry sangrias ($16.50) as you wait. We’re fans of their flash-fried shrimps wrapped in bacon with tomato salsa ($14.50) and roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with minced chicken ($14). Other highlights include tender grilled squid in a balsamic vinegar reduction ($15.50) and beef tenderloin cubes in garlicky gravy ($17).
Timbre @ The Arts House
#01-04 The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, 6336-3386.
While we were initially reluctant to venture from the original at The Substation, we’re awful glad we did. It’s a great spot to kick back, and the view from the Arts House’s riverfront is splendid. Chill out to easy listening live local music with bands Goodfellas and 53A as you munch on their scrumptious thin-crust pizzas. We’ve been known to gobble down more than a few, such as their tandoori chicken ($17)—grilled tandoori-spiced chicken breast, sliced roma tomatoes, melted mozzarella and grilled yellow and green zucchini. If you can’t settle on just one flavor, do a half and half pizza for $19. Aside from their happy hours for the boozehounds, they also have bundled pizza and beer deals from $30.
IndoChine Waterfront Restaurant
Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, 6339-1720.
At the other end of the spectrum is famous IndoChine group’s spin on Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese food. Designed by Michael Ma, you should fully expect trimmings like lotus flower-shaped Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, Sukhothai Buddhas and Shan antiques for a touch of contemporary contrasted with old world charm. And yes, the view of Boat Quay and Empress Place is picturesque. But they’re not just a pretty face, the food is also delicious. Christen your meal with some goi cuon vit ($20)—Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with roast duck, fresh green mangoes, Japanese cucumbers, coriander and mint leaves, highlighted with a mango ginger sauce. Signatures like the French beef stew ragoût ($26) and IndoChine lemongrass rack of lamb with pumpkin wedges and rosemary-scented apples ($46) are also worthy picks.
Other hot spots:
#01-10 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay, 6836-5370.
#01-13 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6738-1077.
Café Iguana Riverside Point
#01-03 Riverside Point, 30 Merchant Rd., 6236-1275.
Kinara North West Frontier Cuisine
57 Boat Quay, 6533-0414.
Quayside Seafood Restaurant
Blk. 3A Clarke Quay, River Valley Rd., 6338-0138.