Located right near Buona Vista, Rochester Park is the latest dining neighborhood to hit the scene. This group of 11 tastefully restored black and whites, surrounded by foliage to give a sense of retreat and privacy, makes good use of our warm weather with large outdoor decks for plenty of alfresco activity. Cool crowds have been onto this for the last few months, but it’s only now that most of the dining joints are fully operational.
There are five food and beverage outlets open, with more lifestyle establishments planned. Landlord Jurong Town Council (JTC) is hoping to bring in more choice tenants such as a spas, galleries and boutiques sometime “soon” (that’s all JTC would tell us), adding even more drawcards to the mix.
But even with just the restaurants and bars, Rochester Park is a hip and happening place to chill, eat and drink among the beautiful people. What’s unique about Rochester is that patrons are surrounded by colonial architecture. This marks a significant change whereby restaurants and bars are moving back towards embracing our history, our heritage and (shock! horror!) our weather. I-S gets the lowdown on what’s happening at Rochester Park.
No. 1: One Rochester
This bar was really the first to attract the crowds to the new scene at Rochester Park, and we can see why. A large deck area with plenty of greenery, couches and candles make this a simply fabulous (dah-ling) place to chill out with a group of friends. Upstairs there’s a balcony and more seats, and the crowd is very chi-chi and cool. This is the place that everyone’s heading to and, thankfully, crowd control is good, so your table won’t be surrounded by the vultures waiting for you to get up and go. The flip side of this is that, unless you get there very early, you can expect to wait. Very little standing room allocated. No reservations are taken so once the place is full, you’ll just have to mooch around until space becomes available. Open Mon-Fri 6pm-1am; Sat-Sun 6pm-2am.
No. 2: North Border Bar and Grill
This is South Western cuisine from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, so you know what to expect: Big serves, tangy hot sauces and a friendly casual atmosphere. What you might not expect, however, are the wine room, the subdued and restrained décor of the interior and the gorgeous outdoor decking that has become Rochester Park’s signature architectural feature. They like things hot hot hot at North Border, so be prepared for spice in everything, including the desserts (chili ice cream anyone?). There’s also a retail store selling sauces and other accessories, including its range of Ass Kickin Hot Sauce products. Happy hour is from 3-8pm daily, and there are changing drink specials every day, including free corkage BYO on Wednesdays. Open daily 11:30am-midnight.
No. 3: Da Paolo Bistro Bar
The latest edition to the Da Paolo group has just had a soft opening. Diners can sample the usual Italian fare they have come to expect from the Da Paolo group, and there are the signature Rochester alfresco seating arrangements, polished floor boards and chilled ambience. Signature dishes have yet to be decided, but we’re expecting lots of antipasti, pizzas, pastas and drinks. Da Paolo Bistro Bar claims to be open Wed-Fri, Sun-Mon noon-2:30pm, 6pm-1am; Sat noon-2:30pm, 6pm-2am—but we suspect that, with the soft launch, they may also be ironing out their hours of operation, so call ahead.
No. 4: Graze
The latest venture for Hong Kong’s JIA Boutique Hotels is Graze, where contemporary dining, relaxing drinking and a good old barbecue meal all meet. The restaurant has a large outdoor drinking area, with rattan chairs, white cushions and a huge projector backdrop showing old black and white movies. Upstairs there’s the lounge bar, Mint, and inside there’s a modest range of sauces, spices and other culinary concoctions available for purchase. Chef Matthew Lawdorn offers a range of dishes, from barbecue meats to modern Western dishes. Graze’s point of difference, however, is its grazing menu, where the indecisive can order smaller tasting portions to share as they while their time away over a good glass of wine. And don’t miss the oyster shooters. Graze is open Tue-Fri 6:30pm-midnight (last food order 10:15pm); Sat-Sun 9am-3pm, 6:30pm-midnight (last food order 10:15pm); Mint is open Tue-Fri, Sun 6:30pm-1am; Sat 6:30pm-2am.
No. 5: Min Jiang
Forget the tacky décor and deafening cacophony we’ve come to associate with Chinese restaurants—Min Jiang is taking Chinese dining to a whole new level. And what a refreshing change it makes. The place is decked out with tasteful antiques, sedate colors and a fully stocked bar, as well as a large alfresco dining area. Owned by the folks at Goodwood Park Hotel, this upper mid-range restaurant offers a full page of Chef’s Specials, such as shark’s fin soup with spinach ($45 per person) and Chinese red wine fried rice ($16 for small, $24 for medium), but the one that you cannot miss is the Beijing Duck ($40 for half, $80 for whole). This is perhaps one of the few Chinese restaurants in town where you may want to stick around for a few drinks after your food instead of getting out as quickly as you can to go somewhere nicer. Open daily 11am-2:30pm, 6-10:30pm; Dim Sum High Tea Sat-Sun 3-5pm.
Whatever your preference in food or drinks, Rochester Park offers a unique, tasteful and übercool place to hang out. Check it out before it becomes so popular that you can’t get in.