Best of 2014: 10 trends that rocked Singapore’s dining scene

Singapore’s food and drink scene is, without a doubt, on the rise. Here are the 10 trends that catalysed our culinary culture and delighted our palates:

4 Cs: casual, cool, cocktails, and comfort food

It’s been a while now, but let’s make it official: stiff, pretentious eateries decked with collared servers and starched tablecloths that serve microscopic food are beyond boring. Just give us good food and cocktails that fill us and inspire us – no pretense, no bull. Forging their way into this new dining style are newbies like Sugarhall, Here & There, and FOC (pictured).

Cafe hopping 

We’ve always been a coffee-loving country, but this year, we radically changed the way we consume it. The emergence of café hopping was perhaps due to social media such as Instagram and Burpple, because boasting about where you’ve been is half the fun – right? Innumerable coffee joints such as The Hangar, Tian Kee & Co., The Lokal (pictured), Whale and Cloud, and Envy Coffee have opened up shop this year. We even saw Singapore’s first Café Fest which caffeinated the crowds as they proffered roasted sips from the likes of The Providore, Common Man Coffee Roasters, Jimmy Monkey, and Toby’s Estate.

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Cocktail renaissance

In July, CNN dubbed our island as the “world’s hottest new cocktail city”.  The tipple craze continued its traction this year and bloomed with numerous new bars.  Bartenders, who have now reached a quasi-celeb status, spent their time polishing their awards and waxing their mustaches. Craft cocktails at bars like L’Aiglon, Horse’s Mouth, Library, 28 Hong Kong Street, and B Bar at Bacchanalia are pushing the boundaries. The trend has even gone mainstream, with hotels catching on and cashing in as they open trendy cocktail enclaves (think: Regent’s Manhattan Bar and Fairmont’s Anti:Dote).

Local, small-batch, and handmade

2014 proved that we’ve had it with generic, soul-less, grocery store-bought foods. Our mealtimes were spiced up with local, small-batch, and handmade foods and drinks, and communities sprung up in support of it. The Ate Group’s ‘creative festival’ Creatory, online grocer Crateful, ‘digital farmers market’ Batch, and design shop Naiise, have helped to carve out a space for local brands like Maracatu (Cachaca), Bruneus (healthy snacks), Citizen Pop (healthier sodas; top pic), Cacaosians (drinking chocolate), and The Edible Co. (granola).

Luxe for less 

Call it the democratisation of food! Over the past 12 months we’ve seen a number of affordable eateries unfurl that serve food that would have otherwise left our wallets empty. Late last year Beppe De Vito of Il Lido opened &SONS Bacaro, a hearty Italian restaurant with equally affordable wines and cocktails. Then this year, we dined at Saveur’s Italian sibling, Concetto (pictured), and lined up for Teppei’s buffet restaurant, Hanare.

One-trick bakers 

You know what they say – a jack of all trades is a master of none. Pie pros Windowsill Pies, and cupcake gurus like Plain Vanilla Bakery and Fluff, have paved the way for a slew of baker-newbies who are in the business to specialize in one thing, and one thing alone. Make a beeline for Two Men Bagel House for delicious bagels, Ben’s Cookies for classic British cookies, and L’éclair by Sarah Michelle (pictured) for the most luxurious multi-flavoured éclairs.

Read more about the rise of the one-trick bakers in Singapore

Ode to yesteryear 

Perhaps it’s because our beloved old school haunts are quickly disappearing, but a slew of new cafes and bars have opened up that pay homage to the past. For example, My Awesome Café, which inhabits an old shophouse in Telok Ayer, has maintained its brilliant façade which reads: Chung Hwa Free Clinic. Then there’s Tian Kee & Co. (pictured), which is another provision shop turned cafe. Ann Siang’s Nutmeg & Clove, on the other hand, pays homage to Singapore’s spice trade past with cocktails designed around the flavours of our island nation’s rich history.

Pop-up restaurants 

Restaurants have been popping up in the west for years now, but we’ve finally mustered enough interest from the masses to assemble a few good pop-up dinners on our shores. This year, The Hideaway, My Private Chef (pictured), and Gastrogig continued to throw a series of themed dinners; Geek Crusade organized a Game of Thrones dinner party; and 4 x FOUR, “Singapore’s ultimate pop-up dining experience”, was back with Michelin-starred chefs like Mads Refslund of noma, Rolf Fliegauf of Ristorante ECCO, and Nathan Outlaw of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw.  

Veggie power 

It’s plain fact that more people are taking the veggie route these days. Dull and granola no more, new vegan and vegetarian eateries like Joie (pictured) and Afterglow have sprung up to cater to those that have kicked out carne. The plant-based community can look forward to Singapore’s first vegan festival, Vegan Vibes, which is slated for early 2015.

ICYMI: Singapore’s first all-vegan festival sprouting up next year


Waffles and ice cream 

Our craving for waffles and ice cream is perhaps a byproduct of our recent infatuation with café hopping – because who can drink coffee all weekend without going a little loco? Shrines for this holy matrimony of waffles and ice cream have been built at Sunday Folks (pictured), Rabbit Owl Depot, 5 the Moments, and Waffle Slayer. This is where things get creative – try Sunday Folks’ Belgian waffles with lemon cheesecake and sea salt gula Melaka ice cream or Waffle Slayer’s squid ink waffle with bacon and vanilla ice cream.

See more ‘Year in Review’ stories:

Best of 2014: Biggest complains made by Singaporeans this year

Best of 2014: Singapore, here’s what you searched for most on Google

Best of 2014: Google’s top selling books in Singapore

Best of 2014: Singapore, here’s what you listened to most on Spotify 


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