6 Hot new restaurants in Telok Ayer
The owners of MexOut Robert Kindler, Marcus Jilla and Jared Goldberg.
PHOTOS: DESMOND LUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

The once-sleepy area around Telok Ayer and Amoy streets is waking up.

While the stretch between Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place MRT stations is better known for its Korean restaurants, coffee shops and the Amoy Street Food Centre, the face of the neighbourhood is changing. Cafes and restaurants popping up in the area are attracting new diners.

Some of the latest ones include Japanese fusion eatery The Flying Squirrel, steak and burger restaurant The Market Grill and chic cafe Sophie’s Bakery.

Hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, who picked the area for two-week-old The Market Grill, says: “Telok Ayer Street is nice and vibrant with all the conservation shophouses there. It seems to be totally under-served by good mid-range eateries, which is surprising, given the growing population of people living in the area.

“It already has a very good mix of office workers on weekdays, but is increasingly busy on weekends too.”


SOPHIE BAKERY

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: Parisian-style Sophie bakery has been drawing in the office crowds since it opened at the end of January.

On the first day it opened its doors, it sold 200 of its signature buttery croissants in the first hour.

These days, customers can still expect a queue at lunch time.

The bakery, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Swedish property group Reinhold, is a new concept dreamt up by its chief executive Dominika Pomaranska, who is Polish. It is named after her maternal grandmother.

The group chose Singapore for its first outlet because it saw a gap in the market, she says.

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerSophie Bakery will be opening three more outlets by next month – one at Wisma Atria and another at Velocity in Novena, while the third will be at a yet-to-be-finalised location in the Central Business District. There are also plans to grow the chain to 20 outlets through franchising by the end of the year.

Aside from croissants ($2), other baked goodies at Sophie include baguettes ($2.90), pain au chocolat or chocolate croissant ($2.50), macarons in flavours such as pistachio, strawberry and chocolate ($2 each), tarts ($4) and Parisian-style baguette sandwiches (from $5.50). There are also various other breads, buns and danishes.

Behind these creations is French baker Nicolas Moutalidis, 30, who has worked for several bakeries including popular Eric Kayser boulangerie and patisserie in Paris.

Where: 167-169 Telok Ayer Street

Open: 8am to 7pm (weekdays). It plans to open on weekends soon.

Info: Call 6221-6269, e-mail sophie@sophiebakery.com or go to www.sophiebakery.sg

Ms Pomaranska, 29, says: “We liked the shophouses in this area and we wanted our first shop to be a destination. We plan to keep the style very French, with French music and some seating.”

On competition from other bakeries including Paul, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Maison Kayser, she adds: “I’m very confident about our design, products and ambience.”


SMOKE SHACK

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: This sandwich deli, which first opened at Market Street in 2010, has found a home at Far East Square after moving to other places such as Republic Plaza.

Some of its offerings include signature sandwiches such as the New Yorker filled with meat smoked in-house and melted gruyere; and Montevideo, which is filled with steak strips, bacon rashers and black olive mayonnaise. Prices start at $9 for a sandwich. It now also sells coffee from Toby’s Estate. In a few months’ time, a flagship outlet at 13 Duxton Hill will open.

Where: Far East Square, 2 Amoy Street, 01-01, open: 7.30am to 7.30pm (weekdays), closed on weekends

Info: Call 6557-2214 or e-mail nick.iman@facebook.com


THE MARKET GRILL

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: The latest eatery by hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng has a menu that revolves around steaks, burgers and live lobsters.

Executive chef Colin West, who is of Australian-Chinese parentage and is Singaporean, helms the kitchen at the two-week-old restaurant, which features char-grilled whole lobster ($42, far right), 200-day grain-fed wagyu rump steak ($38) and CW Cod Fish burger ($26).

Other signature burgers from West include CW Portobello ($22) and CW Bleu Cheese ($22) with sweet burnt onion marmalade and bacon with a walnut raisin bun. Desserts include Market Grill Granita “Martini” ($18), which is vodka ice topped with lemon and lime sorbet; rum banana pockets ($15); and a warm walnut brownie ($15).

Where: 208 Telok Ayer Street, open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5 to 10pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6221-3323 or e-mail info@themarketgrill.com.sg


MEXOUT

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: Get your fix of Mexican cuisine at the new 45-seat casual Mexican eatery, which opened last Thursday. Choose from burritos (from $9), corn tacos (three for $13), rice ($13) or salad bowls ($13, above).

Next, add protein such as char-grilled chicken; beef barbacoa (add $2), which is dry-roasted beef brisket with cumin and chilli powder; or cochinta pibil, which is pork shoulder braised in orange juice.

Fillings include Mexican-style red rice, black beans, pinto beans and shredded iceberg lettuce and sour cream. It also has a variety of salsas such as mango pineapple, and fire roasted salsa with jalapenos and red onions.

Happy hour is from 6 to 8pm with Corona beer at $7 and margaritas at $7 a glass or $25 a jug.

Where: Far East Square, 39 Pekin Street, 01-01, open: 11am to 10pm (weekdays), closed on weekends

Info: Call 9770-7441 or go to mexout.com

MexOut’s Australian director Marcus Jilla, 26, says: “Mexican cuisine is clearly on the rise and is fast becoming a prominent dining staple. Outlets such as Piedra Negra in Beach Road and Lucha Loco in Duxton Hill have capitalised on this and seen tremendous success. Singapore does not have a strong offering of ‘fresh-Mex’ – fast, fresh and tasty Mexican food which is made to order.”


LUKE’S TAVERN

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: This New England-style tavern, by chef Travis Masiero of Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House at Gemmill Lane, will focus on wood-fire and rotisserie cooking.

Prices of mains such as burgers and steaks will range from $23 to $40. There will also be an extensive craft cocktail, beer and wine menu.

Construction of the 60-seat restaurant is likely to start next month at the new Amoy hotel in Far East Square, and is slated to open in July.

Where: Amoy hotel, 76 Telok Ayer Street

Chef-owner Travis Masiero, 33, says: “We notice that the Central Business District area is becoming more residential. From our experience at Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House, we understand that many customers are ‘locals’ – meaning those who live in the CBD. The financial district is shaping up to be a lively neighbourhood and we want to be the spot for diners to go to for a good meal.”


THE FLYING SQUIRREL

6 Hot new restaurants in Telok AyerWhat: This hole-in-the-wall eatery is a former video editing studio in a small alley off Amoy Street. It is owned by musician Jack Ho, 35, and his wife Angelina, 33. Ho is half of local pop duo Jack & Rai, and his partner Rai Kannu, 34, is a shareholder in the restaurant.

The restaurant’s quirky name is inspired by Angelina’s Australian zodiac sign – the sugar glider, which is like a flying squirrel. The food at the 25-seater eatery, on the other hand, is not exotic.

The Japanese fusion menu features lunch bentos (from $12) and dinner items such as truffled ebi fry ($15), wagyu udon soup ($30), unagi donburi ($17) and yaki soba ($14).

Where: 92 Amoy Street, 01-02, open: 9am to 10pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 11am to midnight (Fridays & Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6226-2203 or e-mail reservations@theflyingsquirrel.com.sg

Co-owner Jack Ho says: “Even though it’s off the normal path, we fell in love with the side alley entrance of the outlet and the industrial vintage feel of the space that is not too intimidating for diners. We wanted to bank on the crowd in the Central Business District and Amoy Street has an old-school- meets-new-school vibe.”

This article was first run The Straits Times newspaper on March 10, 2013; read the full story at http://sph.straitstimes.com/premium/lifestyle/story/telok-ayer-wakes-20130310. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.