Tatler Tours: Cheryl Wee Takes Us Around Tiong Bahru | The Best Food, Activities and Spots
Entrepreneur Cheryl Wee rediscovers Tiong Bahru in the sixth episode of Tatler Tours, giving us a glimpse into the quaint spaces and hidden gems that make up this colourful neighbourhood. We explore Merci Marcel, Woods in the Books and more
There's more than meets the eye at Singapore's oldest housing estate, Tiong Bahru. The quaint neighbourhood is a prime example of where old meets new—with a storied history to boot. It is also perhaps one of the many few places in the city-state where you'd get to see pre-war architecture from the early 1930s that are influenced by the style of streamline moderne—a later architectural development following the art deco movement which sees simple and functional lines in its style, further characterised by curved shapes and rounded corners.
If you find the architecture in the area a familiar sight, you may have seen it in filmmaker Tan Bee Thiam's latest film that opened the Singapore International Film Festival, Tiong Bahru Social Club, which was set within the idyllic district of Tiong Bahru. Take a stroll around the neighbourhood today and you'll find that it is filled with a myriad of colourful establishments that attracts a wide demographic. And its unique offerings, from trendy plant stores to traditional eateries and independent fashion boutiques, will ensure that a day spent there is indeed an exciting affair. In this episode of Tatler Tours, we enlisted the help of entrepreneur Cheryl Wee as she has a particular affinity to the area. Here, she takes us around her favourite establishments that hearken back to the great memories shared between her and her husband, Roy Fong.
Watch the video below:
Merci Marcel Tiong Bahru
If you're a regular visitor to the area, you'll notice that the stretch along Eng Hoon street is constantly filled with customers and long waiting lines as diners wait for a spot at one of the restaurants there. Merci Marcel stands out from the rest, in terms of its facade and what's on the menu. Not only does it serve up delicious French-inspired fare in its beautiful bohemian-chic space, but it also features a garden patio that reminds one of the South of France, which is situated in a climate that's closer to the tropics.
Whilst there, be sure to order the Ravioles de Royan, a French dumpling pasta dish filled with Tête de Moine cheese, which packs a stronger and fruitier flavour to its Comte counterpart. What's interesting is that the team at Merci Marcel uses a girolle, a unique cheese cutter used to thinly shave away layers from the top of the cheese wheel to create these beautiful rosettes placed atop the pasta. The result is a creamy and luscious treat, finished with a splash of chive oil for added aroma and texture.
As a self-declared foodie who prefers not to have an overwhelming portion of cheese or cream-based ingredients, Wee still makes it a point to order the dish at every visit as it is her absolute favourite go-to. For dessert, Wee notes that the chocolate cake with homemade whipped cream is a must-have as well to end your meal on a sweet note.
Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry
If you're a fan of nonya kuehs and sweet treats, then this place is for you. Head to Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry during your next visit, where fourth-generation stall owners behind the establishment serve up a variety of handmade local treats, including the much-loved kueh dadar and kueh ambon. But don't expect to see the typical gula melaka-soaked coconut filling in its kueh dadar, as it skips the palm sugar ingredient to retain the grated coconut's natural colour. The result is a delightful flavour with hints of nuttiness that keeps customers coming back for more despite the long queues.
But as the saying goes: good things come to those who wait. Wee ordered some of her favourite kuehs in the video, including the quintessential kueh rainbow lapis, kueh salat and lemper ayam.
Woods in the Books
Independent children's bookstore Woods in the Books was also part of Wee's itinerary. As they walk in, guests will be greeted with several colourful illustrations on the walls, followed by an endless array of books to pique their interest—definitely a creative haven for the little ones.
Wanting to instill a love for reading in her two children, Wee says: "Reading sparks imagination and in the world of books, anything can happen!"
During our visit, she picked out Will You Be My Friend?, a sequel to the picture book classic Guess How Much I Love You by renowned author Sam McBratney and illustrator Anita Jeram. "What I like about this book is that it reminds Marc and Emma [Wee's children] that they will always have a friend in each other."
Tiong Bahru Yong Tao Hu
Situated at the junction of Eng Hoon Street and Tiong Poh Road, Wee was first introduced to this establishment by her father and husband as it was a regular pit stop for the duo after their morning cycles on the weekends. We can attest that it's a popular dining spot, and aptly so as the family business has been around since 1989 and serves up fresh handmade ingredients every day.
This fuss-free eatery allows customers to choose between a dry or soup option and comes with a standard serving of ingredients. The latter is fantastic for colder, rainy days, where a satisfying portion of soup feels as good as a warm hug.
The beautiful studio of Wonderland Botanicals is tucked within the retail space of Nana & Bird, a multi-label fashion retailer located along Yong Siak Street. The studio runs a specialised flower subscription service where customers can receive contemporary floral arrangements weekly that complements the interiors of their homes. They're also artfully arranged in handpicked vases in varying sizes, and left to the creative team to put together with the season's freshest flora and foliage in mind. During our visit, we met with the creative head of Wonderland Botanicals, Melissa Wang, who shares during a quick floral arrangement session: "We have different styles to suit different homes in our subscription range. We try to encourage customers not to waste, and the unique thing is that we have an interesting range of vases and we'll change it for them on a weekly basis so the customer doesn't need to acquire them."
Floral enthusiasts looking to participate in workshops can look forward to it from the end of February onwards, where they will be able to do so at the Tiong Bahru studio space.