The best-kept secrets of Singapore’s Orchard Road

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December 15 View of Orchard Road at night

Orchard Road might be the heart of Singapore’s high-end retail scene and the best place to enjoy festive street lights, but there is more to the stretch than bright lights and high-fashion brands. Believe it or not, it is also packed with some alternative options for foodies and shopaholics alike, mostly just a hidden turn away from all the action. Here are some of our top picks.

Aerial view of Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Singapore
Photo credit: Marklin Ang

Exotic Flavors

Generally known for its run-down appearance and abundance of KTV bars, the slightly infamous Orchard Towers also has one other claim to fame: delicious Thai food. The old office building and shopping centre is home to half a dozen casual Thai cafes, serving fiery, authentic flavors for Singapore’s Thai community. Try dishes like the krapao kai (basil chicken), green curry and other classics at one of several options, including Thai Tantric and Korat.

Believe it or not, Orchard Road also has one of the best stretches for affordable Japanese food. Turn onto Cuppage Road, just off the main shopping belt, and you’ll find Cuppage Terrace, packed with all manner of restaurants, bars and even a Bollywood dance club. To the right of Cuppage Terrace is the older, more modest building, Cuppage Plaza, also known as Little Japan. Here you’ll find casual ramen bars, izakayas and other eateries at affordable prices.

Hidden Tipples

Walking down the crowded thoroughfare full of shoppers and glittering storefronts, it’s easy to miss Emerald Hill. The turn to this historic, cobblestoned neighborhood is nestled between the Singapore Visitor Centre and Peranakan Place, half-obscured by outdoor seating for Acid Bar. But walk inside and you’ll be amazed at the beautiful Peranakan-style houses that line both sides, many of which have been turned into bars. Don’t miss the newest addition, Black Nut, which sports a colonial-meets-chinois décor and locally inspired cocktails and bar bites.

Horse's mouth bar singapore
Photo credit: Horse’s Mouth

For bespoke cocktails and delicious bar food, look for Horse’s Mouth—an atmospheric cocktail bar/Japanese izakaya whose entrance lies discreetly hidden at the basement of Forum The Shopping Mall, inside Japanese eatery Uma Uma Ramen. Order strong cocktails like the Vieux Carre and the Jack Rose to go with your fried shrimp and tonkatsu (breaded pork). You can even order ramen from upstairs.

At the back of five-star hotel Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore right by Orchard Towers, is retro-inspired Sardinian restaurant and bar, Sopra Cucina. You can’t see it from the Orchard Road drag, but once you turn onto Claymore Drive, it’s hard to miss, with its old-fashioned light bulb-lit marquee out front. Food aside, they carry mostly Italian labels, spanning affordable house pour wines to premium bottles, as well as beers from Italian microbrewery Beer 32 and modern cocktails such as Amaro Smash (SGD 14), comprising smashed pineapple and Amaro Montenegro.

Keepers designers in Singapore
Photo credit: Keepers

Treasure Hunting for Shoppers

There’s more to Orchard Road’s hidden gems than eating and drinking, of course. Located at the epicentre of Orchard Road is the relatively new enterprise Keepers. A futuristic, single-story building nestled among the supermalls, this long-term “pop-up” showcases a curated mix of fashion and crafts from local and international designers like Carrie K. and Dzojchen. They’re also big on hands-on workshops like leather making and Japanese textile printing, so be sure to check the schedule.

[Update]: Keepers has a permanent home at National Design Centre operating from 27 May 2016 and will bring in new designers every 2 months.

Orchard Road is also great for scouting hard-to-find cult labels if you know where to look. Run by local designers, SECTS Shop is tucked away on the fourth floor of Orchard Gateway and carries edgy street wear by brands like Sugarpills from the US, Shake Appeal from Bangkok and underwear designer Migo from Hong Kong. The multi-label store also carries local names like Antidepressant and Not Cool Enough.

Wrap up your day of shopping with a relaxing spa treatment and a rejuvenating swim at Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore‘s mineral pool, before getting some much needed shuteye in one of our rooms or suites.

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