Hidden? In tiny ‘ol Singapore? Perhaps not by the traditional definition of the word— after all, hiding a cafe from customers isn’t the most lucrative business model. This list of hidden cafes focuses on places that my colleagues, friends, and I find surprisingly quiet despite the quality of the food and enjoyable ambience.
Perhaps they won’t be as quiet or as ‘hidden’ after we publish this, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take— it helps to foster a more vibrant, more varied local dining scene. Know a truly hidden gem? I’d love to know!
1. Alto Cafe
A halal cafe we uncovered inside the grounds of a private condo! Bayshore Park is home to Alto Cafe, which is probably the most inaccessible of all the entries on our list. Firstly, the nearest public transport is over a kilometre away. Secondly, you’ll have to produce ID to get into the condo premises.
However, once you have jumped through those hoops, Alto Cafe offers you a welcoming (if small) setting. The menu is generally light with an all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and waffles. There are also pastries and the usual selection of coffees.
My favourites on the menu? Hands down the Spicy Chicken Croissantwich (S$13) and Chocolate (S$7) and Speculoos (S$8.50) milkshakes!
2. Feima Stone Hotpot
Is it a door? Is it a vending machine? No, it’s the door to Feima Hotpot masquerading as a vending machine, complete with what seem like very well-preserved Taiwanese snack packs and drink bottles! Or the truly confused, there is a huge sign above that reads ‘Snack and Drink Vending machine Entrance’.
Of all the eateries in this list, Feima is certainly way out in front in terms of creative first impressions. Known for its authentic Taiwanese fare, the restaurant helps the illusion along with an immersive wall-sized image of the famous Raohe Street Night Market. Happy ‘gramming.
Not quite offshore but this is one of the prettiest places by the sea to kick back and savour the sun, sand and sea. Located right at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, it’s a soothing, laid-back eatery that’s pet-friendly, too.
At Offshore Bar & Grill, you’ll find an eclectic crowd with everyone from cyclists to families to business suits, a testament to its wide appeal. The fare is distinctly seafood-y, as you would expect given the location. A budget choice it’s not, though, with food prices starting at S$69 per person for whole sea bass, seasonal seafood, and more. For S$39, you get a free flow of house beer, house spirits, and house wine.
4. Lilac Oak
With one of the most exclusive addresses in Singapore and a shockingly small number of tables (just 5!), Lilac Oak seems determined to be as hidden as hidden can be. Well, we uncovered it and are glad to report that this vegan and vegetarian restaurant is well worth discovering!
The interior is startlingly stark (intriguingly so), almost as if someone came in and just swiped all the textures and colours of the décor. In this oasis of minimalism, the simple, understated furniture, cutlery, and crockery make for a fresh feel, something that gels perfectly with their vegan-vegetarian philosophy.
Another excellent under-recognised spot with a marine vista is the Stella Seaside Lounge. There are several different seating options to choose from here, including the Outdoor Terrace on the upper deck offering unfettered views of the sea, Outdoor Alfresco poolside seats in the shade, a Seaside Deck which places you right by the water, pet-friendly Picnic Tables, and an air-conditioned Indoor Poolside Café.
There’s a huge range of food, from the S$8 Triple Mushroom Soup to the S$98 Trio Meat Platter. The drinks menu features over a hundred varieties of liquor, cocktails, wines, and beers. Be spoiled on the beach by the sheer range of choices.
Cuppafield makes the list because a European-style cafe is unusual for the location. With an address smack in the middle of a quiet neighbourhood, it is probably one of the last places you would expect a pretty stylish, hip joint. Well, at least I did and was glad to be set straight.
Cuppafield doesn’t let its unique character go to its head, though. There is an unpretentiousness about it that really appealed to me. With a neat, uncluttered layout punctuated by vibrant décor, it seems a wonderful place for a coffee or quick meal after work. The fare is a mix Western and Asian cuisine, both done right and priced to fit the locale.
7. The Bread Shop
Lies! There is so much more ‘hidden’ stuff behind all the bread at The Bread Shop! And I’m glad to have discovered it, too.
Reasonably priced, The Bread Shop is a cosy place to have all-day brunch. Anything with bread is a safe bet here. Their loaves are baked fresh every day and you can tell when you take a bite. Pair that with dip-worthy Pastas (S$14 to S$18) and delicious Sandwiches (S$14 to S$18) and there is little reason not to visit.
953 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534715
+65 6581 7461
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri: 11am – 8pm
Sat & Sun: 9am – 8pm
Closed on Tue
8. The Coastal Settlement
It’s not just hidden but even looks like the land that time forgot. The Coastal Settlement describes itself as a ‘whimsical eatery’ and much of this whimsy emanates from the décor. The café is almost a museum of vintage vehicles, antique furniture, retro memorabilia, old paintings, and retro gadgets.
History and military buffs will also appreciate that the building was formerly Block 20 of Changi Camp, used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) pre-Independence as a fault control and telephone exchange. Hidden as it may be for the lush greenery, there is sometimes a queue to get in, especially on weekends.
On the menu, you’ll find Spam Fries (S$16), Pizzas (S$26 to S$30), All Day Breakfast (S$23), and a whole load more.
9. Kraft Kitchen
‘No GST, No Service Charge’ and you haven’t heard of it? For us kiasu folks, that definitely qualifies as ‘hidden’. Kraft Kitchen is just over a year old now and is slowly building up a loyal following.
One thing to note, though, is that while Kraft Kitchen rightly advertises its ‘No GST, No Service Charge’ tag, it isn’t necessarily your cheap neighbourhood restaurant. Still, the fare is hearty and the ambience is pleasant. It’s going to get crowded when the cat’s out of the bag so hurry in and try them out soon.
10. Hub & Spoke Cafe
One of the more effective ways to remain hidden is to be located at the airport during a 2-year travel lockdown. Hub & Spoke is a charming cafe right next to Terminal 2 and it has remained rather obscure for that very reason. Otherwise, the expansive views and clean, minimalist décor make for a soothing dining experience, perfect for a pre-flight meal and get-together.
For the location, the fare at Hub & Spoke Cafe is pretty reasonable, and ranges from local favourites such as Laksa (S$7.90) and Nasi Lemak with Fish/Otah (S$7.90) to Western breakfast staples like Pancakes Royale (S$14.90) and Honey Butter French Toast (S$3.20).
If you are up for a big, hearty meal, their range of Steaks (S$21.90 – S$22.90) is just the thing. I personally love their Mozzarella Cheese Sticks (S$9.90).
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