Singapore has no shortage of hipster neighbourhoods. Think the Tiong Bahru district with its swarm of quaint cafes and the vibrant Katong hang-out with its unique blend of heritage shops and new restaurants.
In the North-East of Singapore, a dining enclave is starting to freshen up its offerings. For the longest time, Kovan has been a busy supper spot. Foodies will know to hit the neighbourhood for some late-night dim sum, nasi lemak and Teochew porridge. There’s plenty to explore when it comes to local hawker fare.
But as Kovan is welcoming new housing developments (and expats along with it), restaurateurs and bakers are seeing potential in the area too. What was once a quiet neighbourhood is slowly building a reputation as an up-and-coming cafe enclave. Best of all some of these cafes are still relatively peaceful, not yet discovered by serial cafe-hoppers. There’s plenty to explore, but here’s a headstart to worthy eats in Kovan.
This hipster, pink-hued cafe is a hidden gem sandwiched between Kovan and Serangoon. At Amber Ember, brunch-goers can expect a slice of Australia’s cafe culture with a list of creative bites. Usual cafe go-to’s like waffles are amped up with artisanal toppings like house-made lemon curd, thyme crumble and French vanilla bean ice cream. Jaffles — toasties pressed in a cast iron — is one of the best-sellers here. Go for the Fowl Play, a jaffle stuffed with roast chicken, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Enjoying good Japanese cuisine doesn’t always have to be expensive affairs. Chef Long, who has over 30 years of experience preparing Japanese cuisine, is determined to offer affordable yet high-quality offerings. Kaiyo Sushi imports most of its ingredients from Japan for its traditional and modern dishes. What’s worth ordering here are the seiro bento boxes (read: rice steamed in bamboo boxes) and binchotan-grilled robatayaki skewers. If you’re feeling indulgent, go for the chirashi bowls or foie-gras specials.
Those harbouring a craving for sweets at night should check out this Alice in Wonderland-themed cafe, popular for cakes and waffles. Chef-owner Yvette Chua, who had trained at three-Michelin-starred Bo Innovation, has created a mix of local-inspired and innovative ice cream flavours to go with the waffles (or Whoaffle) too. Look out for flavours like kaya toast, pandan and rum butterscotch here.
This Kovan cafe has been a popular brunch spot since opening in 2013. The menu here has also expanded to accommodate more than just regular brunch bites. Naturally, Lola’s see massive queues during brunch hours. We recommend coming here in the evening for a quieter time instead. The dinner menu has some tempting offerings like truffle cream linguine with bacon and slow-cooked beef cheek with truffle mash. Save some space for Lola’s cakes and tarts too.
Tachinomiya is a quaint Japanese eatery/bar tucked away in the recesses of Kovan’s HDB heartlands. This is the perfect place for night owls: the bar stays open till 2am on Saturdays. Despite its casual surroundings, Tachinomiya is dedicated to sourcing out quality sakes and whisky for its drinks menu. Be sure to order kushiyaki skewers here to go with drinks too.
Every up-and-coming neighbourhood has its artisanal bakery. For Kovan, that’s The Bread Shop. Here, one can find an array of fresh bakes — from sourdough and brioche loaves to bagels and scones. This Kovan outlet also offers all-day sandwiches and coffees, perfect for those who need to quick break from the afternoon sun.
This Horne Road-based patisserie has opened a bigger outfit along Upper Serangoon Road, offering its innovative and Instagram-worthy desserts along with a new brunch menu. Keep a lookout for their Nostalgia Desserts, a series of cakes that are reminiscent of childhood sweet treats. Try the You Tiao made with choux piped with matcha mascarpone and white chocolate and the Bao Zi, a ‘steamed bun’ that’s really made of chrysanthemum-scented white chocolate mousse and matcha sponge.