Long touted as the successor to the admittedly cool enclave of Tiong Bahru, the Jalan Besar area is its grittier cousin. Public housing blocks rub shoulders with hardware stores, industrial goods merchants and shophouses, and while it may have a reputation for being rather seedy, the Jalan Besar district is also rampant with cafes, bars and restaurants galore!
We’re here to show you the best of the neighbourhood mama…
With its intentionally misleading name, this cool coffee shop has raised the status of the dingy Jalan Besar area from questionable to cool. Before enjoying a well-brewed cuppa or two, indulge in some retail therapy in their concept store, Tyrwhitt General Co where you can pick up uber-cool accessories and hipster bric-a-brac. You can always carry on with the shopping downstairs too as Chye Seng Huat Hardware has enough caffeine-brewing toys to excite any hardcore coffee snob.
Recommended: At $10, the coffee and cake set is good value for money. It’s pretty hard to go past the Crème Brulee — the fact that it comes in a large ramekin is just an added bonus!
Need foreign currency, dishwashing liquid, a Rolex watch and a cheese prata at 3am? Get them all at Mustafa Centre — the veritable candyland for insomniac shoppers (and frazzled mamas looking for a slightly different adventure with the kiddos!). They stock almost everything you may need (no pork products or alcohol though) and have some some pretty good bargains available in the electronics department. There’s a ton of cheap plastic toys too – good for stocking stuffers or birthday party goodie bags.
Sassy Mama tip: Get there early! Mustafa is a haven for bargain hunters so get in early if you want any chance of getting around without having to elbow your way through the aisles.
One of the most down-to-earth and quintessential heartland spaces in Merlion City, the playground at Pek Kio Market is a gem of a find. Perfectly located in the middle of a courtyard flanked by three old HDB flats and the marketplace, you can almost imagine what it was like back in the day when children of the neighbourhood would frolic here at playtime only to be summoned to dinner by their mothers yelling at them from above. Let the kids run wild while you enjoy the excellent poh-piah and prawn noodles from the nearby hawker centre.
The grande dame of the Jalan Besar gentrification, the French restaurant and patisserie, Antoinette is a pioneer of the neighbourhood. Her elegant shopfront is a welcome sight amidst the glumness of the surrounding neighbourhood and her offerings provide the perfect haven for a mama to dine in peace! Start with a savoury blini or four, proceed with either a hearty Boeuf Bourguignon or “Grandma’s Stuffed Chicken Leg” and end with a plate of sinful Macarons (hint: the legendary Pierre Herme himself has given these guys the thumbs up!). We’d recommend leaving the kiddos at home for this one!
For those who have been wanting, needing (or even begging) for a place that serves only sweet pies, look no further than this charming little outfit. Owner Sean Gwee is passionate about the purity, consistency and flavour of his beloved artisanal pies and tarts. Each one is created with love and precision, from the measured thinness of the piecrust to the bursting goodness of the vodka jello-bits (the star ingredient of their Lime Vodka pie!). They even have a cute little stage with a miniature wooden tree on it – the perfect centerpiece for a kiddy birthday party!
Recommended: The Lime Vodka or Lemon Strawberry Pie. Oh forget it – get a slice of each one (you can have it to go too – in the most cunning takeaway pie box ever created!).
Fresh from their successful venture at Changi Airport’s T3, Butter Studio has set up shop in Jalan Besar, rubbing shoulders with hardware stores, hawker corners and ahem, shops with a slightly more nocturnal beat. No matter; owner-proprietor Shannon Lua’s warm personality is as sunshiny as her buttery cakes. Her shop – so named in memory of her childhood mornings waking up to baked smells emanating from her kitchen – was her husband’s grandfather’s photo studio, so you still see vintage lights decorating the space. Kiddos are warmly welcomed here with their own corner of tiny furniture and toys.
Recommended: Their special nights that feature dance, drama groups and sharing from women and even Sassy Mamas too! Besides everything’s better with cake.
147 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208865 Tel: (+65) 6543 9809
Sharing a space with the three-star Aqueen Hotel hasn’t dampened the spirit of this ambitious little bistro, which has the aim of “(re)fining dining”. A lovely little place for some kid-free dining, expect to find truffled starters and “hazelnut soil” on your plate. Still, it’s quite comfy on the pocket for a chef who trained with big local culinary names like Saint Pierre and Restaurant Andre, so it’s definitely worth a looksee.
While it may not be in Jalan Besar proper, Ture is definitely in the neighbourhood, located just across from Lavender MRT (it’s only a brisk 5 minute walk away). Ture is a hub of sorts, its name a suffix and reference to all things ending with “ture” — think nature, culture, adventure — you get the picture (pun intended!). There’s Loysel’s Toy on the ground floor for caffeine fiends, Petite Papillon Playhouse is upstairs and ready to take on your preschool kids, while Ukulele Movement has you sorted for ukulele lessons for parents and kids.
A full-time copywriter by day, Ana morphs into a free-spirited travel writer on a regular basis, taking long trips and short getaways with her husband and two sprogs almost every month. She tends to prefer UNESCO heritage sites to the nearest family Club Med but is always game for Disneyland in any given city. Other passions include swing dancing (that’s how Ana met her soulmate!), vintage fashion and scoping out street food and good coffee joints in every neighbourhood she visits. You can follow Ana’s adventures here.