Dine-and-dash meals before arts shows

It is a familiar complaint from busy theatre- and concertgoers - it is 7.30pm, you've just gotten off work and you have less than half an hour to scarf down dinner before the show starts at eight.

Problem is, there is no cheap and good place for you to dine and dash.

The downtown Civic District with Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall may be an arts hub, but arts lovers are often stumped over where to go for a quick pre-show meal.

Many just sit through the performances, grumbling stomach notwithstanding, and grab a late dinner elsewhere.

But there is hope yet. A new Prive cafe will open in November at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), which has a casual dining Western menu similar to its outlets at Chijmes and Keppel Bay.

Dishes offered are light, including smoked duck & orange salad and pork belly spaghetti aglio olio (both $18 each), says the group's marketing manager Tracy Goh. As the cafe will open daily till midnight, it is also a supper option.

Six new restaurants at the National Gallery will also be opening this October, though their names are not confirmed. Until then, artslovers have to look for places to get quick grub or go hungry.

But regulars would know there are five places in the area which offer dinner with a waiting time of 10 to 15 minutes as well as options for supper.

Just a 10-minute walk from Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall are The Arts House, Boat Quay, Funan DigitaLife Mall, Market Street Food Centre and One Fullerton.

In the Arts House, there is Vietnamese restaurant Viet Lang and French restaurant Olivia Cassivelaun Fancourt, as well as Barber Shop by Timbre and Timbre @ The Arts House.

At Viet Lang, light dishes such as fresh shrimp salad roll ($12) take 10 to 15 minutes to prepare, says operations manager Raju A. Siddiqui, 29. At French restaurant Olivia Cassivelaun Fancourt, operations manager Jackson Lim, 29, says customers can return for dessert after the show, if they can finish only the starters and mains in the pre-theatre dinner sets. He adds: "We don't want diners to rush through their meal. They will enjoy a 10 per cent discount on any food and drinks ordered after coming back from the show."

Barber Shop by Timbre and Timbre @ The Arts House offer pre-theatre dinner sets for two starting at $35 and $33. The eatery also offers items including the Big Mama Thornton's crispy chicken drumsticks ($18) which take 10 to 15 minutes to prepare, depending on the crowd, while Timbre @ The Arts House has quick bites such as creamy garlic & spinach bruschetta with prawns ($17).

Problem is, some people are unwilling to fork out so much for a quick snack.

Financial consultant Andy Wu, 33, says that if he has time, he would rather take a 10-minute walk to Market Street Food Centre to get chicken rice from Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice stall as it is easier on the wallet - a plate starts at $2.50.

Many others will just go hungry and eat elsewhere after the show. Business development manager Alex Lim, 33, for example, usually goes to the Singapore Cricket Club or the Sengkang area near his home for supper afterwards.

He says: "I hope there'll be more local delights offered in a casual setting in the Civic District, nothing too expensive."



Market Street Food Centre

Although most stalls in the Market Street Food Centre are closed in the evening, you can still grab a tasty and cheap meal at Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice (02-26) as it opens till 8pm on weekdays or 7.30pm if they sell out early. Prices start at $2.50 for a plate of chicken rice.

One Fullerton

Grab a mushroom cheeseburger ($12) or chilli beef dog ($8) at the Bayside Crab Deli & Bar (01-11, 6327-9226). Seafood lovers can head to The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill (01-01, 6438-0400, above) to try the crab cakes ($24++ for two pieces), featuring crab chunks with herbs and onions, baked and served with tartare sauce, or have bites such as oysters ($8++ for one, $2++ for one on Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 9pm)

At Sansui at One Fullerton (01-05, 6423-1555), there are quick dishes such as ebi mango maki ($20 for six pieces), which is deep-fried prawn wrapped in sushi rice, and topped with mango.

At the OverEasy Bar and Diner (01-06, 9129-8484), there is The Truffle ($28), a burger with grilled wagyu beef mince patties and homemade truffle mayonnaise, and the Mac & Cheeks ($24), which feature beef cheeks steeped in a herb brine for five hours and braised overnight, and served with macaroni and gruyere cheese sauce. You can also have supper here on Wednesdays to Saturdays, with dishes such as the One Pound Of Spicy Buffalo Wings ($18), which are available in four levels of spiciness.

The Arts House

Barber Shop by Timbre

At Timbre @ The Arts House (01-04, Annex Building, call 6338-8552 for reservations or 6336-3386 after 5pm), you can have creamy garlic & spinach bruschetta with prawns ($17), pizzas ($16 to $22) and pasta served in jars ($17 to $21). Or have the Big Mama Thornton's crispy chicken drumsticks ($18) and All-American baby back ribs ($16) at Barber Shop by Timbre (01-03, Annex Building, 6336-3386).

Viet Lang

For Vietnamese food, head to Viet Lang (01-01, 6337-3379) for light dishes such as the Viet Lang fresh shrimp salad roll ($12) or pho ga ($22), which is sliced chicken in noodle soup with flat rice noodles.

The pre-show dinner menu ($36++ a person, minimum two people) comes with a crispy seafood roll salad and a choice of sauted prawns and rice, or duck curry with noodles and vegetables.

For French fare, go to Olivia Cassivelaun Fancourt (02-02, Annex Building, 6333-9312). The two or three-course pre-theatre set dinners ($38++ and $48++) feature dishes such as Iberian pork collar with yellow turnips and a red wine soubise sauce, and strawberry tiramisu.

Funan DigitaLife Mall

At Heavenly Wang (05-K1/K2/K3, 6883-1172), you can have the toast set ($4.90), which comes with two slices of kaya and butter toast, two soft-boiled eggs, coffee or tea; or the noodle set ($6.80) which comes with a bowl of laksa, mee rebus or mee siam, a slice of kaya and butter toast, and coffee or tea.

Munch Saladsmith & Rotisserie (01-14, 6333-3571) serves grab-and-go salads ($4.20 to $12.50), as well as roast chicken with sides including vegetables and brown rice ($9.90 to $11.90). Dishes such as rosti ($8.30 to $15.60) and chicken mayo sandwich ($8.40) take about 10 minutes to be served.

Penang Street (02-09, 6336-8924) serves dishes such as assam laksa ($8.80++) and claypot rice ($12.80++) within 15 minutes, while A-Roy Thai Restaurant (04-06, 6338-3880) has dishes such as Thai style noodles with soup (from $7.90), and minced meat stir-fried with basil leaves and served with steamed rice (from $13.90).

Boat Quay

At Italian restaurant Enoteca L'Operetta (78 Boat Quay, 6438-2482), you can have dishes such as bruschetta ($14) or the salad of the day ($18) which can be served in under 30 minutes. Nearby at Japanese restaurant Katanashi (77 Boat Quay, 6533-0490), enjoy the tuna and avocado tartare ($4.80), shime saba ($13.80), which is scorched mackerel, and the Katanashi fried chicken at $2.40 a piece. There is an average waiting time of 15 minutes, but might be longer if the restaurant is crowded.

This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.