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I spend over 12 hours at New Bahru, here's what you can expect from this lifestyle cluster

I spend over 12 hours at New Bahru, here's what you can expect from this lifestyle cluster
New Bahru compound (left) and a selection of local grub at The Coconut Club (right)
PHOTO: AsiaOne/Amierul Rashid

Old-school new horizons.

This is New Bahru in a nutshell.

Previously Nan Chiau High School, this project—spearheaded by hospitality company The Lo & Behold Group—now houses more than 50 local businesses from sectors spanning food and beverage, retail, wellness, entertainment, education, arts and culture.

Located in River Valley, New Bahru is set to hold its official grand opening this September. But the creative cluster welcomed members of the public at its Sneak Peek open house event on June 22 and 23.

I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a full day at New Bahru, and the experience has left an impact on me.

First impressions

Entering New Bahru, what immediately struck me was its architecture.

Just one look and one could tell it was a space where students once roamed.

In fact, the school hall has remained intact and is set to be a hub for activities in the future.

There's no denying Nan Chiau High School has been refurbished, but I found it refreshing that there was no attempt to hide the history of the place.

The conscious effort to preserve the beautiful compound impressed me early on.

My morning began with a quick speech by the people behind this project.

Something that stuck with me was when they mentioned how a lot of local businesses are flying under the radar.

The Lo & Behold Group spokesperson said: "We believe there is a creative side to our city that has not had its time to shine."

I began to understand the uniqueness of New Bahru, uniting local entrepreneurs in a single space.

Hands-on, in-store experiences

After having teh tarik and kaya toast for breakfast (these are off-the-menu items for now) at The Coconut Club, located at the compound's Big Block ground floor, I was swiftly escorted to Make by Gin Lee.

This experience-based concept store offers fashion and lifestyle products crafted on-demand, with the goal of minimising waste.

I had the chance to join a pleating workshop and was engaged throughout the one-and-a-half-hour class.

We had the option to select pleats, colours and wraps as well as straps and eyelets.

In truth, I was overwhelmed at this stage, worried that my choices may clash and not complement each other.

So I found it really helpful that the patient staff members at the workshop took their time to guide me through the process of what might work best.

Shape-wise, I opted for a vertical Pack Bag and for colours, I decided to go for a gradient of purple to orange.

A quick 30-minutes bake in the built-in steamer and a few finishing touches later, my pack bag was complete.

Given how much I enjoyed the experience, I was glad to find out that it wasn't the only workshop of the day.

In the evening, jewellery brand Curious Creatures hosted us and I had a go at making my own bracelet.

The last (and potentially first) bracelet I wore was when Taylor Swift dropped by the country for a few concerts in March.

So that's where my expertise lie when it comes to wrist jewellery.

Regardless, I was keen on giving it a try and found myself engrossed in the activity of creating my own handmade bracelet.

Matching different beads to form a bracelet I could call my own was an oddly therapeutic experience. 

It felt like something I would want to partake in again so if I'm back in New Bahru, I'd definitely pop by Curious Creatures on level two of the Big Block. 

Dining destination 

New Bahru is a simply a foodie paradise.

Despite only spending one day there, I can say with confidence that there can't be too many places in Singapore that matches New Bahru when it comes to food.

The sheer collection of acclaimed food establishments had the foodie in me excited. 

For lunch, my colleague and I enjoyed some Mexican fare at Huevos. Having been to the North Bridge Road outlet on numerous occasions, I was pumped up and knew that lunch was going to be a treat.

Our table had a hearty collection of Mexican favourites: from nachos with guacamole and salsa to tacos.

The tortilla chips were moreish and the dips was such a game-changer, especially the tangy salsa.

Instead of the regular meat-based tacos, we had The-Not-Baja taco. Think spiced-breaded eggplant that's made to simulate the signature baja fish.

If your spice tolerance level is on the low end, you might want to give this a skip. But on the flavour front, it was definitely the right pick.

From Mexico, we were brought back to Singapore with what was on offer at The Coconut Club.

It was an opportunity to enjoy Singaporean cuisine through the lens of the humble coconut.

The star of the show was undoubtedly its signature nasi lemak. 

It had all the components of a regular nasi lemak  (coconut rice, fried egg, peanuts, sambal, cucumber, ikan bilis) bar one.

The protein was actually quail.

This Quail Goreng Berempah is only available at the New Bahru outlet, and it was an interesting experience. 

In all honesty, it did taste a lot like chicken. Just a smaller version.

That might seem rather anticlimactic but I prefer to pair my coconut rice with a heartier accompanying protein dish, like Beef Rendang or Ayam Goreng Berempah.

A New Bahru exclusive menu item that got the two thumbs up from everyone at the dining table was the Wagyu Beef Roti John.

This dish is a childhood favourite of mine and the addition of minced wagyu beef simply elevates it to a different level.

I can assure you that there will not likely be a "paiseh piece" when it comes to this dish.

Other winners of the night included Pisang Goreng and Kueh Salat.

So remember to save some space in the belly for dessert because you don't want to miss a bite of these delectable treats.

New Bahru is just getting started

As I left The Coconut Club at 10pm, I realised I'd spent more than 12 hours in New Bahru.

That, in itself, is testament to how vibrant and activity-driven this space is.

What's rather mind boggling is that New Bahru isn't operating at full capacity yet.

There are tenants either moving in or finding their feet in their new home, and what I experienced was just a sliver of what New Bahru has to offer.

It really is a love letter to the city as the nation's best talents band together allowing visitors to experience the creative soul of Singapore. 

Address: 46 Kim Yam Rd, New Bahru, Singapore 239351

ALSO READ: Arts and lifestyle cluster New Bahru opens, expect local brands like Beyond The Vines, The Coconut Club and more

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