Quirky meets quaint

Strangers' Reunion (left) - Here, latte art is serious business; Jotter Book (right) carries Papillionaire bikes.

The Everton Park residential district is shedding its sleepy image. In recent years, hipster joints have popped up in the ageing Housing Board estate in Outram. Older stalwarts in the neighbourhood include pre-war Peranakan shophouses and the conserved building of an old Methodist school. Life!Weekend tells you the nooks and corners to check out

1. STRANGERS' REUNION

Start your morning right with an intricate cup of coffee at this 80-seater cafe, which opened in March 2012.

It is not just hearts and palm trees dotted on your java. Here, latte art is serious business: rosettas, multi-layered tulips, flaming hearts and spiders on your coffee ($3.50-$5.50).

Owner Ryan Tan, 28, began his love affair with coffee while working at coffee houses in Melbourne, when he was studying economics and finance as an undergraduate in the city.

He is also Singapore's current barista champion.

Where: 33/35/37 Kampong Bahru Road

Open: 9am to 10pm daily, till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on Tuesdays

Info: Call 6222-4869

2 GUAN ANTIQUE

Step into this treasure trove crammed with thousands of Peranakan antiques.Step into this treasure trove crammed with thousands of Peranakan antiques.

Owner Ng Ah Choon, 57, has been running the store since 1989, a step up from collecting used items in his house and selling them to antique shops.

The goods, he says, came mostly from the upheaval in the Bugis and Bukit Timah areas in the 1970s, as residents and shopkeepers resettled elsewhere and threw away their belongings. He has loaned antiques to the set of popular home-grown television drama The Little Nyonya (2008).

One man's junk is clearly another's treasure: His shop is stuffed with dusty display cabinets chock-full of Straits Chinese beaded slippers and nonya ware such as kamcheng (a type of container used for storing and serving food), tea sets and trays.

Stowed away by the side are several ting kong lanterns, usually hung prominently above door plaques in worship to the Taoist deity Jade Emperor. There are also intricately carved religious figurines such as those of Bodhisattva Guanyin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy, and Taoist deity Ji Gong, an irreverent monk with a magic fan known for helping the people in need. Prices range from $5 for a cup to "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for furniture and Nonya porcelain, he says. Prices are negotiable. "Young people now like to collect old things,"says Mr Ng.

Where: 31 Kampong Bahru Road

Open: 11am to 7pm daily

Info: Call 6226-2281

3. NUS BABA HOUSE AND 147 NEIL ROAD

This pre-war shophouse turned museum was once the ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family. It tells the story of Peranakan culture through a domestic space, including the furnishings, household items and decor.

Nearby, house number 147 was the home of Lee Hoon Leong, the grandfather of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee lived in the house for a few years with his grandfather and parents.

The back lanes of Blair, Everton and Spottiswoode Park roads form a web of more Peranakan shophouses.

See if you can spot motifs of birds, peacocks and flowers, which are traditional symbols of fertility, amid the door frames, arches and floor tiles outside the lovely homes.

Chinese stone lions, a male and a female, can also be seen in front of some doors. The male lion is usually on the left with his right paw resting on a ball, and the female on the right with her left paw fondling a cub. These are believed to ward off evil spirits.

4. OLD ST MATTHEW'S CHURCH AND THE FORMER FAIRFIELD METHODIST GIRLS' SCHOOL

The Neil Road area was a nutmeg plantation till the late 1850s. It had its name changed in March 1858 from Salat Road, meaning straits in Malay, to honour one of the British heroes in the 1857 Indian Mutiny.

The church was built for the use of British seamen and prison wardens living in nearby Outram Road.

Close by, the former campus of Fairfield Methodist Girls' School stands apart from the rest of the buildings in the vicinity with its classic whitewashed Victorian architecture, including high arches and timber framed doors.

The school was started in 1888 in Cross Street by Australian missionary Sophia Blackmore. It moved to its Neil Road location in 1913.

In 1983, the school moved to Dover Road. The Home Team Career Centre now resides in the Neil Road building.

5. THE PROVISION SHOP

Stop for lunch at The Provision Shop, a 30-seat joint that screams retro chic with its distressed tables and stools, filament lamps, a toilet door salvaged from Tiong Bahru heritage wonton mee shop Hua Bee and even a used Milo tin hanging overhead, a la the dried sundry stores of old.

It is part of the Unlisted Collection stable of boutique hotels and eateries founded by hotelier Loh Lik Peng.

Head chef Anthony Yeoh, 32, who is also behind the group's Cocotte restaurant at Wanderlust hotel in Little India, does a hearty Reuben sandwich crammed with corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. Another must-try is the Belinda's Perogis, traditional Polish dumpling stuffed with mashed potatoes and ricotta cheese.

Round off your meal with Maldon sea salt vanilla or blackforest ice cream.

Prices range between $2.50 and $18.

Where: 3 Everton Park, 01-79

Open: 11am to 9pm daily, 9am to 6pm on Sundays

Info: Call 6225-9931

6. GRIN AFFAIR

This tiny three-year-old nook does pretty dessert layers in jars.

Owner Leslie Ang, 27, who runs the shop with his younger sister Jody, 23, started the shop in the area because of fond memories of the Everton Park estate - they have been visiting their 80-year-old grandmother there since they were children.

Try the siblings' creations, such as Caramel ($6), a caramel mousse with baked crust and vanilla; Banoffee ($6), made of banana slices on coffee cake, with baked crust and pecans; and the Lychee Passion ($6.50), a lychee mousse with passion fruit puree on vanilla cake, topped with sea salt pistachio.

Where: 3 Everton Park, 01-77A

Open: Noon to 8pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays, noon to 6pm, Sundays and public holidays

Info: Call 8222-2678. Delivery to downtown locations is free.

 

7. THE AUDACIOUS CAKERY AND JI XIANG CONFECTIONERY

Stop by The Audacious Cakery, a 700 sq ft deli opened by Ms Sharryl Charmaine Ng, 36, a former market research director, and bring home a goodie bag of sweets.

She set up her shop in the Everton Park estate, poohpoohing other locations such as Waterloo Street and Upper East Coast Road, in favour of the area's rent - about $3,000 a month, which she feels is still affordable - and vibe of old and new.

Try her cupcakes in various flavours such as lemon raspberry, Irish cream, matcha and strawberry daiquiri from $3.50 each.

The Audacious Cakery

Where: 2 Everton Park, 01-61

When: 10am to 7pm daily, closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6223-3047

If you are looking for something a little more old school, head to Ji Xiang Confectionery, which sells ang ku kueh (red glutinous rice cake) in flavours such as yam, peanut, salty and sweet bean, coconut and sweet corn for 70 cents each.

Mrs Toh Bong Yeo, 61, has been selling the pastry, moulded to resemble a tortoise shell as a symbol of longevity, since 1988 - after years of experimenting in her kitchen and having house guests compliment her on her creations.

The influx of hipster joints does not faze her, she says. "They do modern cakes, we do traditional cakes - we are totally different and it does not clash at all."

Ji Xiang Confectionery

Where: 1 Everton Park, 01-33

When: 9am to 5pm daily, closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6223-163

8. KIAN TAT HANG

Stop for a drink and chat with Mr Tan Kian Tong, a friendly neighbourhood old-timer who owns Kian Tat Hang, a 30-year-old provision store.

Mr Tan, 79, used to sell ice cream for 20 cents a pop to schoolgirls attending the nearby Fairfield Methodist Girls' School. Today, he stocks just about 10 items on two shelves in his 1,300 sq ft space - mostly soft drinks, tinned food and packets of sugar.

Customers are few, he says, usually passers-by looking to buy a drink, but he does not intend to fill up his shop with more stock.

As a result of the buzz in the area, he has received offers to sell or rent out his space. But his answer is no.

"Before, no one wanted to come to this area, but now, the landscape here has changed and become more popular," he says.

Where: 2 Everton Park 01-47

Info: Call 6222-7930

9. PINNACLE@DUXTON

Get a bird's eye view of the city from the 50th storey of the Pinnacle@Duxton from a skybridge.

The five-year-old complex lies on the land where the first two Housing Board blocks in the area were built. It is the first 50-storey public housing project in Singapore, with more than 1,800 apartments in seven blocks.

Where: 1 Cantonment Road

Open: The skybridge is open from 9am to 10pm daily Admission: $5

Info: Go to www.pinnacleduxton.com.sg/skybridge_public.php. Only 200 members of the public can access the skybridge daily

10. JOTTER BOOK

If you see vintage bicycles perched prettily outside some of the shops in the estate, they belong to this store.

Jotter Book, opened by Mr Clive Chow, 43, in July last year, carries Papillionaire bikes, a cult brand from Australia. Other shopkeepers help to display the bikes to add to the hipster feel of the estate and to give his store "free marketing", he says.

His shop is well placed to attract residents, students and corporate types for its "almost there" proximity to the Central Business District, he says.

"On Saturdays, lots of cafegoers come to the area and it is nice to catch them in a relaxed mood," he adds. The bikes cost between $962 and $1,020 each.

Where: 5 Everton Park, 01-22

Open: 11am to 7pm daily, closed on Sundays

Info: Call 9730-80

11. THE REDUNDANT SHOP

This two-month-old shop stocks stylish "junk" - things you do not need but want to have, says Mr Watson Lee, 44, who runs the shop. He is alsobehind The Redundant Magazine, which started the store after readers asked where they could find the stuff they read about.

The 1,000 sq ft store carries local labels such as Ang Ku Kueh Girl, MandyT Skincare and oonHung, as well as KibiSi from Denmark and Geneva Sound from Switzerland. It curates products based on six categories: architectural, design, gadgets, rides, culture and style.

Prices range from $3.50 for a greeting card to about $2,000 for an electric scooter. Check out its weekend craft workshops on making origami cards, silk screen printing and making leather wallets, among other things.

Mr Lee is part of a community of Everton Park shopkeepers who are banding together to market the housing estate as a place to visit and they have plans to run a Facebook page and a guidebook to the area.

Where: 5 Everton Park, 01-22A

Open: 11am to 8pm daily, closed on Mondays

Info: Call 6707-2005 or go to www.redundantshop.co

WHAT RESIDENTS SAY

"New coffee places are popping up, but would you pay up to $7 for a cup of coffee regularly? The way these young people brew it seems to make the coffee more fragrant, but I can stick with my coffee from the food court, which costs $1.10."

- Mr Fong Fu, 77, a retiree who has been living in Everton Park estate for 30 years

"What, these new shops don't want to set up in Orchard Road, but want to come to a HDB estate? I don't mind. I won't go to these places, but maybe my children and grandchildren will when they visit me.

- Ms Liu Pei Xia, 83, a retiree who has been living in the Everton Park area for 13 years

"The new shops have increased interest in this area, bringing more people here. I think it injects more life, which is beyond the norm in a typical HDB estate. Customers sometimes stand outside the shops to chat and the noise level gets quite loud on Sundays, though this does not bother me too much. Personally, it is nice to have places near my home to get coffee and and freshly baked cupcakes.

- Mr Michael Ashurst, 70, a retiree and Singapore permanent resident who has been living in Cantonment Close, a housing estate behind Everton Park, for five years.

"The cafes are a good place to chill out at night, or to do some work. I love Cozy Corner Coffee and Strangers' Reunion. I'm part of the younger generation, so I really welcome the gentrification. But I can't speak for the older generation. They may not like it and may rather keep the old shops. But both the old and new do not really interfere with each other. In fact, they blend well with each other."

- Mr Lin Xueming, 26, a medical social worker who has been living in Everton Park estate since he was born


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