Toa Payoh, once a squatter district, then the archetype of public housing, and now a town for both heritage and cafe hopping trails, take more time to meander and you will realise that the blend of both is where its charm lies – an understated camaraderie between the old and new that has developed quietly over ther years into what it is today.
Singapore is small. It is also a densely- populated city, making proximity to amenities all the more essential. Time is a commodity too valuable to be wasted on travelling an hour just for groceries. Also key is location to prime areas, both for work and play — not only does a short commute preserve sanity, there’s just so many things more worth the time stuck in transit.
Toa Payoh ticks all the right boxes: besides being a 14-minute drive away from CBD, a mere four train stops from the Orchard shopping belt and located near various recreational parks and educational institutes, the town is also a well-established public transport node that connects residents to other parts of Singapore with ease.
Still, there’s little reason to get out of town with its myriad of amenities and facilities. Just minutes away from the interchange is a library, a 3900-seat stadium, swimming complex, gymnasium, and a vibrant mix of both modern and traditional stores. The size of the town is also thankfully not relative to the considerable number of infamous hawker and cafe joints dotted along the lorongs, making it possible to walk to good food.
After all, while the “heartware” is what differentiates a town, it has to be partnered with the right “hardware” — transport, facilities, and well-planned infrastructure just to name a few. One can hardly ignore the essential role of smart technology and the recognition that while the forecast for future mobility is green, the outlook isn’t — the importance of sustainable transportation is certainly not to be ignored, especially for cities.
Travelling green may not seem as viable right now with the great need for convenience and speed, but with initiatives such as the building of the 36-km Central Urban Loop, which brings Singapore’s Park Connector Network (PCN) to a total distance of 300km, it may soon be. Meanwhile, consider this: living with electric car charging pods, car-sharing initiatives and concierge services can be quick steps forward in saving the future without a lifestyle overhaul.
MRT Stations Nearby:
• Braddell MRT Station
• Bishan MRT Station
• Toa Payoh MRT Station
• Caldecott MRT Station
• Woodleigh MRT Station
• Potong Pasir MRT Station
Proximity to schools is as important as accessibility to food, transport nodes and other everyday amenities. Plan for the future by knowing the options around you.
The Ingredients of Life
Food: subsistence for the body, balm for the soul, and the soil on which relationships take root. Coming together for a meal has been a practice since ancient times to strengthen relationships, forge new connections, share stories, and celebrate both the everyday as well as special occasions. Our local obsession with food isn’t entirely unfounded after all. It has become such a huge part of Singaporean culture that if the nation was to be boiled down to three words, it’ll probably be: efficiency, Singlish, and food.
It may well be always a matter of dispute where the best laksa or chicken rice is but this much is clear: residents of Toa Payoh have it good. Despite being in such close proximity to the city district, there’s no reason to even venture out with the food options here. Whether it’s a craving for fragrant kopi-o, sipped to the seasoned clockwork sounds of hawkers, or a smooth latte topped with an embarrassingly adorable foam cat, there are considerable choices for you at any time. And you can still keep to wearing shorts and slippers.
How so many good eats can be found in a small town like Toa Payoh is anyone’s guess. A good number of Singapore’s top hawkers are well within walking distance — some only a few metres apart. This is where you can try two famed versions of hokkien mee before walking to beloved handcrafted ice-cream parlour Creamier for dessert. It’s also where you can choose to brunch hard on a Sunday morning with usual suspects like eggs benedict before going back to nostalgic land with ice kachang and red ruby.
Like all gems, these places draw people from all over the island and even overseas, whether for the magical carrot cake, pan- fried in patties by warm-hearted sisters, or the homebaked pastries from Niche Savoureuse. Here is certainly where one can find the magic of food weaved deeply into its history and community — a town where chefs and customers stay friends from generations past to those yet to come.
- 天天来炒福建虾面 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-27
- TEOCHEW HANDMADE PAU 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-02
- CHEY SUA CARROT CAKE 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-30
- FATTY CHEONG ABC CHAR SIEW RICE 190 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #01-528
- HOUGANG 6 MILE MUAH CHEE 480 Toa Payoh Lorong 6 HDB Hub, #B1-01
- SOON HENG SILVER STREAM ROJAK 480 Toa Payoh Lorong 6 HDB Hub, #B1-23
- MELBEN SEAFOOD 211 Toa Payoh Lorong 8, #01-11/15
Cafes are no novelty in Singapore. Demand and supply have never been higher, with cafe-hopping a favourite weekend activity. The quest to trawl through the list of new cafes is fuelled by large numbers of entrants — with more than 200 in 2015 alone.
A good percentage don’t stay, for gone are the days where a well-made brew is enough. Novelty on top of solid food offerings is required for any to stand out, along with the new benchmark of a cafe’s Instagrammable value — which means paying attention to gorgeous interiors, well-presented food and good lighting. Free Wi-Fi is of course another essential, for how else will these photographs make instant presence on social media?
This artisanal cafe wave that swept Singapore five years ago is flooding even into heartlands where the coffee sock used to hold reign, making strolling to a cafe from home now a possibility. Even if it’s not your hood, it gives great reason to explore another estate. Curious results emerge as older generations start taking to these modern entrants, sometimes even choosing espresso over kopi-o. It may very well be time to relook the definition of the word “hipster” here.
THE DAILY PRESS
126 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-561, Singapore 310126
Here’s where calls the shots when you’re looking for gourmet coffee. From bean to cup, The Daily Press pays attention to each detail at every step for the perfect cuppa — from using their own house blend of coffee beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Sumatra, to a dedicated emphasis on quality equipment, barista-training and community spirit. It’s no surprise that they’re a favourite amongst both the young and families, with even a pool of regular elderly patrons in love with their specialty coffees. Don’t feel shy to chat with the baristas, who would be most glad to tell you more about coffee and its origins.
FROZEN BY A THOUSAND BLESSINGS
126 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-551, Singapore 310126
Be prepared to be spoilt for choice at Australia’s first self-serve frozen yoghurt bar. With six base flavours and more than 30 toppings available, it’s hard not to feel like a kid at the candy store. You don’t even need to feel guilty about having dessert with their sugar-free and soy options, best topped with chia seeds and toasted muesli! To ensure the place caters for everyone, everything is chemical-free and made with bio-dynamic milk, which means even toddlers won’t miss out.
THE LITTLE PRINCE CAFE
47 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #01-134, Singapore 310047
Fans of the book can hardly miss visiting this place. Drawings inspired by the story adorn the walls along with illustrations, soft toys and even paper dolls, and there are multiple copies of The Little Prince in various languages available for reading. Accompany this whimsical trip with waffles and handcrafted gelato, along with a hot drink (or two).
128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-833, Singapore 310128
A philosophy of serving up handmade goods runs deep here at the family-owned bakery. Owner Melvin Tang bakes his own pastries and only serves what he would give to his family, building a loyal base of customers who appreciate this deep sincerity and passion. With their new expansion, one can expect main courses in addition to their original selection of cakes and pastries, as well as the unchanged warm service with big heart.
31 Ah Hood Road, #01-07 HomeTeamNS, Singapore 329979
Fix Cafe is markedly more off the beaten track but offers a poolside dining experience amidst industrial furniture. Opened by the guys behind Grub Cafe, Fix offers food both hearty and Instagram-worthy — think Liu Sha Donuts and open-faced Naanwiches. At its core, the cafe lives by a philosophy of fixing all things from scratch, so expect only authentic dishes with handmade ingredients. Heart matters also play a part here — the cafe offers mentorship to struggling youths with an aspiration to join the F&B workforce.
94 Toa Payoh Lorong 4, #01-32, Singapore 310094
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, refers to a day for feasting before the start of Lent. Their menu is pure hedonistic pleasure with the likes of chendol waffles, rainbow kueh lapi and a whole line of gelatos. A different sort of indulgence also comes from freshly brewed coffee from imported organic beans.
FIX CAFE / SHROVE TUESDAY
JQ CHEF CAFE / THE DREAM CAFE
THE DAILY PRESS / FROZEN BY A THOUSAND BLESSINGS
THE LITTLE PRINCE CAFE / NICHE SAVOUREUSE