In a revolving restaurant
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, a short walk from the VivoCity mall, bills itself on its sign (in a spidery Chinese font) as ‘The Only Revolving Restaurant in the World Situated on Top of Wheat Silos’. From the outside it’s an intriguing prospect – almost like an old-style Bond baddie’s lair, with a glass lookout atop the tall, factory-esque cylinders. Inside, alas, it has that chintzy Chinese banquet feel. You get out of the lift and step onto red patterned carpets, with tacky fake floral arrangements in glass cases on the wall; the restaurant is all brown-hued decor and origami napkins, and the overpriced menu contains that ominous triumvirate of shark’s fin, bird’s nest soup and abalone.
And yet…what a view. As the restaurant almost imperceptibly revolves, you look down and see shipping containers being lifted onto lorries; across to the gently gliding Mount Faber cable cars; and over at an intriguing helipad that you can’t see from anywhere else (the standout picture from photographer Deanna Ng’s recent show on hidden Singapore). This could be the most hypnotic vista in town.
Food-wise, the Peking duck ($65), served in the form of several little pancakes, is decent; and there are safe, cheaper options like crispy spiced chicken ($35), or sautéed noodles with chicken, prawn and mushrooms ($20). None of it’s great, but zone out the surroundings and it’s worth coming here for the view – and to ponder how cool it would be if a decent chef ever opened a revolving restaurant.
Novelty factor 4/5
How much? Around $70 per person.
Worth a trip? Just about, for the view rather than the food.
Details Level 9, 201 Keppel Rd (6272 8822). MRT: HarbourFront. Mon-Sat 11am-2.30pm, 6.30-10.30pm; Sun 10.30am-2.30pm; 6.30-10.30pm.
On a ferris wheel
In the battle of the novelty meals, the Singapore Flyer has to win, simply for the views and the novelty value. We tried the high-tea flight rather than dinner, and – though it’s more expensive than the superior afternoon tea at The Fullerton Hotel – it’s a fun way to spend half an hour, or one full rotation.
After waiting in an airport lounge-like room, we’re whisked past the queues waiting for the normal trip and into the pod with two other couples. There’s a waiter pouring tea behind a free-standing bar emblazoned with the Moët & Chandon logo; and a three-tiered cake stand laid out on a square golden pleather pouffe, with macarons, scones, éclairs, muffins and mini smoked-salmon sandwiches.
The food and drink are nothing special, but there is a pleasing novelty factor about having space to move and refreshments as the wheel revolves, revealing classic views. For dinner, you get two rotations (60 minutes) and a four-course meal (sample menu items: potato and leek broth, and lamb shank with red-wine mint sauce), usually served to tables of two. Other options include the Singapore Sling flight and Moët & Chandon Champagne flights, both $69 per person.
Novelty factor 4/5
How much? $99++ per couple for high tea (daily 3.30pm); $269++ per couple for dinner (nightly 7.30pm & 8.30pm).
Worth a trip? Maybe with visitors, though The Fullerton’s tea is cheaper.
Details See www.singaporeflyer.com to book.
On a boat
Admiral Cheng Ho River Cruise
Dinner cruises are a bit like revolving restaurants: we like the idea, yet somehow they’re always tacky tourist traps. The Admiral Cheng Ho, named after the eunuch Chinese mariner who supposedly beat Christopher Columbus to discovering America, is good fun but no exception. We arrive at the Marina South Pier dressed up in preparation for post-cruise cocktails at Marina Bay Sands, and heads turn à la Star Wars bar when we climb onto the boat, which is done up like a Chinese pagoda. The group is made up largely of weary, sandal-clad, middle-aged tourists who look like they’ve suffered five Clarke Quay river cruises that day. Our table is unadorned, except for a ‘welcome’ glass of sickly-sweet orange cordial.
Relief comes in the form of a laminated clip-art menu with $7 bottled beers, or gin and tonics or cocktails for $9. While the G & T is okay, you can guess how the $9 Singapore Sling (a ‘must try!!!’, says the menu) tastes – it’s a horror show of pineapple sweetness and mini-umbrellas. An almost defiantly useless audio commentary bleeds limply from the speakers. Nonetheless, there is a certain fun to being out on a boat.
Heading out 100m or so from the shore, you get up and close with the many looming container ships, especially on the boat’s third-floor deck. You also get a great encapsulated view of the city from the water, with the city centre rising up behind the port cranes. The buffet is serviceable in a two-star hotel way – think fried rice, Caesar salad, boiled potatoes, chicken satay and limp beef with peppers, followed by a fruit platter and a sago-ish dessert. Service is surprisingly sweet-natured, including a nice man who fishes out a high-heeled shoe from the water when it falls through the steps up to the top deck.
Once up on the deck, the culmination of the trip is at Sentosa, where we see the back end of the Songs of the Sea show (it’s better when you can’t hear it) followed by fireworks. It’s so utterly cod-romantic that it’s almost charming.
Novelty factor 3/5
How much? US$45 (S$57) per person.
Worth a trip? Only if you’re prepared for tongue-in-cheek tackiness.
Details Two-hour cruises leave nightly at 6.30pm from Marina South Pier. See
www.viator.com/search/singapore to book.
In a plastic jungle
The Jungle Tandoor Restaurant
This Little India joint is the place to go if you want to dine in a neon-lit jungle watched over by animal statues, plastic creepers and staff dressed in safari outfits. If Haw Par Villa were an Indian restaurant, it would be this. The food is North Indian and not bad, if overpriced, especially given the quality you can get nearby for less (vegetarian restaurants Komala Vilas, Gokul and Ananda Bhavan spring to mind). However, the service is reasonable, and if you can take waiters in safari hats seriously, they know the menu well.
Said menu is suspiciously vast, with 13 mutton curries alone. Though there are as many meat dishes as vegetarian ones, we order a rich malai kofta ($14), palak paneer ($12.50) with lots of cheese, creamy yellow dal tadka ($7.50), Kashmiri raita ($7.50) and oily-good garlic naan ($6.50). Only the naan is up there with the best in town – most of the food is run of the mill, and not cheap. But if you’re prepared to pay extra to dine with Red Indians and giraffes, this is your place.
Novelty factor 3/5
How much? Around $40 per person.
Worth a trip? Only for dedicated kitsch-lovers and wide-eyed kids.
Details 102 Serangoon Rd (6299 0400). MRT: Little India. Daily 11am-12.30am.
With French maids
We had high hopes for Cawaii Koohii in the Funan DigitaLife mall, being fans of cosplay, French maids and all things cutesy and Japanese. Sadly, though, if you strip away the waitresses’ red maid costumes and bunny ears, this is basically a dingy café-restaurant in a dingy shopping mall – and while they now claim to serve sandwiches, salads, desserts and cakes, on our visit (on a weekday evening) the menu consisted pretty much of just breakfast cereal.
There were nine types of cereal, from Marshmallow Pebbles to Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries ($4.90), with a few token waffles ($5 for the Nutella variety). Watching the latter getting prised from the machine by three staff was painful, as if they’d never made a waffle before. With bad Japanese karaoke-style screeching on the TV screen, it was sort of endearing and a little hilarious – but we’re not sure we’d recommend it.
Novelty factor 2/5
How much? $4.90 for a bowl of cereal.
Worth a trip? Sadly, no.
Details #05-K1-K3, Funan DigitaLife Mall, 109 North Bridge Rd (6336 0010, www.cawaiikoohii.com). MRT: City Hall. Daily 11.30am-9.30pm.
With your dog
Urban Pooch Café
Urban Pooch, on a side street off Balestier Road, does pretty much everything you could think about doing for a dog, from spa treatments ($30-$65) to overnight stays (from $3 an hour) and parties. The small café is for both dogs and their owners, with pooches getting to chow down on gourmet-sounding fare like German Shepherd’s Pie (with chicken or lamb, $4.90) or grilled Dory fish ($5.50), which is suitable for dogs with sensitive skin according to the menu.
Owners get a more basic menu, relatively speaking, with items such as Tonkatsu curry rice ($7.90), fish and chips ($8.90), onion rings ($4.50) and potato croquettes ($5.90). Admittedly, we couldn’t find a dog to go with us, so the experience of dining alone surrounded by canine grooming products, feeding bowls and paintings of puppies was a little underwhelming. But we imagine letting your pup gorge on grilled honey chicken would be fun.
Novelty factor 3/5
How much? $5 for pups; $10-$15 for humans.
Worth a trip? Only if you have a dog.
Details Monville Mansion #01-07, 530 Balestier Rd (6252 5046, urbanpooch.com.sg). MRT: Novena. Tue-Sun 10am-10pm.