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Novena, Singapore: A resident’s guide to living, eating and shopping


The Novena neighbourhood is known for its large houses and serene residential streets. The area is close to the shopping and entertainment hub on Orchard, and has its own retail needs covered at Chancery Lane and United Square.

Maxine Sculthorpe-Pike, Australia

Where did you live when you first came to Singapore?

We started in 1996 in Upper Bukit Timah, which was convenient for my husband’s weekly trips to Johor. We then went to a palmy, breezy condo in Dairy Farm, where I felt as though I was on permanent holiday. Our second tour of duty saw us on Grange Road, a hop from Orchard and heaven for a shopaholic and movie junkie like me. 2008 finds us in Novena, in Lincoln Lodge opposite United Square.

What were your main reasons for moving to this area?

Needing a short-term contract at an affordable price, we tracked down a developer-owned condo that was spacious and comfortable, and one year ahead of the demolition ball.

Best thing about living in this neighbourhood?

What started as a marriage of convenience has become a love affair. Being two MRT stops from town and having a spiderweb connection of buses gives us easy access to anywhere. The area fuses the character of the old Singapore I love, complete with local shops and restaurant gems, with the convenience of Cold Storage, Starbucks, and the occasional Harry’s Bar happy hour.

What’s missing from your local area that you would like to have?

Very little. Bemoaning the lack of a cinema is churlish given that we can be on Orchard Road within minutes. Perhaps a large park would be good – but again the Botanical Gardens are ten minutes away by bus or cab.

Any drawbacks to living in this area?

If there are I have not found them yet. Sure, it is busy, but isn’t that the nature of Singapore?

Why this specific home?

We were struck by the brightness and greenery when we walked in. All the windows face the ivy-covered wall of the next condominium, yet we are not overlooked. I would have preferred a balcony, but hey, maybe next time around.

What facilities were important to you?

It was important for us to have access to our own pool and gym. Access to buses and trains was essential, and an added plus for this lazy cook is to be a stagger away from a supermarket and restaurants.

Preferred local leisure area?

Singapore is our oyster. We zip into town for the movies and love long walks exploring the neighbourhood’s streets. In United Square, next door, there’s even a Phillip Wain and a Planet Fitness that I keep meaning to join. Trevor has recently been able to indulge his fantasy of becoming a rock star by enrolling in electric guitar lessons at the nearby Academy of Rock, in Goldhill Centre. He is absolutely loving it!

Preferred local shopping centre?

I can take my pick. Novena Square, Square 2 and United Square are a stone’s throw away. I love NTUC – the produce is fresh and cheap, and there are usually some bargain wines. Popular and Challenger are on hand to supply my husband’s work needs, and it’s fun to forage among the small boutiques that stock eclectic clothes, cheap shoes and homeware.

Special finds?

A daily ABC (apple, beetroot, carrot) juice from my local fruit shop costs $2.00 compared to $4.50 along Orchard. Who’s complaining? United Square is full of goodies for children, but it also hosts a second-hand designer bag store and a fencing school. And in Square 2 I have found a specialist Korean shop and Mmm, which sells fresh and organic imported meats.

Favourite restaurant for a special night out?

Many restaurants in Singapore are disappointingly more glitz than gourmet. Just give me a table full of friends, delicious food and value for money. I’d rather spend the evening sharing a simple fondue at home or dining at the atmospheric Polo Club just off Thomson Road. Daytime, I would splash out on a Mezza9 Sunday brunch.

Favourite “cheap and cheerful” restaurant and why?

Where do I start? Matsuo restaurant in Goldhill Plaza is a small, unpretentious sushi bar with a big reputation, and further afield, Hua Zhu in Farrer Road serves the best black pepper beef and big glasses to hold your BYO. The strip of seafood restaurants across from Novena Church is always packed, and I’ve been told that Globetrotters in United Square is a great family restaurant with the added attraction of a playroom. Every week we explore and add more to the list.

Maxine’s Recommendations

Academy of Rock
Polo Club
Matsuo Restaurant
Hua Zhu
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