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Opera Estate, Singapore: Guide to living, eating and shopping in Siglap


The neighbourhood of Siglap on Singapore’s East Coast was home to pirates as recently as the mid-1800s. Today, it’s a quiet beachside locale known for its lowrise dwellings shaded by big, leafy trees. In fact, the name Siglap is derived from the Malay word gelap – “a darkness that conceals” – suggesting the cover provided by the foliage.

Justinna Pank, the UK

Where did you live when you first came to Singapore?

We lived in a townhouse development on Chancery Lane. I was attracted to its European feel, with terracotta walls, inner courtyards and large, shady trees. Chancery Lane links Thomson Road with Dunearn Road, which makes it very accessible, and there is a Cold Storage supermarket on the corner of Chancery and Dunearn.

Why did you move to Siglap?

Our children attend UWCSEA East, and the new campus is only a short ride from Siglap. The area’s proximity to the city was an attraction for my husband. We can even see the city’s towering skyline from our house. For the children, I wanted a large garden, and since Gabriel joined us last year we needed more space inside, too.

Best thing about living here?

The diversity. I can walk to local markets and find the freshest of fruit and vegetables, and I don’t have to rely on shopping malls. There is a certain sense of being in a community, yet it also has familiar Western outlets such as Häagen-Dazs and Starbucks for your ice cream and coffee fix! Siglap has become a local hub for eating and you can find rows of traditional and contemporary coffee shops, cafés and restaurants. There’s also a good selection of dining options on the beach.

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

I can’t say right now. Ask me again in a year’s time!

Any drawbacks to living in this area?

I can’t think of any drawbacks apart from being less central than we used to be. After living in a central district, you get used to being able to pop out and collect children from all their endless activities with ease. I am more aware now of when rush hour starts and ends. But I am trying to become less dependent on what I was used to having in Chancery Lane, and I’m discovering answers to all my needs here in Siglap.

Why this specific home?

We liked Siglap’s Opera Estate. Many of the roads here are named after operas, such as Fidelio Street, Carmen Terrace and Tosca Terrace. And the architecture represents every genre imaginable, from traditional shophouses to contemporary Balinese-style villas. We also wanted to be high up on Siglap’s peak to benefit from the fresh winds coming in from the South China Sea. It is certainly a bit cooler here.

What facilities are important to you?

A good MRT link into the city, easy access to Changi Airport and good road connections – all of which Siglap has.

Preferred local leisure area?

Siglap has its own football ground, which is perfect for Freddie, and the Siglap Linear Park takes you all the way to the beach. The children and my husband enjoy racing each other on their scooters there.

Preferred local shopping centre?

Siglap Centre provides for all your basic needs. Nearby is Parkway Parade, which has larger stores. Siglap also benefits from the nearby shopping areas of Bedok and Tampines.

Special finds?

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, at 204 East Coast Road. This Hainanese coffee shop is styled like a typical Chinese confectionery. It was founded in 1925 and is the oldest coffeehouse in Singapore. Its high ceiling fans and marble-top tables make for a simple setting that is full of charm. Freddie and Daisy spend ages mulling over which cakes they would like. The old-fashioned takeaway boxes add to its nostalgia. The local sweet coffee is also well worth a try.

Ben’s Place at 15 Swan Lake Avenue is another place we like. This traditional British pie shop sits in the heart of Siglap’s Opera Estate. The café has a British feel, not only its menu but also its decorative Union Jacks. If you’re longing for a steak-and-kidney pie or a Cornish pastie, you will not be disappointed.

Favourite restaurant for a special night out?

Chat Masala at 158 Upper East Coast Road. We used to go to the Chat Masala just off Bukit Timah Road to satisfy our curry cravings, and now we only have a short walk to the original Chat Masala, right here in Siglap. The lamb biryani is a favourite and the cheese naan is a must.

Favourite “cheap and cheerful” restaurant?

The hawker centre on the beach serves tasty barbecued pork, and Katong Delights at 1H Figaro Street is a wonderful discovery. It’s run by hospitable brother-and-sister team Alan and Maureen, who serve up excellent food. Their beef rendang is a speciality, as is their ayam bakar – mouthwatering Peranakan and Indonesian dishes at coffee-shop prices.