British expat CLAIRE SALARIA is a designer in Singapore. She lives in a house in Tanjong Katong on the East Coast. Here’s what she thinks of the area!
The Specifics of Tanjong Katong
What’s the name of your street?
Do you know how it got its name?
Tanjong Katong (which means “turtle point” in Malay) used to be a seaside retreat for wealthy Chinese and Europeans. All the streets are named after English coastal towns – for example, Swanage, Wareham, Poole and Branksome. The original shoreline is now reclaimed land, but you can still see a lot of old villas with names like Ocean View and Sea Breeze; it seems quite incongruous now, but I find it fascinating. Some are quite “Gatsby-esque”; I can imagine the glamorous parties that went on back in the day!
What’s a common myth about Tanjong Katong?
That it’s “way out East”. It’s actually really close and convenient for the CBD, Marina Bay and Chinatown as well as the beach; the best of both worlds.
Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home?
“Branksome Road please, off Crescent Road, off Old Airport Road/ Dunman Road.”
Closest MRT station?
Either Dakota (yellow Circle Line) or Paya Lebar (Circle Line and green East West Line).
How long have you lived in Tanjong Katong?
On this particular road for one and a half years, and previously a few streets away for nine years. We love this area! It’s really convenient for my husband’s work in the MBFC, has great cycling routes to Gardens by the Bay and East Coast Park, and lots of great local restaurants and shops. Above all, we just feel this area has some soul.
When you walk out of your place, what’s the first thing you see?
The old uncle sitting on the kerb with his tricycle collecting recycling. He must have been sitting in exactly the same spot for years and is a neighbourhood fixture.
What’s the closest store to your front door?
At the end of Tanjong Katong Road, we are spoilt for choice. Amongst other things, we have a great greengrocer, a butcher and an old school stationer that literally has anything you could possibly need.
Is there anything you wouldn’t mind a little less of?
What’s the unofficial uniform of your street?
Yellow workers’ helmets and a dog lead.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street?
Roosters and chickens seem to roam free; I’m really not sure where they come from.
What are your three favourite places to eat or drink in Tanjong Katong?
Trattoria l’Operetta for the best pizza and family-friendly vibe. We’ve been going there since our kids were little, and they put dough balls on the menu at our request. Ponggol Nasi Lemak for high-quality, great value and delicious nasi lemak. (Be prepared to queue!) A bit further away in Joo Chiat Place is a new find – The Brewing Ground. It’s a really unique and contemporary spot for brunch or lunch.
What are the best places to shop around Tanjong Katong?
Greenmart is great for fresh produce, plus Foodie Market Place for specialities and Meat Collective for, well, meat. The previously mentioned old stationer, Katong News Agency, is a local gem, then of course Joo Chiat is a short stroll away for the best cheese shop, and La Tienda is fabulous for fashion and homeware.
What are some fun or interesting things to do in Tanjong Katong?
Shopping, eating, cycling and just generally walking the streets and spotting the pockets of history is pretty fascinating.
What’s one thing you’d never change?
The peace and quiet, the beautiful birds and the friendly neighbours.
How about one thing you would change?
The construction – every old house seems sadly to be demolished.
If the city gave you a million dollars to soup up your street, how would you use it?
A million wouldn’t be enough to whack conservation orders on the few remaining beautiful old houses, unfortunately.
Beyond the Tanjong Katong ’Hood
What are your favourite Singapore spots for taking out-of-town guests?
Joo Chiat, Haji Lane, Gardens by the Bay and a day trip to Lazarus Island. Also, although it’s a cliché, I love any excuse to head to Raffles Hotel, so I always grab the opportunity to take guests whether they want to go or not!
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, where do you go?
I love the National Gallery, obviously for the art and exhibitions, but it’s also a beautiful building and so calm and peaceful.
If you’re missing home, what do you do?
Go shopping in Marks & Spencer!
Fact File: The Bournemouth Connection with Tanjong Katong
In the mid-1800s, Tanjong Katong was home to a 400-acre coconut plantation belonging to Thomas Dunman (pictured, below). Dunman was Singapore’s first Police Commissioner; he retired to Bournemouth, England in 1875. His son William remained in Singapore and became Municipal Commissioner; it was he who named a number of the roads in Tanjong Katong after coastal towns around Bournemouth – including Branksome Road. (Others are Poole and Wareham, as Claire has mentioned above, along with Parkstone and Ringwood.)
Hong Lim Park in Chinatown – home to “Speakers’ Corner” – used to be called Dunman’s Green, named after Thomas. It was one of Singapore’s earliest public parks.
This article first appeared in the April 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
Read more on neighbourhoods in Singapore.