Singapore Diaries: How I spent the first weekend after lockdown
Singapore moved into phase two of reopening the economy on a Friday, which meant we had a whole weekend of “freedom” ahead. After ten weeks without any social interaction, we couldn’t wait to meet our dearest friends again and also to dine in a restaurant (enough food orderings and eating out of plastic boxes)
As always, Daniel would go to work on a weekday, no matter the fact that it was the first day in phase two. Daniels’s work is (obviously) declared as essential, and he used to go to the office quite regularly during Circuit Breaker while I was sitting at home on my own. During that time, I was craving one thing the most, and that was a good cup of coffee. Hence the first thing I did was going to Common Man Coffee Roasters, which happens to be in our neighborhood and have my first sip of Oat Flat White after some very long weeks.
While walking to the coffee shop, I was wondering how the new normal would look like. As a matter of fact, at restaurants and hawker centres, each table will be limited to five people and masks are compulsory while outdoors, except while eating, or drinking or during strenuous exercises.
For a moment I was wondering if this means that people would put their mask up and down for every sip or bite, I was probably having too many thoughts about it because when I arrived the café, people would have their mask with them but not necessarily put them on and off (which would have been kind of ridiculous anyway). So when I reached my table and had my coffee served, I put down the masks in public for the first time in months and took a deep breath. What a feeling!
Daniel came home around noon and after a quick lunch that we cooked together, we were both working next to each other. When we finished work, the weather was great and so we decided to go for a quick Aperol Spritz in a bar next door (outdoors, of course!).
Afterward, we took a grab car and drove in the direction of Bugis. In the popular Haji Lane, we were meeting our American friends for the first time in months. Funny enough, Ali and Matt were not only the first social interaction we had after Circuit Breaker, but they were also the last we had before. Together, we had a great dinner in the not-as-busy-as-usual Piedra Negra and enjoyed our first night out.
Not only the Mexican restaurant, but the famous Haji Lane was almost extinct, contrary to expectations, as Haji Lane is usually packed and very popular, especially on weekends. I guess most people were still a little reluctant. Moreover, the restaurants can only occupy half of the tables during phase two, which might also thin out the audience. However, for us, this was great as we could sit at one of the few tables outside without being disturbed (as usual) by jostling passers. I remember last time we meet our friends there, we could barely understand each other due to loud live music and were shouting at each other at one point, as the echo would hall through the narrow street. Thus I personally found this the best experience I ever had in Haji Lane.
At dot 10:30 PM, we were asked to leave, and we were quite surprised. We are aware of the fact that currently, restaurants are only allowed to serve food and drinks until 10ish. However, we didn’t expect them to basically throw us out. Anyway, it wasn’t too bad, as we had the same direction home and so we decided for a walk through the streets and use the way for pleasant and long-awaited conversations.
The next morning Daniel and I actually had a reservation at a breakfast café, but we canceled it right when we came home on Friday night. Somehow, we had a feeling to start the weekend a bit more slowly and leisurely. Besides, our fridge was still pretty full because we had just received a Redmart delivery. Phase two had been announced at relatively short notice, and we had actually expected to spend the weekend at home.
The decision to cancel the breakfast plans where just right because when we woke up on Saturday morning, it was pouring! So we spent almost the entire Saturday where we had already spent the last weeks: at home. But we had an impressive stack of home-made pancakes and also some things to do on the blog, which kept us busy. Also, knowing that we could potentially leave the house anytime made it easier to decide to stay in anyway. That’s why towards the afternoon when the sky cleared up just a little bit, we went to another café around the corner. From the Craftsmen Coffee Shop, we had heard only positive things during the lockdown, and we couldn’t wait to check the place out. I had a made-to-perfection cup of coffee while Daniel had a delicious muffin. We both also shared a waffle, which apparently is their signature dish.
Afterward, we got ready for some extraordinary occasion: We had a dinner reservation at Art Restaurant. An elegant contemporary Italian restaurant by Michelin Star Chef Beppe De Vito, located at National Gallery Singapore. During the lockdown, we had fantasized about our first night out and what we would like to do. We wanted to do something very decadent, to make up the time spent home. And what would be better than a night in a Michelin-starred restaurant with a fantastic view of Singapore’s Skyline?
To start the evening, we firstly went to Potato Head in Outram. On their rooftop, we enjoyed a few drinks and the view on to the cute alleys and streets before we head to our final destination: The Art Restaurant.
Arriving at the National Gallery, we could see impact of Singapore’s new normal. Some entries are closed, the few entries that are open are equipped with infrared cameras and markers on the floor, and on all doors remind you to keep the distance.
The dinner did not take place – because of the rain – in the actual restaurant, but in the rooms of a sister restaurant, the “Aura”. There, we got a table right at the panorama windows and thus had a fantastic view of the Singapore skyline: The Marina Bay Sands, the Opera, and the CBD.
The three-course menu in the Art Restaurant was advertised to cost 78 SGD “only” (which is quite a good value for Singapore anyway!) on the restaurant’s website. However, the second we ordered the three-course menu, we were told it wouldn’t exist and advised rather take the 6-course menu instead that comes at 168 SGD. This was a little bummer honestly, as we not only had planned to consume less but also felt a little bit misled as the offer on the website was gone by then. For a brief moment, we were discussing to go somewhere else, but we were not really in the mood for anything else than that restaurant. Luckily, the serve had meanwhile spoken with the kitchen chef and granted us to have the three-course-menu anyway. Yay!
The food nonetheless was fantastic. At first, there send us an Amuse-Geule from the kitchen, which included Burrata Cheese Cream, Avocado on Onion Tartar, and some nicely arranged fruits. In the following, there’s a few pictures of the food. Trigger alarm: If you’re starving, don’t look at the pictures 😉
Khorasan Wheat Tagliolini, Black Truffle, Anchovy Colatura (Trüffel-Spagetti).
Free Range Duck, Young Carrots, Shallot and Amalfi Lemon
Mammole Artichoke, Confit Egg Yolk, Celeriac, 25yo Balsamico Tradizionale
For dessert, we were served “Gianduja Chocolate, Hazelnut Gelato, Expresso and Marsala” a kind of Nutella-Tiramisu. And to finish off, there was another “greeting from the kitchen” with some small sweet treats. During the meal, we had excellent wine, and as the sky cleared up, we finished the remaining course and the wine on the terrace of the Aura to enjoy the magnificent view on to the Skyline.
Sitting there on the terrace, we felt that the beautiful evening somehow compensated the ten-week lockdown a bit. Because we felt liberated in the most real sense of the word.
To top that up, Daniel and I tried Hibiki 12, which had made it into the restaurant somehow (Hibiki 12 is no longer produced and is extremely rare and correspondingly expensive). An extraordinary drink, at the end of a remarkable evening.
Sunday started with rain again (normally it doesn’t rain that much in Singapore!) and we spent the morning at home. When it cleared up in the afternoon, Daniel and I walked to Orchard Road, the shopping mile of Singapore. The shops had been closed for the last ten weeks and we hadn’t therefor been in Orchard for ages.
Orchard Road was packed, and the constant check-in and check-out at all possible checkpoints and entrances did the rest, so shopping was extremely nerve-racking. Daniel urgently needed new shoes and pants though, which is why we had to go there anyway and luckily, he found some things so the afternoon spent wasn’t useless.
In the evening we met our friend Dario for a few drinks at the “Don Ho”. The weather on Sunday evening was extremely mild and pleasant, almost “cool,” and it was adorable to sit outside and breathe fresh air. After a short stop at Shake Shack, Daniel and I walked home from Outram Park and were very happy to have had a fantastic weekend in freedom.