PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am

A stroll along Orchard Road seems a great idea, but Singapore's oppressive heat and humidity soon leave you wilted. Scrap the jaunt and dive into one of these establishments, all within five minutes of Orange Grove Road, Tanglin Shopping Centre and the Traders Hotel area.

Isle Cafe

Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 Tanglin Road

The Isle Cafe, fringed by Mohammed's carpet shop and Kenko's shoulder massage, is one of those inexplicably busy holes in the wall, permanently rammed to the gills with locals. Promising No Pork, No Lard (and no frills), the Isle dishes up hearty portions of prawn mee for S$3 ($15), fishball noodles (S$2.50), mee sian (a sour broth filled with noodles and egg (S$2.50), and the local favourite, laksa (S$3). Freshly squeezed juices are a bargain at S$2. Don't pitch up later than 6.30pm because the Isle closes at dusk.


Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road

Directly opposite the Manchester United bar and disco - but don't let that put you off - is the Esmirada, a Mediterranean restaurant serving Greek, French, Italian and Spanish dishes. A resident of the same spot for more than a decade, the Esmirada does a good fisherman's soup, known as kakavia, filled with scrumptious seafood (S$9.25) and creamy desserts. There's also a canopied outdoor section.

SBC Food Court

Orchard Towers, 400 Orchard Road

In the bowels of Orchard Towers sits the SBC Food Court (below). Probably deserving a whole Entree to itself, this small yet perfectly formed den offers something for everyone, with Chinese, Indian, western, Malaysian and Japanese cuisines all represented. The cluster is as down and dirty as it can be in this sanitised city, and frequented by under-dressed workers from the mall's less than classy drinking holes. Diners should head to the Hot Point Kitchen for Chinese favourites, the Malay kitchen for delicious chicken-stuffed murtabak, San Marco for S$5 plates of fish and chips, and the Japanese booth for chicken katsu. It's easy to develop eyes-bigger-than-belly syndrome here because most dishes range from S$2 to S$7, unless you decide on huge plates of tiger prawns at a still reasonable $18. The food court's juice stall offers large glasses of freshly squeezed star fruit, for example, or whole coconuts, for a few dollars.


Level 24 Tower Wing, Shangri-La Hotel, Orange Grove Road

You've slummed it in the food courts and sweated in the outdoor restaurants; now, pamper yourself with air-conditioning and superb views of Singapore at Blu, the Shangri-La's impressive bar-restaurant. Perched on the 24th floor and looking out at skyscrapers and twinkling lights, Blu is named after the colour of its glass murals. Signature cocktails include Red Hot and Blu, a slick combination of gin, Cointreau and cherry brandy (S$18) served by glamorous women in beaded cheongsams. Accompanying bar treats include roasted diver scallops at S$30 and Maine lobster bisque at S$24 a bowl.