Whether you’re looking for long-established traditional Indian restaurants or new kids (relatively) on the block that are injecting hipster charm to this enclave, Little India’s hundreds upon hundreds of eateries will not disappoint. Here’s a credible mix of the old and the faddy to serve as starting points of your culinary journey. For even more scrumptious treats, let your wanderlust, and gut, lead you to serendipitous discoveries.
1. Meatsmith Little India
This is reputably Singapore’s first restaurant serving Modern Indian Barbecue. And not just modern, but visceral too, with carne fare like Dry Dhal Duck Hearts, Bone Marrow Curry and Briyani-stuffed Suckling Pig. With distressed paint and exposed pipes, its grungy man-cave vibes blend well with the uncontrived environs of Campbell Lane. Stacked above is Rogue Trader, Meatsmith’s very own colonial-India bar that whips up an intriguing hoard of Anglo-Indian inspired cocktails.
Touted as the ‘first Mexican dive bar’ in Singapore, Chimichanga’s well-worn patina of tatty posters, flaking paint and naked bulbs melds charmingly into a hood of open-air vegetable stalls, scruffy hardware shops and forlorn backpackers’ hostels. Just as uncontrived are the Mex staples of tacos, quesadillas, carnitas, chipotle chicken, and chimichanga or deep-fried burrito. The shabby chic setting draws in Gen Zers swapping Slurpees for agave cocktails; Juan and José, however, might demand a more spirited mezcal to make this their cantina of choice.
3. Komala Vilas
A restaurant that’s over 70 years old must have got a lot right! One of Singapore’s oldest and most well-known Indian vegetarian restaurants, Komala Vilas serves up Southern and Northern veggie faves and classics, in no-frills style, like dosai, vadai, idli, chapati, poori and briyani. Even non-vegetarians will leave impressed by how complex and aromatic veg meals can get. So acclaimed is this casual eatery that when India’s Prime Minister Modi visited Singapore, he was brought here for a hearty chow time by his local counterpart Lee Hsien Loong!
4. The Banana Leaf Apolo
This restaurant has laid claim to bringing the ancient South Indian tradition of serving food on a freshly-cut banana leaf to Singapore. And they have kept true to its name since opening their doors in 1974. Signature dishes here include the Fish Head Curry, Mutton Mysore, and Chicken Masala. For devotees of strong, spicy and aromatic flavours, this is your mausoleum. And judging from the horde of foreign diners in their corporate attire, this must be the ideal place of initiation to suss out if your new expat colleagues could take the heat, and the fiery curries.
5. Delhi Restaurant
Founded in 1988, Delhi Restaurant has been Nominated Singapore’s 100 Best Restaurants by Tatler Singapore many times over. The decor is ornately Indian without lapsing into ostentatious kitsch. Celebrated for its mixed grill of tandoor-cooked meats marinated in masala and wine, Delhi’s essentially Northern Indian menu also features a curated selection of seafood like Tandoori pomfret in yogurt sauce and red hot chilli prawns served in a savoury onion coriander sauce.
6. The Singapura Club – Little India
The Singapura Club is a heritage-style bistro, taproom and an all-day dining joint. The hodgepodge of curios, antiques, and wall murals of early migrant workers, defines its nostalgic vibes and menu of chapalang local fare. Okra fries, nasi lemak, fried laksa, butter chicken and salmon tikka – the latter two surely a nod to the ethnic precinct. Located at the crossroads of Dunlop Street and Clive Street, this archaic mélange somehow worked, with expat revellers digging this place, adding cadence to the ghetto’s frenetic soundscape – reliving the hedonistic colonial days of Colonel Samuel Dunlop and General Robert Clive.
If you’re planning to make a trip down, do remember to observe the appropriate social distancing and safety measures for a safe and enjoyable experience!