Let's Go Jalan Jalan: Rediscovering Clementi
STORY: Ng Kai
03 February 2021
In this series, we help you (re)discover gems in your own backyard with the help of JalanJalan.me, a community project spearheaded by the people behind the #savefnbsg movement, and supported by Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board.
1. Aquariums for fish lovers
This row of HDB shophouses at Block 328, known simply as "Clementi Fish Shop” by those in the know, is where fish owners across the island congregate. While LFS Aquarium, Polyart Aquarium, Clementi Florist & Aquarium ("C328" in local fish-lover parlance), and Arowana Avenue are well-known fish aquarium shop names from the block, many consider the Florist and Aquarium the "o-fish-al" genesis of the area’s reputation. In business since 1984, the Toh family began retailing flowers and bird cages, before diversifying the product line to include tropical fishes, thus catching the attention of local aquarists.
Fun fact: These days, the densely packed store is the domain of its lady boss. Ask and you shall receive as she can instantly find anything you need among the extensive stock of fish and aquarium equipment on the shelves.
Located at: 328, Clementi Ave 2, #01-210, Singapore 120328 (map)
2. IG-worthy bridge
Spanning across Sungei Ulu Pandan, this truss bridge formed by a tessellation of triangles joins Sunset Way and the Clementi Ave 4 limbs of the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. These days, the bridge and the nearby tracks in a tree-lined spot down Ave 4 live a second life as a popular spot for photography. Old Jurong Line Railway Bridge is not only popular for your casual #ootd shoots, but ranks high as a pre-wedding photography shoot location too.
Fun fact: Way back in 1966, the sleepers here were part of a railway line that was envisioned as a linkway to connect the nascent Jurong Industrial Estate with Malaysia. It was later abandoned in the 1990s when road transportation proved to be more efficient than this arduous task at hand.
Located at: Ulu Pandan Park Connector (map)
3. Iconic forest
This is the photography spot that has become a hot environmental conservation topic in Singapore. Clementi Forest used to be a random, if somewhat forgettable, patch of greenery you'd pass by on a bus ride between Clementi and Bukit Timah. Then in October 2020, the drone footage by Brice Li capturing it in its misty splendour went viral. Since then, the 85-hectare spot and its unique biodiversity has gained national attention. Those up for a tiny bit of “forest bathing” can take a walk south from the Old Bukit Timah Railway Station on the Rail Corridor.
Fun fact: If you just want a shot for the gram and keep your Yeezys spotless, take the bus to stop 12109 (opposite Ngee Ann Polytechnic) for a view from the sidewalk of that iconic tree-lined "valley" featured in Li's video.
Located at: Clementi Rd (map)
4. Playgrounds for those always young at heart
These play areas at Blocks 445 and 445B are some of the coolest and best looking HDB playgrounds in Singapore. These make a great pitstop for young families going on a Jalanjalan.me discovery tour. Older kids will enjoy features such such as the rock-climbing ramp, crawl tunnel and rope bridges - built out of wood to mimic a treehouse at the block 445B playground. Over at block 445, younger kids can let their imaginations go crazy at the Candy Trail play space. There are coloured spinners modelled after lollipops and toadstools that serve as jumping pads to test motor skills, but the main attraction here is the gingerbread playhouse, covered in models of sweets, icing and candy.
Fun fact: Seeking a more retro playspace? Head down to the Dragon Playground, an old favourite at Ang Mo Kio which has served generations of young-at-heart.
Located at: 445 and 445B, Clementi Ave 3, Singapore 120445 (map)
1. Mouthwatering French cuisine
Anthony Yeoh, the former head chef of French casual bistro Cocotte, transplants his approachable cuisine to the heartlands. His Sunset Way restaurant, Summer Hill, is a friend's cosy dining room inside and verdant jungalow outside. If you are looking for comfort favourites with a luxe touch, such as stroganoff with stewed Tajima wagyu brisket, fries dunked in duck fat, hormone- and antibiotic-free fried chicken, or foie gras-stuffed French ducks, this is the place to go.
Fun fact: Hosting an intimate group at home? The restaurant also offers a DIY Eats option of ready meals that you can take home, heat up and dress up on the plate.
Located at: 106, Clementi St 12, #01-62, Singapore 120106 (map)
2. A bit more high-SES kopi-o
Originally a mobile coffee company that carted out java to corporate and private events, Olla is now part of a hip courtyard area in Sunset Way, flanked by Burnt Cones and Fredo's Baker. Besides the great coffees served under the supervision of its Singapore National Barista champion owner, Lee Hee Wei, the cafe attracts an athleisure-clad set for its eggy brunch options, and of course, its well-loved buttermilk waffles.
Fun fact: Available in a few variations, try giving their Nanyang Kopi plate a go. Topped with a kopi guyou gelato, crushed butter crackers and a rich kaya sauce, this one sparks the imagination and showcases how local coffee can be presented in yet another way - as a dessert.
Located at: 109, Clementi St 11, #01-03, Singapore 120109 (map)
3. Pet-friendly cafe
One of the more enduring local cafes to still remain in the cafe hopper’s black book of favourites since its opening in 2014, W39 is set up by two sisters, Jasmine and Jamie Lu, in their 20s. The space is bright, sunny and retro-loving. To complete the W39 experience, pair your food with one of their recommended craft beers or drink concoctions.
Fun fact: This is also one of Singapore’s pet-friendly cafes. So while your dog or cat hangs out under the table to check out their fellow tail-waggers, you can dine on a variety of the cafe’s staples, such as salmon ceviche, ebi cha soba, or charcoal chicken burger.
Located at: 39, Jln Mas Puteh, Singapore 128637 (map)
4. Longstanding seafood joint
Before Sunset Way was a hive of hip ice-cream shops and cafes, there was Chin Huat. The space that is more restaurant than a zichar joint (you might even forget you're below a block of HDB flats) is now under the purview of its young second-generation owner, Amy Low. Besides its impressive selection of seafood such as lobsters, Alaskan king crabs and bamboo clams on offer, signatures like the crispy hor fun, claypot Hokkien noodles and seared Angus beef ensures that their spot is one of the busiest in the neighbourhood.
Fun fact: Children of the 90s might remember its TV ad's bold catchphrase: "龙虾大过小女孩" (translated: "Chin Huat has lobsters bigger than a little girl").
Located at: 105, Clementi St 12, #01-30, Singapore 120105 (map)
1. Beer-y good equipment
This is the Mecca for local at-home beer makers. The business was set up in 2004 by Raymond Lee, the man who has been credited for helping to draft legislation allowing for the brewing of beer at home in Singapore. This HDB shop stocks an extensive array of equipment and ingredients to make almost any type of beer, though you might also find kombucha and kefir enthusiasts here for their fermentation vessels or kegging systems.
Fun fact: Before the Circuit Breaker, the lawn just outside his store at Block 354 used to draw out elusive homebrewers for the annual iBrew Challenge: a heady gathering for local makers to socialise and have their creations judged by experts.
Located at: 354, Clementi Ave 2, #01-195, Singapore 120354 (map)
2. Storied nursery
This garden centre has been perched on this little hill along Clementi Rd even before the road was so named. Corona Florist & Nursery has been in business since 1950, back when the artery was known as Reformatory Rd for the boys home that was situated here. Before Clementi New Town was built in 1975, its product range was geared towards the kampungs, cottage industries and farms in the area.
Fun fact: These days, their nursery serves the urban-jungle set looking for their new green kid to nurture, and offers landscaping services if you have a bigger patch to artfully fill with greenery.
Located at: 388F, Clementi Rd, Singapore 599473 (map)
3. Legendary tutu kueh
There are few places you'll find tutu kueh outside of a pasar malam these days. Thank goodness for Tan’s – a West Side favourite worth crossing the country for. Tan Bee Hua's father, Tan Yong Fa, is said to be one of the early inventors of the steamed rice cakes after arriving in Singapore from Fujian in 1932. He shrank down a Hokkien snack, song gao, stuffed it with peanut or grated coconut and the name came from the sound the steamers would make when heated.
Fun fact: Over the years, new flavours – such as a chocolate chip-infused iteration, said to be a hit with children – have been introduced by the enterprising lady boss too.
Located at: 449 Clementi Ave 3, #01-211, Singapore 120449 (map)
4. Pastries worth the calories
Fredo's flan de yuzu has received high praise, though if you visit, you'll find plenty of other contenders for your buck. Stepping into this fully stocked bakery by former hotel pastry chef Alfred Chan is a visual treat – fruits are stacked impossibly high on tarts, the cakes impeccably iced and rustic breads look well worthy of your carb quotas.
Fun fact: The prices are on the high side for its heartland address, but you know they've got the neighbourhood’s seal of approval when you hear residents walking in and asking for their daily otak loti.
Located at: 109, Clementi St 11, #01-05, Singapore 120109 (map)
1. BBQ seafood
This is where residents flock to for barbecued seafood in the neighbourhood. Owner Ben Toh mans a stall in this Ave 4 food court where fresh seafood sits on ice, waiting to be picked, paid for and pried apart. His no-pork-no-lard approach keeps the cuisine pretty approachable to most, and regulars also come here for the specials he procures for the day.
Fun fact: We recommend following Ben on Facebook - not just for his personable updates, but also to get news on when his stall might be closed (such as when he decides to go on a holiday with his girlfriend).
Located at: 309, Clementi Ave 4, #01-335, Foodloft Coffee Shop, Singapore 120308 (map)
For a full list of things to see, eat, shop and do in Clementi, check out JalanJalan.me