Hawker centres, Cajun seafood boil, and heaps of zi char: these restaurants and cafes serve the best food around MacPherson, Tai Seng, and Mattar.
Dotted by HDBs, industrial businesses, and corporate headquarters, the area is not as glamorous or historic as other eastern neighbourhoods like Katong and Geylang, but holds its own for having a wealth of dining options. It is also well-served by two MRT lines and three stations, with eating spots within walking distance.
A swath of restaurants are concentrated along MacPherson Road. For zi char staples, there is Crab At Bay and Yi Jia. From Quan Lai, kway chap and braised duck, and from Mortar & Pestle Society, pasta with local flavours. Sumptuous prawn noodles can be found at One Prawn & Co, and just off the street is The Boiler and its Louisiana-style seafood boil.
Between Mattar and MacPherson stations, two hawker centres are brimming with breakfast options, some served before the sun rises. Between them is Hippo Family Restaurant, a cozy spot for har cheong gai and other zi char staples. North of MacPherson station is Knots Cafe & Living, which does brunch fare in a lush surrounding.
Further up from Tai Seng station, Yu Cun presents a curry fish head with a thick, aromatic gravy. Then its over to the west of Mattar for riotous Bangkok nights at Super Thai. Find out more below.
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Your guide to the best food around MacPherson, Tai Seng, and Mattar
Circuit Road Market & Food Centre
The most famous stall at Circuit Road Market & Food Centre – not to be confused with Circuit Road Hawker Centre – is Hup Hup, which serves robust bowls of mee siam, lor mee, and laksa. The destination is also a popular breakfast spot for dishes like Yuan’s porridge, carrot cake from 333, fried bee hoon from Tian Xiang, wanton noodles by Leong Kee, and vegetarian meals at Xiang Yuan.
(Image credit: @huphup.co / Instagram)
80 Circuit Rd, Singapore 370080 google map
Crab At Bay Seafood Restaurant
It’s the crustacean in all its glory at Crab At Bay. The zi char restaurant specialises in popular crab styles including braised or claypot bee hoon, black pepper, chilli, and salted egg, and are often sold in a one-for-one promotion. Other dishes are well executed too, from Guinness pork ribs to baby squid steamed with garlic and butter.
(Image credit: Crab at Bay Seafood Restaurant / Facebook)
540 MacPherson Rd, Singapore 368223 google map
Hippo Family Restaurant
Hippo is a hole-in-the-wall eatery serving a broad spectrum of homey zi char dishes. You could rattle off names – har cheong gai, curry fish head, sambal kang kong, and hot plate tofu – and they are most likely found on the menu. Prices are fair and portions are sizeable, making it a great after-work spot or an easy meal with family.
(Image credit: @greedymizdee / Instagram)
Knots is in the bowels of a forgettable office building, but its interior is as green as a forest. The cafe decorates its barn-like space with plenty of plants and flowers, many of which are on sale along with the furniture. To eat, think hearty brunch food like Parma ham Benedict, truffle eggs and bacon croissant, fish and chips, and carbonara, then on to buttermilk waffles with whipped cream for dessert.
(Image credit: @loo.james / Instagram)
160 Paya Lebar Rd, #01-07, Orion@PayaLebar 409022 google map
MacPherson Market & Food Centre
Like Circuit Road Market & Food Centre, MacPherson Food Centre also a breakfast destination. In the wee hours, your options are Cantonese porridge from Hao Ji, along with fried bee hoon by Good Morning Eating House. By 6am, they are joined by CCK and its wanton noodles with crispy dumplings, and the solitary hawker at stall No.89 stir-frying carrot cake. For something lighter, Boon Keng sells steamed yam cake, and get your caffeine fix with kopi-o from Guan’s Cafe – still sold for under a dollar.
(Image credit: @pineapple.petcorn.eats / Instagram)
89 Circuit Rd, Singapore 370089 google map
One Prawn & Co
One Prawn & Co is run by Gwyneth Ang, who spent over a decade working in restaurants like Burnt Ends, Tong Le Private Dining, and Forlino. She brings her experience to the humble prawn noodles, which have a deeply complex broth. The dish is served in various forms from classic additions of pork rib to Japanese-inspired toppings of tobiko balls, and the soup is also used to flavour other items like lobster pao fan.
(Image credit: One Prawn & Co / Facebook)
458 MacPherson Rd, Singapore 368176 google map
At Pestle & Mortar Society, pastas get married to local flavours like squid link and chilli, salted egg soft shell crab, prawn laksa, and rendang. The halal restaurant also does more traditional Western food including beef wellington, applewood-smoked lamb rack, and a colossal grass-fed tomahawk steak, which comes with a wealth of sides. For dessert, it’s the classic creme brulee, with not-so-typical toppings of durian and pandan.
(Image credit: @tinglewelleats / Instagram)
548 MacPherson Rd, Singapore 368227 google map
Quan Lai Kway Chap
Quan Lai has been a stalwart of Singapore’s kway chap scene for more than 50 years. While their prices are higher than average, they make up for it with generous portions of silky rice noodles in a thick herbal broth, and the usual trappings of braised protein including duck, beancurd, pork innards, egg, and fishcake. The eatery is also one of the rare few that sells fried intestine, which have a gentle crunch.
(Image credit: @kyutogary / Instagram)
558 MacPherson Rd, Singapore 368232 google map
Super Thai by Soi Aroy
North of Mattar station is Super Thai, a lively destination reminiscent of a night out in Bangkok. They have signatures like crispy papaya salad – the shredded fruit is battered and fried – basil minced pork with century egg, and a barbecue platter of pork cheek, lemongrass chicken, and pork skewers, along with common items like glass noodles with king prawn, and deep-fried omelette with crab meat. Theses dishes line the stomach in preparation of buckets of beer, soju towers, and cocktails with an upturned beer bottle.
(Image credit: Super Thai by Soi Aroy)
379 Upper Aljunied Rd, Singapore 367864 google map
For a change of pace when it comes to crab, The Boiler does the crustacean Louisiana-style. Dungeness crab and an array of other seafood are boiled with herbs and spices, then served in a bag with sauce – get the garlic butter -and mantous to soak up the rich drippings. Other Cajun specialties are also on the menu, including jambalaya pasta, crab cakes, and sweet potato fries.
(Image credit: @theboilersg / Instagram)
18 Howard Rd, #01-06 Novelty BizCentre, Singapore 369585 google map
If the wait for Crab At Bay is too long, Yi Jia is a worthy substitute. The zi char restaurant does comparable versions of chilli, black pepper, and salted egg crabs, joined by other familiar faces including chye poh tofu, har cheong gai, and coffee pork ribs. The frog porridge is a specialty here, which can be flavoured with Chinese herbs, dried chilli, spring onion, or chicken essence.
(Image credit: Yi Jia South Village Seafood Restaurant / Facebook)
544 MacPherson Rd, Singapore 368225 google map
Yu Cun Claypot Curry Fish Head
Yu Cun occupies a quiet row of shophouses north of Tai Seng station, but their curry fish head is worth the trek. The gravy is spicy and rich in coconut milk, and holds generous amounts of ingredients from beancurd skin to eggplant. Order it with a side of fried mantous to mop up the broth.
(Image credit: @iamhungrytodayy / Instagram)
147 Upper Paya Lebar Rd, Singapore 534849 google map