SINGAPORE — There’s a creepy surrealism that sinks in when you make your way through Changi Airport Terminal 2, which has now since temporarily shuttered since May due to lack of flights and general airport activity.
Changi Airport Group says it’s the perfect time to bring forward expansion works that have been planned for 2024, but with the lights dimmed (and some flickering), carousels paused, and scaffolding erected, the place looks more pandemic-abandoned than in the midst of improvement. A few weeks later, Terminal 4 was also ordered shut, with airlines redirected to Terminal 1 and 3 and F&B outlets closed until air travel picks up again.
Even amidst all this doom and gloom, traffic has picked up considerably at nearby Jewel, although admittedly, it is less last-minute shopping destination and more neighbourhood mall that happens to be within the vicinity of Changi Airport. There really is nothing like shopping for a MacBook Pro or dining at swanky Violet Oon while dressed down in the typical tee-shorts-slippers combo, as if dropping by for an NTUC run and suddenly feeling the need for new tech and fancy food.
But this review is not for a restaurant within Jewel or the remaining terminals still open for service. It’s for a little known establishment at the outskirts of the Changi Airport neighbourhood, so difficult to find (even in a GrabCar), that it’s much more efficient for me to show you a map of where it is than to describe it in words. Hopefully, with some deft Google search, you too can find Hub & Spoke and understand why this establishment deserves your esteemed patronage.
Its moniker is reflective of its function as an endpoint for cyclists traversing the Park Connector Network from East Coast Park to Changi Airport. There are purpose-built facilities here for weary cyclists—bicycle rack, tire pump, and showers for a quick rinse, although it was yet to open during my visit. Hub & Spoke itself is housed within a glass wall compound with beautiful views of the greenery outside and al-fresco seating perfect for a touch of fresh air during cooler days.
The menu is dependable, familiar, and affordable, which makes the trip down an easy option. You can order a warm cup of teh-o and toast and then go back within the hour for a more filling main, all without burning a hole in your pocket. It’s literally food without the complex mimicry of stylistic culinary collaboration. You know the type, so often lauded in 2020 for pushing the envelope of gastronomical extremes, but often leave diners scratching their head and more perplexed.
It starts with Har Cheong Gai chicken wings (S$7.50), that local aromatic snack made with a batter of fermented shrimp paste. I don’t understand how anyone can get this wrong, and believe me, I’ve tried many that had. Here, it comes served in a basket of five pieces, each beautifully seasoned, incredibly juicy and bursting with the piquant flavours of belacan. I could have all five with just a cup of teh-si and go back for more.
Elsewhere, there’s a Mee Rebus Java (S$5.50), which, I’m told, is finessed to closely replicate the famed version from Terminal 1’s canteen. I’ve tried making Mee Rebus at home before and concluded that certain things in life are just easier to buy rather than to recreate. I know that some cooks douse their gravy with cornstarch to achieve that thick texture when it should be made mainly with sweet potatoes. Hub & Spoke’s version is one of the very few I’ve tried that stays true to tradition. It’s a satisfying medley of sweet and savoury with a touch of sourness all in perfect harmony and is the closest thing to what my mum makes at home.
I also had the Seafood al Cartoccio (S$13.90) just to sample what promises the Western menu holds. This baked parchment bag of seafood takes a little longer to prepare but worth the wait. Within the bag are generous chunks of tender Mussels, Prawns, Squid, and Salmon Belly Fillet mixed with a hearty tomato stew and baked till everything inside is a rambunctious play of bright flavours and umami from a stew that has been slowly reduced.
I had mine with some toasted bread, and I recommend you do the same. I was told that the owners are deliberating whether to offer this daily or just on the weekend—I seriously hope it’s the former.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the colourful Salads on the menu available in three sizes—Petit, Moyan, and Grand. The Petit (S$5.90) comes with 1 base, 3 toppings, guacamole, and 1 dressing; Moyan (S$6.50) comes with 1 base, 4 toppings, guacamole, and 1 dressing; Grand (S$7.50) comes with 1 base, 4 toppings, 1 protein, 1 guacamole, and 1 dressing. As you can see, those are some very affordable prices for salad bowls with generous servings of good things for the body.
I was told that Hub & Spoke’s Nasi Lemak could rival some of the favourites we’ve come to know and love—for me that would be Coconut Club, Adam Road, and the Hougang Green Malay stall. So that would be something I’d definitely be keen to try on my next traipse down.
Still, I can see how Hub & Spoke could be appealing. Food-wise, you'll be spoilt for choice—there’s classic local dishes, toasts, breakfast sets, sandwiches, pasta, protein. The drinks options are also staggering, but not unfamiliar, with traditional options sitting alongside more trendy fare like, you know, bubble tea—yes, it’s become mandatory now to have bubble tea in any menu. And with travel severely restricted, Hub & Spoke could jolly well be the second-best reason to make a trip down to Changi Airport.
Website | 60 Airport Boulevard, Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, #01-T2S-02 8196432
Monday to Thursday: 7.30am - 8pm
Friday to Sunday: 7.30am - 9.30pm
Balancing the New Normal: