It seems like new places to eat are springing up (and perhaps also shutting down) in Singapore faster than overnight toadstools. One specific kind of "new place" is a remake of old favourites from hawker centers and the one that I visited last week was particularly delicious, as you can see from their profile pictures.
This is usually spearheaded by a member of the more-corporatised younger generation, who's gone to business school or left some fancy banking institution to modernise the family business. Funan Weng, formally from Ghim Moh food center and now in Tanjong Pagar's Maxwell Chambers is one such place. Wok and Barrel, a charming little eatery I was introduced to in Duxton Hill, is another such place.
Wok and Barrel used to be a food stall at the Maxwell food market selling Nasi Lemak. Now, they still offer up their delicious fare, except in larger portion sizes, in a hip location and more importantly for Singapore, with air-conditioning. These re-made food favourites trade off a bit of that charred authenticity for a cleaner, more comfortable environment, catering more to professional lunches than everyday meals.
Both places have a very simple and organized system for placing orders, a bit akin to a primary school tuckshop. You simply tick off your choice of lunch set, Nasi Lemak with a range of choices, Beef Rendang, Chicken Curry or Crispy Pork and add-ons, like sides of Otak or local drinks, Barley or Lime Juice. In setting up their own eatery, I guess these stores now get the added margin of beverages and desserts but there’s probably a trade-off with volume, especially in areas like Duxton Hill. Their two signature desserts are gula meleka panna cotta with red bean ice cream and sticky toffee date pudding.
Wok and Barrel seemed to be doing a brisk business and I would definitely come back with friends. The area is gorgeous, just off the pedestrian-only Duxton Hill shophouse area if a little quiet and inaccessible particularly for lunch. If you come for dinner, they have a trendy fusion menu which includes local bah chor mee pastas and banana crack parfaits.
The food is well-prepared, I tried the Crispy Pork, which was a little un-crispy for my taste (it was a bit like floured, fried bacon) but still very good. Each set comes with an omellete, ikan bilis, cucumber, sour shredded vegetables and coconut rice. A word for the purists though, I am not a fan of overspiced chilli, nor of achar and I could happily eat both, which means that it wasn’t very hot or “shiok” as some of my chilli-fanatic friends prefer.
Wok and Barrel
13 Duxton Hill, Singapore
Tel: +65 6220 0595
Tue–Sat: 12pm – 9.30pm
Sun: 12pm – 3pm
(Closed on Mon)