Serangoon Gardens: Garden variety

Well-loved foodie haunt Serangoon Gardens is getting hotter, with new food and beverage outlets opening in the area.

No fewer than six eateries, including branches of Nara Japanese Restaurant at Goldhill Centre and Yum Cha Restaurant in Trengganu Street, would have opened in the area by the end of the year.

And come next November, when the former shopping centre Serangoon Gardens Village reopens as myVillage at Serangoon Garden, more than 20 new food and beverage (F&B) shops will join the fray.

Eateries opening in the redeveloped shopping mall include Japanese ramen restaurant Menya Manpei, dessert cafe Bakerzin and ice cream parlour Udders Ice Cream.

The mall will also be home to a FairPrice Finest outlet, which stocks a wide range of premium produce.

Restaurateurs who choose to open in the neighbourhood say they are drawn to the area because of its reputation as a popular dining hub.

Mr Ben Teo, 41, one of the partners of Nara Japanese Restaurant, which is opening in Maju Avenue next month, says: ‘We were looking at a few possible locations for our second outlet, including Bedok and Bukit Timah. But we liked Serangoon Gardens best because it is known as a F&B hot spot among diners and this helps pull in the crowds.’

Mr Adrian Choi was so adamant about having his dessert shop, Dessert Origins, in Serangoon Gardens that he waited almost a year for a vacant spot.

The store opened last month on the first floor of a shophouse in Serangoon Garden Way.

Mr Albert Tan, 30, general manager of Yum Cha Restaurant, which is opening an outlet at the Serangoon Gardens Country Club this month, adds: ‘There is a significant number of private properties in the area and its residents have the spending power, so they make a good customer base.’

The laid-back charm of the cosy estate also adds to its appeal.

Mr David Yim, 39, one of the owners of Udders Ice Cream, says: ‘Serangoon Gardens has a casual, village-like ambience that is hard to find in Singapore. This atmosphere is ideal for customers to savour ice cream.’

Indeed, the demand for retail space in the area is so strong that it prompted the developers of Serangoon Gardens Village, Chye Lee and Sons, to redevelop the mall, first built as Paramount Theatre in the 1950s.

Mr Edmund Chye, 47, director of Chye Lee and Sons, says: ‘We constantly received leasing inquiries from interested businesses even though we were fully leased, so we decided to redevelop the building to accommodate more tenants.’

The building was demolished in February and the new complex will boast 40 per cent more space. To date, almost 80 per cent of the mall space have been leased out.

Because the area is coveted as a F&B enclave, rents for shops there have been increasing.

Mr Philip Wong, 36, owner of dessert cafe Ice3 in Kensington Park Road, says: ‘My shop has been here for six years and the rent has gone up over time, but the landlord has been reasonable and the increase has been gradual.

‘I have heard of rents going as high as $25,000 a month for a two-storey shophouse unit along the main stretch of Serangoon Garden Way.’

According to tenants in the area whom LifeStyle interviewed, rents for a single floor of a shophouse ranges from $6,000 to a high of $12,000, with shops facing the main stretch of Serangoon Garden Way commanding higher rents.

The growing number of restaurants in the cluster of shophouses around the Serangoon Garden Circus, however, means competition is keen.

For example, just a stone’s throw away from the coffee shop stall of Aston’s Express, a grilled meats eatery, is the month-old casual steakhouse, Ministry Of Steak, which is opened by Mr Kleiser Lee, 26, a former manager of the Aston’s Express stall.

He says: ‘Having worked and lived in Serangoon Gardens for a few years, this place feels like home to me so I wanted my brand to take off here.’

On possible competition from Ministry Of Steak, which offers similar items to Aston’s Express, Mr Ivan Loo, 46, who owns the franchise for the Aston’s Express stall there, says: ‘Because of our brand, we have been able to keep our customers and we will work hard to maintain the quality of our food.’

The increase in dining options in the estate, however, is reason for cheer for residents such as sales manager Jerry Yeo, 56. ‘I am looking forward to a better variety of dining outlets here, including the opening of Harry’s bar, which I used to patronise in the city area.’

For resident Irene Low, 57, a testing laboratory manager, her main concern is if there will be traffic congestion and sufficient parking.

Mr Chye says the new mall will have more parking lots than before. It will also offer a free valet service for customers.

A spokesman for the Aljunied Town Council, which maintains public estates within the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, including those in Serangoon Gardens, says private estate residents who encounter public disturbances such as traffic congestion can call its Aljunied Connect for Estates hotline for assistance.

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