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New-Age, Hipster Foodcourts Is Where You'll Be Dining At Next

Foodcourts are sprucing up their image with not only trendy yet affordable dishes, but also stylish and inviting interiors.
hipster foodcourts

Image: Re&s

With hawker centres getting hip, it is no wonder that foodcourts are following suit. Think chic interiors sprayed with graffiti art, potted plants and terrariums displayed for a garden effect or stalls outfitted with a tiled roof facade for that old-school vibe. Of course, the food is not lacking in variety either. Do not expect the usual economic rice or yong tau foo stalls.

The recently expanded Malaysia Boleh foodcourt in Jurong Point offers everything from Penang-style fried carrot cake to kway teow kia from Johor Baru, while the two-week-old Platform M by the Ministry Of Food group at SingPost Centre offers everything from collagen ramen to Korean fried chicken. Next month, another fancy foodcourt – the 7,000 sq ft Fomo in Sultan Gate – will enter the fray with offerings of chicken-based ramen and poke bowls. The offerings are fancy, but prices remain reasonable and you do not have to pay extra for full restaurant service. The business owners’ strategy is to offer affordable food and plenty of options in a casual, communal dining setting.

Mr Tan Kim Siong, 47, managing director of the Fei Siong group, which runs Malaysia Boleh, says: “Initially, I was concerned that diners will flock to the new section and that would affect the business of the original stalls. But it is good to see that diners are picking from both sides.

“Running the business on our own helps us to control the price and quality.”

Malaysia Boleh, which opened in Jurong Point five years ago, has more than doubled its previous space to 14,000 sq ft and now seats 600 diners. Such large food halls follow the likes of PasarBella at The Grandstand and Suntec City; Picnic at Wisma Atria; Essen at The Pinnacle @ Duxton in Cantonment Road; and food arena Savourworld in Science Park Drive. Japanese-themed food street Shokutsu Ten in Jurong Point also carved out a new alley within its premises last month. The new space offers Ginzushi (for sashimi and chirashi don), Tenfuku Tendon Specialty (for Japanese tendon), Idaten Udon (for udon dishes), Ichiban Bento (for bento sets) and Wadori (for yakitori).

There is at least one more concept to look out for next month – a Japan-themed gourmet food hall called Sora by SG Retail, a joint venture between ANA Trading and Komars Group, which runs food and lifestyle brands. It is located in Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 and will feature several Japanese food and beverage brands, serving everything from fresh seafood bowls to okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes).

Marketing executive Fred Goh, 30, says: “Generally, I find foodcourts to be quite old-fashioned, in both the food and interiors. But these new food halls – such as Platform M – fill the gap, but still, offer affordable food.

“We can pick from a wide variety of choices in a comfortable and spacious environment. SingPost Centre also has a Kopitiam foodcourt, so we really don’t lack options.”

Housewife Carina Lim, 57, says: “I don’t mind dining at foodcourts because it is a convenient option. However, my children are more willing to dine at the fancy ones such as PasarBella. As long as food prices remain decent, I’m okay with it.”