I hadn’t visited Turf City (now The Grandstand) in ages. The unmistakable landmark—once a venue for Thoroughbred horse racing—housed a mish-mash of clothing, homegoods, and toy shops. No more. The building has been given a complete facelift. Now, instead of Cze Char seafood and Mixed Economy Rice/Porridge stalls, the complex is home to ET Artisan Sweets, a bespoke bakery, and VeganBurg, an organic vegan burger fast food joint.
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PasarBella: A “Farmers’” Market, the first permanent collective of fresh and cooked food stalls under one roof in Singapore, anchors the new Grandstand. Firstly, it’s not a farmers’ market. It does not wholly embrace the fresh food movement nor does it attempt to make great, local produce available and affordable to all. It is, rather, a gourmet market. PasarBella carries hard-to-find culinary items such as special ingredients and fine foods. If you are searching for high-end products, PasarBella is your destination. Desiree Koh, writer and foodie (and my friend), says, “You can’t really shop here everyday. There isn’t a wide enough range of produce. And its location, tucked into a Bukit Timah nook a long walk from public transport options if you’re grocery shopping for the week, makes this a very unmarketable market.”
PasarBella, its founders claim, was “inspired by the sights, scents and vibes of other global markets. [We] sought to offer a similar experience here in Singapore.” They ask visitors to ”bask in the rustic interiors and reminisce the simpler days of yesteryear.” But whose yesteryear, I ask? The branding of PasarBella is flush with faux Parisian marché and Victorian market motifs. Again, to quote Desiree, “Why try to be something we’re not? Certainly, the ambiance is more bella than pasar (of which Singapore has a great heritage).”
Having said that, PasarBella is still worth a look, if only once. The Cheese Ark, purveyors of rare, raw milk, artisanal cheeses, is a must see, er, must taste. We bought a wedge of cirone, a nutty, Swiss, cows’ milk cheese which I have yet to open and devour. Le Patio‘s paella was divine, or so says my partner, the paella connoisseur that he is.
We were told only to visit if we had a car (we don’t!) or a ride. But, we discovered free shuttle buses from Toa Payoh, Newton and Botanic Garden MRT stations which made our journey to and fro quite easy.