Last weekend (4/5th May), I made a trip down to PasarBella to check out the soft launch preview of their marketplace. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, PasarBella is a new grocery shopping destination at Bukit Timah that focuses on being an idyllic, open-concept market. It houses vendors that sell fresh produce, meat, wine, beer as well as international cuisines. Furthermore, they have a seafood market and also non-food services like a super fun looking children’s salon.
On the day of the preview, I arrived quite late in the evening as I was busy earlier on in the day. The place was pretty packed at the time especially since it was the final day of the 2-day soft launch, and my was the crowd was impressive. Sadly due to my late arrival, most of the food and fresh produce were sold out and so I was missing out on a lot of the good stuff. Hence during the middle of the week, I made a second trip back to PasarBella on a weekday morning to check out the place at a quieter time. Below is a summary of my experience:)
ENTRANCE and DECOR
If you drive, parking at PasarBella, The Grandstand will be a breeze. The number of lots in the open space car-park is aplenty, and for the kiasu Singaporeans among us here’s the best part – IT”S FREE:) The only hassle of parking is when the weather turns bad. Transporting your purchases to your car during a heavy rain sure won’t be pleasant at all, especially given the ‘steady’ shelter of the vast open blue sky.
There are three entry points into PasarBella: The West Point Entrance, The East Point Entrance and The Southern Belle Entrance. Depending where you park or drop off, you will enter the market place at different sections. Both the East End and West End entrances can be accessed directly from the parking lot. The West End Entrance leads straight into the seafood market so those looking for a quick stop for their seafood pickup might want to park near the west end. The East End Entrance is near the flower shop and cold cuts while The Southern Belle Entrance leads into PasarBella from inside The Grandstand itself, just next to Giant Supermart.
Inside PasarBella, I enjoyed the decor and vibe that the place exuded. With paper poster and murals adorning the walls, it added to the simple rustic feel of the stalls and furniture, making it feel very old school. The complement of cheeky quotes and neon lighted signs added a charming fun energy to the overall laid back feel, and I personally liked those little touches. They were also good for fun photo ops as well;]
When buying food, there is not much sitting places below where the stalls are located. Hence if you prefer to sit and eat, one can head up the spiral staircase onto an overhanging platform which houses extra tables and seatings for the wearied soul. Settling down near the railings allows one to overlook the market scene below and spy on all the stalls from above, something that I did;]
ALL FOOD STUFF
- FOOD STALLS
Nestled in a corner right next to the Southern Belle Entrance, Bonheur Patisserie is a little pastry shop that creates wonderful cakes and macaron flavours. Directly translated, the name of the store means Happiness Confectionery, and they live by the catch phrase “It’s the little things that make you smile”. The essence of that phrase is easily captured in their pretty and sweet looking pastries as the light colours just brighten up one’s mood instantly while the taste of their macarons just delights. I have yet to try their cakes yet so I cannot comment on them.
So far I have managed to try only a number of their flavours. I shall go back for more and then do a more detailed post on their macarons in a later post, but for now I will just list down the flavours that blew me away. I loved their banana & milk chocolate flavour the most, followed by the dark chocolate, salted caramel and blond flavours. So far, I am preferring Bonheur’s macarons to Laduree’s, especially their chocolate flavoured ones, one of the best I’ve eaten so far. I just think Bonheur has the right balance of thickness and slightly better texture than Laduree:) Macarons cost $3 a pop!
This pretty and old school looking fruit stall has fruits with awesome names like “Kinky Kiwi” and “Bashful Banana”. It sure makes picking fruits that much more fun, and the fact that their fruits look so clean, good, colorful and fresh doesn’t hurt either.
THE GREAT BEER EXPERIMENT
The Great Beer Experiment is like a playground of beer pickings for both the amateur and seasoned drinker. There are countless labels available here and I loved how conveniently the different types of bottles were displayed on labelled shelves. This made it so easy for an occasional beer drinker like myself to spot the label that I like and also to find other similar tasting labels to try. I introduced Gluttonian 2 (my sis) to some easy drinking peach flavoured belgium beer from Lindeman, I am trying to get her to grow a beer belly;]
Le Patio is a Mediterranean themed eatery that offers Spanish delights like their awesome looking yellow rice seafood paella served from a monstrous sized metre-wide pan. Their paella is served piping warm and tastes pretty decent and authentic, it reminds me of paella I’ve bought from other farmers’ market stalls overseas. Each serving is $11.90 and comes in a cardboard box with wooden disposable cutlery, more environmental friendly than those scary styrofoam ones, thumbs up to Le Patio for that!:) Besides paella, Le Patio also dishes out french crepes and coffee.
FIVE AND SPICE KITCHEN
Packed like this inside a takeaway container, the Red Pesto and Spaghetti probably looks very unappealing but this is a good case of “looks can be deceiving”. In fact, this pasta was delicious! The combination of the simple spiced pesto sauce and the spaghetti was pleasant, not too overwhelming but still brimming with flavour. Yum Yum:)
- SEAFOOD MARKET
OCEANS OF SEAFOOD
The seafood market was my favourite section of PasarBella! When I stepped into Oceans of Seafood, I was blinded by the healthy selection of giant fish and other fresh looking sea creatures, both dead and alive! Upon spotting me drooling over his fishes, a friendly fish monger came up to me and said that the fishes I was looking at are good for sashimi and I can eat them now if I wanted to. Apparently, this seafood market is also an eatery so you can choose your sashimi and other seafood and have them on the spot, and yes they will cook it for you too. That is real neat! I liked how friendly the service was, the fishmonger was very helpful in answering questions I had about the seafood. Sometimes I didn’t even need to ask and he’d start rattling away about the fish. He also told me that the fishes are sourced from the famous Tsukiji Market in Japan, which is awesome. I am not sure if they are just being extra friendly during this period in order to gain more customers to help spread the word, but I sure am enjoying it and hoping this friendly attitude is here to stay.
My brother-in-law bought home some Tua Tua Clams and cooked them for dinner. At the market, the friendly fishmongers gave him two types of dips – a garlic butter one and a pepper one – to go along with his purchases. We ate the Tua Tua Clams with the dips that night and it was heavenly. I am definitely going back for more Tua Tua clams in the future, they are really really good, even when served plain straight out of the boiling water! I shall blog about my brother-in-law’s cookout in a later post, he had sardines and trout as well and boy did he whip up a storm:)
For those who like their seafood really REALLY fresh, I have found out that Oceans of Seafood usually bring in their stocks on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays so now you can plan your visiting schedule accordingly:) Overall, I would say this seafood market is really decent and a treasure trove for all those home chef-a-holics out there. Finding different varieties of fresh seafood under one roof just got easier.
NON FOOD STUFF
During the soft launch preview of PasarBella, I came across an ad-hoc stall that sold temporary tatoos. I believe it was ad-hoc as the store was gone when I visited PasarBella the second time round. The designs at Dottinghill were really nice and chic, the seller even had a real life preview on his arm which looked really realistic. That alone was enough to convince me of the quality and to buy a few, I sure hope it works just as well on my arm!
POPPY FLORA STUDIO
This little flower store drew my notice with it’s pretty colours and enchantingly sweet display decor. Gluttonian 2 couldn’t help herself from buying two pots of flowers for Mothers’ Day.
This place has all kinds of balloons – superheros, Disney characters, Angry Birds and even singing ones! I was in paradise sieving through all the balloon designs they had;] Gluttonian 2 chose and ordered a personalized balloon bundle for her friend’s birthday, but she couldn’t make up her mind so I ended up spending an hour at Balloon Blasters with her. But hey, who’s complaining:)
SUMMARY and FEEDBACK
Overall, I had an enjoyable time exploring PasarBella. I love the idea of a farmers’ market concept in Singapore as I always had so much fun visiting those overseas. The seafood section is what excites me the most out of the whole market and is possibly the main draw of PasarBella, as I believe dedicated home chefs will be the ones who keep coming back to buy their stock of seafood;] The other food stalls and shops are great too and definitely add to the vibe and energy of the place. But I am guessing that for those stalls, most crowd activity will occur during the weekend periods when family and friends come to eat, chill and relax.
But as we know, the market is not fully operational yet hence the soft launch preview; there were still many empty spaces and works being done on certain upcoming stalls. Drilling noises and workers moving around were evident during my second visit to the place. I hope that such works will be done soon as the noises can get annoying.
Also, after walking from one end of the market to the other, I got a little bored. I certainly welcome more varieties and quantities of stalls to join the current traders, I was expecting to explore the place for longer than I actually took. Personally, a cold drinks store would be much appreciated given the super HOT Singapore weather. I sure would have loved seeing a lemonade or sugar cane drinks stand. Indeed there were lots of alcohol and coffee available but sometimes a good ol simple thirst quencher is what people really crave for, plus I bet it will be a hit with kids too.
One other little thing that caught my attention was the lack of a shelter outside for when the weather turns bad. A sheltered pick-up point for buyers to load their purchases into their cars during rainy weather would be very helpful. Just dishing out some thoughts;]
Alright then, enough of my blabbering now. I have shared all that I have to say about my experience at PasarBella, so now the ball’s on your court and it’s up to you to decide whether to check out the place or not. Gluttonian 3 signing off, cheers!
MARKET PLACE: PasarBella
SPIED AT: The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road, Bukit Timah, Singapore
OPERATING HOURS: Varies with each stall. General guideline is from 0930h to 1900h