My favourite dining spots: Yuan Oeij

My favourite dining spots: Yuan Oeij

Because F&B insiders know best

Text: Denise Kok

Image: Photo of Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop courtesy of Instagram | @zippyzipeng

Yuan Oeij, Chairman of The Privé Group, talks heritage eateries, the best Peranakan food in Singapore, and a restaurant to watch

These days, I'm busy with working on creating a fabulous outdoor space for our recently launched Empress and Privé at the Asian Civilisations Museum that would do justice to the amazing view we have there.

A hawker stall I would queue for is Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles at Pek Kio Market. The prawn stock there is divine.

A heritage eatery I hope will never disappear is old school Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop where an old uncle in pajamas bottoms brews your kopi with butter and makes your kaya toast over a charcoal stove. Sip your coffee on a lazy afternoon amidst other uncles dosing off on their orange plastic chairs.

Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop 
I'm a regular at Kazu Sumiyaki Restaurant at Cuppage Plaza. The people, food, and vibe there just hit the mark every time.

When I need to eat clean, I head home to my spunky wife Tracy who does the best tasting healthy food I've tasted.  To achieve yumminess without relying on salt or unhealthy cooking methods is no mean feat! For those who don't have Tracy for a wife, I would recommend New Green Pastures in Fortune Centre where owner Sophia has a deft touch in coming up with delicious vegan dishes.

My guilty pleasure is chicken rice, my all time favourite dish since childhood and what I would eat as my last meal. In fact I can't even say I feel guilty after indulging in it. My favourite spots for chicken rice? Hainanese Delicacy at Far East Plaza and Seng Heng at Upper Bukit Timah Road Market & Food Centre.

A restaurant that's great for big groups is Artichoke. The atmosphere is buzzy, food is casual and sinfully delicious, and great for sharing. It doesn't matter how big your group is — the restaurant has many different pockets of spaces that include a private room and a lovely outdoor space.

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

My go-to supper spot is Por Kee Eating House in Tiong Bahru. It's convenient, I've been going there for years, and I must have eaten at least 100 plates of their beef hor fun.

The best place to get a meal with seafood is Elkano, located just outside of San Sebastien in Spain. Order the sublime charcoal-grilled whole turbot, particularly when they're in season. In Singapore, I would recommend The Naked Finn for their relentless pursuit of excellence in seafood enhanced by very simple cooking techniques.

For special occasions, I head to Empress, it's a place for everyday celebration. Guests always get into an elevated mood after soaking in the view and downing a few glasses of champagne. 


My all-time favourite restaurant is the Waterside Inn at Bray in the UK. It sits right on the Thames riverbank and I can't decide whether dining there for lunch or dinner is more spectacular. My first visit to the restaurant was when I graduated from University 20 years ago. My most recent visit would be two years ago, where I stayed at their very quaint riverside cottage. The food and service there is always impeccable and I would go back there in a heartbeat. Even though Fat Duck is just around the corner, I've never had the urge to step in.

For weekend brunch with friends, I like to go to Culina at Dempsey for some well-cooked food using quality ingredients — all washed down with a glass of dry white wine. I am a fan of their perfectly grilled fish.

I grew up eating at Dragon City Sichuan Restaurant in Bukit Timah, and kind of miss the very Cantonese-style Sichuan dishes they had.

My favourite bar is Martini Bar at Grand Hyatt. It's fun, not pretentious, and offers a great range of Martinis that you don't have to wait long for.

Martini Bar Grand Hyatt

For dining with family, Peramakan at Keppel Club does what my in-laws consider to be the best Peranakan food in Singapore outside of their home.

For coffee, I head to Assembly Coffee and their new sister outlet Atlas Coffeehouse to see their friendly team at work. Their coffee is consistently good and my favourite in Singapore.

A restaurant to watch is the new Saint Pierre opening at One Fullerton. I am very much looking forward to trying out more of Emmanuel Stroobant's vegetarian menus.

The food scene in Singapore is the most vibrant it's ever been and one of the top in the world due to the international variety on offer and the very best that Singaporean food has to offer. I only hope that the manpower restrictions in place do not constrain how far Singapore can go.

The country that has the best food scene is possibly the United States. They have pushed the boundaries in all areas including their street food, diner food, healthy cuisine, and sweets. That said, they are also 'pushing the boundaries' in the processed food industry and intensive farming practices — much to the detriment of animal welfare and everyone's health.

To view more recommendations from other F&B insiders, click here.