Foodies hail Thomson V

Foodies hail Thomson V


Lower rentals and good weekend crowds have turned a once-sleepy stretch of Upper Thomson into a restaurant row


By Tiffany Fumiko Tay


ALMOST everyone has heard of Holland V, but what about Thomson V? That’s what foodies are calling a stretch of Upper Thomson Road that has become something of a restaurant row.


The once-sleepy stretch of shophouses between Thomson Plaza and Long House food centre now houses 34 eateries, eight of which opened up the last year.


They are Miss Clarity Cafe, Herbs & Spices The Euradian Restaurant, Barnsburry, Pho 24, Sari Indo, Cheeky Chocolates, Earth Cafe and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice.


These savvy shop owners say they zoomed in on the area because of its laid- back feel and the throngs which descend on weekends.


More importantly, they say the rent is not as high as in Holland Village, or Holland V, as people like to call it.


Mr Richard Lu, 22, who helps his father run the six-month-old Indonesian restaurant Sari Indo, says the rent on the 2,500 sq ft unit is about $5,000 a month, less than the five-figure sums shopkeepers at Holland Village pay.


‘We found that this place has the potential to be a food centre, and it’s a good place to start a new business with the manageable rental,’ he says.


Other entrepreneurs feel the same way.


Mr Jason Wong, 49, co-owner of the two-month-old Earth Cafe, says he scouted for locations with lots of pet owners for his eatery, which caters to people and their pets.


He decided on Upper Thomson after looking at places such as Holland Village and Bukit Timah.


It’s proving to be a good decision as his business is doing well.


‘While many of our customers are Thomson residents, we even have people driving here from as far as Woodlands,’ he adds.


Another entrepreneur, Mr Augustine Koh, 35, opened what he calls an ‘Euradian’ restaurant, which serves a mix of European and Indian food, after hearing that the place was developing into a food hub.


Herbs & Spices The Euradian Restaurant opened six months ago.


Mr Koh says: ‘I also liked the ambience, the fact that it’s casual and not uptight fine-dining. It’s unique in its own way – there is the old-world charm and the different cuisines.’


Recent New York University graduate Aaron Choy, 25, says setting up his first shop at Upper Thomson is a good opportunity to test the waters.


His cafe and chocolate shop Cheeky Chocolates opened barely a month ago.


Mr Choy says: ‘I wanted to build a customer base and get the feel of what they like and dislike before expanding my business and fighting with the big boys.’


People may also be getting too jaded with the town area, he adds.


‘I think people are looking for a different experience,’ he says.


Even restaurant chains are seeing the market potential.


Vietnamese noodle chain Pho 24, with over 60 outlets in Vietnam, opened its second one in Singapore along Upper Thomson five months ago. It has an outlet at Millenia Walk.


Its Singapore franchise owner Paul Tan, 39, says: ‘People are starting to draw comparisons between places like Holland Village, Upper Serangoon Road and here.


‘Upper Thomson is no less exciting or titillating than these areas, and we’re giving them a run for their money.’


Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, with five outlets in Singapore, opened its newest one at Upper Thomson just three weeks ago.


Mr Ethan Lee, in his 20s, who helps to run the family business, says: ‘The draw here is the cosiness. We’ve just opened and already we’re packed on weekends.’


And restaurateurs are not the only ones who are happy.


Business from the eateries is spilling over into the non-food businesses, such as Al-Salam Malay Barber.


Owner Haji Salam, 68, says: ‘There are a lot of people here, especially on weekends, so when the restaurants next to me have business, I also have business. I welcome the restaurants. ‘


One major bane though, is parking or the lack of it. Restaurateurs say that if Upper Thomson is to become a food haven, more parking spaces must be created.


Earth Cafe’s Mr Wong says that he, along with many of his customers, sometimes gets fined for parking illegally.


‘The nearest place is Thomson Plaza, which is a 10-minute walk away. I’m planning to write a letter to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to work out a plan to serve the businesses in this area,’ he says.


Sari Indo’s Mr Lu suggests the construction of a multi-storey carpark nearby.


‘We can’t reach the larger market because customers from other areas might not find it convenient to park so far away,’ he says.


A spokesman for the URA says it cannot justify building new carparks when the two facilities nearby are not fully utilised.


These would be the basement carpark at Thomson Plaza and an open air carpark next to Long House, a food centre.


The spokesman said: ‘It’s not that there isn’t enough parking, it’s just a matter of convenience for people.’


Ms Devagi Sanmugam, 54, chef-owner of Devagi’s Restaurant, says that fine-dining restaurants will not be able to survive if parking spaces are not available nearby.


‘Most of their customers will be driving, and won’t want to walk a long way from the carpark to get to the restaurant,’ she says.


For now, non-residents of Thomson will have to be content with walking, but it’s well worth it, according to computer engineer David Lai, who lives in Marsiling.


He goes there at least once a fortnight to try out the new restaurants, and parks at Thomson Plaza.


‘It is a bit of a long walk and the parking’s not great, but Singaporeans will go to any length for good food, me included,’ he says.


Upper Thomson residents seem resigned to the fact that their neighbourhood is drawing more people.


Copywriter Nicholina Chua, 25, who lives in Thomson Ridge, says: ‘The jams can get quite annoying, but the noise isn’t really an issue. I’m used to it.


‘While I hope it won’t get overrun with crowds, I’m just appreciative of the fact that I don’t have to go far for a good meal or to chill out.’


Source: Straits Times


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