The Bugis


Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to the capital’s restaurants and you can find just about every cuisine known to man here. One of the most unusual – and arguably most authentic – is the Bugis Singapore Restaurant.

Originally located at a different site in Gloucester Road, it has recently moved to The Bailey’s Hotel (just opposite the tube station) and re-opened along with The Bailey’s Bar with great flourish after refurbishment this summer. It’s an elegant spot with lofty ceilings, tall arched windows and, in the main entrance, the most sweeping of grand staircases.

It won’t come as a surprise that the cuisine here is Singaporean but the name? Bugis Street is one of Singapore’s most popular shopping, eating and nightlife areas. Named after the seafaring merchants from the island of Sulawesi who traded throughout the Indonesian archipelago, they would come to Singapore to sell everything from sandalwood to spices, exotic feathers to gold. From its origins as a bazaar, Bugis Street flourished so by the 1950s it was renowned for its vibrant night life and the street food hawkers who have inspired the menu here.

Singaporean food blends Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines so it’s a pretty eclectic menu on offer at the Bugis. So my obvious guest for an evening at the Bugis was my friend Gem who lived for years in the Far East and knows a thing or two about its food. There is a bar menu with a snack-size version of the restaurant’s as well as an impressive cocktail menu including their signature The Bailey’s (with Baileys, kahlua, grand marnier and orange juice). But we were heading for the restaurant itself and decided to opt for the Maitre d’s recommendation of Chateau Petit Roubie’s Picpoul de Pinet, fresh, fruity and served ice cold so perfect for our sharing platter of starters.

This was quite a platter and included chicken satay with peanut sauce, salt and pepper squid, vegetable spring roll and, declared Gem “the best sesame prawn toast I’ve ever had”. These were quite delicious and were much more prawn than toast and came with a perfect lime coriander dip.

We had considered going for the tasting menu which combined three of those platter delights with another six courses – this, though, we thought would defeat us. Instead, I opted for the Seafood Claypot with prawns, scallops, shiitake and oyster sauce while Gem was first tempted by the Crispy King Prawn with coated passion fruit sauce but changed her mind at the last minute and went for Wok-Fried Hor Fun with seafood, egg ribbon and gravy (drawn there by happy memories).

All excellent and it was a hard choice – I liked the sound of Singapore Style Hainaese Chicken Rice (with broth, ginger and chilli) not to mention the Bugis’s fusion dish of Scottish Angus Beef Kway Teow with bean sprouts and dark soy. Aside from these culturally blended recipes, most here are traditional and authentic but then blending is in Singapore’s DNA.

It’s a place that has always absorbed ideas from everywhere and the fusion certainly works for me. There are even desserts (neither of us could manage one) that range from Golden Banana wrapped in kadaif with red bean paste to Chocolate Lava with ice cream. So, as I said, pretty eclectic. Much like Singapore itself then.

The Bugis Singapore Restaurant, 140 Gloucester Road, South Kensington, London SW7 4QH. For more information, and for bookings, please visit