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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

New stylish vibe in Bali Lane

Bali Lane is now bustling with more restaurants, but store-owners in the neighbourhood disapprove of the serving of alcohol
The Straits Times - August 7, 2011
By: Huang Huifen
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New stylish vibe in Bali Lane -- PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR ST

Sleepy Bali Lane is waking up - thanks to new eateries opening and existing ones being refurbished of late.

At least three restaurants - Persian Garden, Sheikh Al Arab Restaurant and Bazuka Cafe and Bar - have opened there in the last 10 months.

Known more for its quirky costume rental stores and bars, the lane's pavement has been spruced up and now sports wooden patio tables, chairs and garden swings.

Mr Mahmoud Wasih Elsheikh, 33, co-owner of Sheikh Al Arab Restaurant at No. 23, decided to open his Middle Eastern restaurant there three months ago because he likes the relatively open space of Bali Lane.

'Arab Street is too crowded with buildings, crowds and cars passing by. I like the fresh air in Bali Lane and that there are no cars passing through. It is much quieter too,' he says. Bali Lane is a cul-de-sac.

Mr Tony Hosen Zadeh, manager of Persian Garden Restaurant at No. 29 and 30 which opened seven months ago, says: 'One reason I set up business here was that I foresaw that the development of office and hotel spaces in the Ophir-Rochor area would draw crowds to Bali Lane.' The street runs parallel to Ophir Road.

In the landmark land-swop deal between Singapore and Malaysia which involved the relocation of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to Woodlands last month, Malaysia was given six parcels of land. These included two in Ophir-Rochor which will be developed into office and hotel spaces.

The area already draws a young and hip crowd.

Mr Hosen says he gets about 150 customers on weekends, and 80 to 100 on week nights. The restaurant serves Middle Eastern food, shisha and alcohol, and has a DJ spinning Persian fusion music. It also screens sports matches.

Bali Lane is not so hemmed in and tight, unlike nearby Arab Street 'where the cars are so close to the patrons', says Mr Hosen.

The 45-year-old set up a 100 sq m alfresco area with swinging chairs, patio tables and chairs. Although the joint can accommodate about 30 people in its two-storey indoor dining area, most customers prefer the open-air section.

A spokesman for the Singapore Land Authority, which issues a temporary occupation licence for use of state land for outdoor refreshments area, says it issued four licences to tenants in Bali Lane between last November and June.

Nabins, a 2?-year-old restaurant at No. 27 which serves Arabic and Mediterranean food, refurbished its alfresco dining area about four months ago.

Simple wooden, folding tables and chairs were replaced with more stable tables and cushioned patio seats. Quaint table lamps complete the look. 'The alfresco area is our selling point, as customers prefer an outdoor smoking area,' says a Nabins spokesman.

With the new eateries and cosmetic changes, Bali Lane looks more stylish and boasts a more Middle- Eastern vibe now.

Polytechnic student Tay Yu Jie, 18, a customer who loves Persian Garden's alfresco concept, says: 'I like the swinging chairs there. The alfresco area also seems less cramped, compared to those in Arab Street and Haji Lane.'

Bali Lane serves as an alternative to the bohemian bustle of those neighbouring streets.

Student Lau Jia Yang, 19, was spotted two weeks ago, having a quiet beer and smoking a shisha, or waterpipe, at one of the outlets there.

'It is not so squeezy here and has a more open area to chill out,' he says.

Ms Aileen Tan, who is in her 40s and the founder of the six-year-old Blu Jaz Cafe and its next-door sister outlet Muzium at No. 11 and 9 Bali Lane, says the new restaurants peddling shisha and Middle Eastern food add variety to the alley.

'People who come here want variety in their entertainment choices. It is good that the restaurants give a different atmosphere and identity to the area,' she says.

Some business owners in Kampong Glam, the larger area that Bali Lane is located in, are less thrilled about the lane's awakening. They disapprove, not because of the alfresco concept, but the serving of alcohol in the neighbourhood known for its Islamic heritage.

Dr Ameen Talib, 48, chairman of Kampong Glam Business Association and owner of Cafe Le Caire in Arab Street, says: 'While it is good that Bali Lane has a nice open area for alfresco dining, it is a bad development for Kampong Glam because of the serving of alcohol there, which goes against the core concept of Kampong Glam's conservation efforts.'



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