I seldom get excited about Food Court opening, but the Cluny Food Court is unique for two reasons – one, the brand-new multi-concept dining destination is managed by Les Amis Group, an established F&B brand in Singapore, known for quality; two, it is located within the lush flora and fauna of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
If you love elevated hawker fares that celebrate local delights with a modern flair, you will love Cluny Food Court. We sampled one item from each of the six stalls there and they were all pretty good. We will definitely be back again for more.
Note that Cluny Food Court is open-air and not air-conditioned. I was there on a fiery hot Saturday afternoon, but it was pretty breezy because of the surrounding greenery, plus the space itself is well-ventilated. This was not an issue at all, but in fact, add to the overall experience.
Officially opened on 1 November 2021, the all-day casual dining enclave houses five exciting hawker- preneurial concepts including Les Amis Group-led concepts Mui Kee Express, S’Mao Barbecue, and Piccante Pronto – helmed by a Muslim Chef and the sister establishment of the group’s well-loved Peperoni Pizzeria; alongside Laifaba Express, presented in partnership with Cluny Food Court, and Muslim-owned Project Penyek by Ansar as a tenant.
A drink stall offering local refreshments and local favourites is also available.
After trying all five stalls, we strongly recommend Mui Kee Express, Laifaba Express and Project Penyek as our three top choices in terms of value and also delivering on taste and quality.
The other stalls are good too, but S’Mao has a higher price point because of the ingredient used and slow-cook process while Piccante Pronto is limited primarily to those who like their food spicy.
The Les Amis Group envision Cluny Food Court to be an incubator for aspiring hawker-preneurs and these first five stalls were selected for this reason, representing a diverse mix of cuisine in a relatively small space.
Open from Friday to Wednesday, 11:30am to 9:30pm; Last order at 9pm Closed on Thursdays
Helmed by a Muslim Chef, Piccante Pronto is the sister establishment of the group’s well-loved Peperoni Pizzeria. The brand name, ‘Piccante’, which means spicy or hot in Italian, refers to the fiery repertoire of dishes, while ‘Pronto’, refers to the fast-quick ‘express’ menu.
Chef Fazil’s culinary journey with the Les Amis Group started with an internship in 2020; a young and talented chef, Fadzil was offered the chance to launch the group’s latest brand, and is proud to have created Piccante Pronto’s delectable menu together with his team.
With the brand’s debut at Cluny Food Court, the group has plans to launch a stand-alone flagship store in the near future that will boast a wider selection of items on the menu.
Diners can expect hearty dishes the likes of signature Roman-style thin-crust pizzas, irresistible baked pastas, as well as moreish antipasti, salads and sides peppered with a dash of local flavour.
Highlights include Suprema ($12.50 for Medium (9”), $17.50 for Large (12”), and $48 for XXL (21”) topped with chicken sausage, shiitake mushrooms, onions, and a generous sprinkle of chili padi, and Carne ($15 for Medium, $20 for Large, and $55 for XXL) with bite-sized beef meatball morsels, turkey ham, beef pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.
Non-spicy fare is also available – Mushroom Alfredo ($12) is a comforting baked rendition featuring a medley of shiitake, white button and brown Shimeji mushrooms topped with Parmesan Reggiano cheese, a whole egg and accented with fragrant white truffle oil.
MUI KEE EXPRESS
Open from Thursday to Tuesday, 8am to 6pm; Last order at 5:30pm Closed on Wednesdays
Mui Kee’s humble origins date back to 1979 at a small stall opened by founder Mak Mui in a food centre located in Mong Kok, Hong Kong. Now managed by its third generation, the brand has preserved its legacy by continuing to offer its well-loved and heart-warming range of congee prepared with recipes and cooking techniques passed down from its founder.
At Cluny Food Court, Mui Kee Express offers all-time favourites such as Garoupa Belly Congee ($13.80); expertly-charred chunks of fish belly simmered with silky smooth congee tinged with the brand’s signature ‘wok hei’ or breath of the wok, and complementary side dishes – top picks include Drunken Chicken in Shaoxing Wine ($10), Mushroom with Oyster Sauce ($10) and Crispy Dough Fritters ($2.50).
The stall also proffers Cantonese-style claypot dishes including Claypot Frog Leg with Ginger & Spring Onion ($22) and Pork Liver with Ginger & Spring Onion ($15); both dishes are stir-fried with dark soy sauce, sesame oil, sliced ginger and spring onions, and served in piping-hot claypots.
Drop by on a weekday and tuck into an irresistible weekday-only Congee Set Lunch ($10.80) comprising a choice of Century Egg & Shredded Meat Congee or Sliced Beef Congee, with a side of Crispy Dough Fritters and Century Egg.
Open from Wednesday to Monday, 11:30am to 2:30pm (lunch), 6pm to 9pm; Last order at 8.30pm (dinner)
Closed on Tuesdays and closed for lunch on the weekends
Founded by Head Chef and Owner Chia Jue Mao, S’Mao Barbecue specializes in lip-smacking authentic Texas-style barbecue meats; prime cuts are seasoned with salt and coarse black pepper, and grilled in-house over a hardwood fire that imparts a deliciously-smoky note.
At Cluny Food Court, a selection of lunch and dinner options are available. Highly-recommended options include All in Plate ($24); a dinner-exclusive platter with two pieces of bone-in pork ribs, honeyed pork belly, a side of pulled pork, fries, mixed pickles, house-made coleslaw and a choice of S’mao BBQ or Carolina Gold sauce, as well as S’mao Beef Burger ($12); this lunch-special features a juicy beef patty, melted cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and pickled cucumber and red onions between pillow-soft brioche buns, with a side of fries, coleslaw and a choice of chipotle aioli or green goddess sauce.
PROJECT PENYEK BY ANSAR
Open daily, 11am to 2pm; last order at 1.30pm | 6pm op 9.30pm; last order at 9pm | Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 11am to 9.30pm; last order at 9pm
Closed on first and third Monday of every month
Known for its modern rendition of ayam penyet, Project Penyek by Ansar is run by Hairi Ansar, a second-generation hawker-preneur who honed his skills helping out at his family’s stall at Changi Village which was established in 2005. He set up his first shop at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre in 2018 and this stall at Cluny Food Court is the brand’s second outlet.
Other than the brand’s famed Nasi Ayam Penyet ($6.50) and Nasi Ikan Penyet ($7.50) that are served with mouth-watering crispy fried chicken, and a whole deep-fried black pomfret respectively, Project Penyek by Ansar also serves up its signature Seafood Platter ($69.90 for full portion, good for 4-5pax, $35 for half-portion, good for 2 pax) which is ideal for sharing or larger appetites as well as a half portion for smaller groups. A sight to behold, the dish presents some of the best bounty of the sea, including flower crabs, whole black pomfrets, succulent giant tiger prawns and sotong or squid, paired with fluffy steamed chicken rice, as well as two types of house-made sauces. Sambal Penyek is a savoury and spicier red chilli paste, while Sambal Kicap is a sweeter ‘kicap manis’-based concoction with a hint of heat.
Prepared using a time-honoured recipe inspired by Roxy Satay – the stall operated by Hairi’s father in the 80s, a range of succulent skewers is also offered from 6pm daily. Customers can choose from chicken, mutton, beef and tripe at $1 per stick, or BBQ prawns at $2 per stick – served with an irresistible house-made peanut sauce, with an additional side of Sambal Kicap for customers who order BBQ prawns. A minimum order of 10 sticks apply. For the best of all worlds, opt for Satay in a cup ($5) – any five skewers (choice of chicken, mutton, beef or tripe) served with rice cake and house-made peanut sauce.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 6pm; Last order at 5:30pm Closed on Mondays; Last order at 9pm
Founded by Chef-owner Royce Lee, Laifaba is a noodle house best known for its “Bu Jian Tian” Char Siew & Wanton Noodles. At Laifaba Express, the brand dishes out a condensed menu of well-loved creations passed down by Chef Royce’s grandmother, infused with a modern twist.
Highlights include Signature BJT Char Siew & Wanton Noodles ($8); a satisfying bowl of signature QQ (bouncy) noodles crafted locally from a proprietary recipe, is tossed in a secret sauce and crowned with succulent wood-fired char siew, plump wantons and blanched Hong Kong kai lan, Soy Sauce Chicken Noodles ($6), Crispy Roasted Pork Noodles ($6.90) and more.
The stall’s signature BJT Char Siew is prepared only with fresh pork, and gets its name from the prime cut used – pork armpit. Situated between the shoulder and belly, the prized cut comes from only a small fraction of the entire animal (only about 2kg from each whole pig); its perfect fat-to-meat ratio is key to proffer lip-smacking slabs of char siew. Laifaba Express serves platters of this crowd favourite, as well as Crispy Roasted Pork, Roasted Duck and Superior Soy Sauce Chicken as Signature Barbecue Meats (from $16.50 for double portion for two pax), in double or triple combinations.
Open daily, 8am to 9:30pm
Part of the line-up at Cluny Food Court is a drinks stall serving local refreshments and well-loved Singaporean dishes. Other than Traditional beverages like Kopi ($2 for hot, $2.40 for cold), Teh ($2 for hot, $2.40 for cold) and Soft Drinks ($1.80), customers can also purchase alcoholic drinks such as Tiger Beer ($6.80), Heineken ($7), and a selection of wines* (from $40 per bottle, from $8 per glass).
Wines are sold from 12pm to 9pm daily. A corkage fee applies for BYO wines; $4 per glass provided, $5 per ice bucket provided.
For breakfast (from 8am to 4pm), diners can relish local staples like Traditional Toast Set ($4.80); toasted white bread with kaya and butter, two soft boiled eggs and a hot drink of choice, Otah Thick Toast ($6.80); moreish otah served atop an inch-thick toast , as well as local delights such as Nasi Lemak ($6.80), Mee Rebus ($6.80), Chicken Curry ($6.80); served with a choice of rice, toast or prata. Cool down with a variety of homemade desserts; Cheng Tng or Ice Jelly with Lime Juice at $2.80.
AN URBAN OASIS
The bright and airy dining space spans 4,036 square feet and sits 47 diners (with 1-metre safe distancing). The food court is furnished in shades of green, brown and white that complement the surrounding nature.
CASHLESS PAYMENTS ONLY
At Cluny Food Court, customers can order across stalls within the free-seating concept. The establishment accepts cashless payments only, via Visa, Nets, Masters, AMEX, PayNow, and GrabPay.