Sofaer & Co
This elegant restaurant is among the latest to open within one of the neighbourhood’s beautiful historic buildings. Originally built in the early 1900s, the space was restored by a group of local entrepreneurs and still retains the original wood panels and patterned floor tiles from England. The menu focuses on re-imagined Burmese dishes and seasonal ingredients such as mangoes from Mandalay and fresh avocados from Taunggyi.
LinkAge Training Restaurant & Arts
Up a bright green staircase, a humble sign welcomes you into a restaurant that feels part art space, part living room. This social enterprise trains street kids in cooking and hospitality skills. The menu features Burmese favourites such as tea leaf salad, pork and plum curry, as well as steamed butterfish fillet.The chirpy teenage staff make up for any lack of service experience with their huge smiles.
The Blind Tiger
One of the trendiest bars in the city, this speakeasy could have been lifted straight out of Manhattan. You’ll find the entrance close to the corner of Seikkantha Street and Merchant Road; just look for the solid oak door with a lit LED of the bar’s icon – a tiger with an eyepatch – above it. Vibrant, large-scale artworks by local artists catch the eye, accentuated by mood lighting and smooth jazz. The drink list is extensive, but signature cocktails include the Burmese Mule, with strawberry and chilli-infused vodka, and the refreshing gin-based Eastern Standard.
Eschewing the cookie-cutter art found for sale in most of Yangon’s big markets, this spacious gallery next to the Strand Hotel is big on showcasing the country’s local talent. Artists featured here include Arker Kyaw, best known for his mural of Barack Obama; painter and sculptor Aung Ko, and Khine Minn Soe, who creates striking still lifes and portraits.
This contemporary fashion label combines ethnic prints with modern sensibilities. Owner Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw used to work in a garment factory at a young age and is now a champion for ethical fashion. Pyone employs five to six students and teaches them dressmaking skills. Customers can get tailor-made outfits or browse the ready-to-wear selection of dresses, A-line skirts and jackets.
Discover the stories of this heritage neighbourhood with a walking tour led by the Yangon Heritage Trust. Yangon was once a global training centre, and this cosmopolitan history is still palpable in key building in the vicinity. The Western Downtown tours start at 9am and 3pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Registration is not required, but do call ahead to confirm the meeting spot. Prices start at US$30 (S$41.20) per person.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.