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How businesses can adapt to Singapore’s evolving retail scene, according to OUE senior vice-president Patrina Tan

Patrina Tan, who manages OUE Limited’s retail, marketing and leasing portfolio, is a high-flyer who loves food and eats well, yet is intensely disciplined with her own daily wellness regimen.

Patrina Tan will be the first to tell you that her days are packed. As the senior vice-president of retail, marketing and leasing for OUE Limited, she oversees the retail portfolio of the company’s numerous real estate holdings, including its crown jewel, the Mandarin Gallery in Orchard Road, and OUE Downtown Gallery, a new out-of-the-box retail concept. But as she reveals over a lunch of chirashi-don, beef tartare, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, and leek salad at concept restaurant Me@OUE, there’s always time in the busy schedule for a good meal.

It’s no secret that Singapore’s retail environment is softening. How is OUE responding?

Retail is in a flux because of the evolution of consumers and their spending behaviours and dramatically changing lifestyles. The general consumer is realising that comfort and individuality, as opposed to mass brands, is the new badge of luxury. There’s no point buying something expensive or for its brand cachet if it’s not comfortable or if everyone else is wearing it. As a developer of brick and mortar retail, OUE is embracing this evolution as an opportunity to try out new approaches.

An example is the 160,000sqft Downtown Gallery in Shenton Way that’s opening in the first quarter at the old DBS Tower. We’ve identified that the most dominant trend in the coming years is wellness of the body, mind and soul, and that’s the common denominator of our tenants – eat well, keep well, look well.

(RELATED: Where Singapore Repertory Theatre MD Gaurav Kripalani had his top dining experiences.)

We have eight gyms that cater to different disciplines and needs such as pilates and martial arts. There’s a farmer’s market with eco-friendly fresh groceries, while our fashion tenants offer not just leisure wear but clothes that can take you from the gym to the boardroom.

And what’s happening in the flagship property, Mandarin Gallery?

There, we’re continuously tweaking what we call the Mandarin Experience. The tenancy mix is important to maintaining the Gallery’s USP as a little Orchard Road gem that stocks brands, start-ups and on-line labels that aren’t commonly found elsewhere. In addition to the new 7,000sqft Michael Kors flagship, we’ve got the new 12,000sqft Victoria’s Secret, the first and only Southeast Asian store to sell the entire range of underwear, in addition to the cosmetics and accessories.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?

That it’s all glamorous. Whenever I post something on Instagram or Facebook, my friends will tell me: “Oh, I want your job! When are you retiring?” They don’t realise that I’m actually working and that the food shots I post are of food that I’m testing during the course of my working day.

Patrina Tan, senior vice-president of retail, marketing and leasing for OUE Limited

What gets you up in the morning?

My gym and exercise routine. I’m up before dawn and hit Virgin Active in Raffles Place by 7am. I work out for an hour doing two classes – one high-intensity and one low. Each routine focuses on a different part of my body, and I repeat that routine for around three months before I switch to another part. I need to be disciplined in my exercise because I love my food so much.

I’m then in the office by 8.30am and finish at 6pm, in time for dinner with my family. It’s the only time my husband, parents and four children [three boys and a girl, aged 14 to 26] can all sit down and share our day and experiences. Handphones are not allowed on the table, unless we’re posting pictures of the food!

We keep coming back to food!

I love food. My life is centred on food, especially Chinese cuisine. And I just will not compromise on what I eat. In that sense, I’m very lucky because my mother is an excellent cook, and she cooks around eight dishes for our dinner almost every night.

Do you cook?

No. I have absolutely no interest. But, thanks to my mother, I have a lot of detailed knowledge, so I can tell you exactly what’s in a dish or what’s missing. Having said that, I cooked up a storm the other day: Portobello mushrooms stuffed with salted fish, rendang yong tau fu, laksa spaghetti, rice cooked with bah kut teh stock, and a vegetarian rendang with steamed tapioca instead of meat.

When it comes to dining out, what is important to you?

The food! I don’t care for fancy, expensive places. As long as the food is good, it can be the dingiest place in the world. One of my favourite haunts in Singapore is the Golden Mile’s Noodle Cafe, which serves fabulous Thai boat noodles.

Where do you send your out-of-town friends to eat?

Shisen Hanten at Mandarin Gallery is a favourite of mine. It serves Japanese Sichuan cuisine. I love the mapo tofu for the quality of the tofu and the punch of the sauce. Another favourite is Nan Xiang Chicken Rice in Tanjong Katong Road. The balance of fat to lean meats in its roast duck, char siew and chicken is perfect. I also love Eng’s Char Siew Wanton Mee that’s two doors down – especially the texture of the noodles and the spicy chilli sauce.

(RELATED: Where Crib Co-Founder and Foodie Marilyn Lum Had Some of Her Best Food Memories.)

Which chef do you most admire?

Hal Yamashita. He’s based in Tokyo. He’s not a traditionalist. There are fusion touches such as his sashimi salad with edible flowers, but the freshness and lightness of his food presentation is unbelievable.

As Patrina Tan points out: “Very often, when you dine out as a group, someone ends up having to compromise.” ME@ OUE takes away that compromise by featuring three distinct menus – Japanese, French and Chinese – alongside the sweeping panorama of Raffles Place and Marina Bay. From the open kitchen, youthful Executive Chef Sam Chin quietly orchestrates the diverse offerings with finesse: the Chinese menu conceived in consultation with Chen Kentaro of two-Michelin-starred Shisen Hanten, and the French menu with Michelin-starred Jeremy Gillon. For pre- and post-dinner drinks, the rooftop lounge offers bespoke cocktails and an extensive range of premium liquor brands.

PHOTOGRAPHY Zaphs Zhang
ART DIRECTION Jean Yap