Dempsey Hill: Shopping for Art and Antique Carpets

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A few minutes’ drive from the noise and activity of Orchard Road, you’ll find a haven of shopping, restaurants, and leisure at Dempsey Hill. Named after the British General Christopher Dempsey, this unusual spot has the feel of an undiscovered village set among lavish palms and green fields. Dempsey Hill used to be part of a large nutmeg plantation that stretched as far as today’s Botanic Gardens and today has dozens of shops, restaurants, gourmet food places, art galleries, and spas housed in the buildings of the former Tanglin barracks.

Today’s visit starts off with a restorative brunch at Jones the Grocer, where the food on the menu is rivalled by the beautiful display of breads, coffees, condiments, and chocolate inside. Jones the Grocer has an excellent delicatessen counter, but best of all is the unique walk-in cheese fridge where you breathe in the intense aroma and sample the spectacular cheeses that line the shelves.

After brunch, it’s time for a stroll and some shopping around Dempsey Hill’s many boutiques, food shops, and galleries. Culina, next door, has a peerless range of Italian gourmet products: truffles, olive oils, and wines. Redsea Gallery, on the other side, specialises in showcasing the art of young, international talent.

As you continue walking around the cluster of barracks, you may come across a group of children entranced by the ostentatious strolling and squawking of parrots. These cheeky birds are always on the lookout for a bit of attention and have no shortage of interest from passers-by. They belong to the founder of Lotto Carpets, Mr. Abid Mir, whose passion for colours is also apparent in the exquisite range of Eastern carpets available from his flagship gallery store next door—the largest collection of antique carpets in South East Asia.

Lotto Carpets Gallery is a six-generation family business and is still run by Mr. Mir and his family. As you step inside, you get the feeling you’re walking through a historical showcase rather than a shop. You stop to admire carpets made out of everything from wool to silk and even goat hair. As you scan the dimly lit walls, you find yourself swept quietly away to the bazaars and souks of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Morocco, where these masterpieces are created by hand.

The history and heritage on display here can be seen high on the walls, and you gaze upwards to the deep red Isfahan Shawl in the corner. The only one of its kind in existence, this shawl was commissioned by Queen Marie-Amélie of France and the Persian inscriptions indicate the date of production to be 1834. Next to the Isfahan Shawl hangs the exquisite eighteenth century Moon Shawl.

At the back of the shop, you find an intricately carved doorway that was brought from the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Through here you’ll find the shop’s rarest antique treasures—a rich, fabulous palette of reds, browns, greens, and ochre woven with either Persian or Turkish knotting techniques. Their designs tell a thousand and one stories of dragons and warriors in hand-crafted arabesque patterns.

If you’re in luck, you’ll be able to join one of the carpet appreciation tours (try calling ahead to ensure your place), and you’ll learn how the carpets are named after the legendary cities of the East that specialise in producing them. Sarvan Singh, a nephew of the founder, guides visitors around the store and explains the difference between the types of knotting and textiles, and why a carpet has a different sheen and colour when viewed from different angles.

As the day marches onwards, it’s time for something to soothe the mind and body, so you amble over to Power Moves for Pilates, or to The Luxe House for an opulent hour of wellness. The Royal Meridian treatment works wonders on your back and shoulders. Relax and unwind—it’s time to start planning your next visit.

Lotto Carpets Gallery

Dempsey Road Singapore 249670

+65 6476 8784

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