Singapore has had numerous reincarnations in its 200 year journey from swamp to city. Few have been as fetching as the one seen over the last few years. Hotels have gone from drab to fab and the dining scene from so-so to super slick. It’s the city’s bars that are shining the brightest light these days.
Burnt Ends, in Chinatown’s Teck Lim Road, is a new offering from the Taiwan-born, French-trained and Singapore-based celebrity chef Andre Chiang, whose eponymous kitchen, Restaurant Andre, is No: 38 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. As the name suggests, Burnt Ends specialises in grilled and roasted dishes. There are just 24 seats, no reservations, and dishes are cooked in the restaurant’s ceramic dual-cavity oven, fuelled by apple and almond woods. Think tomatoes with fennel and quail eggs, and slow-roasted suckling pig. In the kitchen is Perth-born head chef Dave Pynt, who learnt his barbecue techniques at Asador Etxebarri in Spain.
Salt Tapas and Bar, by Sydney chef Luke Mangan, is on the ground floor of Raffles City Shopping Centre. Come for the sharing plates of Spanish-inspired fare served with casual panache. The baked bone marrow with shiitake duxelles and jamon and manchego croquettes both get the thumbs up.
The Vietnam-born, Danish-raised chef Nam Quoc Nguyen heads up Annam, an upmarket Vietnamese restaurant in the Shaw Centre. Nguyen’s contemporary dishes work well; think pomelo salad with lily bulb, crab meat and chicken, and char-grilled chicken with kaffir lime and jackfruit.
Han is a sleek upmarket Japanese restaurant on North Bridge Road in which chef Seiichiro Arakawa specialises in Osaka kushikatsu – deep-fried skewers of meat and vegetables served kaiseki-style. The food here is delicate and refined, the presentation superb. Try the ohmi beef and kurobuta pork battered in panko, and request a seat at the chef’s table to watch the cooking.
Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse on Gemmill Lane is an American-style bar that has earned a following for its astronomically priced but super-fresh New England oysters, crab and lobster pot pie.
Housed in a modernist glass dome at the newly built Fullerton Pavillion overlooking Marina Bay, vibrant Catalunya bills itself as a tapas bar. The menu’s traditional tapas fare, such as cod esqueixada and roasted meat canelon, is excellent, but Catalunya is better considered a restaurant – a place where the views, service, food and cocktails are savoured over many hours.
Continuing the Spanish theme, Bomba is the latest restaurant from entrepreneur Yenn Wong. Chef Jean Philippe Patruno, who used to work at Barrafina in London, leads the kitchen at Bomba and works his magic on paellas and tapas, with calorific versions of arroz negro – a wet paella with squid ink, squid and sherry and pork belly slow-cooked over charcoal.
Just finding 28 Hong Kong Street is worth a drink. The small, dark space opened by vivacious Californian Michael Callahan, has kick-started Singapore’s “hidden bar” craze. Callahan is still ahead of the pack, serving sultry long drinks made for the mood such as the Clark County Cousin, which blends black pepper-infused Laphroaig with home-made grilled peach marmalade, lemon and Bourbon.
The Horse’s Mouth is set in a basement of Forum the Shopping Mall, but entered through Uma Uma Ramen on level 1. This bar has dark, moody interiors and is essentially an izakaya bar – but with a generous selection of Burgundy reds and cocktails to boot. The Horse’s Mouth also excels with the snacks it has available, with dishes such as tsukune-braised chicken meat balls and wagyu tongue with sesame dressing.
Fordham & Grand is a late-night bistro and bar on Craig Road, presided over by Singaporean Timothy Lim and Australian Tron Young, who met while working at Tetsuya Wakuda’s eponymous Sydney restaurant. The bar-bistro has quickly developed a loyal following for its snazzy cocktails and snacks such as green pea risotto with zucchini flowers, and parmesan and kurobuta pork sausages with mortar potato.
Jigger and Pony is named after a measuring device used to pour drinks. The bartender here, Anthony Zhong, has refined Japanese cocktail techniques and divides the drinks menu into three categories: classics, forgotten classics and modern twists. The Negronis win the day, as does the decor at Jigger and Pony: a teakwood bar and upholstered booths decorated with autographed reprints from British-Indian pop-star Ketna Patel.
The Cufflink Club is a whimsical little place studded in black leather seats and a lime-green bar, and is housed in a terrace on Chinatown’s Jiak Chuan Road. The club serves cheese, charcuterie and cocktails. Run by Englishman Joel Fraser, expect a cocktail menu with tongue-in-cheek names such as 50 Shades of Grey, in which tea-infused gin is blended with vermouth, lemon, sugar and egg white. The eccentric Walking Dead cocktail served here mixes a secret blend of rum with passionfruit, pineapple and a ‘zombified bubblegum eye ball’.
Three great new places to stay
The plush 367-room ParkRoyal on Pickering in Chinatown has more than 15,000 square metres of sky gardens, reflecting pools, waterfalls, planter terraces, vertical gardens, and a spa. The hotel also has a green ethos: LED lights, solar panels, laminated, double-glazed windows, low-energy airconditioners and rainwater harvesting.
Rooms from $S328 ($279) a night. See parkroyalhotels.com/pickering.
The W Singapore Sentosa Cove flanks the eastern edge of Sentosa Island, and is lit by a wealth of neon pink and purple lights, has a 1338-square-metre pool (with day beds that are lit from within and glow at night) and splashes of contemporary art, including works by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. The hotel’s 240 rooms start at 40 square metres.
Rooms from $S430. See wsingaporesentosacove.com.
Naumi Liora is housed in old terraces on Keong Saik Road, one of Chinatown’s most charismatic streets. The hotel has 79 rooms and those starting at 20 square metres are a squeeze but the friendly staff and 24-hour complimentary snacks and ice-cream are a bonus.
Rooms from $S180. See naumiliora.com.