September 12, 2019

Not your standard Chinese restaurant, Madame Fan at JW Marriott’s NCO club may have recently popped up on your list of dining and entertainment venues—hell, their newly introduced postmodern jukebox as part of its theatrical dining guarantees toe-tapping fun. But before you slurp down on your double-boiled four treasure soup, do swing by the bar fronting the restaurant, a 40-seater watering hole that is all about breaking fads. Its 13-strong cocktail menu proves to be progressive, yet not too outlandish. Sensing a long overdue visit to head mixologist, Davide Boncimino’s crib, I went in with little to no expectations, and surfaced at the end loose-lipped with plaudits.

Imagine entering a dinner situation where you’re hit by dim sum cravings followed by a lust for great cocktails. Madame Fan Bar offers the first-rate solution. Their approach here is to unite culinary and mixology worlds and deliver a progressive extension of the kitchen into the bar through a delicious repertoire of cocktails. Laden with layered flavours, Asian ingredients and colours, it’s almost like drinking inside a kaleidoscope, which will make you heady for more. 


Davide is half-Italian and half-Filipino, essentially a mixtape of great hospitality, good humour and tastefulness. He is responsible for ‘all that is right’, and with accolades like the Singapore champion of the Bacardi Legacy Global Competition 2017, the bar is set high. Your mood will be appeased with the O & O, a flourish on the dirty martini, anointed with plump brined olives courtesy of Davide’s family recipe. Transitioning to your next tipple is as smooth as Italian suede, the gin-based Portofino harkens back to the idyllic Italian summer along the rustic Portofino coastline. House-made sorbet of crushed ripened cherry tomatoes and strawberries come together to celebrate the height of summer; layered with salted caramel syrup to allow the salt to find safe passage. The aftermath is the brilliance of summer, showering its largesse over cocktail ripples. You’re immediately transported to verdant fields under blazing blue skies and straw hats.


Summer passes fast, the brief romance leaving nothing but frosty strawberry kisses (literally, since the frozen strawberry popsicle was a little cumbersome to nibble on). Mr Jerez is next in the spotlight, made with white rum, sherry tio pepe, banana vermouth and sage. It’s a little sweet, savoury and has a tropical character from the banana. More importantly, it’s delicious and you do not break the cycle of clean glass only with this intense concoction.

If you steer towards the spirituous options, the Yù Châ, a remix of the Martinez is a must. Beefeater 24 gin and whisky is enlivened with slow-roasted Iron Goddess Tea topped with savoury shiso vermouth. Presentation is key here and the cocktail is given a lilt from a mini kung fu tea ceremony from ornate china pots.

The menu really comes into its own with the (NOT) Classic PB&J, which has the most distant affiliation to Chinese cuisine ever. However, with this tipple, it’s possibly the best to approach every aspect of dainty dining at the restaurant side. Peanut butter fat-washed Glenfiddich Whisky is exceptional and well-accompanied by caramelised kumquat liqueur. A little steamer basket is called to your attention, containing smoked chocolate coated macadamia nuts mimicking dim sum. It’s delightful, and also awful having to pull the brakes at just two.

If you’re famished, do venture out to the main dining hall. You can continue ingesting cocktails there. Bolster your tummy with the restaurant’s superb offerings of dim sum, dumplings, flaky Mooli puffs and smoky braised Taiwan noodles which you should load onto your plate unapologetically. Looking around the dining room, you’re no longer ascribe to the idea that dining alone means eating uninspired meals. I did notice several lone diners scattered across the room, each tucking into smouldering hot double-boiled soups and elaborate meat platters. It does also help that the restaurant hosts a myriad of jazz artists that belt out soothing live tunes from Thursdays to Saturdays come nightfall.

Depending on how inebriated you want to be by the end of your meal, choose between the Raspberry Sabayon with Chateau Suduiraut 2009 sauternes or the silken dream of cocktail, Velveteen. There are no wrong choices actually. The latter is a valiant stab at the pina colada, albeit with more culinary wizardry in its wake. Essentially, it’s plantation pineapple rum meets house-made toffee-laced gula melaka ice cream sprinkled with lime zest. Gula melaka might be an overexercised ingredient in the local cocktail scene, but this version will dispel any naysayers who think it’s all but a fad.

Madame Fan Bar offers an exquisite experience. Scouring the arsenal of cocktails from top to bottom, I can attest to their epicurean creativity for the work that has been fashioned. Removing the food portions that only serve to fill the stomach in this circumstance, drinking the cocktail menu has proved to be a gourmandising affair, akin to a liquid degustation. And with certainty, I declare it to be my new favourite bar of the year.