February 13, 2020

It’s February, and the Year of the Rat has not been kind to us with the coronavirus outbreak looming over our heads. Since the DORSCON level been raised to orange, the empty streets (and shelves of supermarkets) now resemble the onset of a zombie apocalypse. If you’ve not succumbed to buying two months' worth of groceries and are in need of a night out, here are five spots to take your mind off the pandemonium. 

1. Barbary Coast

The Low Down: Barflies would be pleased with the opening of Barbary Coast on North Canal Road. Owned and operated by industry veterans Celia Schoonraad and Michael Callahan, the bar pays homage to the time when Singapore was a glorious British trading post in the 19th century with a parlour-style layout festooned with stylised wallpaper.

The Vibe: With plush vintage furniture, elaborate chandeliers and a 'push for champagne' button, you will feel inclined to read poetry, reminisce, or have tête-à-têtes.

The Crowd: Those who are obviously into their spirits and know how to enjoy the finer things in life.

The Place: On the surface, Barbary Coast boasts an image that is undeniably attractive to cocktail lovers who happen to be romantics too. However, if you dig deeper, it is truly a work of art. From painstakingly curated embellishments to reclaimed Peranakan-influenced ceramic tiles, Barbary Coast is a conglomeration of treasures pieced together to reflect the history of the building (it resides in). Hidden nooks and crannies reveal private escapes for those looking to kick the debauchery up a notch.

The Food and Drinks: 13 cocktails on the menu demonstrate grit, patience and an intelligent approach to flavour combinations and textural play. You can’t go wrong with the Tea with Raspberries and Cream, a 3-day project that delivers a Persian red punch of beefeater, botanist, plantation dark rum and tea-infused clarified cream. Another standout is the sour-styled Prairies, a frothy drink with floral and musky notes. Food doesn’t take a back seat here; the metre-long cheese and charcuterie board aka La Grand Dame is exactly what you need.

16 N Canal Rd, Singapore 048828; 8869 4798. Monday, 6pm to 1am; Tuesday and Wednesday, 6pm to 2am; Thursday to Saturday, 6pm to 3am; Closed on Sunday

2. 28Wilkie

The Low Down: 28Wilkie has a Michelin Plate (probably the next best thing apart from a star), but it’s more than the caviar and fine wine image that usually strikes most. For starters, new head chef Matteo Ponti (ex-Forlino) is using his unbridled creativity to create a symphony of flavours on every plate. Expect a brilliant interplay of regional Italian cuisine and piquant touches of, you guessed it, caviar.

The Vibe: Do your breaking up, making up and deal-making here. The tendency to overspend can become a very real problem here.

The Crowd: You’ll notice the 2009 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo being summoned casually to the neighbouring table. There is repartee after repartee and a whole lot of swirling and wine agitation. They mean business.

The Place: The gorgeous lounge up front is decked out in creamy tones and comfy arm chairs that make post-dinner conversations with a tipple in hand, hard to resist. Inside, the space is a blank canvas, devoid of frills. A splash of colour or some form of textural contrast did not make the cut. 

The Food and Drinks: Familiar luxuries are reinvented here. Chef Ponti is a master at exercising restraint and prefers to let the ingredients do the talking. Case in point, the Akami Bluefin Tuna that he pairs with clarified bone marrow jus and a humble side of charred endive salad. Tasting menus are the way to go and we strongly recommend the risotto with parmigiano reggiano and sour truffle butter for a sinfully good time. 

28 Wilkie Rd, Singapore 228051; 9776 2828. Open Monday to Saturday, 4pm to 10:30pm

3. Tiong Bahru Bakery Diner

The Low Down: Tiong Bahru Bakery reinvents the notions of all-day breakfast with craveable comfort food that’s gut-friendly and plant-rich. Young bistronomy chef Paul Albert helms the kitchen and isn’t afraid to use a 158-year-old starter that he brought over from Rio to make their sourdough waffles. 

The Vibe: Comfortable and unpretentious with a spotlight on eating well. Cynthia Chua is always on top of things. 

The Crowd: 9-to-5-ers looking for some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle. 

The Place: Tiong Bahru Bakery Diner prides itself on catering to various groups with diverse palates. The banquet seating is adequate for coffee meetings, while the light beech wood tables are suitable for those looking for a quick lunch. Laptop users can make themselves comfortable by snagging a curved table top.

The Food and Drinks: The fluffy brown butter pancakes with lemongrass chantilly, combined with sour Thai mangoes and salted butter caramel are a party in your mouth. A lighter option would be the portobello, avocado & hummus black sandwich that taste equally good as it looks. Less adventurous eaters can always fall back on the crossiant.

107 North Bridge Rd, #04-(22-25), Singapore 179105; 6877 4866. Daily 8am to 9pm

4. COMO Cuisine

The Low Down: What sets COMO Hotels and Resorts apart from the rest of their competitors is its cuisine and ‘field to table’ philosophy that each venue exemplifies. Together with COMO Shambala, the wellness arm of the COMO group, dishes from their global collection of COMO properties have been handpicked and curated at COMO Dempsey where they seek to inspire the palate with memorable global flavours. 

The Vibe: Contemporary and bright. There is a quiet sensibility that puts wellness at the forefront.  

The Crowd: Affluent urbanites and health nuts craving for a more upscale restaurant to dine in. Christina Ong is said to be a regular here and has been spotted many times. 

The Place: COMO Cuisine takes the best of Scandinavian design and splices it with minimalism. High ceilings are broken up by succulents hanging from a suspended wooden frame, while the colour play of chartreuse tables, metal grey blocks and white corrugated walls emphasises a calm state of mind.

The Food and Drinks: Nourishing and nutritious. The menu traverses the world with dishes such as Bhutanese momos, hoisin-glazed kurobuta pork ribs, lobster biryani; you cannot pinpoint a specific cuisine, but they all taste remarkably delicious. Their plant-based dishes are a masterstroke, especially the tandoor cauliflower. Your body will thank you for it later.

18A Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249677; 1800 304 6688. Breakfast, Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm; Lunch, Monday to Friday, 12pm to 3pm; Brunch, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, 8am to 3pm; Afternoon Menu, Monday to Sunday, 3pm to 6pm; Dinner, Monday to Sunday and Eve of Public Holidays, 6pm to 10pm

5. Lime House Carribean

The Low Down: Lime House was Singapore’s initiation to the world of cane distilled spirits when it opened in 2013. This year, the lackadaisical joint sees a major makeover with bare wooden table tops and lazy fans giving way to fashionable wicker chairs and a more vivacious use of details to capture the Caribbean setting. While the joint has always been popular for its spicy assaults of Jamaican curry goat and Jerk chicken, the menu has been updated to reflect the brand’s position as an authentic Caribbean bar and restaurant in town.

The Vibe: Imagine a watering hole in Barbados that embraces a laidback beachy feel. After a well-spent day in the sun, toes dipped in white sand, you clamour to drink, eat, and be merry.

The Crowd: On school nights, the drinking den sees quiet-loving couples who are keen on venturing out of their comfort zone. Come weekends, party-goers are out in full force, clinching tiki mugs and embracing the last rays of sunshine as it warms the patio.

The Place: A lived-in feeling pervades the space, thanks to the brightly coloured driftwood, tropical flora and a teakwood bar. Limehouse exemplifies the island life in a way that’s so organic, beckoning you to order a drink once you set foot inside.

The Food and Drinks: Rum cocktails and Carribean street eats are the name of the game. The Doubles, a Trinidadian breakfast special featuring curried chickpeas on homemade Barra bread accompanied with a little mango chutney, is hearty treat. The macaroni balls and herb crusted blackbelly lamb have their own legion of fans. If you still have space, the banana cake with honey & fig ice cream is a fine way to end off. 

2 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089260; 6222 3130. Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm to 12am; Closed Sunday, Monday and Public Holidays