Becoming incredibly popular of late is the Kampong Glam/Jalan Besar vicinity, known and loved for its unique indie vibe, as well as some of the best bars to get your drink on. Whisky aficionados will rejoice at Singapore’s only bourbon bar, The Beast (17 Jalan Klapa), where a repertoire of over 40 bourbons and liqueurs take respite, cozying up to a properly adored menu of Southern comfort food – they’ve even got poutine, slashed in a rich sausage gravy blanketed by mozzarella cheese and haloed with a sunny-side-up egg. Insider tip: you won’t find this on the menu, but request for the 17-Year-Old Wild Turkey Master’s Keep. Wood characteristics dominate the nose of this tipple, with a tinsel of caramel and vanilla, so the spice hits you first, followed by an interplay of cigar and tobacco; a subtle overtop of burnt brown sugar, lubricating the palate with a soft, creamy mouth feel.
If beer is your poison, pay serious attention to Druggists (119 Tyrwhitt Road). The list of brews changes weekly, with a depth of 23 international craft beers on tap at any point in time. I personally love dark beers and find the milk stout here extremely quaffable. The ballast of roast coffee and malt chocolate turn up at the edges to introduce aroma and flavour without compromising on creaminess. A limited edition brew, ‘F***- Art, Let’s Dance On Plums’ is an aptly named Belgian style tipple that sounds as coolly individual as it tastes. Dry-hopped with citrus-punching American hops and given the Danish twist of flaked oats before being barrel-aged with plums, this is one virtuous beer with a distinct sense of self.
Also located in this dynamic area is SingJazz Club (101 Jalan Sultan), one of the best spots for live jazz performances in town, featuring renowned local musicians. These include world-acclaimed jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro, souk funk jazz band The Steve McQueens, as well as shows by soul jazz vocalist Maya Nova and jazz saxophonist Nicole Duffell. What I appreciate about the music here is the gentle ebb and flow of each arrangement, seamlessly bringing you from one genre to another without losing momentum. Performances begin at 10pm (but the stage really starts swinging at 11pm), so if you’re early, head over to alfresco bar FRESH! at level two for groovy 90s tunes and stunning tiki cocktails. I recommend the bright and floral ‘Jungle Bird,’ based on Mount Gay Eclipse rum, or the ‘Corn & Oil V2.0,’ that incorporates Gosling’s Black Seal rum and Don Julio Reposado tequila for complex layers of thickly sweet dark rum, citrus notes and burnt butterscotch.
A stone’s throw from SingJazz is Blu Jaz Café (11 Bali Lane), a laid-back gastro-bar with daily live entertainment such as the open mic night by Comedy Club Asia every Wednesday and Thursday nights from 8:30pm. There are also live band performances from 9:30pm on Wednesdays and weekends (also of interest are $10 pints and 1-for-1 beers during happy hour from 3 to 7pm daily).
Not forgotten is hipster neighborhood Tiong Bahru, known for its stylish indie boutiques and tucked-away bars. One of the best yakitori-yas in Singapore is Bincho (78 Moh Guan Terrace, 01-19), where seasonal meats and vegetables are grilled over binchō-tan to which it owes its identity. Its address will lead you to a traditional mee pok stall, so enter through the back alley where you will first pass through a bar. Unknown to most, Bincho’s bar is home to some of the rarest whiskies. Like its namesake, Hanyu Ace of Club is extremely rare – mostly due to Ichiro’s card series bottling of Hanyu, but also for its luscious golden, almost syrupy spirit filled with whispers of marzipan, candied orange peel and dry oak that suffuses the palate with a freckling of wood spice.
A five-minute walk from Bincho is Lee Tai Fu (16 Kim Tian Road), a neighbourhood pub reviving the look and feel of Changi Village back in the 20th century. International craft beers and ciders start at a mere $11, to which we are the grateful beneficiaries. Being a Belgium beer lover, I recommend letting Duvel lead the way with opening whiffs of banana and clove and an abundant white head, while the full-bodied Kwak seduces with solid notes of old world fruit, malt and vanilla – both of which are best enjoyed with good looking strangers!
A little further from the city centre is Katong, a heritage neighbourhood in the East Coast area. East revelers will know Mel’s Place (2A Kuo Chuan Avenue), a bar and bistro with an alfresco terrace where service is chatty and unhurried, an ideal setup for an unpretentious good time. There is an extensive list of food and alcoholic beverages, decently priced to warrant regulars, next to a live band on Mondays to Saturdays from 7:30pm to 11pm. Another East Coast local outpost is The Tuckshop (403 Guillemard Road), a charming social space that manages to balance the best of Singapore and beyond – locally inspired dishes alongside local and international artisan beers. Be sure to try its exclusive Archipelago: The Tuckshop Edition, a locally brewed lager that tastes gentle, with vague allusions to gula melaka and calamansi. Order the har cheong gai with this – bronzed and glistening, this dish gives no hint of its unorthodox flavour.
There is something undeniably bold about taking the road less travelled, so venture off the grid and be handsomely rewarded at this selection of destination venues. Contrary to popular belief, the inner city isn’t the only place to have a good time.
This issue we check into the dynamic Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore