The pandemic hasn’t been kind to Club Street. Once a watering hole on par with Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, the Club Street of old closed every weekend for the row of bars offering competitive happy hour prices to lay out tables and chairs on the road for alfresco imbibing.
With Covid-19 came lockdown and regulations (only establishments with food licenses could open then a 10.30pm curfew for the consumption of alcohol that is still implemented to this day), which has shuttered businesses ranging from restaurants to bars.
Now that it no longer seems possible for drinking late into the night, some new tenants have sprouted up along Club Street and its surrounding small alleys that signal a change in what consumers are going out for these days. Not that we mind a good happy hour, still.
Chef Andrew Walsh from Cure Concepts is unstoppable, even in the face of a pandemic. Responsible for Butcher Boy, Catfish (just down the road), and Cure, this chic wine bar is the latest addition to the family. And he’s gone the distance to make sure this is not your average wine bar.
Taking the lead is head sommelier and operations director, Amir Solay. Affable and charismatic, he has put together an eccentric wine list that stretches from the Basque Country to Lebanon. He’s not afraid to let you know that he’s a bit of a daredevil, a characteristic that he perhaps shares with Walsh, and throws in some sea-aged (Sea Soul No. 4 is aged for 15 months in the Bay of Plentzia) and amphora-aged wine (Chateau Kefraya Collection Amphora 2018) into the mix.
Solay is more than willing to share his recommendations, as are the warm and friendly staff there, but ask for a wine flight for three glasses that’s off-menu if you’re greedy and want a little of each.
We could go on about the wine list but the food, helmed by head chef Ho Jun Yip, is worth coming back for alone. The same techniques and care for produce feels as though it’s been transplanted here from Cure, making for a food menu that is of restaurant-quality even if presented as elevated bar bites.
Instead of the ubiquitous truffle fries is a painstakingly cut Hasselback Potato with Black Garlic & Parmesan that’s brined and deep fried for a crisp no fry can come close to. While Beef Tartare comes on scallop and prawn mousse toast alongside a black ponzu vinegar sauce with a singular confit egg yolk meant to be stirred in. The showstopper, however, has to be the palm-sized steaming, flaky pithivier filled with guinea fowl thigh and mushrooms that can only be ordered with the entire Guinea Fowl Confit. We’ve been told that many diners have requested the pie to be sold on its own so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
87 Club Street, Singapore 069455. Tel: 6970 0190
From the people that brought you Sago House (Joe Haywood and George Abhishek joins Desiree Jane and Jay Gray for the venture), this cocktail bar is on a mission to reinvent the tired and sometimes dangerously close to cultural appropriation definition of the ‘tiki bar’. Keeping to the highly creative concoctions they’re known for over at Chinatown, the drinks take on tongue-in-cheek names such as Sambal (S)Ting-wray that’s a spicy shake up with grapefruit and two kinds of rum.
Enchanted by the location since setting his eyes on it, Gray, CEO and co-founder, has split the space into two bar areas; one serves the alfresco area named Top Side serving sharing plates of Southeast Asian food developed by head chef Ray Yeow, while the other is in the basement and aptly named The Cave serving stiffer cocktails. Like its sister bar, the pre-mixed tipples are also available for takeaway in cans.
98 Club Street, Singapore 069467. Tel: 8952 1145.
Argentinian steak has arrived thanks to boCHINche’s move from Amoy Street next door. Spa Esprit Group’s creative director, Jerry Sparks, has outfitted the steakhouse’s new home with a modern take on soviet design using plenty of wood and marble fixtures.
Head chef Fabrice Mergalet has also tweaked the menu, introducing complementary side dishes such as Argentinian Spring Rolls filled with pig ears, jalapeño, piquillo, scallion and coriander. While keeping favourites like that trio of Empanadas of beef, chicken, sweet corn and a smoked ham with provolone cheese you can’t get enough of.
The bovine still reigns here, cooked over cherry, apple and jarrah wood and charcoal grill. A compulsory dry-aging fridge for dramatic effect slowly ages cuts of Argentinian, Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese beef. The drying method in-house typically takes around 35 to 38 days with the hanging or sitting cuts in shades of brown doubling up as decoration.
Argentinian wines, too, feature heavily in the wine programme with up to 30 labels mostly from Mendoza, a province that produces almost two-thirds of the country’s vino. A portion of the wine list is reserved for natural wines from Drunken Farmer, also under the Spa Esprit portfolio, which will give diners more funk to choose from.
27 Club Street, Singapore 069413. Tel: 6235 4990
A craft beer place with lots of character, from the people who make it and its location alike, Bunkerbunker leaves behind its former shipping container abode to Emerald Garden. Taking over Maxi Coffee, it takes the award for being the smallest craft beer shop front in Singapore meaning it no longer has seating space and focuses more on takeaways, deliveries. Or as some do it, you could also BYOC (bring your own chair).
Their easy-to-miss tiny nook houses up to 120 different labels of craft beer and a few natural wines, stored in three fridges lined up against the wall. There’s also a coffee machine for a quick caffeine fix before cracking out the beers.
31 Club Street, 01-02 Emerald Garden, Singapore 069468.
Lion Brewery Co keeps the flame going for Club Street’s own microbrewery as they take over the space from Little Creatures. Using the same 500 liter tanks and some of the same staff, the Brewlab is head brewer Greg Brown’s full-time project where he freestyles with beer profiles.
On the 23 taps are a mix of Brown’s brews and Lion Brewery Co beers such as the Thirty Six Brewlab Old Greg Session IPA that has a slight but pleasant note of cocoa and the easygoing Lion Brewery Co Kaiser Kolsch Pale Ale. Part of Brewlab’s sustainable efforts involve planting a tree with every keg sold in partnership with Green Steps Group, where each tree is geotagged and monitored.
Most of the beers go down relatively easy, especially on a hot sunny day or with the flame-grilled fare from executive chef Kwek Xiu Rong. After all, there’s no better way to enjoy a beer than with a barbie.
The grill gives a char to skewered Grilled Tiger Prawns, Spicy Pork Belly Satay, a cauliflower steak that’s marinated for 24 hours then steamed before touching the flames, and the Sticky BBQ Pork Ribs glazed with kicap manis, chipotle and rice vinegar. We also appreciate the attention to detail such as the charred lime for the Crusted Calamari, which lends a smudge of smokiness to the squid.
36 Club Street, Singapore 069469. Tel: 6239 0350
A little further down the street (or at the start depending where you’re coming from) is Gemmill Lane, where you’ll find the island’s first gourmet pizza sold by the slice (surprising considering the number of pizza places coming up these days). Decidedly more accessible than the sit-down sister restaurant, Lucali BYGB, this hole-in-the-wall takeaway joint offers the same thin-crusted pizza pies and calzones with a few standing tables in the back alley.
Completing the New York City pizza joint experience, the counter is also filled with other variations of the Lucali magic dough formula such as strombolis, garlic knots, and a ricotta and Nutella filled calzone.
110 Amoy Street (Entrance is off Gemmill Lane), Singapore 069930.