Bar veteran Kamil Foltan’s IB HQ has moved from its Bugis shophouse to Duxton, taking over the second floor of French fine-dining restaurant JAG. While the interiors are more lounge-like now, it’s still the same IB HQ you know and love. That means plenty of regional and Asian ingredients and flavours used in inventive drinks like a pandan Sazerac made with Pandan whisky, fig VSOP cognac, yellow Chartreuse, and bitters. There’s also a small selection of food like baba ganoush with lentil crackers; and croque monsieur.
Inspired by the Orang Laut, or “Sea People”, Laut Collective is the latest addition to Singapore’s small handful of fiercely regional bars. It’s little wonder too, given that co-founder Leon Tan has had stints as bar manager at the pioneering Nutmeg & Clove; as well as head bartender at locavore Native. The cocktails at Laut draw heavily from regional and local ingredients — resulting in creations like the Soy: a taste-it-to-believe it mix of gula Melaka arrack, spiced mango, tamarind, clarified soy, and chrysanthemum. Thanks to the other co-founder, Frank Shen — who also runs craft beer joint American Taproom — Laut has had, and will have its own range of limited-release beers, like a pale ale spiked with lemongrass and Bentong ginger. It would also be remiss not to try the food here, which features innovative, drinking-friendly takes on local cuisine. Expect otak sandwiches, squid gado gado, cereal frog legs with curry leaf butter, and the crowning glory: a risotto-like take on Hakka thunder tea rice with rice stirred through with century eggs, petai, and thunder tea herb butter — all topped with luscious king prawns.
Just like its name suggests, you come in for coffee in the day, and fuel up to hang out all night (not past the 10.30pm alcohol cut off point of Phase 2 though) at this cocktail bar/cafe/restaurant. Started by Jessica Hutch and Juan Yi Jun, No Sleep Club offers technical, flavour-forward cocktails you would expect from alumnus of places like Proof & Company and Operation Dagger. How technical? You might find something like Kyoho grapes that have been put through a Pacoject in their Reverse Harvard cocktail – which also contains kombu-steeped cognac and yuzu vermouth — or wasabi distillate, which takes the place of the traditional horseradish in their miso-tinged take on a bloody mary. There’s also coffee in the day, as well as fully-realised restaurant-type dishes like nduja financiers with chilli and corn butter; as well as slow-cooked short ribs with smoked parm and a mushroom and barley grain risotto. Perhaps the people who aren’t getting any sleep are the owners.
Here’s a recipe for success (or at least the attention of the foodie sphere): Open an unstuffy wine bar –name it after a David Bowie song for cool cred – and stock it with everything from cult Japanese natural winemaker Beau Paysage to decades-old vintage Bollinger so that you can be progressive but still attract the big spenders. Then hire the young, ex-sous chef of Burnt Ends to take charge of the kitchen. Rebel Rebel is the latest wine bar in town with a natural slant, with its France and Burgundy-heavy list proving that organic, biodynamic, or minimal-intervention wines aren’t the sole domain of new-age winemakers going back to their roots; or Georgia.
After a long line of moneyed, lavishly decorated hotel bar openings in the past few years, it will be interesting to see what three drinks and hospitality vets – Desiree Silva, George Abhishek , and Jay Gray – will achieve with a scrappy can-do attitude and plenty of experience. In fact, much of the bar has been DIY-ed, using upcycled materials and elbow grease. Sago House aims to operate like a community project – offering a weekly-rotating cocktail menu formulated with local produce; as well as simple, tasty food. There’ll also be regular hospitality education sessions where industry folks will have a safe space to discuss issues that affect them.