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The 5 newest independent bars to head to for a good time

From Chinese cocktails to quirky art gallery interiors, these are the latest bars to help you out of the post-lockdown fugue.

It’s been a tough time for the F&B industry but rising from the ash are new restaurants and bars sprouting up with a vengeance. Take a break from your favourite watering holes to check out these new five smaller, boutique bars.

Freebird

 Freebird interior

Tucked away at the basement of the Katong Shopping Centre, Freebird is a small, casual bar showcasing an excellent range of craft beers. Harry Lee who was in the armed forces for the past decade left in February this year to pursue his dream of owning a craft beer bar. Opened in May, the bar is run by Lee with his childhood friend Dionsius Ng, a home cook who would come up with creative recipes to feed his friends and family. 

At Freebird, Ng creates his own spin on Asian dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice pasta, tom yum pasta or Yangnyeom chicken bites (chicken karaage tossed in spicy Korean sauce). Recommended too is the seafood stew with mussels, prawns and mushrooms in a rich tomato sauce. Sweet creations include a fluffy sourdough French toast with cinnamon sugar and syrup infused with beer, as well as tiramisu spiked with stout. As a special treat, Freebird also serves their neighbour Dona Manis Cake Shop’s old school banana pie topped with ice cream.

Here, there’s a range of craft beers on tap, plus some seasonal offerings. Ask the owners to suggest the beers depending on your taste preference. Try the full bodied Pink Blossoms ‘Hundred Years’ Milk Stout  with coffee and chocolate aroma and flavour. Or Blasta ‘Big Brekkie Of Champs’, a complex imperial coffee stout which is a marriage of six specialty malts alongside organic maple syrup, coffee, cacao and vanilla. Not keen on beers? There’s a non-alcoholic Chinois hand-brewed artisanal sparkling tea which is ultra-refreshing. Besides the bar counter seats where you can chat with the guys, you can choose to drink at the adjacent unit with indoor and al fresco seating. 

865 Mountbatten Road,B1-09 Katong Shopping Centre, Singapore 437844. Tel: 9668 1649

 

Mama Diam

 Mama Diam exterior

One might imagine that there’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall behind a nostalgic mama shop façade at this Prinsep Street address. But hidden behind a sliding door (made of a shelf stacked with FHM magazine covers) is a sizeable contemporary speakeasy cocktail bar with high ceilings.

The cocktails here showcase local inspired flavours. Owner Sebastian Ang says, “We’ve specially curated nine Mama Diam signature cocktails based on different flavour profiles: sour, sweet, bitter and smokey.” For something potent, go for Mama’s Kopi, a concoction of Sailor Jerry Rum, Smokey Monkey Whisky Espresso, honey and marshmallow. Or the Smoked Halia made with Smokey Monkey Whisky, plus honey citrus and ginger.  Great for sharing is the lighter cocktail playfully presented in a teapot, Is it Tea You’re Looking For, which comprises oolong or lychee tea infused with Hendricks gin.

The food menu with Asian inspired flavours was designed to match with the cocktails. To enjoy a sampling of the different specialities, go for the 9 Bites of Wonders – a pretty wooden stand stacked with crab kueh pie tee, drunken chicken roulade, butter boxing chicken, truffle mushroom wonton in chilli oil, pork belly char siew tacos, and others. Other few popular items to try are the herbal bak ku teh udon and aburi wagyu beef nigiri. To get a table before it gets crowded, head there in the late afternoon (from 4pm).

38 Prinsep St, Singapore 188665. Tel: 8533 0792

 

 Ju Hua Tai 

 Ju Hua Tai's Bao Platter

The name of this gastrobar at 9 Duxton Hill is inspired by one of Jay Chou’s songs. An unabashed fan of the Taiwanese singer, co-owner Goh Bai Lin is also passionate about all things oriental. The bar was launched in July just before the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions took place. Since the reopening, they have rolled out a series of creative cocktails.

The signature gin-based cocktail (also inspired by Chou’s song) – Chrysanthemum Secret – is made of chrysanthemum infused gin with lychees, raspberries and elderflower liqueur. Complete with an intricate Chrysanthemum shaped jelly, the floral drink is served in Chinese porcelain. There’s also Bitter Bouldevadier, a concoction of Wild Turkey 81, Campari infused with goji berries, and oolong tea.  And the Qin Emperor — presented in an ancient emperor style cup — this concoction comprises Mao Tai and  glutinous rice tea cordial with black walnut bitter and pickled lotus root.

Ju Hua Tai's Chrysanthemum's Secret cocktail

Besides cocktails, you can enjoy easy-drinking craft beers with a more fruity and floral profile. The drinks are complemented by Asian-inspired bites such as a variety of substantial baos filled with scallop, crispy chicken, or rendang. Great with drinks too are the meat or vegetarian skewers, as well as crispy pork belly with Thai-inspired green chilli chutney.

9 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089593. Tel: 9027 1902

 

Nemesis

Nemesis Bar

Nestled in the charming Duxton Hill (no. 37) is the new Nemesis, a casual craft cocktail bar that serves sourdough-based Neapolitan style pizzas. The owners (team behind Junior the Pocket Bar) took the DNA of Italian aperitivos and traditional pizzas, and injected them with their own unique flavour profiles. 

On the special highlights, bartender-owner Peter Chua says: “Most definitely our NoLo Aperitivo section and white base pizzas. The NoLo section is us taking a new spin on the classic definition of Italian Aperitvos.” Nemesis’ unique pizza toppings include Potato consisting of potato salad with bechamel and chive oil; Zucchini with green and yellow zucchini, perked up with yuzu ricotta, chilli and olive oil; and Cacio E Pepe, composed of black pepper with egg and parmesan.

Nemesis Bar's pizza

He adds, “The entire cocktail menu is made to pair with our food menu, from refreshing citrusy cocktails to bitter digestifs. For example, the Odessa (gin, celery saccharum syrup, malic or citric acid solution and soda) pairs well the with rich and savoury flavours of the Fried Lasagne. Or The Raw Dill (Martini style cocktail consisting of gin, vodka, dill infused secco, dill oil and gentiane liqueur) goes with goat cheese filled beer battered olives.” The bar opens at 5.30pm, and bookings are recommended. 

37 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089615. Tel: 8028 3697

 

Stay Gold Flamingo 

Interior of Stay Gold Flamingo

This new café by day and cocktail bar by night concept was recently opened by dynamic bartending duo: Jerrold Khoo (formerly of Jigger and Pony), and Bai JiaWei (Employees Only). Located at 69 Amoy Street, the outlet features two experiences – Stay Gold, a modern classic bar, and Flamingo, an all-day café.

Stay Gold’s mixology is a union of the founders’ bartending expertise and styles. What you get is Bai’s creative and energetic American bartending skill along with Khoo’s elevated precision of the craft of Japanese cocktail making. Order the signature drink, Intro To Absinthe, a combination of absinthe, Earl Grey and carbonated coconut water. Or sip the classic Sazerac concocted with Remy Martin VSOP Cognac, Rittenhouse Rye, sugar and a splash of absinthe. Opened from 5pm to 1030pm, the bar also offers small bites like fried chicken wings.

Grilled Cheese and Espresso Martini at Stay Gold Flamingo

Meanwhile, Flamingo café’s menu features light bites, coffee and cocktails from 10am to 5pm. Munch on brunch items like ham sandwich or shiso chicken sandwich in the morning, or tuck into pastries like croissant or Citron Tart for afternoon tea. There are also dips like Pimiento cheese, olive tapenade or artichoke and basil served with Turkish bread.

69 Amoy St, Singapore 069888. Tel: 8876 7364