Artisan cocktails at the French inspired L’Aiglon

Artisan, you hear that word in front of everything these days. There is artisan bread, artisan coffee, there is even some “artisan” single farm butter in the supermarket at our mall (it’s a nice supermarket). The whole word seems a bit overused and perhaps unauthentic. According to wikipedia artisan means ‘hand made’, crafted with skill. And if something, the cocktails at L’Aiglon are only a few steps away from being art, crafted with care and passion. They are as good as craftmanship gets, much more artisan to me than that single cow butter on the supermarket shelf (I love butter, don’t get me wrong, but did the marketers run out of ideas or what)

The bar is located close to the popular Duxton Hill area on Dean Street (no 69). There are three distinct spaces: an outdoor terrace, the lounge and a private room that can be reserved for small groups if you are committing to a spend of at least 500 SGD (you get a lot of cocktails with that). The ambience is a bit Moulin Rouge meets China. Makes sense L’Aiglon being in Singapore and all and there is rumoured to be some French blood in the ownership. All in all very cool! We sat outside, as we Scandinavians tend to do, but ventured into the lounge to snap some pictures and follow the bar tenders at work. Even though it was valentines day it was still calm at 8pm, which we enjoyed very much, but as we are as we are, planners, we had reserved a table up front.

I ordered a French 69, a signature drink with Gin (I should really try something else than Gin sometimes), fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and Champagne. And M had a Jockey Club. We only had one drink each, but if we would have stayed for longer I would have gone for a Screaming Tomatoes ($22). I dont usually like Bloody Maries but this just sounded so interesting with fresh French cherry tomatoes and a bouquet of herbs. The flavor profile is peppery and savory; a spiked gazpacho. Vodka is used as the base. Ther is also an interesting house Champagne, J.M. Labruyère Cuvée Tradition ($24/$110), but as this was cocktail night, I settled for having a small hint of it in my drink.

L’Aiglon also has some bar snacks and finger food. People have been talking very fondly of the crab cakes and mini burgers. We had just been for dinner before so we skipped the salty nibbles, but ordered a great mini ice cream set for dessert instead. There were four small ice cream cones: caramel, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Very delicious and a perfect size just to get something small and sweet.

I can warmly recommend stopping by this place for those who are into cocktails. You can feel confident that your drink will be made with care and skill doing justice to the word artisan. Service was also, which is seldom the case in Singapore, very attentive and good.

The hidden molecule bar at Operation Dagger, Singapore

Here is a treat for you for cocktail-Thursday: Operation Dagger, a speakeasy with a hint of mad scientist potential. Located in a basement on Ann Siang Hill, next to the famous Club street, the stairway to the bar is hidden behind a simple glass door. The only identification is the small logo, unnoticeable if you are not looking for it. We were out on a Saturday night and surprisingly there was not that much people coming and going to give away what is inside.

The decor is industrial meets Scandinavian minimalism (read: upper-class hipster). There are not that many seats, but the space is airy (despite being in a cellar) and I could imagine standing around would not be too laborious. There is a long bar with shelves and shelves of ingredients in plain brown and white jars. I did spot a past acquaintance from my days working for a paint company, a bottle of Titanium dioxide (white pigment). I cant’ believe they use that for drinks (should not be dangerous, but yuk), and wonder what else is in the jars. There is a laboratory next to the bar area, which I suspect is where the magic is invented by the house drinks master.

The drinks list is small but creative with around 6-8 interesting cocktails and some beers and wine. We went for a Sugarcane with some chili, cinnamon and pandan flavors, a Hot n Cold (Hot on top, cold on the bottom) that was more like a liquid dessert and the Mulled wine, which is pretty much what the name suggests but prepared in a syphon with some impressive flame-action and fresh fruit. All the drinks were very good, and I am almost disappointed we did not have time for another round; the Egg sounded interesting.

Price-wise Operation Dagger is equivalent to other nice cocktail bars in Singapore with prices of around 22-25 SGD (13-16€). It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. Staff are friendly and take time to prepare your drinks. This is a perfect place for an after dinner drink or as a kick-start to a club-night.

Cocktail Bar Review: LongPlay, Singapore

LongPlay is a fairly newly opened (opened in dec 2014/jan 2015) cocktail bar on Haji Lane (and having an entrance also on Arab Street) in the Arab district of Singapore. As the name suggests it is celebrating the old vinyl LPs and while I may be a bit too young to fully have lived through that era I still must say I love both the LP as such and the concept. The bar is clearly aimed at young hip crowd and will most likely draw in a mix of hipsters, after workers and expats. When I was there it was however very relaxed and laid back and friendly service so hopefully that will continue as popularity increases.

The bar is a part of the growing empire of restaurateur/hotelier Loh Lik Peng. He already has restaurants/bars such as Esquina, Sorrel, the Library, Bincho and hotels the New Majestic Hotel, Wanderlust and 1929. They also run the Typing Room, Corner Room and Town Hall hotel in London as well as hotels and restaurants in Sydney and Shanghai. It is an ever growing empire but as long as they do things as well as this I am not complaining.

Design wise the premises is a bit tricky as it as a very long and narrow space but they have made remarkably good use of it. There is a bar when entering (if coming from Haji Lane), barely space to walk past before entering the slightly more spacious lounge that has sofas, chairs as well as tables along the wall. The decor is tying into the era of the 1970s but also connecting to the LP with menus in the shape of LPs, round LP-style tables. There are exquisite looking brass mirrors, dark wood furniture, comfortable leather sofas and wooden chairs paired with perfectly fitting lighting as well as light white curtains nicely dividing the space and creating at least an illusion of privacy at some of the tables. The, a little bit rugged style fits the place perfectly. There is of course also a DJ playing LPs and I loved hearing music like David Bowie, the Beatles and Elvis Presley when sitting there sipping my cocktail.

There is a short and well selected cocktail list and there were many ones that peeked my interest. I opted for the cleverly named Marlon Brando with cognac, Stella (of course since it is Brando) beer infusion, orange slices (think end of the Godfather…) and a nice straw with some Godfather branding so most of the ingredients had some connection with Brando or the roles he played. A bit clever and cute and the other cocktails had similar fun aspects to it (eg House of the Raisin Sun with raisin infused tequila and there was also a Fred Astaire cocktail). More importantly than these fun things were that the cocktails were very well-prepared and tasted great.

For those not in the mood for cocktails there was also a good selection of wines by the glass such as two cavas (Torello at 16 SGD and the Noches y Dia at 17 SGD) as well as a Verdejo (white) and a Crianza both priced at 16 SGD per glass. Also very impressed with the commitment to quality in them checking the wine served,  discarding the first bottle and opening a new one. Clear they know what they are doing. There are also a number of beers as well as different liquors and a good selection of non-alcoholic beverages and the bartenders will be happy to whip something up for you as well.

They also have a short but well considered food menu with a number of snack sized dishes as well some larger dishes. The standout dishes seemed to be the buttermilk chicken as well as the squid with Harissa dip. I was however also very interested in the mac n cheese well as the hummus with pita. So while it may not be the main reason to visit they do have good food as well. All in all a very welcome addition to the Singapore cocktail scene. What makes it even better was the really good service. The manager, David, made sure all guests were being tended to and he always had time to chat with all the guests so really made people feel welcome so if they keep up that level of service this place will be a huge success.