Cocktail-Hopping at Bitters & Love

As I mentioned in the last Wineweek, we did some cocktail-hopping over Valentines day weekend. Because we were concerned there would be a lot of people out, and we wanted to visit as many places as possible, we set out on our journey already at 6pm. Great choice as we had no trouble getting a seat at Bitters & Love, a much talked about “speakeasy” here in Singapore. The bar is not really what you could call a real speakeasy. It’s located in the back room of a restaurant called Shoebox Canteen. There are no signs outside, but you can already see from the door that there is something going on in the back. The look of the place is lightly hipster, but I suspect that the real pioneers have already moved on to something new and cooler. I don’t mind at all, I am here for the cocktails, not to get on the good side of the in-crowd (I’m too old for that).

The concept is simple: you have a menu with a set of flavours (sweet, sour, spicy etc) and a list of spirits. You tell the bar tender the spirit and flavour of your choice (you do not need to limit yourself to the list provided either) and perhaps describe what kind of ingredients you like (I love stuff like ginger, cucumber and mint in my drinks), and the bartender will make you a drink based on that. Awesome if you are a person who likes surprises (not so awesome if you are not). I chose a nice Gin and asked for something spicy (not Asian spicy, but in the medium range) and M selected a dark Rum and asked for something fresh and full. After a short wait we were served a pair of beautiful drinks that did not disappoint neither in looks or taste. Both wishes had been taken into account and we got to taste something new.

We also ordered some bar snacks as a substitue for a ‘proper’ dinner: some truffle fries, chicken fritters and sliders. All were pretty decent. Not the best gourmet experience of my life, but took away the hunger. The only real disappointment for us was that we could not order from the Shoebox Canteen menu and eat at the bar. Perhaps they have this policy to make sure the cocktail bar stays as a cocktail bar, I would just really have liked to have a larger menu. All in all, Bitters & Love was an excellent experience. Not the cheapest cocktail bar in town with drinks ranging from 19-26 SGD, but at par with other places (it’s the weakening Swedish krona that is killing me). I definitely recommend popping by if you are in Singapore. If you can’t make it before 8pm, I recommend reserving a table up front.

Coffee Bar review: Casa Lapin (Bangkok)

Casa Lapin is clearly part of the ongoing coffee revolution in Bangkok. They have now have four locations in their mini empire, all in carefully selected areas in Bangkok where their style fits. This review is of the the x26 location (that is on Sukhumvit 26) but they also have locations on Sukhumvit 49, Thonglor 17-19 and Phahon Yothin (next to Ari BTS station).

The space is really nicely designed and I like the look of it. When looking around the cool cafe I am however struck by that this easily could have been a cafe in NYC, London, Melbourne, Stockholm or Berlin. The hip design and the coffee, beer (they serve BrewDog on tap) and the food (a mix of brunch/breakfast favorites and pasta and steaks) does not in any way really give away that this is in Bangkok. While I like what they made of it I am missing the connection to the local. The crowd it attracts is also a mix of international travelers (myself included), what appears like affluent young Thais and groups of Japanese women (appearing to be at least somewhat local in that I get the impression they live in Bangkok). Even if I am somewhat disappointed at the lack of bringing out the specific Thai influences it is still a great design and atmosphere here and free wifi makes it easy to just spend a few hours hanging around here.

Service is however another matter, while friendly it brings the word slow to a new level. They serve their hand brewed coffees from what they call a slow bar. I thought they called it slow bar because they hand brew the coffees but maybe it was an idnication that they try to make sloths looking like they are faster than light. The speed of it actually brought new meaning to the word slow. We ordered two hand brewed coffees and there was no one else being served at that time and we still had to wait over 30 minutes for the coffees. No apologies for it taking long or anything and it was not a lack of staff (four people behind the counter doing nothing).

Coffee wise they had four different beans to select from. We tried one Honduras from a local roaster and one Brazilian from another local roaster. Neither was spectacular. They were fairly well made but the beans did not really excite. The Brazilian also suffered from a hint of bitterness, possibly due to over-extraction. Other coffee based drinks were dedent as wel but this is in no way a place that anyone interested in specialty coffee really needs to seek out but if you want a nice place to hang out that can also serve a good cup of coffee it is an option.

Food looked fairly decent but it felt very western inspired but large variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner so no one would need to go hungry here. They serve up some very nice cold beverages as well. It seemed like a place where people really lounge for a long time. It is also connected to a florist, a trendier hostel and office hotel of sorts/share work space (one can rent a desk for a few hours, a day or longer term) as well as a flower shop. All of these are designed in a similar way so seamlessly blend into each other and strengthening the feel of being in a modern urban metropolis that could be anywhere and is being populated by hipsters.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2.5
Ambiance and Service: 3 (Service 2 and Ambiance 4)
Food: 4
Vs Local Average Competition: 3.5