Wineweek 13: Singapore Edition

Happy Sunday everybody! I am enjoying a lazy weekend, typing away with a perfect view of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. This will be the last Wineweek I write a summary from this trip and it will cover almost two weeks of wine-action in the famous business-hub and city-state of Singapore. Travelling has been great as always, but I must admit I miss our home and our wonderful wine fridges. At least we have had much more drinks on our last leg. It has not always been value for money, but my oh my have I missed a glass of cold Cava or Champagne. What has also contributed to the expense-level of this trip is the declining Swedish Krona against a strong Singapore dollar. Anyway, everyone has a different perspective on value for money, and my point of reference dates to our days of living in London and enjoying a glass of good bubbly for £5.

I can categorize the last 10 days to three categories: wine, coffee and cocktails. That’s all we have done. Why did I not mention food? Well, because we have had food with all of them. We have first chosen our drink of preference and then had some matching food with that. Our days have consisted mostly of visiting cafes and restaurants with a marathon of walking in between. I find it is a great way to get to know a city, so we have soldiered on despite the scorching heat. Around here, most coffees are also served as cold-brews which is a good way to cool down after too much sun.

Wine has perhaps been the category with the lowest overall quality, but that was to be expected. Duties to import wine are high, and I think there is not a big enough market here. So prices for bottles can end up being 30-50% more expensive than what we would pay in the UK or Sweden. Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is like Disneyland for the wine-enthusiasts compared to the other destinations we have visited. Also, we have found a few exceptions to the wallet draining traps that I am happy to recommend for anybody living or travelling to Singapore:

1. Verre Wine Bar. Located in Robertson Que, a wine bar serving a wonderful Guy Charlemagne Brut by the glass. You can get two glasses for the price of one during happy hour, which makes the price per glass very tempting (9 SGD). We also tried some interesting red from Barossa-valley that will be up for a review soon.

2. Bar – A – Vin. Located in the Central Business District (CBD). Serves a good Gardet Brut Tradition by the glass, and I also recall them having some nice Australian Pinots.

3. Sabio. Located on Duxton Hill, Sabio has some nice Agusti Torello Cava and DelaMotte Champagne by the glass (16-24 SGD). The ambiance is nice and they have live music in the evenings to brighten the mood.

Cocktails have been a real treat! We have found some amazing places with real drink-talent. I think Singapore gives London a run for their money when it comes to good cocktail-bars and I cannot name many places in Stockholm that can compare. We accidentally picked up a local life-style magazine at a cafe that listed some interesting places and did two nights of cocktail-hopping to check them out. None of the mentioned bars disappointed, on the contrary we were very impressed. Here are our top three picks, and we will make a separate post on the rest in due time.

1. LongPlay is a new addition to the cocktail scene located on Haji Lane. We ran into this place by accident and were so impressed that we posted a review immediately (click here).

2. Bar Stories is also locted on Haji Lane. The entrance is very discreet, but clearly visible if one is looking for it. There is no specific cocktail-list but the bartenders think up something based on what you describe you want. This results to a set of very innovative and beautiful drinks that are as good in taste as they are in looks.

3. Operation Dagger, located on a side street to the famous Club Street is a speakeasy/ secret bar. Its too known to be a real secret, but you need to do your homework to find in. They do a set of very creative coctails with a bit of a “molecule” twist. It reminds me of Pharmarium in Stockholm.

Coffee-wise, we already knew Singapore was great. Not the best in class, but a city with a lot of potential. What is wonderful here is how good the food is at the cafes. I think I have overdosed on french toast, Eggs Benedict and good cakes. I hate the thought of a diet, but I may have to start one after this trip, I am way too used to having my daily sugar-high. Warm meals at cafes is not a common in Scandinavia or the UK. Yes there are cakes and sandwiches, but no foody dishes. Here in Singapore the cafe is the new bistro (and the bistro is the new casual fine dining), so our lunches were accompanied by a decent cup. Our top cafe pics are the following (in order of best coffee, not best food):

1. The New Black is a new coffee bar close to Clarke Que. They have an impressive collection of beans from around the world and use a new-ish technique similar to a coffee syphon to make a reliable good cup.

2. Common Man Coffee Roaster located on Martins Lane is a coffee bar with a good selection of hand-brews and also great food. You should remember to ask for their back-room selection for the more special beans.

3. Nylon Roasters are a real contribution to the coffee scene in Singapore. their beans can be found in many other places and they have a shop in Everton Park that you can visit. It used to be a small hole in the wall type cafe, but has now grown into post-hipster paradise. Of course more visitors means more variation in quality, but coffee-wise it is still one of the most interesting places to visit in Singapore.

Not to completely forget the food part, we have also been having some great meals. More about the restaurants will follow later, but just to mention a few interesting places: Jaan, Moosehead and Esquina.

That was a lot of lists! It is not that often that Wineweek is this comprehensive. On Wednesday we will be hopping on the plane back to Sweden and the snow. We have our wine-business waiting with just one more set of papers to return for being able to start business fully from Denmark. We also have some other interesting things coming up. We will be traveling to Portugal to visit some new and interesting producers, like Vieira de Sousa and Almeida Garrett, and later in March we will be visiting the “mothership” of cava, Sant Sadurni (and Penedes). So I expect it will be busy time for us and the blog and we will have many exciting things to share with you.

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.