Why Singapore's Michelin-Starred Chefs Are Opening Wine And Cocktail Bars
Modern wine bar, Fool, is a brand new concept by chef-owner Rishi Naleendra of one-Michelin-starred Cloudstreet and group beverage manager Vinodhan Veloo.
This hotspot, which took over the former Cheek Bistro location at Boon Tat Street, presents wines in a fun, refreshing, and engaging way. The contemporary and intimate space exudes laid-back ’70s vibes, with bold pops of colour from vintage lights, graphic illustrations, and custom artwork.
Vinodhan says: “We are working with prime quality wines from around the world, made by mostly boutique producers. We have no limitations in our list and [offer] wines that are made in every way.” Fool will present a global and eclectic mix of classic styles and exciting modern labels.
He continues: “Our wines are for people who enjoy drinking wonderful wines and definitely not for snobs. We have a presentation of wines that reads like a magazine, and tied in with popular culture references. For example, champagnes that you might’ve seen in hip hop music videos.”
He curated different unique categories, offering about 220 labels. Some of the fun themes include ‘Lost In Translation’ featuring high quality and unique wines made with intricate and hard-to-pronounce grape varietals. These include the 2019 Anatolikos Fine Assyrtiko from Thrace, Greece – medium-bodied white with a crisp acidity; and N.V. Ahearne Terence Patrick Darnekusa, Plavac Mali from Dalmacija, Croatia – an elegant red with notes of red cherries, raspberries.
‘Betting on Climate Change’ showcases the effects of climate change on the landscape of wine production. Some regions, like the UK, are producing wines they’re not known for in the past. Examples include the 2017 Gusbourne Guinevere Chardonnay from Kent, England. Other categories in the wine list include Volcanic Wines of the World, Higher Ground and Burgundy’s Greatest Hits.
Why did they decide to open this bar during these challenging times? “The Cheek by Jowl space is tired. We’ve had it for almost six years. So we have been talking about the idea of having a wine bar for a while now. We invested in it – the cost is lower than running a restaurant. We might not need as many staff, but we need quality ones to explain the wines,” says Rishi. Head sommelier Wolfhart Knipp, the assistant sommelier at Cloudstreet for over two years, will helm the beverage service at Fool. Cheek by Jowl alumni, Marcus Tan will head the kitchen after having worked abroad.
Rishi adds: “The wine list is thoughtful, playful and a lot more fun. And the food is simple and meant for sharing, but will work really well with wines.” His creations will include chicken liver eclair with date and madeira, pan-fried saganaki with fermented green chilli, and Magara lamb saddle with chickpea and spinach stew. The only thing from Cheek’s menu that’s still available is the popular buttermilk fried quail with sriracha mayo. Guests can enjoy a casual night out with great food partnered with edgy, dynamic wines.
In August, one-Michelin-starred Restaurant Jag helmed by Chef Jeremy Gillon launched Flow Bar in collaboration with mixologist Ricky Paiva to offer a combination of timeless classics and progressive seasonal cocktails. The menu is divided into three pillars: Living Room (classic cocktails), Garden (inspired by Chef Jeremy’s omakase seasonal menu) and Playground (imaginative concoctions by Paiva).
“The bar upstairs has always been an integral part of the experience at Jag. This current iteration marks the progression that Jag has been through. Flow Bar started off as a passion project but we feel it has surpassed our vision,” says Anant Tyagi, co-owner of Jag. “With the unique combination of Chef Gillon’s Michelin-starred cooking and Ricky’s award-winning experience, we felt this partnership would be an exciting offering for anyone seeking punchy cocktails and delicious food, served with distinct energy and personality,” he adds.
Gillon says: “Ricky is clear about his vision. The flavours of the food menu must complement his cocktails. I have my distinct ideas. The result is a combination of both our approaches and a great variety of flavours for our guests.”
Food-wise, Gillon says that the menu changes will be seasonal to take advantage of the fresh produce and ingredients. “However, we will keep some signature dishes. For instance, our croque monsieur is popular and we will definitely keep this on the menu. We plan to change a few dishes in November. A fresh addition will be smoked cauliflower, sunflower seeds, praline and sage pesto.”
The chef also enjoys sourcing delicate herbs from France’s mountainous Savoie region, some of which are used for the cocktails too. For instance, in the opening menu, Paiva used thyme citron in his Thyme cocktail (pictured), along with house-made thyme citron syrup, fresh lime juice, soda water and spirit Smokey Monkey Scotch Whiskey.
Paiva shares: “We are still discovering the library of herbs and seasonal botanicals. The dried Sapin was very fragrant and something I am excited to use for our upcoming special festive cocktail menu that will be available besides our standard menu. Jag has a few exclusive liqueurs that are distilled from Savoie herbs and we are currently adding one or two of these to the menu.”
He adds: “The cocktail menu will change at the end of November. In fact, we are going through development now and possibly expanding our menu to add a fourth section. It’s important that we get the recipes perfect in time for the festive season!”
CLUB STREET WINE ROOM
Another progressive wine bar launched in August is Club Street Wine Room, the latest offspring of Cure Concepts, founded by Andrew Walsh. “I opened it for two reasons. First, my trips to Melbourne and Sydney inspired me.
Similarly, for Club Street Wine Room, it’s high-end restaurant cooking with a laid-back cool and cosy setting. You pop in after work for a glass of wine and a slice of cheese, or choose to celebrate an occasion here. We have a very diverse list. Second, the future of bars will be challenged by Covid. Hence we want to offer a comfortable space and a strong food programme.”
Walsh works closely with his head chef Ho Jun Yip to keep the food boundaries and style within the concept and vision of the cure concept restaurants. “Massive amounts of R&D goes into the menus,” he says. “The thought process comes from things like seasons, techniques we want to try, or regular customers’ feedback on the menu.”
Guests can enjoy mains like whole snapper and turbot, fired up in a custom-made wood fire grill, and steak au poivre – aged beef on the bone and grilled with beef fat. The meat comes with black peppercorn sauce alongside a serving of fried beef fat potato terrine frites. The chef continues, “We are always growing. That is the magic of the game.” Upcoming festive ideas will include Candied Chestnut, a take on a Mont Blanc that will be set as frozen chestnut with mulled wine.”
Meanwhile, head sommelier and operations director Amir Solay curated a range of unique wines, which includes a sea-aged wine, amphorae aged wines and even a local soy wine. The list also includes off the beaten track regions, unusual grape varieties and many styles of winemaking, for example lunar calendar, biodynamic, and organic. The bar also offers a cheese menu and a good range of wines by the glass.