Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Hidden speakeasy-style restaurants and bars in Singapore to uncover

Although it’s been a good while since the speakeasy trend first found its way to Singapore, there’s still something to be said about the allure of a place that takes some effort to find. Whether it’s the thrill of its hidden nature; its secret status that only those in the know are aware of; or the anticipation that builds as you search furtively for its concealed entrance, speakeasy-style establishments remain a popular mainstay in today’s dining scene. We’ve rounded up a few top-notch hidden restaurants and bars in Singapore that serve up everything from good and greasy American burgers and steaming bowls of ramen to classic cocktails and an extensive range of sake. While it may require a little legwork and detective skills before you slide into a booth or sidle up at the bar counter, the quality nosh at these spots is undoubtedly worth it.

1. Burger Bar

True to its name, Burger Bar serves up classic American burgers from its home base in Telok Ayer. While Google Maps gives its location as Amoy Street, the hidden restaurant is actually located along the narrow Gemmill Lane. Once you’re in the vicinity, keep an eye out for a neon sign of a hefty burger and glass of beer: you can enter through the door on its left. Inside the dimly lit space, the vibe resembles a classic New York dive bar, with plenty of colourful graffiti on the walls (you’re encouraged to leave your mark as well) and booth and low-table seating. Choose from a selection of favourites including the bacon cheeseburger and fried buttermilk chicken burger, and don’t forget to order a side of crispy fries. The bar also boasts a killer selection of imported craft beers from the likes of cult favourites such as Blackout Brewing, Popihn and Fuerst Wiacek.

115 Amoy Street (entrance at the back on Gemmill lane). Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer.

The moody, nondescript entrance to Burger Bar.

2. Proper Slice BYGB

If you prefer another New York favourite, venture past Burger Bar and into the alley on the corner of Gemmil Lane. There you’ll find Proper Slice BYGB, marked only by a maroon awning and an acrylic sign. Peak into the unmarked steel door and you’ll be greeted by the enticing smell of freshly baked pizzas. This hidden pizzeria is helmed by the folks behind Lucali BYGB and serves up proper New York-style pies – large slices with simple ingredients and a delightfully thin crust. The star of the show is undoubtedly the pepperoni slice, but the cream-based spinach and ricotta slice has die-hard fans as well. In addition to pizza, other Italian-American staples are available like the garlic knots, stromboli (essentially a more portable pizza) and a sweet calzone filled with ricotta and hazelnuts.

Proper Slice hidden bars and restaurants in Singapore
One of the few places you can find a “Proper Slice” of New York-style pizza.

3. Live Twice

Live Twice is one of the three Jigger and Pony group establishments along Bukit Pasoh Road, there’s also fellow cocktail bar Gibson and seafood restaurant Humpback. The entrance to Live Twice isn’t visible from the street – it’s tucked into a hidden alcove behind Humpback. You’ll need to look for the glass door located next to the restaurant and make your way down a narrow corridor before arriving at the bar. Inspired by mid-century Japan and specialising in Japanese food and drinks, Live Twice sports low lighting, booth seating, plush lounge chairs and a central table that’s ideal for groups. As for what to order? We recommend the wagyu katsu sando (a lip-smackingly good panko-coated steak sandwich) washed down with the Golden Leaf (Roku gin, high mountain tea and orange riesling) or the Little Crane (Kyru Juuri unaged rye, Muyu Vertiver Gris, Oloroso sherry and pineapple).

18-20 Bukit Pasoh Road. Nearest MRT: Outram Park.

Hidden restaurants and bars in Singapore Live Twice
Live Twice’s cosy interior is perfect for snuggling up with some cocktails.

4. The Other Room

Another hard-to-find Orchard Road watering hole, The Other Room is tucked away behind an unmarked doorway and heavy velvet curtains in the lobby of the Singapore Mariott Tang Plaza Hotel. Once you enter its softly lit and intimate space, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to the heyday of speakeasies in the 1920s. The maestro behind the concept is Dario Knox, who wanted to create a welcoming bar where creative takes on spirits – think barrel-ageing, smoking and infusing – take centre stage. In order to sample the bevy of unique libations on offer in their purest form, we recommend going for the tasting flight. From there, you can move on the the cocktails. Our favourite is the Old Fashioned Way, a take on the classic cocktail that features port-casked Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Ardberg 10, Angostura bitters, chocolate bitters and sugar.

320 Orchard Road, Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Nearest MRT: Orchard.

Hidden restaurants and bars in Singapore the other room
Creative takes on classics take centre stage at The Other Room.

5. Roxy

A bar-within-a-bar, Roxy is hidden behind nondescript velvet drapes at the back of Miss Fitz at The Sail along Marina Boulevard. The intimate space is drenched in moody red lighting and offers seats at cosy booths or by the bar. As the piped-in music and the posters plastered on the wall would suggest, Roxy fully leans into its 1970s rock-and-roll theme. More specifically, the bar’s design is meant to resemble the private backrooms where music icons like Bowie and Queen would have held afterparties. The drinks menu is also thematic – try the Smoke on the Water, a spicy concoction of Monkey Shoulder Smokey Monkey, house jalapeño syrup, fresh lemon and soda; or the Mexican-inflected Backstage Pass, a mix of fruit liqueurs, fresh juices and firewater tincture.

6 Marina Boulevard, #01-17, The Sail at Marina Bay (inside Miss Fitz). Nearest MRT: Downtown.

6. The Dragon Chamber

For upmarket modern Chinese food with an atmospheric speakeasy ambience, make your way to the The Dragon Chamber along Circular Road. Instead of the ornate entrance that you may expect from such an establishment, the hidden restaurant is located at the back of a kopitiam (coffee shop). Search for the “beer fridge” at the rear, pull it open, make your way down the narrow corridor and you’ll find yourself in a space that resembles the clandestine hangout of a Chinese secret society. Food-wise, the menu features inventive dishes such as cheeseburger eggrolls (a fusion take on the classic spring rolls), Golden Cloud Dragon Mountain (fried whole lobsters tossed in egg floss) and the silky and decadent wagyu truffle beef hor fun. If you can’t make up your mind which drink to order, the Blossom Soda (blue pea-infused vodka, lychee liquor, fresh lime and soda) is tasty, refreshing and highly Instagrammable.

2 Circular Road. Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay.

the dragon chamber hidden restaurants bars singapore
The Dragon Chamber is an exciting Chinese bar and restaurant hidden along Circular Road.

7. MoboMoga

True sake fiends in Singapore will need no introduction to specialty sake bar MoboMoga, though others may have a bit of a hard time hunting it down. Located at UE Square Residences, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for the nondescript and narrow arched doorway, which you’ll then have to crouch and squeeze through to enter the bar. Inside, there’s limited counter seating alongside a central bar area, which is typically crammed with Japanese businessmen seeking a smooth serving of sake after a long day of work. Our tip? Simply let the sake expert behind the bar know how you like your tipple, and sit back and accept whatever he recommends (trust us, it’s going to be delicious). Besides an array of high-quality sakes imported from all over Japan, there’s also a decent izakaya-style food menu that features the likes of oden (Japanese one-pot stew), generously stuffed cabbage rolls and crispy chicken karaage.

207 River Valley Road, #01-58, UE Square. Nearest MRT: Fort Canning.

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

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