Caché / Izy
27 Club Street
Tel 6220 3327
Hours: 6pm till late (Mon-Sat)
NOW that the weekend road closure of Club Street has become a permanent fixture, the burgeoning Lan Kwai Fong-esque strip has also just as quickly turned into a desert for quiet drinking spots.
It is why week-old bar Caché should come as a welcome oasis. The 40-seater bar, the name of which means "hiding place" in French, occupies the back 500 sq ft of a Club Street shophouse. Upscale Japanese izakaya, Izy, takes up the road-facing front half, and the two spaces are separated by a heavy, grey velour curtain so nondescript you'd probably blink and miss it.
Caché's owner, Pierre Prunier, who works in asset management by day, says: "We wanted to build a semi-luxurious drinking den for people to come enjoy fine drinks without the craziness of a nightclub."
The Frenchman says the bar was inspired by his travels in New York and London last year, when hidden bars modelled after Prohibition-era speakeasies caught his eye.
But while Caché is private, it is not exclusive, insists Mr Prunier. Entry is by request-only, but everyone is allowed in.
"You have to work up the courage to ask the staff to let you in. If you bother to go through the trouble, you are then rewarded with this very unique experience," says Mr Prunier. A small group of regulars will be eventually given the "golden key", an electronic key card that will allow them to tap themselves in and out of the bar without having to ask the wait staff.
Contrary to the Izy's pale concrete walls and floors and cool marble counters, Caché is a rich, tactile experience. Leather and mirror panels line the bar's walls, alongside grey velvet sofas and gilded coffee tables.
Popular dishes from Izy such as grilled kurobuta pork belly skewers ($18), chicken karaage ($20), and uni pasta ($30) have been spun off to make up the limited bar snacks menu at Caché, but they are plated up more casually and in sharing portions.
Caché, conversely, has a much wider drink menu than Izy, with a special focus on unusual and interesting wines, whiskey and sake, such as the blended Samaroli whiskey.
Resident bartender Athena Lim , previously from the Ritz Carlton Hotel Singapore, shakes up a small but regularly changing selection of cocktails such as lemongrass daiquiris and ginger martinis.
Though physically conjoined, Caché and Izy are really two distinct concepts that "can stand on their own in other spaces", adds Mr Prunier, who hopes to eventually set up other Cachés here in Singapore and regionally.
"But at the moment we're just concentrating on making it an amazing space to be in."
Lord Oxwell's Den / Oxwell and Co
5 Ann Siang Hill
Tel 6438 3984
Hours: 8am-midnight (Tue-Sat)
THE concept of a hole-in-the-wall bar doesn't get more literal than at Lord Oxwell's Den. Squirreled away on the third floor of a four-storey Ann Siang Hill shophouse, the den doubles as a reservations-only private dining room of contemporary British gastropub, Oxwell & Co. But pay attention to the details in the room and you'll find that there's even more that lurks within.
For instance, an innocuous-looking framed portrait swings out to reveal a low rectangular window cut out of a concrete wall: the entrance to a covert nine-seater lounge next door. Slide aside another portrait, and you might find a cheeky peephole looking into the same room.
The dining room and hidden lounge pairing is the brainchild of Oxwell and Co's founders, along with eclectic furniture store Fred Lives Here and interior design firm, The Stripe Collective.
"We had the extra space when building the restaurant, so we thought of converting it into a private space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the area," says Fred Lives Here's director, Angie Pasley.
Each of the corner shophouse's four levels is designed to give a different feel, and gets more whimsical as you ascend each floor. The ground floor bar space rocks an industrial chic vibe, while classic British chairs get a contemporary spin in light grey and teal shades on the 40-seater second floor dining space, and the alfresco rooftop terrace will have a herb garden and classic British garden furniture for that Alice in Wonderland vibe.
When it came to the hidden lounge, they had only 300 sq ft and an angular space, so instead of squeezing in elbow-to-elbow furniture, they've kept it simple with a plush three-seater sofa, and a scattering of arm chairs and antique lamps.
In the main private dining area outside, functional artwork by French brand Ibride, stuffed squirrel lamps by British taxidermist-turned-artist Alex Randall, and a portrait of Lord Oxwell - a playful personification of the brand - keep things quirky.
"Restaurants these days are all about squeezing people in, which made us want all the more to create a big, spacious area for people to mingle," she adds.
The Powder Room / The Black Swan
19 Cecil Street
Tel 8181 3305
Hours: 5pm-1am (Tue-Thu) 5pm-2am (Fri-Sat)
IF you thought 1920s art deco restaurant The Black Swan couldn't get any more glamorous, it just did.
For the 130-seater establishment just launched The Powder Room, a 70-seater and even sexier sister bar sequestered away on the building's 1,800 sq ft mezzanine floor. Entrance to the latter is via a flight of narrow, concrete stairs by the far back corner of The Black Swan.
According to Lo & Behold Group's Wee Teng Wen, the original plan was only to lease the ground floor of The Quadrant, a 1930s colonial building and former headquarters of the Kwangtung Provincial Bank, for The Black Swan. But when the adjoining mezzanine floor later became available, "we couldn't help but fall in love with it".
"The low-ceiling space is more intimate, lending itself to a natural extension of the restaurant and bar downstairs," he explains.
The name is a reference to the private rooms used by ladies in the 1920s to preen themselves in, and was chosen for its association with the notion of beauty, glamour and sex appeal.
But while the two spaces have distinct names, they are not separate entities, Mr Wee clarifies: "The Powder Room is meant to add to The Black Swan experience rather than divide it."
The ground floor restaurant-bar provides a more communal setting for dining and drinking, but The Powder Room will cater to those looking for a more intimate nook to knock back a few, and provide more generous standing room space for larger groups of drinkers looking to mingle.
Patterned window grills keep the two spaces separate, yet still visually connected. And despite the bar's feminine name, low-hanging lights and patterned sofas give the space a broody, almost masculine vibe. All of the furniture and fittings were custom-built for the space, according to interior designers Takenouchi Webb.
Food-wise, The Powder Room currently serves the same beverage and bar snack menu as The Black Swan, including oysters, charcuterie and crostini platters, and a range of sliders with fillings such as soft shell crab, 36-hour pulled duck and grilled beef with foie gras. Czech bar manager Kamil Foltan is the mastermind behind the cocktail list, which works in clever twists on classics such as the Moral Hazard, an apricot and chocolate-tinged take on the Old-Fashioned, or the Silver Lining, a fruity muddle of amaretto, peach and dark cherry flavours, and a sure-fire hit among the ladies. Cocktails average $19 and bar snacks start from $9.
Resident and guest DJs will take the decks on weekend evenings, but if you prefer things a little more intimate, a private room in the building's former basement vault seats 12.
Says Mr Wee: "The Black Swan refers to a financial term which describes an unexpected event almost impossible to predict; to this end, we hope to be an anomaly in the CBD by injecting fresh glamour and life into the district while paying tribute to the building's architectural history."
While the den doesn't have its own designated bar, food and drinks can be ordered from Oxwell and Co, located just one floor below. The restaurant-bar launched its full dining menu earlier this week, serving up British comfort food such as salads, soups and steaks, all fashioned with a modern twist by British consulting chef, Mark Sargeant. Signature tipples from the bar include nutmeg-distilled gin and tonic and sangria on tap.
A coffee and pastry service for the breakfast crowds was launched earlier this month too, and a quintessentially British Sunday roast will be introduced in the coming weeks, says Ms Pasley.
Alternatively, a bespoke menu can also be arranged for all private room bookings, which require a minimum spend of $3,500.
The hidden lounge was designed as "a surprise element for people who book the private dining room, as opposed to something we wanted to intentionally hide from the world", she adds.