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The bar at Telok Ayer Arts Club.

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Sue-Shan Quek, director of The Supermarket Company.

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Listening lounge, Maduro.

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Left: Private den, Maduro. Right: Peter Ng, director of Maduro.

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The food menu, Drunken Farmer.

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Left: Table setting, Drunken Farmer. Right: Phillipe Chin, operations and wine manager of Drunken Farmer.

New bars which go beyond cocktails

Forget hipster bars. Meet three passionate bar owners who put their own spin on the drinking experience.
Jun 7, 2019 5:50 AM

Telok Ayer Arts Club

When Sue-Shan Quek, director of The Supermarket Company, launched Telok Ayer Arts Club, she meant to redefine the way Singaporeans consumed the arts, quite literally. ''We want to change the way many educated Singaporeans think about the arts. It's not an alternative route for those who can't make it academically, but, rather, a personal choice where commitment and professional qualifications are key,'' explains Ms Quek.

The founding team consists of curators Anmari Van Nieuwenhove (SPRMRKT and Singapore Art Museum) and Kamiliah Bahdar (National Museum of Singapore, Galerie Steph) and music director Hasnor Sidik (W Hotels, The Lo & Behold Group), as well as head chef Bertram Leong and former beverage manager Din Hassan leading the F&B direction.

While the local arts scene is buzzing with online sites like Plural Art Mag and So-Far and the contemporary art fair, SEA Focus, many still see the arts as somewhat inaccessible. Telok Ayer Arts Club wants to make art relatable, with a focus on homegrown and regional talents, including Singaporeans Ruben Pang and Jason Lim.

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''It wouldn't have made sense for us to be in a gallery, which is perceived to be only for a certain group of people,'' says Ms Quek. ''I want to bring people together - with food, drinks, arts and music.''

Ms Quek has always had a love for the arts, given her bachelor's degree in art from University of Roehampton and graphic design from Parsons. But it was only after launching SPRMRKT with chef-owner Joseph Yeo in 2012 did she realise that she wanted to work in and with the arts. Like sister restaurant SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar at STPI, it doubles as a gallery and platform for artists to display and sell their pieces, along with a strong F&B menu; a winning combination that makes art relatable to a wider audience.

Such qualities are the foundation of Telok Ayer Arts Club, which is more than just a well-designed space with food and drinks. Every step you take within the arts club is curated for a seamless immersion. Artists are invited for residencies, where guests can watch up-close or engage in conversation while sipping on a seasonal cocktail created with the exhibition in mind. ''People need to take a more active role in promoting and supporting the arts, and Telok Ayer Arts Club is my way of leading by example,'' says Ms Quek.

2 McCallum Street. Tel: 6221 0712


Maduro

At 63, Peter Ng isn't what you expect of a first time F&B operator. But that hasn't stopped him from putting his all into Maduro, a new listening lounge and bar in Dempsey that's dedicated to classical music and supporting the careers of musicians.

Mr Ng made his name in real estate, selling luxury properties in London - such as Kensington Green - and Hong Kong to Singapore's elites. Long-time friends, however, remember him as the piano maestro jazzing up Tiara Supper Club at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, or the Westin's Palm Grill with his repertoire of love songs and Broadway tunes.

Having never completed 'A' Levels, music was a viable source of income. But his constant worry about job security led him to give up his first love to become a real estate broker in 1993 over in London.

It was never in his plans to open something like Maduro until by chance, he was dining at the French bistro Atout in Dempsey. He was taken by how the greenery reminded him of the English countryside, and when he was offered the former whisky bar space above Atout, he snapped it up without a second thought. ''I am in a good place now and have time to pursue some of life's missed opportunitiesand indulgences,'' explains Mr Ng.

He was partly inspired by his former mentor Boris Kraljevic - a Montenegrin pianist who reminded him that the discipline of classical music shaped him into the success he is today; and jazz pianist Tan Wei Xiang - a musician he wanted to support.

Hence, the listening lounge concept, where you can nurse your favourite tipple while listening to homegrown talents tickle the ivories. Mr Ng, who has always been actively donating pianos to gifted yet underprivileged children, believes that Maduro can help musicians grow.

''We are supporting them with a base remuneration and are prepared to share profits with them.''

Tan is slated to perform on Tuesdays, along with budding musicians from LASALLE College of the Arts to give them an opportunity to perform before a live audience, as well as rub shoulders with the likes of Audrey Tengkey and Alemay Fernandez. It's all about giving them the tools and environment to do what they love, says Mr Ng. ''I want to encourage them to have aspirations and pursue their passions.''

40C Harding Road. Tel: 6950 5855


Drunken Farmer

Also in Dempsey, Drunken Farmer is beautifully sited amidst lush greenery, in a setting that befits Phillipe Chin's down-toearth mecca of natural wines.

The operations and wine manager for Spa Esprit Group's concept singlehandedly gathered the 90 labels of natural wine - white, red, orange and rose - such as L'anglore and Yvon Metras, but the Canadian-Chinese wasn't initially a fan of the stuff.

Until he had a sip of Marcel Lapierre, a pioneer of natural wines in Beaujolais, at a wine bar in Montreal. ''In all its simplicity, there was so much nuance. At that moment, I knew I had found what I was looking for.''

His newfound appreciation led him to enroll in a six-month, intensive full-time course where he met Etheliya Hananova (co-owner and sommelier at Comice, Paris) and Laura Vidal (sommelier at La Mercerie, Marseille). It was the latter who introduced him to Spa Esprit's Cynthia Chua, who wanted him to create a pop-up concept for natural wines.

''I'm more of a rebel; I had no intention of working for a company. But Cynthia convinced me (to move to Singapore). She wanted to change the way we eat, for the better and I wanted to change the way we drink, for the better.''

Natural wines go through very little treatment or manipulation (no chemical additives or preservatives) and are environmentally responsible. ''When we consume, we vote. I want more people to choose organic, and support the working farmers and winegrowers trying to make a difference to the planet,'' enthuses Mr Chin.

Which is why Drunken Farmer is presented as a place to host a community of wine lovers rather than just a run-ofthe-mill wine bar. There are also plans to host classes and tasting groups to further accentuate the au naturale experience - all in its fittingly back-to-nature surroundings.

130E Minden Road. Tel: 6877 4881