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Bar review: The Cufflink Club and The Vault are two bars to test drive this month

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Joel Fraser heads The Cufflink Club

The Cufflink Club

6 Jiak Chuan Road

9693 9624 | thecufflinkclub.com

 

Who Drinks There:

Everyone, if Joel Fraser had his way: from city types to sophisticates, from bright young things to the well-heeled; couples and parties.

Best Thing About It:

Perhaps the gorgeous Joel himself, the debonair mixologist who left Dempsey’s The Tippling Club to do his own thing here in Chinatown. With the help of Aussie friend and bartender Tim Barnes (aka Rusty) and a small but sterling team, service is swift and masterly, but also warm and personal.

“We’re not precious here,” says Joel. “It’s not about us and our skills: it’s about your experience.” Though cocktail-centric, they offer an interesting selection of beer, wine, champagne, sake and spirits.

The location’s über-cool, of course, just a couple of doors down from Jason Atherton’s Esquina, and the décor a nice balance between comfort and sophistication. Take a look inside the bar.

Signature Drinks:

From his Digitally Remastered list – and I bet Joel suggests it to all the journos – I try For Whom the Bell Tolls ($21). Garnished with a paper aeroplane made from an actual page from the novel, it’s an elegant take on the classic Hemingway daiquiri. “The thinking woman’s drink,” he adds, shamelessly.

His version of the gin martini is The King is Back ($22): Beefeater’s gin, the wonderfully floral Dolin vermouth, lemon oil and an olive skewered onto a pipette from which you can add a little more vermouth if the spirit so moves you.

From Off The Cuff, a short list of original creations by Joel, we try Cuppa Joe ($18): a simple shot of vodka with superb espresso from Oriole and a little sugar, served in a paper cup… a good one for the morning after, too.

We’re instant converts to Joel’s favourite tropical thirst-quencher Aperol and Soda ($12.50); zinging with blood orange and way more delicious than bitter old Campari.

Nibbles:

From a list of charcuterie, cheese and antipasto garnished with chutney – Branston pickle, no less – cornichons and crackers, we try the Parma ham ($18 for 50g), the saucisson sec or dried sausage ($8 for 50g), some fabulous cheese ($8 for 40g), and exquisite marinated olives ($6.50) sourced from Italian Food and Wine, says Joel, just around the corner at 48 Craig Road. (Note: they sell Aperol, too.)

When to Go:

Soon. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 5pm to 1am.

Verne Maree

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The Vault

237 South Bridge Road

6222 5001 | thevault.com.sg

Who drinks there:

A hop, skip and jump from the city; after work there’s a good mix of local and expat professionals. Upstairs, open from 7pm, large groups kick back on comfortable leather sofas, sharing food on large coffee tables. I’m told that on Friday and Saturday nights it’s standing room only. Others group around high tables near the sophisticated bar. Downstairs, the bistro offers food and there are good drink specials during Vault Hour (11.30am to 5pm). With no admittance to under-23s, it’s a mature, well-dressed crowd.

Best thing about it:

Formerly the OCBC Bank, the 1930s building underwent a big renovation but has retained its original structure. The bar upstairs is the standout: three large rooms, high ceilings and exposed brick walls adorned with art that is changed regularly. It feels a lot like a SoHo loft, until you look out the window for an excellent view of colourful Sri Mariamman Temple (that’s your landmark to find the place). The Vault is the brainchild of Godwin Pereira and Ross Glasscoe, who have high hopes for their first independent venture together. The original vault door, weighing about three tonnes, was relocated to become a showpiece front door. A refreshing change is to find all prices on the menu are net, inclusive of tax and service charges.

Signature Drinks:

Wine drinkers ourselves, we notice from the menu that bottled beers (including Corona, Asahi and Kronenourg, $12) and pints are $12 during Happy Hour, which is a very generous 5pm to 9pm. There are five solid wines by the bottle – the New Zealand Rockpool Pinot Gris ($80) is particularly good – and house wine is available by the glass. The drinks, however, take a back seat to the atmosphere and edgy music.

Nibbles and Noshes:

The kitchen is open from 11.30am right through to 1.30am and the no-fuss menu has something to suit everyone. Slices of grilled beef with a rocket salad ($18) are melt-in-the-mouth tender, but I talk so much that my salad-hating, carnivorous companion snags all the meat. Pasta carbonara ($16) is standard drinking fodder and the Cajun chicken pizza ($22) is cheesy and tasty.

When to go:

Wednesdays are Ladies’ Nights with $8 martinis. Other weeknight specials attract lawyers, media types and bankers, and the creative crowd descends on Saturdays. We’ll definitely be back!

Katie Roberts

 

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