COL is the kind of achingly hip new restaurant that’s first on your list when heading out with friends for a good time. Ensconced on the first floor of the 1 Keong Saik Road heritage building, this warehouse restaurant is helmed by chef extraordinaire COLIN BUCHAN.
I love surprising my husband on date night with a table at the hot new restaurant in town. COL was the venue of choice for our recent anniversary, and wow, it exceeded all expectation. Moody lighting, delectable food and standout drinks were just the beginning. Impeccable service from knowledgeable staff was topped off by a surprise cake! I’m rushing to get back for another meal, but in the meantime I enjoyed sitting with a negroni at the bar and hearing chef Colin’s vision for this savvy seasonal menu and space.
Tell us about your career and how you found yourself as a chef in the Singapore dining scene.
I moved to Singapore to open Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton’s Pollen. This was my incredible introduction into Asia ten years ago. Previously, I was based in London and fortunate to be working with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay for over ten years. A fun fact not many people know about me is that I was the private chef to David and Victoria Beckham. Interesting times! During my stint in the UK, I also represented Scotland on BBC’s The Great British Menu.
Currently, I’m keeping myself busy as executive chef of both 1880 and COL. The latter is an exciting new partnership between myself and 1880.
What’s the story behind COL?
It’s the realisation of a dream that my wife Sophie and I have had for a long time. We wanted to create a restaurant that was casual but elegant, with a great vibe and (we hope) tasty food. My moniker COLin is the origin of the name.
We were always looking for a warehouse venue over a shophouse, as we felt that a warehouse was more suited to the COL concept. Over dinner one night, one of the owners of Don Ho shared that they were looking for someone to take over their space. We got the ball rolling straight away as the space and the 1 Keong Saik Road location just felt right. The Working Capitol building was a former biscuit factory warehouse, so the venue fit our criteria nicely. The rest is history – and here we are today.
The restaurant has an industrial chic warehouse East London aesthetic. What was the brief when styling the space?
“Cosy yet energetic” was always the vision for COL. After living in London for so long, I wanted to create a space that had the fitout you need for a fine dining restaurant, while making it casual and unpretentious. The East London reference is more about the warehouse vibe – top quality food and drink, and a fun and vibrant team.
The design is industrial, featuring vintage pieces and locally-sourced retro-inspired finishes. Long, built-in U-shaped olive green and deep blue leather banquettes sit proudly on the complementary raw concrete flooring. An eclectic mix of calacatta grey and pink marble and wooden tables are dotted around the room. Dimly lit glass-blown lights are playfully suspended at arbitrary heights above tables. And the table candlelights make people feel good, and look even better.
An open kitchen with a huge marble countertop with mid-century modern pendant lights was a dream for me, and I love that the guests can see us work. It just gives that extra buzz to the dining experience. A beautiful second bar which mirrors the front bar sits grandly at the back. Diners opting for a casual meal and drinks tend to be drawn to this lively back bar.
We’ve intentionally made the music soulful so guests can escape for a few hours and leave feeling more relaxed than when they came!
How would you describe the food, ethos and experience?
We wanted to create a space that we would want to dine at ourselves. COL represents a new style of simple, accessible and yet sophisticated dining where seasonality is key. We’re excited to be part of a new wave of approachable, refined restaurants in Singapore. Finding the sweet spot here and bringing COL to life has been incredible for me, and I see it as the culmination of my culinary journey.
Most of the food comes from the wood-fired grill and oven and we’re choosing to strike a balance somewhere between casual and fine dining. The focus is on using fresh produce and skill to arrive at unstuffy food that’s just plain delicious. COL brings people together over the simple pleasures of good food and drinks in a friendly, lively and relaxed atmosphere.
Highlight some of your key dishes and bestselling plates.
Nduja arancini with muhammara is a winner to start, as is the wood-fired bread, made in-house, served with whipped feta, pistachios, chilli, lemon and coriander. Our beef tartare is a big hit, with the smoked chipotle adding a nice kick to the dish. The hand-dived roasted scallops are delicious with a zesty grapefruit marmalade and seaweed butter. Other highlights include hand-rolled tagliatelle with Scottish mussels and piquant chilli butter, and the saikyo misoroasted cauliflower with garlic pangrattato.
I’ve been told the burger is one of the best in town, but you will have to try it for yourself…
Drinks are a big part of any dining experience. Tell us about your mixologists and your wine and cocktail offerings.
There are two sleek bars to enjoy an aperitif or digestif, and we absolutely encourage people to come for just drinks as well. Our cocktails lean towards classic, and we focus on making them sharp, simple and refined. The effervescent Tash and Haikal run the bar, bringing high energy and serving standout tipples.
Our wines are handpicked and feature three categories: wines that defy expectations from iconic regions, wines that highlight emerging styles with a minimalist approach, and of course old-world wines that represent benchmark regions and styles with a sense of place.
Do you run any cool events at COL?
While we welcome diners over 12 years old, COL is an unashamedly mature dining experience. We thrive on holding adult-only events, including a monthly music series called Fade with live entertainment from DJs and musicians. Our last food and beverage focused event was “Tequila and Oysters” featuring insanely good Código tequila. We recently had a six-hands dinner with No Sleep Club showcasing an international array of gourmet dishes. And Sunday daytime block parties have also returned to 1 Keong Saik Road – our first one kicked off in late April. And we’ve got more awesome events in the works!
Find out more at col.com.sg.
Now you know to head for dinner at 1 Keong Saik Road, check out our handy neighbourhood guide!
This article first appeared in the June 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!