The 52 Cocktails crew is in Singapore, checking out such cultural institutions as rooftop bars, speakeasies and hangover cures. First up – up being the operative word – is rooftop bar Potato Head Folk, and if that name sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it’s an outpost of Indonesia’s super-popular Potato Head (you can read about the one in Bali here). It’s inside a super cool deco building on a road full of well-maintained shophouses near Chinatown – even if you don’t make it inside (sometimes there’s a queue, judging by the door staff and roped-off area on the pavement), it’s a great area for a stroll.
The rooftop bar is up a couple of flights of stairs, the stairwells rather cutely decorated with David Bromley-style artworks. On the way up we pass the ground floor’s burger bar and a retro-themed section of the bar (think vinyl chairs and laminate tables) that looks like fun, but we’re aiming for the top and don’t stop until we get there. There’s a sense of anticipation as we arrive; for years we were fans of Potato Head in Bali and this is our first rooftop bar in a city known for its rooftop bars (if the numerous articles we’ve Googled that led us here in the first place are to be believed). Unfortunately the anticipation is greater than the reality. The view is mostly of the shophouse roofs over the road (not surprising, given we’re not very high up) and the drinks are much like the service and the surroundings themselves: there’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not exciting or memorable either. In fact, the next day I can’t even remember what we drank, and for once that’s not because we drank too much. Indeed, we kept it to one drink each because the prices, unlike the bar, are astronomically high – more than $22 Singapore dollars each. And in a city where you can get dinner for two for $10-$15 Singapore dollars or less, that’s a lot.
There was only one thing to do: find another bar. So the next day we hit Loof, which I was prepared to like based on its name alone; Loof is Singlish (Singaporean English) for ‘roof’. Cute. Despite our fairly bedraggled appearances, owing to the hours we’d spent that day schlepping about in the heat, we were given a warm welcome – you get points for that alone, Loof – and settled in to enjoy the happy hour specials.
Happy hour was something of a misnomer, as it ran for three hours, but hey, I’m not complaining. Not when it meant we could get basic spirits and mixers for less than $8 Singapore dollars a throw – decent value for a place that’s been named Singapore’s best rooftop bar.
The bar itself, with its rows of overlapping wooden shingles reminding me of bird feathers, was as cool as the view, which stretched from the famous Raffles hotel over the road all the way to Marina Bay Sands off in the distance (you can just glimpse it in the pic on the right – it’s the building that looks a bit like cricket stumps).
But hey, we weren’t there to admire the decor – we were there to try the cocktails. Who could resist when they had such pun-tastic names as ‘Honey, dew like whisky’ and ‘Shiso fine’? I tried the Kopi Cat (‘kopi’ translates as ‘coffee’), a mix of salted caramel vodka, kopi, hazelnut, condensed milk and orgeat served in a plastic bag inside an enamel mug. (In Southeast Asia it is very common for street vendors to sell drinks in plastic bags, which miraculously never spring a leak – not even when the customer ties them on to the handlebars of their motorbike and zooms away. In all my trips to Asia I have never been sold a drink in a plastic bag – it seems to be something reserved for locals – and was rather chuffed to finally get one!) The Kopi Cat was a much sweeter, milkier version of an espresso martini and a great way to beat the heat. I confess I couldn’t taste much in the way of salted caramel or orgeat – the overriding sensation was that I was drinking a tricked-up Kahlua and milk – but to be honest, I didn’t care. At $19 Singapore dollars for a cocktail (and cheaper drinks at happy hour), and with friendlier staff and better views, Loof left Potato Head Folk for dead. My only regret was that we had to leave before the sun set – I’m willing to bet the night time views would be worth seeing – but we had important business to attend to: finding another bar…