Category Archives: Potato Head

Bar reviews: Potato Head Folk and Loof, Singapore

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…

 

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Indus Colada

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Potato Head Beach Club in Bali make a dreamy, creamy, heavenly cocktail called the Indus Nesos. It’s so good that I can remember the first time I drank it – and that was several years ago. Given that most nights spent in bars end with some kind of memory loss, that’s a hell of a drink.
The 52 Cocktails crew visited the bar recently and foolishly didn’t order one, so this week I thought I’d try making one at home. Then all I’d need is a huge C-shaped structure built out of colourful old window shutters surrounding a vast lawn and swimming pool overlooking the ocean and it would be just like drinking at Potato Head. Easy. Oh, and I’d also need the recipe, and some sunny weather, and a crowd of good-looking people swanning about wouldn’t hurt, either…
Luckily, the menu is on their website and helpfully describes the drink as containing vanilla vodka, vanilla-infused arak (the local rice liquor), apricot brandy, coconut cream and lychee puree, blended and served long. It’s practically a recipe, I thought rather arrogantly as I read it, so, despite not having any arak in the house, it shouldn’t be too hard to re-create. I’ll just double the vanilla vodka content or add some brandy or something. That’ll do.
Well.
What was I saying before about drinking and memory loss? I forget. But I know that a list of ingredients does not a recipe make, and – oh yeah, I remember now – I know that I went out to buy some lychees and forgot to get them, so I had to improvise. Long story short, I used pineapple juice instead of lychee puree and ended up with something that tasted like a cross between an Indus Nesos and a pina colada – not a bad thing at all, though next time I will try making it with the correct ingredients to see if it’s closer to the drink I remember. It’s not very strong but it is a super thick, rich drink – serve it with a spoon so you can scoop the foam up off the top. And if you’re ever in Bali, go to Potato Head and order the real thing so you can compare them!

INDUS COLADA
Serves 4 if you use tumblers, or 2 if you use Collins glasses. I find the coconut cream so rich that I only want a small amount, so I prefer to divide the mix among 4 tumblers.

INGREDIENTS
60ml vanilla vodka (I used Absolut, but if you have a house-infused one, go for it)
45ml apricot brandy (I used a homemade one)
90ml coconut cream
30ml Solerno (a delicious blood orange liqueur; if you can’t get it, use Cointreau)
30ml sugar syrup
5 drops Fee Bros peach bitters
250 ml pineapple juice

GLASS
Tumbler or Collins

METHOD
Chuck everything in a blender with a handful of ice cubes and blend away. Pour into whichever glasses you’re using and sip while pretending you’re somewhere tropical.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
It’s a lot harder than ordering an Indus Nesos at the bar, but at least you don’t have to pay the airfare.

RECIPE BY
This one’s brought to you by the forgetful folk at 52 Cocktails. Who are you again?!

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Bar review: Potato Head, Bali

52 Cocktails is on holiday! Naturally, it’s a working holiday – we’re flat out sampling cocktails in Bali so you’ll know which ones are the best. Yeah, we’re nice like that.

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We tried these beautifully presented concoctions at Potato Head, one of the most architecturally stunning bars on the island. Words won’t do it justice, so take a look at the pics on their website (or better still, go visit.) This place pretty much defines cool, with nattily attired staff, well-written menus, funky furniture that’s been carefully chosen to look like it doesn’t quite match, plenty of space to lounge by (or in) the pool and a brilliant view of the sunset over the sea. We’ve visited many times over the years and it’s as popular as ever, though it must be said the drinks are (sadly) not always as good as we remember them.

A new menu was presented to us this year and, although it contained some old favourites that we were longing to get stuck into, there was no way we were going to pass up the chance to try something new – namely, the Volkano Agung, described as being ‘served in a bubbling volcano bowl’. Yep, a bubbling volcano bowl. Who could resist!? That’s it on the right (kindly forgive us for not capturing the moment actual bubbles were coming out of the central funnel-y bit into the bowl. You’ll just have to believe us when we say it looked really, really ace). And the taste? It was a strong mix of rum and pineapple, heavy on the rum and not as well-balanced or interesting as previous drinks have been here. But hell, it looked good.
In keeping with the Tiki theme, we also tried the Bobobobo (presented in a bamboo cannister – that’s it on the left), a much more interesting mix of rum, pineapple, peach and honey (among other ingredients, such as arak, the local rice liquor) blended with ice to create a thick, chunky, slushie-style drink. It was refreshing and lively, but also frustrating to drink – turns out sucking up ice through a thin straw actually is hard work. No wonder 7-11 provide larger straws with their Slurpees – one of those suckers would have been perfect.

In short, the presentation was excellent, but a lack of attention to detail was the downfall of these drinks. We’d like to say it’s not enough for Potato Head to look cool, and that the drinks need to taste as amazing as the venue looks if they want to keep their customers happy, but judging by the constant stream of bright young things piling in at all hours of the day, perhaps it doesn’t matter. When a place is as buzzing as this one, you’re prepared to forgive their transgressions – which roughly translates to, despite not loving our drinks we decided to order another round.

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This time we tried two more newbies, the Timun Tonic (left) and the Kopi Colada. The Colada was a blend of coffee bean-infused arak, chocolate spread and peanut milk that tasted rather like a chocolate milkshake. Meh. But the Timun Tonic – wow. This long, refreshing mix of lemongrass-infused gin, cucumber syrup and tonic water (with a dash of absinthe and celery bitters for good measure) was a fantastic reminder of why we love drinking at Potato Head: the drinks are (usually) innovative and delicious and worth returning for. Which we did, the next day. The place is like a magnet and we were drawn back for another Timun Tonic – because when you’re onto a good thing, stick to it, right?

Well. From defining cool to defining inconsistency, Potato Head could pretty much start publishing their own dictionary, with the Timun Tonic illustrating the latter. What happened overnight to this amazing drink? How did it go from rave-worthy, crave-worthy, I’ll-take-the-memory-of-this-drink-to-my-grave-worthy to being a fairly flavourless g and t with a bit of cucumber shoved in for garnish? Were the bartenders distracted by their amazing surroundings? Did we simply visit on a bad day? We don’t know, but we do know we’ll probably be back to try just one more drink – maybe an old favourite like the delectable Indus Nesos (a dreamy blend of vanilla vodka, apricot brandy and coconut cream). After all, you can’t quality-control a bar with only two visits…

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