SINGAPORE (Feb 21): Foodies will agree – there are many ways to ruin a classic fish and chips. This quintessentially British dish of a beer-battered fish (usually cod), chips and a side of tartar sauce is easy to mess up – whether it’s with a piece of notso-fresh fish, greasy batter, soggy chips or substituting a side of mayonnaise for tartar sauce.
The good news is, the newly-reopened Scruffy Murphy’s at Pasir Panjang does none of those things. In fact, the popular Irish pub is back and ready to take on a whole new niche of neighbourhood pubs that feel friendly, scruffy (as the name suggests) and cosy. It’s doing so by sticking to what it does best: good beers and good food.
Scruffy Murphy’s first opened in East Coast Park back in 2005, as the sister outlet of Muddy Murphy’s Irish Pub (which opened its doors at the then Orchard Hotel Shopping Arcade in 1996). Like the main outlet, Scruffy Murphy’s was also a firm favourite with both the locals and the expat community. But in 2012, the outlet closed when the area was earmarked for redevelopment. They were invited to re-open but the owners declined and the brand was put on hiatus.
Fast forward to 2019 and Muddy Murphy Holdings’ director Bjorn Seegers settled on the Pasir Panjang as the place to revive the Scruffy Murphy’s, which now occupies a cosy 1,600 sq feet of space along South Buona Vista Road. However, the pub is not trying to differentiate itself from Muddy Murphy’s – it’s all part of the family, says Seegers.
“The whole principle behind what we tell our staff is that, this is the Murphy’s clan; it’s family, and that’s the essence of a good Irish pub. I know Irish pubs are not exceptionally exciting,” he jokes. “They’re a bit vanilla, right? But I believe we do it well, and we believe there is a gap in the market to revive the brand. The kudos is when we see an Irish guy walk in and British people [eating and drinking] alongside locals.”
What makes Scruffy’s special is its very own nitrogen beer tap system, on which they feature 10 different international beers on tap served at sub-zero temperatures, including Guinness, Kilkenny, Magners, Heineken and new favourite: Peroni, an Italian lager. On tap is also the Brooklyn IPA, and the Old Speckled Hen pale ale – both which are not so easily found in Singapore and my personal favourites. Ice-cold beers are not the only thing they’ve got right.
We sampled the Fish & Chips ($22 nett), which was more than up to scratch with fresh red snapper in ale batter, straight cut thick chips, homemade mushy peas done right and tartar sauce. The choice of red snapper over the more conventional cod was a deliberate one, said Seegers. Cod, being imported, is particularly difficult to get fresh – it usually comes frozen, and for Seegers, that means making compromises on freshness. The choice has paid off, and the red snapper fish is tender, perfectly cooked and covered in crispy batter. No mess-ups here.
Also on the menu is the Beef & Guinness Pie ($17 nett), a wonderfully comforting dish of slow-cooked beef in homemade Guinness gravy, with carrots, celery and onions, topped off with a ‘lid’ of flaky puff pastry. If it’s raining outside and you’ve had a bad day, comfort food doesn’t come better than this (with a beer, of course). If you’re looking for a quick snack, then try the HJK Wings ($15 nett) – chicken wings marinated in prawn paste and served with sweet chili sauce on the side. It goes particularly well with a pint of Brooklyn IPA (just saying).
Also available is Spicy Chicken Drumlets ($12 nett), a good serving of good ol’ spicy chicken drumlets that is done well, and also perfect with beer. No surprises here, just good fried chicken. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, we recommend the Apple Crumble ($13 nett), a heaped serving of homemade oatmeal crumble atop tart and sweet Granny Smith apples, which are cooked in triple sec liqueur. It also comes with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.Once again, just a really simple classic, done really well. Scruffy Murphy’s may not be too clever or boundary-breaking but that is perfectly okay. Sometimes, all we need is a cold pint and some good pub grub, and you really can’t go wrong with a place like this.