With borders reopening this year, Singapore’s tourism industry can finally breathe again, and no one could be more thrilled than Colin Chia, founder of homegrown bar Nutmeg & Clove.
Since its move last year from drinking enclave Ann Siang Hill to Purvis Street, the bar has had to endure constantly changing dine-in restrictions amongst other strict government mandates which have greatly affected business.
One reason for the move to the Bugis district was that watering holes operating solely under a bar licence were forced to remain shut for the greater part of 2020. And because Nutmeg & Clove didn’t have a kitchen at its Ann Siang address (where it spent six glorious years), it had to relocate in order to obtain a restaurant licence for business to resume.
Re-opened in January 2021, Nutmeg & Clove — currently 32 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars — now has a working kitchen managed by sous chef Newein Dakota who worked with Chia to devise a sumptuous menu that pays homage to Singapore’s rich history, featuring innovative renditions of classic local dishes. Chia also hired a brand new team of service crew led by bar manager Shelley Tai, formerly of Quinary in Hong Kong and the Diageo World Class HK & Macau Bartender of the Year 2019.
Unlike its former premises which took on a chinoiserie design, this 60-seater establishment sports bright and airy colonial interiors with a laidback café-like vibe. With fine dining neighbours Salted & Hung, Garibaldi’s and Gunter’s, coupled with a lack of competition from other cocktail bars, Nutmeg & Clove is in a prime position to enjoy more success in the months to come.
Its latest menu, “Flavours & Memories Volume 6: The Cocktail Diaries”, features 10 new and original locally-themed cocktails inspired by a traveller’s account of visiting Singapore. Even the menu itself is designed to look like a photo-filled travel journal.
“Our latest menu reveals stories and little known facts about the country — for example, how Singapore has changed time zones six times in the last 100 years before arriving at the current one, and how eating chewing gum and smoking shisha are officially banned here. We hope that through our new creations, guests will learn more about the country’s history and culture, and be inspired to explore the city with a renewed perspective,” shares Chia.
If you only have time for one cocktail, our choice pick is the Can Bubble Gum? ($24++) — a reminder of Singapore’s chewing gum ban in 1992. This pretty-in-pink drink looks easy-breezy but it really packs a punch with cigar smokiness by mixing Cordigo Mezcal, strawberry, lemon, distilled tabasco and bubble gum air.
Another favourite is Michael Jackson’s Punch ($24++) — inspired by chin chao (soy milk mixed with grass jelly) — expertly reinvented using Roku Gin, Fernet Branca, Braulio and clarified soy milk. Even if it doesn’t look like the traditional drink, it really does taste like it!
For something a little more straightforward and a great first drink, we recommend starting with the Garden City ($24++) which pays tribute to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. A light and refreshing tipple, this herbaceous concoction is made with Hendrick’s Gin infused with Musk Melon, shiso, Empirical Spirit Ayuuk, lime and honey.
To end the night, gulp down a hard-hitting K-Tea-V ($24++) made with Monkey Shoulder blended Malt Scotch Whiskey infused with absinthe, green barley, matcha and creme de cacao — a sophisticated version of the iconic whiskey and green tea pairing often served at local KTVs.
While Nutmeg & Clove is known for its modern Singaporean cocktails and casual, fun atmosphere, its locally-inspired cuisine is fast gaining recognition too. On the food menu, every other dish is a nod to Singapore’s local hawker scene or Chia’s cherished family recipes. He’s most proud of the SG Scotch Egg ($18++) inspired by the traditional Hainanese steam pork dish. In this rendition, a hard-boiled egg is encased in a moreish mix of minced kurobuta pork, radish and lap cheong and served with achar.
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For smaller bites, try the flavourful Otak Otak ($16++) comprising rempah and sea bass wrapped in banana leaf, and Lobster Kueh Pie Tee ($22++) made with sliced Boston lobster and mango passion fruit salsa.
Those with larger appetites will enjoy the Assam + Batang ($28++) spotlighting Spanish mackerel soaked in a creamy assam coconut stew served with Hainanese-inspired garlic toast. Another winner is the Beef Skewers ($32++) comprising juicy and tender grilled Tajima cubes served with Chai’s nasi kuning family recipe, complete with achar.
For those craving something sweet, the Nutmeg & Clove Ice Cream Sandwich ($12++) is a decadent must-have, comprising a generous portion of Michter’s bourbon soaked brownie flanked by two slices of deep-fried Hainanese toast. This goes really well with the butter-in-kopi-O inspiration Lah Leh Meh ($24++) expertly crafted with butter-fat washed Cognac stirred with green coffee-infused dark rum.
Nutmeg & Clove
8 Purvis Street, Singapore 188587
Tel: 9389 9301
Opening hours: Daily 6.00pm to 10.30pm