The idea of intentionally making restaurants and bars hard to find may seem counter-intuitive, but surprisingly, it works for some F&B outlets. Speakeasy eateries have become more commonplace in Singapore, with these hidden locations boasting nondescript entrances that are often overlooked by those who are not actively seeking them out.
Speakeasies originated from historical times, and were illicit bars and clubs where alcoholic beverages would be sold illegally. They venues would be kept a secret in order for them to avoid detection from law enforcement.
Not to worry though, for speakeasy bars and restaurants today are completely legal, yet still possess the allure and mystery of speakeasies back then, with their low-key appearances and creatively disguised entrances.
Here are 10 speakeasy restaurants and bars to discover in Singapore.
1. Mama Diam
On the surface, Mama Diam, located along Prinsep Street, presents the appearance of a nostalgic mama shop from the olden days, complete with old-school snacks and classic vintage tables and chairs.
However, pushing aside a “magazine stand” in the mama shop leads you into a modern and dimly lit dining space, which includes a bar and plenty of seats.
Mama Diam doesn’t just serve any regular dishes and drinks. Their offerings infuse elements of Singaporean culture and heritage, and put modern twists on iconic local flavours.
The food at Mama Diam is incredibly inventive, with super unique and creative dishes that blew me away. The Chicken Curry KPT with Coconut Foam (S$18++) put an exciting and fragrant twist on the traditional kueh pie tee, while the Tempura Otah (S$13++), consisting of deep fried otah pieces and truffle aioli, wow-ed me with its aromatic spices and creaminess.
Mama Diam also has enticing Asian-fusion dishes, such as the Laksa Chee Cheong Fun (S$16++), Lor Ark Ramen (S$20++), a ramen bowl containing braised duck leg, bak choy and tofu puffs, and the Soft Shell Crab Bao (S$22++) a unique take on the local favourite chilli crab.
My top pick was the Cold Truffle Mien (S$25), which is an angel hair pasta dish made with ikura, caviar, black truffle paste, shio kombu and pan seared scallops.
I fell in love with Mama Diam’s Emperor Herbal Chicken Poached Rice (S$20++), served with a pan seared chicken thigh, seasoned rice, puffed wild rice, fried egg floss and completed with herbal chicken broth. If you like strong herbal flavours, this one is for you!
Feast your eyes on the Pork Ribs on Fire! (S$15++), which is set on fire right at your table. The beautiful creation contained a sweet marmite glaze and a Martell Noblige flambé, giving it a rich and dark taste.
Mama Diam’s drinks do not disappoint either, with most of them being inspired by local flavours. Grab one of their alcoholic cocktails, like Run Fast, Ride Slow (S$22++), a drink made with Roku Gin, jasmine tea, and grapes, that pays tribute to rickshaw pullers of the yesteryears, or Pink Limau (S$20++), an alcoholic take on bandung.
I loved the Chai Tarik Brew (S$18++), a butterscotch milk tea laced with naked malt whisky, which was presented in a nostalgic OKI beverage creamer can. If you don’t drink, Mama Diam has a wide range of non-alcoholic mocktails too, like Juicy Ribena (S$14++) and the Pandan Colada Fizz (S$14++).
I couldn’t resist trying the Milo Gao Shots (S$38++ for a tray of 6), which was potent yet sweet and chocolatey. Who would’ve imagined that I’d celebrate entering my adulthood with alcoholic shots of my favourite childhood drink?
2. Corduroy Palace
Corduroy Palace is hidden in the back alley of Gemmill Lane, behind Proper Slice BYGB. The nondescript entrance is easy to miss, with only a single red tarp donning the number “110” giving away its existence. Stepping into the space, however, reveals a midcentury, midtown New York-themed dining room furnished with romantic warm lighting and upscale interior decor.
Corduroy Palace’s menu consists of luxurious Western dishes, with a designated Lunch and Dinner menu. Start your meal with their Steak Tartare (S$40++), a creamy and flavourful starter served with crispy chips, or other options like the Xiao Long Bao (S$50++) and Octopus from Spain (S$25++).
I couldn’t get enough of the Caprese Burrata Salad (S$30++), containing a ball of burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes, basil and pesto — this dish was so fresh, with the sweet and juicy tomatoes elevating the creaminess of the cheese.
You have to get Gibran’s Famous French Dip Sandwich (S$28++), served with spicy horseradish and au jus. The bread used was chewy and fragrant, and I was obsessed with the sweet yet umami notes of the jus.
How about trying out some pizzas from Corduroy Palace’s famous sister restaurant, Proper Slice BYGB? Their enormous 18″ Proper Pizzas (S$35++ / S$45++) are available for order, with various topping combinations to choose from.
Corduroy Palace’s most famous dish is the CP Fried Chicken & Gravy with Biscuits (S$37++), consisting of fried chicken tenders and 2 buttery biscuits. I loved how dense the biscuits were, and the gravy was a welcome addition to the savoury dish — I do wish that the chicken tenders were crispier, though.
Of course, no speakeasy is complete without a nice range of alcohol. The cocktails at Corduroy Palace were potent yet flavourful — select from drinks like Penicillin (S$25++), made with whiskey, ginger honey, lemon and peated scotch, the Espresso Martini (S$25++), which combines coffee rum, coconut espresso, Mr Black Amaro and coffee liqueur, and Red Hook (S$25++), a scarlet cocktail containing rhye, punt e mes, dry vermouth and maraschino liqueur.
3. The Bank
Have you ever passed an odd ATM that looked out-of-place while walking around Craig Road? Well, that’s because it’s not really an ATM, but the entrance to The Bank. No, not a literal bank, but a burger bar hidden behind an inconspicuous sliding door.
Though this burger bar’s storefront is easy to miss, with the only notification of its existence being the neon sign stuck on its plain white walls, stepping into this literal hidden gem unveils a super aesthetic 80s-themed diner.
The Bank’s menu consists of thick American-style burgers, sides and creamy milkshakes. My favourite dish was the Chicken Burger, which costs S$18++ for a single and S$26++ for a double. It consisted of fried secret herb blend buttermilk chicken, melted American cheese and a choice of either spicy coleslaw or bacon and herb aoili for the topping.
Beef lovers should go for the good ol’ Signature Cheeseburger (S$18.80++ for single, S$26.80++ for double), filled with a hand-butchered and pressed 100% prime angus beef patty, melted American cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and house-made sauce. The Bank’s Signature Cheeseburger tasted like a classic beef cheeseburger with all the meatiness and cheesiness. Given how thick the beef patties were, especially since I’d gotten a double, I thought that it could have used a little more sauce to better balance out the flavours.
4. The Dragon Chamber
The Dragon Chamber has a pretty inconspicuous appearance at first — this Chinese restaurant is hidden behind a freezer door within a colourful kopitiam. Don’t expect just any ordinary Chinese dishes here, though, for The Dragon Chamber’s main selling point is its incredibly adventurous and often unheard-of dishes.
The Dragon Chamber pushes its diners’ comfort zone with ingredients that may surprise you. For instance, their signature Dragon Claw (S$66++) is a braised crocodile foot served on a bed of kale — that’s right, crocodile. That’s not the only crocodile-based dish they offer though. The D*** Soup (S$30++) contains chicken and pork based herbal soup boiled for 6 hours with a crocodile penis, in case your boyfriend’s genitalia isn’t enough to satisfy you.
For dishes made with more conventional ingredients, try the Firecracker Chicken and Maple Fritters (S$18++ for Small, S$32++ for Large), a zhng-ed up version of la zi ji, or the Wagyu Truffle Beef Hor Fun (S$32++ for Small, S$60 for Large), served with premium US Wagyu shortrib.
5. Ume San 100
Beyond a facade of brightly lit, retro vending machines in Fortune Centre lies Ume San 100. Push the most inconspicuous hanbaiki in the row and you’ll uncover what houses one of the largest collections of umeshu in Singapore.
On a mission to whisk you away to the +81, Ume San 100 sports an interior reminiscent of a Japanese izakaya with vintage and retro decor.
Ume San 100 presents a modern and captivating bar experience with their reimagined cocktail drinks that are both imaginative and Insta-worthy.
Their ethereal Sea Garden (S$22++) is made with a gin blend of Plymouth and Genever, lime acid, prosecco and butterfly pea flower. The addition of edible fairy dust makes the already beautiful galaxy-coloured drink twinkle in the most mesmerising way.
Aside from drinks, Ume San 100 offers mesmerising mains and sides. This Uni is the Bomb (S$14++ for 2 pcs) is pure bliss, with a molten uni cream that oozes out the moment you take a bite. There are also izakaya classics like their Garlic Chicken Karage (S$16++) and Spicy Tuna Kobachi (S$16++) to settle those hunger pangs.
Their mains, on the other hand, contain an enticing selection of ramen and rice-based dishes, with options like the Signature Nagoya Dry Prawn Ramen (S$20++), Angry Asari Soup Ramen (S$16++) and Wagyu is the New Black Chahan (S$22++).
MoboMoga is a literal hole-in-the-wall izakaya. This sake bar in Robertson Quay has a rather diminutive entrance — you may need to crouch down in order to fit through its small, Alice in Wonderland-like door. MoboMoga also gives off a mysterious vibe, with a single red light illuminating its entrance.
MoboMoga is the perfect spot if you’re a huge fan of Japanese cuisine. Dig into sashimi dishes like the Assorted Sashimi 5 Kinds (S$34++), which comes with 5 different types of seafood, or grab one of the appetisers, including the Bruschetta w/ Crab Miso Ricotta Cheese (S$12++) and Beef Tongue Shabu-Shabu (S$24++). They also have mains like a Sea Bream Rice Gratin (S$28++) and Seafood Sushi Roll (S$30++).
Of course, you’ll also be able to indulge in Japanese alcohol. How about some Suntory Kaku Whisky 700ml for S$145++, or Asatsuyu (White Wine) for S$280++?
7. The Hidden Story
True to its name, The Hidden Story really is hidden — you’ll find this speakeasy bar in the Katong area, accessible through Stirling Steaks‘ freezer door.
The Hidden Story pays homage to the illicit bars that existed during America’s prohibition era, complete with nostalgic vintage furniture and a cozy, welcoming ambience.
The Hidden Story’s cocktails are a must-try, with their creations being inspired by olden Singapore. For instance, Kampong Amber (S$24++), made with dry gin, Dolin Blanc, cointreau and absinthe, is inspired by a Malay kampong that existed between East Coast Road and Amber Road in the 1940s and 1950s.
Peranakan Enclave (S$22++), on the other hand, infuses the flavours of rose and lychee in a tribute to the beautiful colours and intricate motifs of the Peranakan culture.
8. Taylor Adam
Taylor Adam in Raffles Place may present itself as an antique tailor shop straight out of the 50s, but don’t bring your garments here with the expectation of getting fitted — you’ll find yourself within a classy speakeasy bar with a huge range of Asian-inspired cocktails.
Their signature Waddling to Taipei (S$25++) uniquely combines smoked duck fatwash whisky with oolong tea, port wine, and whiskey barrel-aged bitters, for those looking for an exotic drink. How about challenging your taste buds with Wabi-Sabi (S$25++), made with actual wasabi?
If you’re a fan of floral and fruity flavours, Becky’s Orchard (S$25++) is the way to go, as it is made with butterfly pea flowers, rose flowers, chamomile flowers, juniper berries, Turkish apple tea, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice.
Bincho is an izakaya unlike any other. This hidden bar shares a space with a 90-year-old noodle house, which serves noodles by day, and transforms into a grungy speakeasy bar by night. The neon lighting of Bincho gives off the futuristic vibes of a cyberpunk, dystopian alleyway.
Bincho is helmed by a Japanese chef with over 23 years of experience who grills his food over white charcoal, giving it a distinct and tantalising smoky essence.
Dig into Bincho’s Yakitori dishes, featuring different cuts of chicken, like the Thigh (S$16++), Neck (S$24++), Liver (S$8++) and even the Cocks Comb (S$8++). The Tsukune (S$24++) is one of their must-try dishes, consisting of chicken thigh, a delicate tare glaze and an egg yolk.
For the most exquisite experience, opt for Bincho’s Samurai Set (S$178++), a dinner-only premium yakitori set that shows off the kitchen’s and season’s best.
Of course, Bincho offers Japanese-centric alcoholic drinks too, like the Revenge of Kabuki Actor (S$26++) cocktail, made with salted ume whisky, sake, citrus and togarashi, as well as a range of premium sakes like the Yamawa Junmai Daiginjo and the Jozen Plus Age Mizunara Oak Reserve 2018 Junmai Daiginjo.
10. The Secret Mermaid
The Secret Mermaid is a hidden cocktail bar located in the heart of Raffles Place. Bearing a nondescript appearance, you may easily walk past it without even noticing that it is there. However, those who wander in will be whisked away to a sophisticated bar offering one of Singapore’s largest selection of American craft spirits.
Take a sip from a variety of tarot-inspired cocktails, like The Devil (S$23++), made with tequila, cointreau, blood orange, hibiscus and soda, and The Moon (S$24++), which combines moonshine, pomelo, coconut cream, lime and Thai chilli reduction.
Aside from alcohol, enjoy a bite of their predominantly seafood menu, with dishes such as the Sushi Donut (S$22++), Mermaid Maki (S$18++) and Salmon Mantou (S$14++).
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