Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Even in Singapore's volatile nightlife scene, few places change as quickly and frequently as those at Boat Quay. Now though, among the mainstays and the seafood restaurants, a new wave of bars has kicked off a golden age for the iconic belt of shophouses.
At Boat Quay
The Penny Black
The first Boat Quay pub
Designed and built in the United Kingdom – so the story goes – and shipped here piece by piece to be reassembled, The Penny Black has been a reliable drinking point since 1999. The first pub on the strip is the place to go for a perfect pint of Old Speckled Hen ($15), to watch football matches (particularly if you're a Newcastle United fan) and to get an authentic serving of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper ($16).
The Penny Black | Address: 26/27 Boat Quay | Tel: 65382300 | Opening hours: Mon-Thu 11.30am-1am; Fri & Sat 11.30am-2am; Sun 11.30am-midnight
Dallas Restaurant & Bar
For larger-than-life drinks
Another survivor on the stretch (it recently celebrated its sixth birthday), Dallas owes its longevity to a combination of great food – the Alabama pork ribs ($13), Dallas BBQ wings ($13) and Southern burger ($20) – and an excellent selection of drinks. Choose from the sizeable (3L beer towers from $84 and 1L margaritas for $45 each), or the sophisticated (they have 35 wines from $12 a glass, $52 a bottle).
Dallas Restaurant & Bar | Address: 31 Boat Quay | Tel: 65322131 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-midnight; Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-11pm
Charlie's Tapas, Grill & Bar
For Cuban cigars and whiskey
This two-in-one venue has a laidback ground floor where sangria and Latin cocktails ($13 each) flow as you knock back tapas such as crispy baby squid ($10) and pan-seared chorizo ($13). Up on the snazzy upper level called Charlie's Paradiso, the crowd fades away behind Boat Quay's best whiskey line-up (from $13 a glass). And if you enjoy your Cubans, then the 'paradiso' moniker is no exaggeration.
Book a table here | Address: 32 Boat Quay | Opening hours: Mon-Thu & Sun 11am-midnight; Fri & Sat 11am-2am
For a microbrewery with a view
With the original Archipelago Brewery flagship bar going quietly into the night, RedDot is now the only microbrewery in the area. On tap is its familiar stable of English Ale, Summer Ale, Lime Wheat, Weizen, Czech Pilsner, Kolsch and Monster Green Lager, with occasional seasonals such as the Marzen, at some of the cheaper prices in this part of town (from $5 a half-pint).
RedDot BrewHouse | Address: 33/34 Boat Quay | Tel: 65354500 | Opening hours: Mon-Thu noon-midnight; Fri, Sat & eve of public holidays noon-1am
For tequila and mezcales
One of the latest arrivals to Boat Quay (it was barely a month old when HungryGoWhere visited in November 2013), Hombre Cantina is decked out in rustic reclaimed wood and raw concrete. It carries more than 70 different tequilas and mezcales (from $10 a glass) and will be introducing tasting flights so you can acquaint your senses with samples of drinks in a manner that doesn't involve knocking back shot glasses. There are cocktails too, from margarita variations to dessert drinks (from $13). Of course, being a Mexican joint, tacos and burritos (from $15) are available, customised with your choice of meat, cheese, salsa, rice, beans and sauce.
Hombre Cantina | Address: 53 Boat Quay | Tel: 64386708 | Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-midnight
For happy hours and pub grub
This Tube-themed bar is known for its Reverse Happy Hour where you get 10 per cent off draught beers (from usual price of $7.60 a half-pint), house wines (from $9 a glass), house spirits (from $8 a glass) and selected bottled beers (from $9) after 9.30pm. It also does excellent modern pub grub (mains from $15) and value-for-money set lunches (from $14). It's also worth noting that there are no taxes or service charge. Suitably, this place is the home ground for the Singapore Spurs Supporters' Club who meet here every Tottenham game day.
London | Address: 55 Boat Quay | Tel: 65352273 | Opening hours: Mon 5pm-11pm; Tue-Wed noon-11pm; Thu & Fri noon-1am; Sat 10am-1am; Sun 10am-11pm
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall
For bespoke cocktails and vintage decor
Located in the space that previously housed Homebodies, 10 Feet Up by Absinthe Artisan, Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall just might be the place that lasts in this unit. Run by Sam Wong (formerly of Orgo, Jigger & Pony) the bar tips a hat to Singapore's past and present with touches such as vintage glassware, hawker centre drink container punch bowls (good for 15 to 18 drinks, from $180), Milo-infused rye ($20 a glass) and cocktails such as the rum-based chendol-inspired Beaded Slippers ($20). About the name: it is a play on the venue's licensing, which legally states that it is a "cold drink stall".
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall | Address: 60A Boat Quay | Tel: 65350838 | Opening hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-midnight; Fri & Sat 6pm-3am
The Spiffy Dapper
For cocktails wtih house-made ingredients
A brief visit to Spiffy's Facebook page will tell you all you need to know about the personality of its staff members and regulars: a sense of humour that is at once irreverent and self-deprecating, and a dedication to mind-blowing cocktails (most available at $20 nett). Like an alchemist's lab, the shelves are lined with fruit curing in bottles and spirits being infused with hibiscus, Earl Grey tea, rose and more. There is a menu here, but you won't need it – just ask and you shall receive. Try the House Bloody Mary, made with tomato-infused vodka, lemon juice, habanero mustard sauce and celery bitters along with the traditional Tabasco and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauces. If not, go for the Diplomatico Old Fashioned or make your own gin and tonic from a list of 58 gins and 6 tonics.
The Spify Dapper | Address: 61 Boat Quay, Second Floor | Tel: 82339810 | Opening hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-midnight; Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 8pm-2am
At Circular Road
The Public House
For a bar with old-school appeal
Even though big things lie ahead for Circular Road as it evolves into a pedestrian street with a new major tenant (The Vault), there have always been a few establishments that shone above the shady hostess bars for which it is known. With an al fresco area to rival any sidewalk cafe in an Old World city and an interior that could have evolved only after many, many wild nights, The Public House has genuine old-school appeal. A decent selection of beers (from $10), ciders (from $12) and spirits (from $10) await, together with cocktails that match the vibe: think Black Russians, Blue Lagoons and Harvey Wallbangers ($15 each).
The Public House | Address: 42 Circular Road | Tel: 65333545 | Opening hours: Mon 4pm-1am; Tue-Thu & Sat 4pm-2am; Fri 4pm-3am; Sun 4pm-midnight
For an authentic Irish pub experience
Laying claim to the title of Singapore's first Irish pub, Molly's has lost none of its lucky charm in the 18 years it has been open. With a similar history to The Penny Black – the bar was built in Ireland and shipped over – it carries an aura of authenticity that most other local Irish pubs lack. Guinness ($13 a pint) is always poured at precisely the right pace here. Come St. Patrick's Day (17 March), Molly's is where you will truly find the Irish spirit of merriment known as the "craic".
Molly Malone's | Address: 56 Circular Road | Tel: 65362029 | Opening hours: Mon 11am-midnight; Tue-Sat 11am-2am
A beer enthusiast first and a writer second, Kurt Ganapathy has tried more than 1,000 brews from 80 countries. Some of his most memorable exploits include tackling the one-time world's strongest beer – BrewDog's 41 per cent abv Sink The Bismarck! – and getting his name on the wall of an Irish pub in Melbourne for drinking 100 pints of Guinness (not in one sitting, of course).