Hotel bars, unless they’re positioned as top name brands that just so happen to be located within the confines of a hotel such as Manhattan Bar in Regent Hotel Singapore or Fairmont Singapore’s Anti:dote, tend to be more miss than hit with unimaginative concepts, lacklustre menus, or simply unintentionally so well hidden they lack for patronage. The lobby bar at recently opened The Warehouse Hotel don’t have these problems.
The Warehouse Hotel, set up in an independent heritage building on the banks of the Singapore River, opened up at the start of this year as the first hotel property in the portfolio of Singapore hospitality group The Lo & Behold Group. Its original life was as a godown during the height of Singapore’s spice trade, but most of us old-timers simply remember this space as a former run-down warehouse that used to play host to many weekend flea markets in the ’00s. Now totally revitalised as a hotel boasting 37 rooms as well as housing renowned Singapore chef Willin Low’s newest F&B concept Po, many may not realise the cocktail gem that is its lobby bar located in plain sight right next to the reception desk.
Unlike the ubiquitous hotel bars that rely on premixes, The Warehouse Hotel’s lobby bar actually runs a cocktail programme featuring house-made alcohol infusions and reductions, the kind that you’re more likely to see at top-notch bespoke cocktail bars across town. Assistant bar manager Andrew Zeng, who has been with Lo & Behold since 2013 running stints at Overeasy, The Black Swan, and The White Rabbit, runs the bar with aplomb putting together cocktails that are a hat-tip to the former warehouse’s heritage.
The cocktail menu spans three phases of the space’s rich history. The heady era of Singapore’s spice trade in the 19th century is represented by the likes of Whisky Houston ($20++), inflected with grated nutmeg and spiced bitters, the Singapore Sazerac ($20++, above) with its use of pandan bitters and demerara sugar infused with star anise, clove and cinnamon, as well as the very lovely High Tea ($20++), which also features spice bitters.
Then there’s the darker history of the godown when the area operated as a red light district, and the space was rumoured as a base of illicit distilling of Chinese alcohol. Here you’ll find the Kopi Cat ($19++), which tastes like a cross between a Cadbury chocolate bar and an espresso martini, or the B.B King ($22++, above), a Memphis take on the Old Fashioned using Jack Daniels infused with banana, smoked maple syrup and barbecue bitters.
And before it became abandoned to be used only during the weekends for temporary events, the warehouse was a disco; the Kaya Lumpur ($19++), which uses kaya from Glory Foods to add depth to the Havana Club rum, basil, lemon juice and soda concoction, the very floral Barbarella ($21++) with G’Vine Floraison, Earl Grey tea and St Germain elderflower liqueur reduction, and the Lady Luck ($19++), a twist of the Pina Colada, are all tall drinks meant to quench thirst after busting grooves on the dance floor.
Observant cocktail hounds will no doubt have noticed that some of the drinks feature at other Lo and Behold venues; the Kaya Lumpur and B.B. King have been borrowed from Loof, for example. But that’s a minor infraction, one easily forgivable. The real problem here is that The Warehouse Hotel’s lobby bar lacks a proper name that it can be proud of.
And we think it deserves one.