Little London Singapore ups the class on the traditional British pub experience with swanky decor, upscale cocktails and a (comparatively) wider spirits range.
The people behind Little London Singapore, a recently-opened British-themed pub on the nightlife stretch of Boat Quay, will tell you that they’re bringing an “authentic old English pub experience to the Lion City”, that patrons can get a “little slice of London right by the Singapore River”.
It’s really not. And that’s not a bad thing.
Because if you’ve been to those old-school English pubs in London – or almost anywhere else in Britain, for that matter – they are generally casual, rambunctious affairs in rather tattered decor with none too clean floors that may offer a wide range of beers and cask ales and greasy pub food but little else. Those pubs are also generally targeted at older British gentlemen who’d stop by after work for a pint and some gossip conversation before heading home.
Little London Singapore is nothing like that. Opened by the same folks behind German burger bar chain HANS IM GLÜCK, Little London is an offshoot of Little London Munich, a high-end fine-dining steak restaurant in the Bavarian capital known for their large selection of wine and spirits.
And that influence rubs off. Little London is more a British pub that’s given a makeover by, say, the Great Interior Design Challenge, with a little touch of Queer Eye. Magenta walls on one side, traditional wallprint on the other, green leather banquets and wooden accents all over give the space a classier and more intimate feel than most remodelled Victorian mansions, much less a British pub. Even better, especially for those who prefer conversations there’s just one modestly-sized television set behind the bar; and far more gender friendly than a traditional British pub or a sports-oriented one blaring soccer or rugby from multiple screens.
It’s also not an authentic English pub because it stocks just three beers on draft, along with another three in bottle form. Your English gentleman will be perfectly happy with the Fuller’s London Pride ($15++) on tap, of course, but may frown there’s no other option for a stout on tap – say, a good Guinness – alongside the Fuller’s Black Cab ($15++). We’ll forgive the bottled Stella Artois ($10++ per bottle, $31++ for bucket of 5) – it’s big in Britain too – but the San Miguel Light ($10++, per bottle, $31++ for bucket of 5) and James Squire 150 Lashes Pale Ale ($10++ per bottle, $39++ for bucket of 5) are definitely not the usual pub suspects. Also, an Australian cider in the James Squire Orchard Crush Apple Cider ($10++ per bottle, $31++) does not an English pub experience make.
There’s a minuscule selection of wines – just seven, but that’s already four more than most pubs in rural England offer. What’s curious is that the wines by the glass here – the Mut Macha Riesling, Las Mascota Opi Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mut Macha Cuvee Rot (all $10++ per glass, $49++ per bottle), for example – are mostly Austro-Germanic or Argentine in origin. But at that price, we’re not complaining.
Spirit options are far better; you’ll find a number of blended and single malt whiskies available in shots at competitive prices.
But where Little London is big on is cocktails. It offers 10 cocktails in its beverage menu, and those that we tried were surprisingly well-made. We found the gin sour inspired Chelsea Garden ($18++), with fruity touches of lychee, lemon, cranberry, and passionfruit, refreshing and well-balanced.
The Cucamberwell ($18++) is a short drink version of a Hendrick’s gin and tonic, and very British in flavour with gin, lemon, basil and cucumber in the forefront. On the other hand the fruity vodka-based Sweet Notting ($18++) has tropical, Tiki-like flavours in melon, peach, passionfruit and pineapple.
And the food? It’s nothing like what you’d find in a British pub. In fact, aside from the very well-executed but missing mushy peas that is the Beer Battered Fish & Chips ($16++) the rest of the food offerings read like what you’d find in a family-friendly American chain restaurant (think Chili’s) – Buffalo-style wings, onion rings, baby back ribs, and a pulled pork burger? Where are the pies, bangers and mash, and the quintessential Ploughman’s lunch?
If you’re hankering for a really authentic British pub experience, you’re better off at the iconic Penny Black at the other end of Boat Quay. But if you prefer a more cosy (and less greasy) spot for deeper conversation over some rather decent cocktails that’s not interrupted by the cheers and boos from sports fans, Little London Singapore could just be it.