Patina, a contemporary gastrobar in Telok Kurau, champions Southeast Asian flavours in its cocktails and bar grub.
It’s one place in Singapore you wouldn’t expect to stumble upon a cocktail bar.
Hidden along a row of double-storey shophouses on a sleepy stretch where East Coast Road meets the idyllic neighbourhood of Telok Kurau in Singapore’s east is a cocktail bar with a front so innocuous you’re likely to miss it. It is not quite a speakeasy bar, but nonetheless you’re likely to mistake its facade for something else.
Watering holes in quiet neighbourhoods tend to be casual, roughshod affairs, but Patina is nothing like that. Instead, stepping into Patina is like stepping into another world. Within its darkened environs is a space that tastefully fuses tropical paradise and vintage chic into a classy contemporary cocktail bar. A whimsical music list of unusual Southeast Asian tunes – jazz, blues, and even rap – fills the air.
The transcendental experience translates to its cocktail menu. These are artfully conceived and crafted cocktails; Patina co-founder and head bartender Rajesh Kumar previously helmed the bars at music club Maduro and an unnamed speakeasy. His cocktails aren’t the basic gin and tonics or Negronis you get in neighbourhood bars, and more akin to those you’ll find at award-winning cocktail bars in Singapore’s city centre.
Kumar carries the Southeast Asian theme into his signature drinks.
Our first drink, the Katong Street Cooler, was my favourite of the evening. This flavourful gin-based highball combines Beefeater gin, black tea, a piquant citrus shrub, ginger, calamansi and a touch of honey for sweetness. The result is a most refreshing tipple that tastes like an alcoholic version of the Malaysian teh ‘o’ ais limau (iced lemon tea). But the key reason why we love it? Because it worked so well with the bar grub here. More on the food later.
Then there’s Kebaya Seksi Pedas, a spicy take on the Margarita which I can only assume is inspired by a Singapore Girl. This tequila-based number is fiery from the use of ghost pepper and green cayenne, but the heat is tempered with tropical pineapple, honey and citrus.
I’d date this feisty stewardess.
The Nomad, on the other hand, is Patina’s tropical twist on the Old Fashioned. Here whisky is infused with dates, banana, and jackfruit, and smoked orange bitters help balance its sweetness.
Mouthful of Honey is decidedly a strange one, albeit delicious in its own right. It’s a playful version of a Milk Punch – it combines vodka that’s been fat-washed in coconut and then infused with melon, with milk, honey and citrus. There’s a familiar flavour from childhood in it that I couldn’t place exactly (it’s a mystery that was only resolved when we interrogated Kumar – you’ll have to ask him yourself).
Some of Patina’s cocktails can be overwrought; as in, there are too many ingredients in a single drink. But we appreciate Kumar’s exuberance in showcasing more local flavours.
But more than the drinks, the bar grub at Patina absolutely captivated. It’s a small menu, but punches way above its weight. Don’t be put off by the menu descriptions; the cutesy-sounding names and fusion references belie the fact that the food here is grounded in traditional Javanese techniques and cooking methods.
Annie’s Epok-Epok is as classic as it gets, the pastry of the curry puff crispy and flaky like those you get from Tip Top or A1, but with a more robust filling. Likewise with Bag-A-Deal, its premium twist on the Indonesian bergedil (perkedel) mashed potato croquettes.
If you have guessed that Patina’s Wok Hey! Champolaya is a hybrid of nasi goreng with Louisiana Creole-style jambalaya, well you’d be right. The rice is fragrant and redolent with spices, and absolutely hits the spot if you’re more than peckish. For those less hungry – or looking for a vegetarian option – the FuFu Hitam Manis is an elevated take on tahu goreng.
Between its enchanting vibes, shockingly good food and classy cocktails, Patina is a hidden gem that adds city cocktail glamour to a sleepy residential neighbourhood.
Good thing then, that I live just down the road.
Address 378 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428925 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 4pm to 10pm on Mondays, Wednesdays to Fridays; 11am to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Tuesdays
Tel (65) 8752 8541