Spectre is a cocktail gastrobar on Tanjong Pagar Road that is built around the concepts of mental wellness and spiritual wellbeing.
I didn’t quite expect to be drinking a delicious, comfortingly-hot bowl of Chinese herbal soup in a cocktail bar. And especially not one prepared by local singer-songwriter and actress Inch Chua.
Yet here I am, in a self-styled ‘vintage apothecary restaurant and cocktail bar’ called Spectre on an upper storey of a Tanjong Pagar Road shophouse that the pint-sized multi-disciplinary artist opened with seasoned bartender and spirits brand ambassador Andrew Pang, sipping on chicken soup. Soup that tasted like it could have come from a double-boiled soup specialist hawker in nearby Chinatown.
Spacious yet surprisingly cosy, Spectre is welcoming without being too intrusive. The wavy aquatic blue-toned walls offer the sense of serenity, while clever lighting provide sufficient soothing luminance.
It’s all on purpose, of course.
Inch and Andrew designed the venue as a space where building mental wellness is a major focus. Some of the cocktails you order will come with interactive elements designed at salving your mind as much as working it.
There’s Bonseki, for example. Upon your order a tray of sand arrives at your table, thereupon where you embark on some sand tray therapy to cleanse your mind and cope with stress while you wait for the actual cocktail. (Yes, some of us find it stressful waiting for our cocktails). The actual concoction itself is served warm, a harmonious blend of bitterness, sweetness and acidity from ginger, dates, and orange peel punctuated with the bite of mezcal. Hathaway is a twist on the Boulevardier that’s lengthened with some Prosecco; it comes with flash paper upon which you’re asked to write down what ails you and is then burnt as a symbolic way of forgetting those troubles.
Or Retrospect, which comes with a jewellery box – complete with mirror – so you can look into your innermost selves. Fine, I’m an alcoholic, and proud of it, I confessed as I reach for the punchy vodka-spiked cocktail. Its ingredients is mainly booze too, I happily note to self.
Other cocktails are less gimmicky.
Tea & Sympathy is a vibrant yet tannic cocktail that will help wash your troubles away even as its refreshes your palate. 50 Shades of Grey is their version of a dirty Martini; a dashi reduction and seaweed giving big briny notes that satiates the palate.
And of course, a range of NOLO cocktails for those who prefer to refrain from too much booze in their drinks and system.
If the signature cocktails at Spectre is built around improving mental wellness, the food menu at Spectre seems aimed at building physical wellness. As earlier mentioned there’s the soothing and comforting Herbal Chicken Soup, which is a must-order. The use of French poulet gave the soup more complexity, but also a delicate lightness.
Then what looked like tuna carpaccio turned out to be Watermelon Sashimi, compressed slices of kombu-cured watermelon that somehow tasted wholly like, you guessed it, maguro. We loved the flavours as much as the idea.
There was a seasonal special when we visited, a claypot rice laden with ingredients that was incredible flavourful yet delicately light on the palate – and certainly more healthy! – compared to the usual ones you’ll find out there.
Asked why the name Spectre, Inch turns introspective. “A spectre is like an unknown presence in our lives,” she muses. “Carl Jung believed everyone carries a shadow, that the shadow self is not inherently negative or evil but a natural and necessary part of human nature. I believe it’s important that our personal spectres are embodied in our conscious life, and Spectre to be a safe space to befriend yourself and others.”
Sounds like a great haunt for some of us.
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