Tamba brings the rich and vibrant flavours of West Africa to the heart of Singapore’s Duxton dining and nightlife district.

Don’t go to Tamba if you like boring, bland food. The food there is anything but.

Among the newer restaurants to open in Singapore in recent months, Tamba bucks the gastronomy trend by not being yet another Italian or Japanese eatery. Instead it is set to be a culinary bastion championing the flavours of… West Africa.

Yes, West Africa. In particular, Liberia, located on the continent’s western edge tucked alongside Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. Few of us from our part of the world are likely to have heard of these countries except in the news (and usually about civil war and the havoc it wreaks on them).

As for their cuisines, we know scant little if at all.

Interior of Tamba

That it is the sister concept of nearby Kafe UTU, possibly Singapore’s only African-themed cafe restaurant, should come as no surprise. While Kafe UTU drawing on the diverse cuisines of the African continent – there are influences from Senegal, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Uganda, for example – at Tamba founder Kurt Wagner hones specifically in on Liberia.

The restaurant is, in fact, named after his lated adopted brother from Liberia.

As with Kafe UTU, Tamba draws you into a totally different world. Between the rustic terracotta walls and homely woven floor mats to the intimidating hand-carved African wood masks peering over guests as they dine, stepping into Tamba is like entering the tasteful contemporary homestead of a wealthy African who’s not afraid to lean into his heritage.

As for the food, it is robust, hearty, and in many cases, fiery.

Jollof Rice

The Tapalapa, a traditional West African bread made with millet and wheat flour, is a good place to start. Here it is served with a smoked bacon butter and goat’s milk ricotta, the latter of which is drizzled with smoked honey. Delicious.

A must-order is Pepper Soup. This is a heavily spiced Liberian staple made with all kinds of meat, offal and seafood, with ample heat provided by the use of habanero (it’s normally Scotch bonnet, but those volcanic peppers are hard to find in Singapore). Oh, it burns. But in a joyful, if tear-inducing, way.

Another go-to should be Jollof Rice, a heavily contested dish that sparked a friendly culinary war between the countries of West Africa as to who originated it. You know, the way Singapore and Malaysia fight over chicken rice, nasi lemak, and bak kut teh. The version here – which comes with some roast chicken – is savoury and smoky, like a cross between Spanish paella and Creole dirty rice.

Smoked beef

For bigger eaters, there’s a range of seasonal meats, seafood or vegetables, all of which are grilled and smoked for additional flavour. When we were there its was squid, roasted and then tossed in a peppery sauce for more oomph. And wagyu ribeye too, served with a side of yet another peppery sauce.

There’s clearly a pattern here.

But eponymous Tamba is more than a celebration of Liberian cuisine; it shines a spotlight on the life story of the man it is named for. Mostly with its African-inspired cocktails. Yes, there’s a bar here, and its cocktails are excellent.

Cocktails at Tamba

Tamba was apparently a supremely talented footballer as well as an extremely smooth talker with women. It’s why you have The Next Pele, a refreshing Pisco Sour meets Margarita spiced up with long pepper. It was, the staff will tell you, how Tamba introduced himself. Or Vita, a clarified rum milk punch with notes of vanilla and corn, which comes in the colours of the Liberian football team. Then there’s Dry Boney, which was how he described the type of women he liked (this is a clarified Bloody Mary, by the way).

Oh, and for those who love their Old Fashioneds like I do? Make sure to order Dad’s Wallet, a smokier version made with a touch of peated whisky.

Never having been to West Africa there’s no way for me to vouch if Tamba is any way authentic and true to real Liberian cuisine. But hearing how the staff described the flamboyant man that was Tamba, he would have loved this beautiful place named after him – as well as the searing cuisine – anyway.

He’d likely exchange numbers with some of the guests here too, if you know what I mean.


Address 101 Duxton Road, Singapore 089964 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm to 12am Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays
Tel (65) 6513 5388
Web tamba.life
Facebook tamba.singapore
Instagram tamba.singapore
Reservations book here

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