The U Factory: Another hip pop-up hits town

Pop-up projects like Temporium and The U Factory are the indie scene’s equivalent of a superband: take a handful of established local art, fashion, design and F&B names and put them all in one place. In theory, it all sounds good. Shopping for playful threads while sipping on a cuppa from your favorite quirky cafe? Admiring emerging artists’ works and browsing locally published literature, while up-and-coming DJs drop some beats? What could possibly be better?

Don’t get us wrong. We’ve always been, and continue to be, firm advocates of local people being creative and doing their own thing. From a tuned-in consumer’s standpoint, anything’s better than a lifestyle scene that only consists of Starbucks and H&M. But what we saw at the U Factory (and to some extent, Temporium too) was a concept that, while great on paper, hasn’t quite lived up to its fullest potential when executed. Though the individual parts are great, the sum just seems like a lackluster hodgepodge of elements: an art piece hanging unceremoniously on the wall, ceramics placed on a rickety low table, a few catalogs fanned out on a bench. We definitely hope things look livelier the next time we visit.

That said, the nattily-dressed crowd (bow ties, eye-popping brogues) didn’t seem to mind. And some parts are bone fide stand-outs. At the pretentious-sounding laksa bar, you can get a deconstructed bowl of laksa that comes with dry noodles, luxurious laksa dipping cream, big slabs of otah and torched pork belly, Japanese pickles, onsen egg, plus a heady prawn broth to wash it all down with. It’s absolutely killer. Sure, it’ll set you back $22, but hey, it’s not like the upmarket hawker food thing is new (The Naked Finn around the corner does it to delicious effect). Pretension sometimes has its rewards after all.