Named after the titular San Francisco district and inspired by the gold rush there during the mid-1800s, Barbary Coast is one bar that has truly delivered on the hype.
It consists of two distinct but linked establishments within a large corner shophouse space—Deadfall downstairs and Ballroom upstairs—that complement one another. At the casual and neighbourly Deadfall, feel welcome the moment you approach the place, thanks to the open design (it feels seamless stepping in and out of Deadfall from the five foot way) and the sincere folks manning the bar (kudos to barman Haran Loges!). It’s as if you’re always meeting old friends here.
The interior of Deadfall
The menu at Deadfall is tight and impactful—just the way we like it. Find five signature cocktails, all named according to their hue: Pink, Clear, Yellow, Green and Red (the Red is essentially an Old Fashioned topped with beer, and is our favourite). You can even see the colored pre-batch stored in large transparent tanks at the center of the bar. While seemingly garish, this is actually a callback to the original deadfalls in San Fran, where drinks were ordered by grammage and chroma.
All $14, the seemingly easy-to-make cocktails belies a highly advanced preparation process. Proprietors Michael Callahan and Celia Schoonraad don’t like shouting about it, but Barbary Coast actually houses one of the most sophisticated lab kitchens in Singapore. In their impressive arsenal are a rotary evaporator, sonicprep and centrifuge, among other things, that are all used in the drinks creation process.
Don’t miss out on Deadfall’s comforting and delicious grub. Try the House Nachos ($12/25), that has managed to solve the perennial “dry chip soggy chip” problem by letting customers have unlimited refills of hot queso. Just ask them for more whenever you want. If you’re looking for more than bites, the TTW Sando ($15) is filling enough. It’s essentially a sandwich made using mashed tater tots, then packed with ham or pastrami, plus homemade sauerkraut, cheddar and salsa roja.
The bar at Ballroom
At some point in the night, the time to hit the next bar comes along. But rather than go elsewhere, head up to Ballroom instead. There, be transported to the fancy watering holes of the gold rush era. Find a cosy sofa, an upholstered bar stool or plush banquette to get comfortable in, before perusing their menu of craft cocktails.
The Buttered Paloma ($21) is an easy favourite. It hits the right balance of sweet, sour and bitter, and is made more interesting using a sloping ice of citrus that alters the flavour and texture of the drink as it melts. Then there’s Prairies ($23), a Whisky Sour-inspired drink that, in our opinion, is better thanks to notes of chlorophyll in it. It may be an uncommon taste, but the grassy, algae-like flavour somehow balances out the otherwise overpowering sourness in the drink. Try it to believe it.
The Tommy Tomate
We are also in love with the Tommy Tomate ($22). It tastes nothing like how it looks, offering notes of smokiness and tomato sourness while being a clear, white drink. If you love your mezcals, this is the drink to go for.
Not in the mood for cocktails? There are two special alcoves here that come equipped with a button, and above it are the words “Press for Champagne”. It does exactly what it says it does, and it’s a supremely fun way to order (seriously, try it). Just know you will be charged $100 for the bottle of Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve.
Can you spot the “Press for Champagne” button?
The food menu at Ballroom is different too. As expected, they’re more elevated, offering items like Oysters Rockerfeller ($18 for 3) and Foie Gras Tart ($20). But the real delight is their Cheese & Charcuterie board. It’s safe to say they overdelivered with this one. Find various types of cheeses, cold cuts, bread, crackers, fruits, homemade butter, foie gras and rillette on it, making it well worth the price tag ($50/95/145). The petite $50 one is good enough for two to share.
Don’t end your night there. Head back down to Deadfall for your nightcap (that’s how they reel you in). The set-up makes for a great dive bar experience and you simply can’t leave without trying their Banana Daiquiri ($14). It’s actually a slushie, and it’s the best damn adult slushie we’ve ever had.
Combined, Deadfall and Ballroom form an addictive loop that we find ourselves willingly falling into again and again. We consider heading to Barbary Coast a habit we won’t be kicking anytime soon.