Custom House: Specialist food bars

These new dining concepts sprouting up across town, honing in on just one dish or food group—be it cheese, rillettes, jamon, dessert or paella—are proving that quality can trump quantity in the dining stakes. Here are five leading the charge.

Jamon Bar at My Little Spanish Place

Bukit Timah Spanish restaurant My Little Spanish Place just launched this jamon bar offering five different kinds of Spanish ham. Options include Joselito ($25/25g), which is aged for four years, and Fermin ($7/25g), just 18-20-months-old. You can get the hams to-go or order the Tabla de Cinco Jamones ($75), a platter featuring all five. Chef-owner Maria Sevillano says, “Deli and charcuterie is part and parcel of Spanish life. We felt it was important to share the real jamon experience, where each order is freshly sliced.” Co-chef Edward Esmero adds, “When we first started, some people thought we were crazy. It is quite an investment—and a lot of risk—offering five legs of jamon at once. These legs of jamon need special care. But it’s really popular. Customers order jamon takeaway for parties. And at the restaurant, some come in just for the ham, and then end up ordering a complete dinner with us.”

BOMBA Paella Bar

With seemingly no limit to Singapore’s appetite for Spanish food, restaurant BOMBA—named after the rice used to make its signature paella—is a vivacious venue with loud music and lots of action. Helmed by chef Jean-Philippe Patruno, the focus is firmly on paella with options including arroz negro (from $40)—with squid, dry sherry, squid ink and black mushrooms—and Valenciana (from $35), cooked in saffron chicken stock and studded with chorizo, pork belly and chicken. It’s all served up in a slick red and black space with a busy open kitchen counter.

Rillette Bar at Le Bistrot Du Sommelier

Le Bistrot Du Sommelier’s rillette bar (just upstairs of the restaurant) offers rustic rabbit, duck, pork or salmon (from $13.50) spreads. Chef and co-owner of the French spot Patrick Heuberger says, “I always wanted to feature French charcuterie in Singapore and have been perfecting my recipes for 12 years.” When the establishment moved to its new digs at Armenian Street last year, the chef thought it was time to dedicate an entire concept to his rillettes, setting aside the whole second floor for it, with a production kitchen, bar and casual seating area.

Wine Connection Cheese Bar

After a major facelift, Wine Connection’s deli and store at Robertson is now a contemporary cheese and wine bar. The 190-seater offers over 40 matured farm cheeses (from $19) flown in from Europe, as well as over 500 vino labels (from $30). Managing Director Caroline Simon says, “The cheese bar was a natural evolution to revamp our existing deli and bistro. We needed to differentiate it from our tapas bar next door.” Simon explains, “The market is becoming more mature, thanks to the larger selection of cheese available in supermarkets and specialty shop across the island, and most of our customers are locals.”

Dessert Bar at POLLEN

POLLEN has a dramatic nine-meter long dessert bar in the main dining room, a replica of the one at Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social in London. The idea’s that folks join pastry chef Andres Lara at the counter for an interactive end to their meal, watching chef prepare their sweets. Options range from the Pollen Tatin ($20)—verjus, crème fraiche, caramel, red and green apples—to the Banana Rice Pudding ($20), featuring corn, coconut, sudachi and Madras curry.

Check out our list of new specialty drink bars in Singapore.