The pandemic may have put a damper on social gatherings, but that doesn’t mean conviviality has to ground to a halt. With careful adherence to government-mandated safety protocols and a good dose of common sense, going out can still be a pleasure. Although crowded dance clubs and packed bars are best avoided, there’s a special brand of nightlife that is perfect for our new socially distanced times.
Tucked away in non-descript neighbourhoods or hidden in plain sight, part of the evening’s fun is trying to locate these secret bars. Once you’re in, the establishments are usually not too crowded, giving you ample space to enjoy your drink and soak up the atmosphere.
We’ve picked out six hard-to-locate bars on the Singapore Airlines network to check out the next time you’re in the destination.
A secret drinking den at Dragon Chamber, Singapore
From the outside, this bar and restaurant looks just like any other buzzy coffee shop in the Boat Quay area. However, its glass-fronted refrigerator swings open to reveal a tiny passageway that leads into the Dragon Chamber. Designed to mimic the look and feel of Chinatown gambling dens and secret society hangouts of yore, the space is covered with striking artwork from local and regional artists – a nod to past and recent Chinese traditions. The drinks also pay homage to Asian culture, with inventive concoctions such as the Java Royale, which includes java syrup and calamansi juice, as well as the Land of the Rising Sun, made with bourbon-infused yuzu.
From now till 30 December 2020, dine at Dragon Chamber and enjoy the refreshing Aperol Spritz at just S$15++ during lunch hours (11am to 3pm) from Tuesday to Sunday. There are also opportunities to win exclusive Aperol merchandise – simply enquire with the staff on that day.
Situated in a quiet residential neighbourhood, this bar is notoriously difficult to locate. Here’s a tip: search for “Deepening Submarine Bar” in Google Maps when you’re in the area and look out for a narrow alley with a heavy-duty metal door at the end. Push open the door and you’ll find yourself in an eccentric “subterranean” world. Built partially with actual submarines, the interiors of Shinka feature a complex network of steel piping, pressure gauges, control panels and peepholes. There is limited seating, so get cosy as you sip on their signature gin and tonic.
1920s allure and excess at Bathtub Gin, New York
Inspired by the Prohibition era in 1920s United States, when secret bars and speakeasies mushroomed in underground locations, Bathtub Gin is discreetly tucked behind the Stone Street Coffee Company in the Chelsea neighbourhood. Channel your inner Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan as you soak up the bar’s heady 1920s atmosphere replete with plush interiors, live jazz and burlesque, as well as top-notch craft cocktails with a strong gin focus.
Dapper drinks at Discount Suit Company, London
Located a short walk from Spitalfields Market and Liverpool Street station, this bar camouflages itself with the many clothiers and shoe shops in the area. Don’t be deceived by the misleading sign that hangs on the building’s façade – “Alterations While U Wait”. This just means that you’ve come to the right place. Descend a flight of steep stairs and mind you don’t bump your head on the incredibly low ceilings. Inside the dimly-lit bar, the only suits you’ll find are on the dapper banker types – most of the clientele are a mishmash of London’s trendy set. While the cocktail menu is rotated regularly, you can always expect reasonably priced drinks, with most concoctions setting you back just £8 each.
A Parisian affair at Circa, Kuala Lumpur
Before you pay a visit to Circa, be sure to retrieve that week’s passcode from the bar’s Instagram page. Hidden along a back alley in the busy Plaza Batai, the bar is accessible through a “hole” in a red-bricked wall and up a spiral staircase. Inspired by old-world Parisian boudoirs, Circa’s interiors feature exposed brick walls, mismatched vintage furniture and warm, muted lighting. Some must-try cocktails include the Edison, a blend of butterfly pea with Kantan-infused gin, rose extract and cane syrup; and the Yuan Dynasty (a warm brew of Hennessy VSOP, oolong tea infusion, and Osmanthus syrup marinated in orange peel and pandan leaf).
Choice cuts and cocktails at The Barber Shop, Sydney
To the casual observer, The Barber Shop looks like any other upmarket gentlemen’s grooming salon. But for those in the know, there is a cocktail bar tucked away at the rear, behind an unmarked doorway. This hybrid venue, which first opened in 2013, is now a favourite with gin lovers for their impressive collection of over 700 gin labels from around the world. Naturally, the cocktail menu is gin-focused, with guests given the opportunity to sample gin “flights” as well as a range of classic or craft cocktails. If you’re planning on paying them a visit, do note that Covid-19 restrictions mean they can only accommodate a small number of guests in 1.5-hour time slots, so be sure to book well ahead of time.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about. The information is accurate as of press time.
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