Nutmeg & Clove, which pays homage to Singapore in its drinks and food, is our bar of choice for the celebratory month of August.
Nutmeg & Clove has reason to celebrate. Not only did the stalwart bar survive two arduous, soul-crushing Covid years; it re-established itself at a new location in Purvis Street, added a full-service kitchen and got back up on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list at No.36. Surpassing the glorious resurrection, founder Colin Chia was individually recognised with the Roku Industry Icon Award for his 28 years in the bar industry, an honour that took him down an emotional memory lane. “It felt surreal,” he says as he recounts how his choice to pursue his heart was never looked upon favourably by his high-achieving traditional Chinese family of doctors and lawyers – all except his dad. The latter lent him his unconditional support through thick and thin. Sadly, he lost his biggest advocate to illness last year.
As the host announced his name at the live award ceremony in Bangkok, he recalls a friend in the crowd shouting a congratulatory cheer: “Bro, your dad would be so proud of you.” “You can imagine. I was a mess. It (the ceremony) was live, and I had tears rolling down my eyes.” After this rousing acknowledgement from his peers, Chia celebrated the bar’s eighth birthday in May with a series of guest shifts. The future looks promising, he says, and the new Nutmeg & Clove is “at its best place ever.” The new location houses a full-service kitchen and a dinner menu; a new-old team with award-winning Shelley Tai (formerly of Quinary Hong Kong) and Joshua Pang at the bar. And, a new drinks menu, the theme of which remains his constant: it is always about Singapore. From the first iteration to its eighth, Nutmeg & Clove’s litany of drinks has paid homage to various facets of Singapore’s history.
The current Cocktail Diaries menu traverses the lion city through the eyes of a tourist and presents ten craft drinks. Inspired by the Botanical Gardens, we found Garden City, a concoction of Hendricks gin infused with musk melon and tweaked with shiso leaf, lime, and honey. Can Bubble Gum? is a playful jibe at Singapore’s ban on chewing gum. The smoky mezcal-based drink is a blush pink number coloured by strawberries, picking a bitter note from distilled tabasco and finishing with light smoky bubble gum air. The bustling karaoke culture and underground music scene are referenced in K-Tea-V and Underground respectively.
The new kitchen delivers Singapore-inspired grub (no surprises there), including Rendang Mac and Cheese, SG Scotch Eggs with minced Kurobuta pork and our favourite, Assam and Batang, a Spanish mackerel served in aromatic assam sauce. Onwards and upwards Chia goes as he continues to seek inspiration in Singapore’s rich history for Nutmeg & Clove’s following menu and the ones that come after.