La Voix

CLUB STREET

Club Street is THE place to dine if budget is not an issue and you're looking for a romantic night out in a quaint part of town. A full-course dinner at some of the restaurants here can cost more than a week's worth of the best hawker meals, but the ambience here is in a league of its own.

Named after the Weekly Entertainment Club (a Straits Chinese proprietary club founded in 1891), Club Street was once known for its clubs and trade guilds. Today, the narrow street is lined by tastefully restored pre-war buildings, and peppered with upmarket restaurants and bars. When night falls, the buildings are aglow in warm colours and you can hear the hearty laughter of merry-makers in the area. Club Street attracts a more mature crowd and the bars here play more soothing music which does not inhibit conversation. Even if you don't intend to dine or sip a cocktail here, it's still a joy to stroll through Club Street after dark

Club Street is within walking distance of Raffles Place MRT Station, but if you can afford to eat here, the cab fare should not be a problem!

Beginning at No. 1A Club Street is La Voix (Tel: 6220 6586), a French restaurant swathed in vermillion on the outside and black lacquer on the inside. La Voix serves modern French cuisine. I hear the crème brûlée with Grand Marnier for dessert is heavenly. It is open from 12.00 p.m. to 2.30 p.m., and from 7.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. everyday, except Sundays.

Next to it is chic Shidong (Tel: 6224 1411), known for its east-meets-west menu. Its menu is so varied it'll take you a while to decide what to order. You'll find melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin in béarnaise sauce for S$24 to the value-for-money bento box combination of local delights - laksa, mee siam with slipper lobster, and chicken curry with yellow rice - for S$18.50. One of their lower-priced dishes would be the Peranakan Laksa with Sauteed Clams - S$12.50 for a satisfying bowl of laksa with fish cakes, cockles, prawns and otak, served with a side dish of sauteed clams. For dessert, try their caramelized peach tart with vanilla ice cream (S$4.50), or better yet, their crème caramel with blue berries (S$7). Shidong's chic setting carries through to how water is served as well - in a conical vessel resting on a stand. Shidong is open from 8.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m. everyday, except Sundays. By night, Shidong transforms into a bar playing easy-listening acid jazz.

Just past Shidong, there's a short offshoot on your left called Gemmill Lane. The lane is named after John Gemmill, an auctioneer who lived in the area during the 1800s. At No. 5 Gemmill Lane is an artsy watering hole called Bar at the Box (Tel: 6327 1276). Located beneath a 3-level art gallery, this unique bar also showcases pieces of art and has martini cocktails named after famous artists. The martini cocktails cost from S$12 to S$16 per glass. Right in the middle is a sushi bar which serves sushi at S$3 and sashimi at S$15 for 2 servings. The sushi bar serves till midnight. Bar at the Box is open from 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m., and 5.00 p.m. to midnight from Mondays to Fridays, 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m. on Saturdays, and from 3.00 p.m. to midnight on Sundays. Guys must be 25 to enter, and ladies 21. The dress code is smart casual.

Opposite the Bar at the Box is Bombay Bar, an English pub with a free pool table.

As you re-emerge at Club Street, turn left and continue along until you see the stylish Senso Ristorante & Bar (Tel: 6224 3534) at No. 21. Here, you can choose to dine indoors or outdoors in an idyllic and romantic courtyard. Chef Diego Chiarini has worked in some of the world's leading restaurants, including Tokyo Four Season's Bice (voted one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in the world) and Monte Carlo's Hotel De Paris. Recognised as one of the best restaurants in Singapore, Senso features 30 dishes of starters, pastas and entrees originating from different regions of Italy. The ingredients are sourced directly from Italy. Starters here will set you back by between S$12 to S$20, the entrees S$16 to S$30, and the desserts S$9 to S$12. Don't know if it's just me, but I felt the food here was overrated. The ambience though was excellent.

After dinner, adjourn to the bar for a round of Senso's signature drink - champagne with strawberry puree. Drinks here are served with a dish of olives.

The restaurant is open from 12.00 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and from 6.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. daily, except Sundays. The bar is open from 12.00 p.m. to midnight from Mondays to Thursdays, and from 12.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The dress code is smart casual.

Opposite Senso is another trendy restaurant, Las Pampas (formerly known as Gaetano), which serves Italian cuisine with ingredients from around the Mediterranean. Chef Gaetano Ascione has cooked for past American Presidents, Ministers, and who's who from all over. Prices here are similar to those at Senso. Las Pampas is managed by the same people as La Voix and Shidong.

Back on the same side as Senso, and a few doors down, is possibly the most reasonably priced restaurant along this stretch. Owned by the same people as Senso, Spizza (Tel: 6224 2515) at No. 29 Club Street serves pizzas fresh from a wood-fired oven. The selection of 20 pizzas are all named after Italian women! A medium-sized pizza costs S$13 and its S$16 for a large one (enough for 2). You can include 2 flavours per pizza at no extra charge. Watch Chef Yuliana from Southern Italy knead the dough and bake the pizzas in the wood-fired oven from a bar stool. Chef Yuliana was once a waitress at the building in Raffles Place where I work. Since her promotion to Chef at Spizza, her hair is now slicked back neatly in a bun and she no longer sticks a pencil behind her ear.

Further down Club Street, you'll come across Aphrodisiac Bar (Tel: 6325 8529) at No. 47 Club Street, the lesser known sibling of Bar Sá Vanh (which means "Heaven" in Laotian) (Tel: 6323 0503) just next door at No. 49. If you have time for only one drink at Club Street, Bar Sá Vanh is definitely the place to be. This exotic bar is divided into 2 zones, connected by a wooden platform bridge, complete with an impressive, 3-storey high waterfall and a koi pond. The numerous sculptures which adorn the bar are Indochinese, depicting the heritage of the owner. You can even choose to have your drinks on a 6-metre long opium bed. All in all, this award-winning bar which offers a mesmerizing setting and is not to be missed if you're in this part of town. The bar is open from 5.00 p.m. till late.

Above the bar is Indochine Restaurant (Tel: 6323 0503) which offers refined Indochinese cuisine from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in a plush setting. Most of the dishes can be ordered in either standard portions (shared by 2 to 3 persons) or large portions (shared by 4 to 6 persons). The popular Sai Kog (Laotian pork sausage) is a must-try. The sausage is eaten by wrapping it with a fresh lettuce leaf and herbs and spices, chilli, peanuts, lemon and ginger. For dessert, order the Sapphire of Pailin consisting of fresh water-chestnut wrapped in potato starch served in coconut milk with crushed ice.

At No. 81 Club Street is a European restaurant named Union Restaurant & Bar (Tel: 6327 4990), which has received very good reviews for its food. The croquette de fromage, moules served with 4 different sauces (including lemongrass and coconut!), the fillet of salmon wrapped in bacon, wild mushroom truffle fettuccine, and baked Portobello mushroom in sabayon sauce, all come highly recommended. Union is a chocolate-lover's paradise. For desserts, try the Belgian Chocolate Cake with a hot fudge centre, served with vanilla ice-cream, or the Callebaut Chocolate Fondue which is eaten by dipping fruits, marshmallows and wafers in a pot of molten Belgian Chocolate. For a more refreshing alternative, go for the lychee-champagne sorbet in mascarpone with passion fruit coulis, fresh figs and shaved white chocolate. Union is open from 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays, and from 6.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays.

Union's neighbour at No. 85 Club Street is L'Angelus French Restaurant (Tel: 6225 6897), which serves French cuisine in a laid-back feel. L'Angelus also serves chocolate cake with a molten chocolate centre. It goes for S$10++. L'Angelus is open from 12.00 p.m. to 2.00 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays, and from 7.00 p.m. till late on Mondays to Saturdays. They do not serve lunch on Saturdays and are closed for the whole day on Sundays.

Next up is Nectar Restaurant & Bar (Tel: 6323 4544) at 87 Club Street, a restaurant serving fusion food and which features an 8-metre long alabaster table illuminated from within running down the length of the restaurant. The restaurant has received mixed reviews for their food and service. For starters, you could try their nori-wrapped tempura tuna sashimi dipped in ginger salsa and sweet and sour macadamia sauce or the traditional wasabi in soya sauce. For the main course, their teriyaki cod on wasabi mashed potatoes, sugar beans and enoki mushrooms, and their roulade of sole and zucchini in pesto sauce with baby capsicum, leek, and nameko mushrooms are recommended. Two and three course set lunches are available at S$18+++ and S$25+++, and you can design your own 4-course set dinner at S$48+++. Nectar is open from 12.00 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and from 7.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. daily. The dress code here is smart casual.

Across the street from this row of 3 restaurants is a cozy Spanish bar called Barrio Chino (Tel: 6324 3245) at No. 60 Club Street. This bar is a popular choice with expats.

Next to Barrio Chino is yet another Italian restaurant, Da Paolo (Tel: 6224 7081) at No. 80 Club Street, which is famed for their pastas. My friends have unanimously described the pastas here as "to die for" and "bring tears to your eyes", but I've never once cried eating their pasta… Their squid ink pasta is a fun dish, but avoid ordering it if you're on a date. The ink dyes your teeth and lips charcoal black making you hilariously unattractive. For dessert, choose their panna cotta at S$7. Da Paolo is open from 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays, and from 6.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays.

As you approach Ann Siang Hill, you'll see the bright neon sign of Damenlou Hotel. The family running the hotel also operates a restaurant called Damenlou (Swee Kee) Restaurant (Tel: 6221 1900) at the same premises. In my humble opinion, their prawn paste chicken (S$15 for a large plate) is No. 1 in Singapore. Their sliced fish bee hoon (white rice noodles), black pepper beef, honey pork rib and beef horfun (white flat rice noodles) are excellent as well! The air-conditioning does not work and the ambience is far from romantic, but the fact of the matter is I am happier eating here than anywhere else along Club Street. Just my 2 cents worth, but I'd rather have value-for-money good food with no frills. Hai and I even celebrated one Valentine's Day here…

Face Damenlou Hotel, turn right and walk down Ann Siang Hill till you see Beaujolais Wine Bar (Tel: 6224 2227 , www.beaujolaiswinebar.com) on your right at No. 1 Ann Siang Hill. Beaujolais has a romantic setting for those who wish to enjoy a glass of wine by the candlelit sidewalk, with some mouth-watering accompaniments like garlic mushrooms and tomato bruschetta. Expats love it here. It is owned by the same people who operate Harry's Bar at Boat Quay. Beaujolais is open from 11.00 a.m. to midnight on Mondays to Thursdays, from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. on Fridays, and from 6.00 p.m. to 2.00 a.m. on Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays.

Interior of La Voix

Shidong

Interior of Shidong

Senso

Valet at Senso

Dining in the Courtyard at Senso

Las Pampas

Spizza

Sweet fan we found along Club Street

Bar Sa Vanh and Indochine Restaurant

Aphrodisiac

Colourful Capital Tower peeking out from behind Club Street

Inside Bar Sa Vanh

Bar Sa Vanh's Koi Pond

Union's Moules

Union's Chocolate Fondue

L'Angelus

Barrio Chino

Illuminated "New York" Table

Teriyaki Cod

Da Paolo

Damenlou

Best Prawn Paste Chicken

Honey Pork Rib

Nirwana, opposite Beaujolais

Beaujolais


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