That whole trope of the bartender acting as your psychiatrist may sing true at Spectre. Helmed by musician and MasterChef Singapore finalist, Inch Chua, and bar consultant and regional brand ambassador for Beam Suntory, Andrew Pang, Spectre’s conceit is that while they are all about the F&B, they are also for the mental TLC.
You are asked to jot on a piece of paper the thing that is weighing heavy on your mind. Then you are invited to ignite it and watch it disappear in a brilliant flash. Other than it being great visual content for your social media, the practice of “write and burn” is a way of reducing your worries and letting them go, so you can focus on enjoying your evening.
Your cocktails come with other therapy techniques. Retrospect is a mix of gin, sherry, dry vermouth, Benedictine DOM and olive oil. It aptly arrives in a simple jewellery box with a mirror. Like a form of mirror exposure therapy, staring into the looking glass helps your self-esteem. Or, at least, reminds me that when I drink on the job, it’s actually for work.
Order a Bonseki and a miniature Zen garden arrives at your table for you to rake patterns into. It’s not quite the same as the Japanese art of the same name, where you trace out landscapes with white sand on a black tray. But it helps with the waiting while your drink is being made.
When your Bonseki finally arrives, it’s in a Yixing-styled teapot that you empty into a teacup. The contents are a warm snake soup and mezcal. The taste shifts from sweetness to bitterness to a slight acidity. It’s very odd, trying to pin down an ever-changing flavour; like you’re trying to catch the wind.
(These therapy techniques aren’t substitutes for actual therapy or course. Pang, who has a background in psychology, can offer contacts of proper psychologists and help if patrons are interested.)
The food isn’t a slouch either. We had the Classic Claypot Rice filled with your usual lap cheong and chicken bits. This is a perfect balance to a session of drinks. There’s also the Signature Soup Furnace Herbal Chicken Soup, a hearty double-boiled dish with black chicken and an assortment of herbs that feels like my liver is doing a detox (it’s not but it sure felt like it).
Spectre was not without its flaws. The entrance was a bitch to locate (you need to take a lift, which is tucked behind another restaurant, to get to the bar on the second floor); certain dishes were not available. And there was a SGD500 item on the menu that was supposed to be a staycation with a hotel partner that’s still being ironed out.
But that’s the spirit of “repair and improvement”. Like Spectre’s kintsugi flooring—broken tiles repaired with gold mucilage—the establishment celebrates life in its unfiltered beauty. It’s a progression, hopefully by the time you read this, toward a better version of itself.
Spectre is located at 120 Tanjong Pagar Road, #02-01, Singapore 088532.