MICA (P) 165/12/2011
Singapore’s F&B Scene Is Coming Of Age
n 30 years, perhaps the most conspicuous change in Singapore as a ‘livable city’ for its residents and visitors, has been the growth and development of it’s F&B sector. Just three decades ago, it would have been hard to find a dozen independent restaurants or pubs outside of those in hotels, membership clubs, Asianesque coffee shops or hawker stalls. A more worldly Singaporean community and an enlarged international population have driven this once modest aspect of everyday life here, to Global Stardom. The range of products and the sophistication of operations in the
Lion City’s F&B landscape would now rival the most developed municipalities of the world. Three dazzling new players on the scene in Singapore seem destined to set new standards for comfort, style and quality. With the opening of ‘The Exchange’, a well-turned-out Bar Brasserie, the relaxed and aromatic coffee roasting venue of Toby’s and the ‘FoodGarden’, a 70,000 ft2 multi-cuisine food destination with over 1,000 seats, eating out and entertaining in Singapore’s CBD never offered such a glamorous panorama of choice.
A Lunchtime Presentation
At the ground level of Asia Square, the generous establishment of ‘The Exchange’, serves the community from which it derived its name. With a 5,000 ft2 footprint and about the same area set aside for room to grow, a variety of comfortable settings can be experienced inside and outside (but always undercover). Catering for the discerning tastes of the diverse array of business employees which make up the majority of its clientele, ‘The Exchange’ has been carefully positioned to complement the development of Singapore’s commercial work-day (and night). No longer is it necessary for the executive employees of the banking, finance, legal and service industries to retreat to an urban country club, or battle with the crowds at Boat Quay for their informal hospitality needs. The space within ‘The Exchange’ has a singular concept with multiple settings. Fashioned as a sophisticated haunt for casual entertainment, the materials, furniture and décor all support an elegant yet relaxed mood. The interesting theme of famous people (some real rogues here) and places of business, provides humorous subtext of association to patrons and their industry. The design is slick and chic, yet there are purposeful references to history and tradition, keeping the target audience at the heart of the concept. Leather used for the buttoned banquette is of the same quality as fine furniture and exquisitely-tailored shoes; the marble of the 28 metre long bar is ‘A’ grade statuario – all sequence matched; the tiles of the bistro floor interpret the pattern of a pixelated Persian rug; the window to the kitchen “brigade” is a contemporized equivalent to the traditional detailing, typical of the architecture for an executive estate.
Credits Interior Design: designphase dba Design Director: Joris Angevaare Editorial: Derek MacKenzie & Joris Angevaare Photography: Fearghal Hendron
The Exchange is both beautiful and highly accessible with a spacious and refreshing Metropolitan feel. Patrons have choices of seating styles, dependent on their mood and circumstances. The lower level has a more intimate feel with its own bar and a slightly warmer palette of finishes. There is even a refined private dining room that seats up to 10 people. The disposition of this lower level (3 steps below the main floor level) makes it an ideal private function venue with a comfortable capacity for 50 or 60 in a party. With the clever integration of adaptable music, light and audio-visual components, the variety of function types and crowd appeal can be extended, tuned and enhanced through both day and night.
Toby’s Estate Sustainable Coffee!
he culture of coffee today, seems as compelling and complex as the culture of wine was to Singapore 20 years ago. Certainly the variety, blends, brands and growing-regions of the foundation product, can seem as bewildering to a newcomer. But we are indeed fortunate to live in a city which has embraced both with gusto. Almost as counterpoint to wine, coffee comes with an air of free & easy informality. Toby’s Estate offered designphase dba the opportunity to be the design-builders for their first retail consumer outlet in Asia. The greatest creative challenge was to successfully blend their well-known Australian brand persona with qualities which would help differentiate them from the plethora of established and emerging competitors. The key which unlocked the concept, was revealed through the understanding of two things: 1.
Toby’s is a highly respected professional coffee roaster and supplier to the retail and hospitality industries, not just a café. 2. Toby Smith himself is a relentless researcher of the product, travelling the world to source from plantations as far afield as South America, Africa, Indonesia and the Caribbean. As the anchor points for the design, these two elemental aspects of the business are represented in a completely natural and unpretentious way. Through the juxtaposition of the actual machinery of coffee roasting and the beautifully hand drawn ‘beanto-cup’ story of coffee as a retail and consumable product, the customer is immersed in both the industry and the narrative. Toby’s is now providing leading restaurants, bars, hotels and cafes with roasts from Toby Smith’s personally selected beans and blends. Customers of the café are enjoying an interior best described as ‘industrial chic’. The raw, warehouse architecture is ‘styled’ with the injection of refined, glossy elements like the coffee counter and the almost scientific array of service equipment and food product displays. A huge communal table - the size of a giant tree-trunk features as the centrepiece in the dining space. There is a real ‘coffee tree’ growing from its centre! The interior comfortably accommodates private coffee-tasting sessions for an international, commercial clientele and the daily needs of walk-in customers in a way which feels both uncomplicated and reassuring.
Credits Interior Design: designphase dba Design Director: Joris Angevaare Photography: Nino Yaputra
Dining In A City - In A Garden A refreshing change and a sensorial delight
volving a unique and compelling, multi-cuisine, dining experience requires the determined disposition of both client and designer, if the term ‘foodcourt’ is to be avoided. It’s not that foodcourts are a bad thing, but the terminology plants an indelible perception in the minds of potential customers that’s hard to erase. From the outset, it was clear that the developer of Asia Square was looking for something more than what this ubiquitous term could infer, as a concept for their up-scale captive and catchment audience. FoodGarden is a new F&B and Retail establishment on the podium level of the newly developed Asia Square office building in Singapore’s growing Downtown district. It stretches over 70,000 ft2 and bridges across the entire second storey of both towers. It is approximately 170 metres from end to end. Tower 1 is already completed and is busily trading. When Tower 2 is open in 10-12 months, the seating capacity will exceed 1,000. The name ‘FoodGarden’ was focused on early by the client as the preferred conceptual approach. This resonated with the developer’s vision for a softening and refreshing counterpoint to the hard, geometric architecture of the building. It coincidentally fell in step with the landscaping already planned for the giant, covered plaza on the ground floor. The ‘shapes’ of a natural garden would not be rectangular or square, so this line of thought led to a much more organic, flowing and meandering space. To enhance the garden feel, warm, natural materials are used. Stone was the wise decision for the floor, and at the most visible open surface of the space; the ceiling, we finished with a timber veneer grid. While the curves of the plan are followed, the ceiling is interrupted occasionally with large, leafy panels which cast a dappled light on the surfaces below. An enormous skylight is mimicked above the feature tree which sits at the centre of one of the seating precincts. The FoodGarden provides a variety of scenery, as visual and psychological relief from the strict geometric discipline of ‘office life’. People can experience al fresco dining without being exposed to the elements of this tropical city. The interior retail and F&B space at Asia Square has great visual diversity; from intimate arrangements, to the vast vista of the ‘City Room’ Plaza and out to the parkland view beyond the building through a 12 metre high glass window. The fine dining quarter of the FoodGarden feels more intimate. Here, a more delicate interpretation of the garden concept provides the perfect circumstance for the fine dining experience of the Anchor Tenant. The FoodGarden has been designed to suit a truly multicultural audience and it immediately shows a clear departure from other ‘food courts’ by offering a different, elegant and comfortable experience, and achieving our goal of every visit feeling unique.
Credits Interior Design: designphase dba Design Director: Joris Angevaare Editorial: Derek MacKenzie Photography: Fearghal Hendron & Nino Yaputra
s a designer, my antenna is always up in a perennial search for what pleases or what jars the senses. Part of the beautiful curse of being an interior designer is the involuntary assessment of your surroundings – I’m sure dentists are similarly afflicted in their spontaneous appraisal of every smile! My wife and I recently dined pleasantly, in a reasonably popular, regional-cuisine café/ restaurant. The service was fair and the food was delicious as we had come to expect from our two or three previous visits.
While waiting for our orders to be delivered to our table, I was reminded how important it is to consider a dining (or any other) concept thoroughly and not make presumptions about diners’ (or customers’) reactions to the decisions of the operator, even those seemingly insignificant nuances which can affect mood or perception in small yet cumulative ways. So here we were in a pleasant and appropriate visual ambience for a Thai bistro, listening to Bon Jovi. Upon enquiry of the Manager, to explore the possibility of an alternative audio experience, something more sympathetic to the concept of the establishment (not necessarily Thai but more gentle on the ear-drums and heart beat), I was told that “… customers wouldn’t like that … because many are young and this is the music they like.”
Admittedly, this is not the first time we had experienced this same, contradictory condition, so I might be a bit over-sensitive. However, I do wonder how the audience would really feel if the issue was treated differently and the theme, cuisine, name and identity, décor, music, lighting, table-top accoutrements, menu graphics, staff attire and attitude were all better aligned.
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