Nowadays, safe distancing measures prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 10.30pm might be a little of a downer. But there’s no reason why you can’t start your night-out a little earlier. Over at Caffe Fernet, the charming alfresco bar hopes to encourage you to do so – with its refreshed menu that embraces Italian aperitivo culture.
Say cheers, or cin cin as the Italians do, and partake in drinks and small bites during early evening hours – a ‘pre-meal’ tradition meant to whet appetites before dinner. In fact, happy hour even starts from when doors open, right till 7pm every day. Start with the Sicilian spritz ($17), a refreshing number made with Italicus, Aperol, prosecco, soda, and a splash of olive brine to lend a savoury note. Also worth a try is the Bicicletta ($17). It’s typically made with dry white wine and Campari, but at Caffe Fernet, the dark red liqueur is swapped out for Aperitivo Select, which comes with hints of vanilla, instead.
The new drink program also features four different negronis – each made with varying gins and bitters to shake up the classic cocktail. Elegante ($23), with No.3 gin, is almost floral in flavour, while the Secco ($22) is crisp and dry from the addition of Tanqueray gin.
But whatever the choice, they all help prime the stomach for a selection of seafood-forward plates. There’s the tonnarelli vongole ($29), a fresh take on the usual pasta with clams. Squid ink tonnarelli, a thinner noodle variant, is tossed with locally sourced shellfish and an aromatic sauce perfumed with citrus butter. Save space for the pompano piccata ($42), with half a de-boned pomfret that is first pan-seared, then finished with piccata sauce and trout roe. It’s a large plate that is meant to be shared, but really, it’s so good you’ll want to have it all to yourself.
Other highlights include the hot-favourite cacio e pepe ($26), mushroom agrodolce ($24), and locally made burrata ($24) that comes garnished with tart green tomatoes to help cut through the creamy cheese. That, along with unobstructed views of the Marina Bay skyline.
Original review by Nicole Marie-Ng on March 29 2018
Easy, breezy, beautiful, Caffe Fernet is what every girl aspires to be. It’s gorgeous from the inside out – the shiny long bar beckons with warm tones of brown, brick red and gold, and the restaurant portion offers views of glistening Marina Bay. But it’s just trading on its good looks at the moment.
Happy hour from 5pm to 7.30pm is the best time to visit. There are frosés at $12, spritzes for $13 and specialty cocktails going at $15 – a real steal for those looking for a sundowner poised against an unbeatable backdrop. But the watermelon frosé is more ice-blended juice than rosé. Stick to the classic negroni and King Cole Old Fashioned – stiff with a long finish, they're there to slowly savour while the sun disappears behind the observation deck.
It wouldn’t be bar group Jigger and Pony's concept without an exhaustive list of craft cocktails. Give the restaurant’s name, you’d expect the Fernet and Coke ($21) to be a signature but the blend of Fernet Branca amaro, Coke reduction, lime and prosecco falls flat, quite literally. The prosecco doesn’t have the same bubbly zing as regular Coca-Cola and there’s not enough lime to lift the herbaceous intensity of the Fernet. The Summer Strolls ($22), is a refreshing tipple inspired by a walk in Andalusia, Spain that also works for the stifling heat of Singapore. Fashioned from jasmine-infused Tanqueray gin, Tío Pepe Fino sherry and Cointreau, the sweet and citrusy drink maintains its light floral perfume thanks to the orange blossom honey.
But unlike the other Jigger and Pony concepts that focus on the drinks, the food is of equal importance here. They’ve brought in chef David Tang, who previously helmed Cut by Wolfgang Puck in New York City to create a contemporary Italian menu. Fawn over the incredibly juicy veal meatballs ($18) smothered with tomato sauce, basil and Parmigiana Reggiano and the crispy golden beetroot ($21) that rests on a spiced red beetroot mole with crumbled feta, almond and rocket. But other dishes like the hamachi crudo ($25) and mafaldine cacio e pepe ($25) are easily forgettable, even if it’s made with four types of peppercorns.
With a mixed bag of hits and misses, Caffe Fernet isn’t quite what we expected from one of the city’s homegrown F&B darlings. But it’s still in its early days – we visited during opening week – so we won’t write it off just yet.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
What the stars mean:
★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional