Yes, it's another high-end cocktail bar in Chinatown, but don't start yawning yet. From surreal eye candy to a rollicking soundtrack breezing between classic rock and Motown funk, Keong Saik newcomer Potato Head Folk nails the flippant, friendly vibe they boast at their Seminyak, Bali location – easily one of South-East Asia’s trendiest bars. Oh yeah, the drinks are pretty special, too.
As we’ve seen in other ballyhooed cocktail lounges in town, slick branding or a big name doesn’t guarantee that things will be done right, but Potato Head Folk manages it with fun and flamboyance, even while juggling split personalities: burger joint Three Buns occupies the first two floors, artsy cocktail club Studio 1939 is nestled on the third, and a twinkle-lit tiki bar operates on the building’s lovely open-air rooftop.
Studio 1939 is located halfway up a winding checkered staircase decked out with vintage knick-knacks and slightly sinister motifs of sailor boys and fairytale figures, a fantastical concept inspired by the Boy’s Own series from Australian artist and the Folks’ design consultant David Bromley. Classy and cool without a hint of pretentiousness, this third-floor bar is the highlight of this lovingly-restored shophouse. Plush chesterfields, vintage rattan furnishings, and wooden flooring lend easy, effortless style to the dimly lit, high-ceilinged room, and the semi-circular marble bar gives a sense of both space and intimacy.
There are 20 handcrafted cocktails and a range of top-shelf spirits and Hitachino Nest craft beers ($15) on offer. We swooned over the refreshing Top Cat’s Brew ($25), a creamy, gin-forward mix of Beefeater 24, orange curacao, cardamom, ginger syrup and splash of Hitachino Ale, but the Jiminy Cricket ($25) stole the show. Tart and tangy, its bright, harmonious flavours of lemon, peach and angostura bitters were well-complemented by shots of Tito’s Handmade Vodka – and best of all, of course, is the sparkling champagne finish.
Such assorted nibbles as bourbon-pickled onions and smokey chips with foie gras dip are available on Studio 1939’s food menu, but we couldn’t resist a burger and fries from Three Buns on the first floor, which can be ordered from the bar. Our James Brown aka The ‘Codfather’ of Soul ($25) was a savoury mess of textures, with mushy peas, tangy tartare sauce and lightly crisped cod fish fingers oozing out of a soft rice-flour bun. Equally satisfying were the Naughty Fries ($10), a mound of scoop-shaped chips topped with crispy shallots, parmesan, sesame seeds and an obsession worthy béarnaise (which tasted more like a perfect buffalo-wings sauce than French coulis).
The 30-capacity rooftop tiki bar, brimming with happy plants and flowers, is considerably more casual and serves a pared-down drinks menu centered on tropical-themed cocktails. The Saik Daiquiri ($23), a blend of rums, sweetened yuzu, Japanese mirin and fresh lime, was quaffable but not exceptional, though we could drink the Zombie ($25) all night; unfortunately it’s limited to two per person due to its high-octane combination of seven rums and absinthe poured over a sugar cube.
It’s a shame that Potato Head Folk hasn’t bucked the unfortunate trend of charging upwards of $25 per cocktail because they can. It’s our only gripe, however – there may be no cosier, more comfortable and more interesting drinking den in Singapore than this buzzy Indonesian export. Brian Spencer
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
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