The small stretch between Club Street and Amoy Street – whose namesake is 19th-century banker John Gemmill – is home to a handful of stylish restaurants and bars, making it the perfect spot for a laid-back hangout. Don't stop at the end of the road either, the back alley of Amoy Street has a few hidden restaurants to wind down at for an after-work dinner and drinks sesh.
RECOMMENDED: Check out our guide to the Ann Siang Hill area
Restaurants and bars
Chef Francois Mermilliod of Absinthe fame enters Gemmill Lane’s restaurant fray with Bar-a-Thym. This casual French restaurant veers from the stereotypical snootiness of its counterparts with communal seats and an impressive plancha (flat top grill) taking centre stage, giving customers front row seats to the spectacle that is the Maillard reaction. Seafood is the name of the game here – start your meal with the yellow fin tuna ceviche ($24) or the tooth-fish carpaccio ($26), and fill up with the chorizo squid-ink risotto with red snapper ($38) or the whole Fish of the Day cooked in a lemon thyme jus if you’re game. An extensive wine list ($12-$20/glass, $68-$1288/bottle) lets you pair your meal accordingly.
Club Street Social
For comfortable and hearty American fare, Club Street Social is the place to be. The brick-walled space and selection of laid-back tunes recreate the uncluttered feel of a Manhattan bistro-bar – elegant yet cosy. This 48-seater does everything from pulled pork Benedict ($20), pancakes ($16), salads ($17-$20) and pizza ($19-$21) for brunch, to mains like pan-seared snapper and panzanella salad ($26), and spring chicken with dukkah and pecorino pearl barley ($26) for dinner. Pair your food with imaginative-sounding cocktails like Five Minutes to Midnight, ($20), Julep in Your Dreams ($20) or the boldly named Zombieland ($19).
Beyond a pink neon sign that flickers ‘Psychic’, you’ll find a bar that will take you back to the Prohibition days of the US. Choose to have your fortune read or squeeze through the mingling crowd to the back of Employee’s Only for a table – like the original New York cocktail institution of the same name, this local off-shoot is a favourite among F&B folks to gather and unwind. ‘Authenticity’ is this watering hole’s calling card. Steve Schneider, a veteran with 13 years of experience and multiple accolades under his belt, is tasked with educating the bar team on the techniques Employees Only is famed for. The free-pouring style of crafting a tipple, for example, is one of the things fresh hires learn when they start as apprentices. And tucked at the back is the kitchen that issues out a Modern American menu – think hand-chopped steak tartare ($27) and bone marrow poppers ($15).
Named after the white charcoal used to smoke its French-Japanese tapas, Le Binchotan is a chic eatery dishing out small plates, large plates, and skewered items licked by the grill. Don't be fooled by the large mirror at the back of the restaurant, the space is small and only seats 38. Ingredients are flown in from Japan to produce dishes like the Myoban uni ($23), a corn mousse topped with long-spiked uni that reaches the restaurant mere hours before ending up on your plate. Other highlights include shaven foie gras ($21) made to look like wood chips served with daikon and dashi gelée, single-stick skewers of wagyu striploin ($15), and Iberico pork jowl ($35).
Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House
This Travis Masiero-owned joint is your traditional American chophouse: it specialises in lots of meat and some stellar seafood. If you’re in the mood for the former, try the bone-in tenderloin au poivre, served with peppercorn crust and mustard cognac jus ($82) or the blue label burger ($32). But ends up as your main, make sure you start with a tray of Luke’s oysters, sourced from chef Masiero’s hometown of Boston. Going for $96 for a dozen and $48 for six, the molluscs range from the mildly briny Onset to the rich Bar Harbor.
You’ll be in good hands here: owner and chief sommelier Antoine Rouland commands 13 years of experience and, with co-founder Marie-Charlotte Ley, handpicks Old World wines from independent winemakers and producers on their regular trips to France – which means controlled yields of favourites such as the 2015 Domaine du Tariquet Classic ($9/glass, $42/bottle), which is also stocked at Ô Comptoir, its sister cider bar and crêpe bistro. The vino is replenished every day to ensure you’re getting the stuff in top-notch condition, and prices start at around $8 a glass and $38 a bottle. If a sparkling’s more up your alley, the Marguerite Guyot Cuvée Passion, Champagne AOC ($130/bottle) will do the trick. And don’t forget to sample French vino from different regions by signing up for one of Ô Batignolles’ monthly wine tastings.
Elsewhere on Gemmill Lane...
Situated on a quiet lane off Club Street, The Comb is a revamp of the former Rise Hair Salon (after a change of management). With a team of local and Korean stylists, their focus is mostly on Korean-influenced tresses, as evidenced by creative director Rina Kil’s client list of K-pop celebs. Most of the furniture and fittings from its predecessor remains in this brightly-lit space, including the wood-paneled long table with open shelves to store your belongings. It’s easy to feel at home here, where they serve you with a choice of complimentary coffee, TWG tea or orange juice once you’re comfortably seated. Reclining on adjustable seats, we began our pampering session with a hair wash that included an invigorating 15-minute scalp massage. The relaxing experience was slightly interrupted when another assistant entered and started whispering with our stylist over the choice of shampoo and procedure – which made us feel somewhat short-changed – but they made up for it by showering us with earnest attention. Next up was a consultation with fashionably-dressed senior stylist, Bella Son. We decided to leave our new hairdo in her hands. With the work divided between her and an assistant, the process went by quickly but not entirely smoothly. A splash of hair dye accidentally stung our exposed hands, and hand-held hair dryers were used in place of the standing ones, which were strangely all out of order. Nonetheless, their styling was meticulous. With our new look, Bella gave us a