You’d be forgiven if you missed the multi-concept venue on the corner of McCallum and Stanley Street. At first glance, the multi-tonal terracotta tile facade at Telok Ayer Arts Club seems a little pedestrian if not charmingly old-school. But its heavy teak door conceals a shapeshifting space that’s bursting with character, offering an ever-evolving collection of art, music, good food and of course, alcohol.
We checked out the art gallery, restaurant and bar-in-one, and here’s what we love.
#1 It’s friendlier than your typical art gallery
If you’re curious about the arts but intimidated by stark galleries and artist babble, Telok Ayer Arts Club is your gateway to the art world. All day dining sits alongside works by local and regional artists, so go in for a drink or dinner while you get your cultural fix.
Curators Anmari Van Nieuwenhove and Kamiliah Bahdar have put together a lineup of multidisciplinary artists who present their work within the space. “This isn’t a typical ‘white cube gallery’,” says Anmari. There’s no need for in-depth knowledge of the scene or a sophisticated art world vocabulary. All you have to do is drop in after work and have a good time.
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#2 The space makes you feel right at home
Light pours in through a single floor-to-ceiling pane of glass and bounces off the blanks walls and cement flooring. Designed by Jasper Chia, co-founder of local design studio Fuur Associates, the space is cheery and stylistically ambiguous. Without directly referencing any one architectural movement of the 70s, its chameleonic quality – part nostalgic modernist, part sensible minimalist – allows artists in residence to shape and mould it to suit their needs.
From the gleaming white terrazzo bar counter to the sleek wooden bench outside facing the street, the place emanates the breezy hospitality of that friend who always invites you over to hang out and just have a good time. “It’s really a mix of nostalgia and the cosiness of domestic architecture,” Hasnor says.
#3 You get up close and personal with emerging artists
Because of Telok Ayer’s homeliness, the casual art consumer feels comfortable enough to interact with the artists. Whether you watch the artist perform their pieces live or observe the artist in action as they produce the work “in-habitue”, the experience promises to be immersive and intimate.
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#4 There are regular themed club nights
Every Friday, there’s a live DJ set courtesy of resident DJ and music director Hasnor Sidik aka Mr Has, who was previously music director for W Hotels. It’s called Office Hours, “strictly for the community here after work,” says Hasnor, referring to the white-collar crowd in the CBD.
Part of the music programme also includes events in which guest DJs take over the deck known affectionately as Kelab Malam (or “night club” in Malay). The inaugural event, happening on November 16, will showcase London-based DJ Ash Ghazali, who’s “a pioneer in the hip hop scene in Singapore,” according to Anmari.
#5 The menu is fun, fresh and a little quirky
“French Mediterranean, with a lot of greens, olives, capsicum and tomatoes.” That’s how head chef Betram Leong describes the restaurant’s offerings. Standouts include the Locally-Bred Spatchcock, roasted in butter with honey, paprika and herbs then served with a red wine sauce; and the Cauliflower Steak topped with an umami-rich bechamel sauce made from melted scamorza cheese, scallion remoulade, parmesan and pine nuts. In the coming months, the restaurant will roll out its lunch menu that feature grain bowls and salads.
The drinks menu is full of sweet and fruity cocktails heavy on tropical elements like lime juice and pineapple. Many of them pay homage to Southeast Asian culture, such as chili crab sauce used in the Bloody Maria, and papadum in the White Lady.
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#6 And the menu changes with each new artist in residence
The “Arts Club Specials” is a dedicated space on the menu for the artists-in-residence to play with. They work with Betram and beverage manager Din Hassan to come up with a food and drink item, like Sweet Melody, the gin-based cocktail Din created around Goh Abigail’s artwork. He kept the ingredients – ginger green tea, citrus, raspberry and honey – close to the Southeast Asian theme, using the aesthetics instead to communicate Abigail’s vision. “I was inspired by Abigail’s use of metal in her sculptures,” he says. “We wrapped the drink in aluminium foil to imitate the shape and texture of the glass.”
#7 By the way, it endorses drinking at noon on a weekday
That’s when happy hour begins! It stretches till 7pm, starting from $10 for a beer. “Day Drinking” is printed boldly on the top of the menu, which we can only interpret as an explicit directive to forgo that cup of joe and mosey over for a cocktail during your next tea break.