6 Celebrity-Owned Eateries To Visit Now
Behold the new crop of F&B ventures by celebs, including Shane Pow’s mod Japanese restaurant Mojo and Nat Ho's healthy takeaway stall, Love Bento. (A version of this story first appeared in Issue 1380, Mar 30, 2017.)
Celebrities are following the footsteps of chefs and restaurateurs to set up eateries, but how good is the nosh? We try out six spots and give you the lowdown.
204 TELOK AYER ST, S068640. TEL: 6220-0723. Open daily except Sun. Mon-Fri noon-midnight; Sat 5pm-midnight. Last orders at 11.30pm. www.mojosingapore.com
Mojo, which opened at the hip Telok Ayer stretch last month.
THE RESTAURANT: Mojo, which alludes to a magic charm Shane hopes the food here will have over diners, serves grilled protein bowls by day; yakitori, modern Japanese tapas, a few “dinner bowls” and cocktails by night. Shane partnered his chef pal Sean Lim, 27, who’s also the owner of hipster café Sin Lee Foods at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, to set up shop. If you want to catch a glimpse of local actors, you’re in luck. Shane tells us that he heads to the restaurant on most nights, when his filming schedule permits. He says: “I want to be as hands-on as possible and help out whenever I’m free. I have experience in [part-time] bartending so I can work at the bar as well.” Indeed, when we popped by for lunch, we spied Shane clearing dirty dishes. His appearance at the eatery drew double takes from customers, who later asked him for selfies. Shane’s celeb friends such as Rebecca Lim, Joshua Tan, Julie Tan, Michelle Chong and Pornsak have dropped by. Does Shane’s bae, 987 jock Kimberly Wang, come by to help out? “Kimberly visits often, but mostly to eat,” deadpans Shane. Nice.
The business cost close to $400,000 to set up, and Shane invested a five-figure sum. “I’ve always been interested in F&B and the opportunity came up when I was having lunch at Sin Lee Foods and Sean told me about this new venture, so I decided to invest in it,” says Shane. He adds: “I’m a foodie, and I like to drink as well (laughs). Telok Ayer is very vibrant, so we want Mojo to be a new place in the area where people can hang out and unwind after work, and on weekends.”
BOTTOM LINE: We like the hearty, value-for-money lunch bowls. Dinner is a more hit-or-miss affair. Still, it’s not a bad place to drop by for a casual meal and (hopefully) a glimpse of some local actors.
2. Love Bento
#01-28 WILD MARKET, SHAW TOWER, 100 BEACH RD, S189702. Open daily 9am-9pm. Last orders at 8.15pm. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Bento/745191268981288
THE LOOK: A no-frills, cheerful takeaway stall where you can grab a bento to go or have it at one of the communal seating areas within Wild Market.
BOTTOM LINE: Wallet-friendly, generously-portioned bento sets. Nat is thinking of opening more stalls and offering food delivery services. He muses: “I don’t want to be too ambitious and open a dine-in restaurant for now, ’cos I’d be paying a lot more rent just for extra space!” $
3. Cafe Football
48 WOODLEIGH PARK, S357844. TEL: 6717-8282. Open daily Mon-Fri 11am-midnight, Sat & Sun 9.30am-midnight. Last orders at 10.30pm. www.facebook.com/pg/cafefootballsg
Former national footballer Razali Saad.
THE RESTAURANT: Cafe Football was born in the UK, where it has three outlets. Those serve more typically English pub grub like fish and chips, while the Singapore branch offers generic Western stuff and a few local dishes. The Singapore franchise opened in January and is run by Singaporean co-owners and buddies Derrick Goh, 44, and Simon Tan, 38. Derrick is also the co-owner of hip hawker centre Bedok Marketplace, while Simon is a former national youth goalkeeper who played for Balestier Khalsa Football Club. The duo also owns The Arena, a fitness hub that encompasses the cafe’s adjoining football and futsal pitches. Giggs and Neville weren’t in town during our visit, however, they will drop by for the cafe’s official opening on April 8. Oh, and we spotted former national footballer Razali Saad (above) at the cafe too. The man, who memorably captained the Singapore team for the 1993 Malaysia Cup finals, is working for The Arena as a general manager now. The affable Razali tells us his current gig “is a way for retired footballers to upgrade our skills and have a second career”. The kitchen is helmed by a chef previously from Harry’s Bar and TGIFridays Restaurant & Bar.
THE LOOK: The 200-seat cafe, which Simon says costs “a million plus plus” to set up, is divided into two sections. One half is decked out like the sexier version of a locker room with sports jerseys hanging on the wall and plush leather banquettes. It is just the spot for a boys’ night out with beer and football. The other half, with an entrance shaped like a giant goalpost, is more spacious and family-friendly. The cheerful, brightly-lit space is filled with large tables and an island bar counter dispensing beer and wine. It is also tastefully decorated with golden footballs and large TV screens showing football matches. A surprisingly elegant spot to chill out in for a sports bar, even if we aren’t exactly football fans. But if you are one, you’ll be pleased to know Fandi Ahmad has dined here.
Cafe Football's 'locker room'.THE FOOD:
BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly yummy, affordable cafe grub in this refreshingly un-hipster cafe. Pity about the ulu location. Psst, you stand a chance to play football with Giggs and Neville during the eatery’s grand opening — sign up at www.cfcup.sg.
4. Cafe Flo (Food Lovers Only)
#02-15A IMM, 2 JURONG EAST ST 21, S609601. TEL: 6896-1396. Open daily 11am-10pm. Last orders at 9.30pm. www.facebook.com/flo.foodloversonly
THE RESTAURANT: The Manuka outlet at IMM is now revamped as the casual Cafe Flo (which stands for, um, ‘Food Lovers Only’). The revamp was quietly launched last July, and the biggest change is that it is now certified halal. Cafe Manuka, which has one outlet left at Paragon, is not halal. And instead of the Kiwi-style nosh that Manuka is known to serve, the menu at Flo focuses on Korean-Western dishes. It’s cooked by spunky 18-year-old Korean head chef Kim Jin Myeong. The teenager helped out at her family’s Korean restaurant back home before moving to Singapore to study English and applying for a job as a chef on a whim.
Says Candyce: “My sister knows Cafe Manuka’s previous owners, they wanted to sell their business as they were moving out of Singapore. They asked my sister if she was keen to take over, so we just jumped in. We didn’t have any F&B experience, but it’s been okay so far. We made Cafe Flo halal as there aren’t many halal cafes serving Korean food.” While Candyce is in this full-time, hubby Junyang is not actively involved in the biz. “I try not to disturb him lah, since he needs his creativity for his music,” she quips. “He gives his opinion every now and then, but I’m the more hands-on one. (Laughs)”
BOTTOM LINE: We wouldn’t travel all the way to Jurong for a meal here. But Cafe Flo offers passably tasty Korean and Western dishes for Westies looking for a halal meal.
17 BALI LN, S189853. TEL: 6291-8028. Open daily 5pm-11pm. Last orders at 10.30pm. www.facebook.com/pg/fatpapassg
THE RESTAURANT: A halal offshoot of American-style burger chain Fatboy’s. We can’t think of better makan kakis than radio jocks Justin Ang, 35, Vernon A, 44, and Sheikh Haikel, 42. The three men enjoy hearty dude food the same way some folks are addicted to... shopping. So it is unsurprising that they ended up joining forces to open FatPapas together with Fatboy’s owner Bernie Tay last month. The Muttons are already acquainted with Bernie, having worked with him to set up a franchised Fatboy’s burger chain called The Burger Bar. Justin says, “But FatPapas is really Haikel’s baby. He took seven years to convince Bernie to open a halal version of Fatboy’s and now he is at the restaurant every day, welcoming diners with open arms.” Drop by the restaurant, and you might just dine next to celebs like Gurmit Singh and Taufik Batisah. FatPapas mainly serves a halal version of Fatboy’s burger-heavy menu, as well as a few new additions (see below).
Country Fried Sheikh Burger ($20)
This is the burger version of Fatboy’s Country Fried Steak, Sheikh’s fave dish on the menu (also known as chicken fried steak, which is really a piece of breaded flattened rib-eye steak drizzled in bechamel sauce). Comes with fries and turkey bacon.
Available online at www.hopshop.com.sg and at selected restaurants and retailers including Mischief, #01-10/12 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Ave, S039802. Tel: 6532-0106. www.brewlander.com
THE CELEB TOWKAYS: A Singaporean craft beer label owned by beer buddies, ex-radio jock Daniel Ong, 41, and hunky TV host Allan Wu, 44. “Allan and I have known each other for many years from attending events together, since we are both [formerly] from Mediacorp. But it was only recently that we started hanging out more, when I reached out to ask him for advice after my divorce [from Jaime Teo]. He has really become one of my best friends,” shares Daniel, who is no stranger to F&B, having co-founded cupcake chain Twelve Cupcakes and restaurant-bars Rookery and Mischief. Meanwhile, F&B newbie and craft beer lover Allan has always toyed with the idea of “opening a restaurant”, and was convinced by Daniel to join Brewlander as a co-owner ’cos he “really believes in the product” though his role is more about “spreading the word [for the brand]”. The duo have partnered local award-winning brewer John Wei to launch the beer line, named after John’s ‘Brewlander’ nickname. The sleekly packaged beer, available in four flavours named after emotions, is brewed in a rented brewery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The beer line has no brick-and-mortar shop or bar for now, though the duo does not rule out opening a brewery and pub in the future.
BOTTOM LINE: A local craft beer line is a rarity, made even rarer by the fact that its owners are in showbiz. But it’s not hard to #supportlocal when the brews are this good.