June 04, 2014 00:00 By Rebecca Lynne Tan
Singapore's Tras Street sheds its tatty image and becomes home to a plethora of thriving bars and restaurants
Tras Street, the once dingy and slightly notorious street off Tanjong Pagar Road, has transformed into a thriving food and beverage neighbourhood.
Bustling restaurants and trendy cocktail bars are now located alongside advertising offices, yoga studios and fund management firms. Only a few KTV bars still remain on the shophouse-lined street.
About 13 food and beverage outlets, excluding karaoke bars, now line the part of Tras Street between Cook and Wallich streets.
Four years ago, the street was known mostly for popular late-night Korean fried chicken restaurant Kko Kko Nara, and the now-defunct European restaurant Table 66.
Now, the street is home to two French restaurants, two cocktail bars, Italian eateries, a cafe-bar and a private dining and cooking studio.
Restaurateurs and cocktail bar owners say they were drawn to the street mainly because of proximity to the Central Business District, as well as to residential, commercial and hotel properties. For instance, the street is a stone’s throw from Orchid Hotel, Amara Singapore and the recently opened Carlton City Hotel.
Other pull factors include the reasonable rentals and the conservation area’s charm.
The fact that it is also located away from the hustle and bustle of the main road also gives the street exclusivity, restaurateurs say.
Buttero’s chef Logan Campbell says: “I think there is room for everyone. And I like the fact that the street is a little bit gritty. I like being off the main area and being a dirty little secret.”
Jeff Ho, 37, co-owner of cocktail bar Jekyll & Hyde, agrees. “It was relatively under-developed and we saw an opportunity as we felt we could help improve the vibe of the area.”
Rental rates, he adds, are also reasonable ranging from $7 (Bt185) to $10 per square feet, up from about $6 about two years ago.
In the Duxton Road and Hill, and in the Club Street and Ann Siang Hill areas, rentals can range between $10 and $15 per square foot.
Surprisingly too, there is more camaraderie than competition among food and beverage business owners here.
Jekyll & Hyde’s Ho says he has lent chairs to BAM!, while House Of Dandy’s owner Guy MacGregor says Cafe and Brasserie Gavroche have helped serve food when his bar has run out.
Owners are more than willing to send a bucket of ice across the street when one of their compatriots runs out and say there are plenty of customers to go round.
They are, however, quick to add that they don’t really want the street to turn into the next Club Street, which is known for being lively and having a high volume of diners and drinkers.
They say the influx of too many food and beverage businesses would make the street too saturated, which could in turn take away the street’s charm and exclusivity.
Alexandre Lozachmeur, 34, chef-owner of Fleur De Sel, says “people bring people”, which has helped to improve the reputation of food and beverage outlets in the street.
He says: “The street has become a destination, and more people are beginning to talk about Tras Street but if the street becomes like Club Street, it might be a little too much.”
Tantalising at Tras
GATTOPARDO RISTORANTE DI MARE
What: The Sicilian seafood restaurant relocated to Tras Street at the beginning of February from Hotel Fort Canning.
Signature dishes include the Calamari ($28), strips of squid and orange wedges in a red prawn sauce with barley and tarragon and Bucatini Con Le Sarde ($30), classic Sicilian noodle with fresh sardines.
Where: 34 and 36 Tras Street
Open: Noon to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday), 6.30 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call (+65) 6338-5498. On the web: www.Gattopardo.com.sg.
HOUSE OF DANDY
What: Specialities at this stylish Art Deco-inspired cocktail bar include Fruit Pastis cocktail ($20) with anise-flavoured liqueur, lemon juice, fresh grapes, dash of vanilla sugar syrup and elderflower liqueur; and the Milky Way cocktail ($22) with Black Cow Milk vodka, creme de cacao white and dash of creme de menthe white. Prices start at $18.
Where: 74 Tras Street
Open: 5pm till late (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call 8661-2340 or e-mail: email@example.com.
What: Opened last month, this casual 42-seat eatery serves rustic Italian fare as well as wholesome meats done on a charcoal grill or rotisserie.
Dishes include paccheri with eggplant ragu and oregano with pine nuts and ricotta ($22) and a salt-crusted whole barramundi with rosemary, garlic, and lemon marmellata ($34). Lunch specials include sandwiches and pasta.
Where: 54 Tras Street
Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call (+ 65) 6438-7737.
FLEUR DE SEL
What: French chef Alexandre Lozachmeur serves up classic treats including slow-cooked seared duck breast with braised figs, mashed potato and cherry jus ($39) and braised monkfish with fennel, dried tomatoes, croutons and bouillabaisse jus ($38).
A three-course set lunch starts at $38 a person, while a four-course set dinner starts at $88 a person.
Where: 64 Tras Street
Open: Noon to 2pm (Monday to Friday), 6.30 to 10pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call 6222-6861 or go to www.FleurdeSel.com.sg.
JEKYLL & HYDE
What: The cocktail bar, which houses a nail salon in a separate section of its premises in the day, serves a list of unique speciality cocktails including the Summer Shenanigans, made with almond liqueur, fresh lime and coriander ($23) andThe Gluttony ($23) with beancurd pudding, butterscotch, hazelnut liqueur vodka and kaya.
Where: 49 Tras Street
Open: 6pm to 1am (Monday to Thursday), 6pm to 2am (Friday and Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call 6222-3349, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.49tras.st
What: Bam! offers Spanish tapas and sake and includes such dishes such as kampong egg with baby sotong and chorizo ($16), 36-months-aged Joselito ham ($25); and charcoal-grilled Kurobuta pork belly with caviar. ($58).
Where: 38 Tras Street
Open: 6pm to midnight (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday.
Info: Call 6226-0500, e-mail: email@example.com or go to www.bam.sg