The interior of CHIJMES’ new craft beer bar Almost Famous contrasts starkly with its neighbours and the historical architecture of the building in City Hall. Stepping in, you’ll understand why some call it the Apple Store of bars. With sleek furniture and bare surfaces, the owners have put in considerable effort in keeping things simple. Some may find the sterile environment brings a pervading sense of being in a dentists’ waiting room, what (we suppose) it does is to bring the attention to the beers, and the food that pair with them.
Opened at the end of last year, Almost Famous has 16 taps – the beer on rotation we’ve seen comes from breweries such as Hong Kong’s Young Master, Pasteur Street from Vietnam, and Brewlander, a Singaporean brand whose brewery is in Cambodia.
Priced from $14++ a pint for regular brews; the premium stuff – ie. higher ABV beers – cost $16++ a pint or $14++ for 310ml). The beer styles on offer are quite diverse too, from light lagers and pale ales to rich chocolatey stouts.
My personal favourite was the Fresh Haze IPA by USA brewery Deschutes. The relatively light brew has bright notes of orange, mango and pineapple. The initial mild sweetness of tropical flavours transitions into a more citrusy, bitter taste towards the end, which paired well with the Tom Yum Gyoza. The crispy fried dumplings were flavourful and had a good skin-to-filling ratio though the sweetness of the bed of tom yum-inspired sauce they were served on kept them from being addictive. It also somewhat overpowered the beer.
Next up – Pasteur Street’s Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout. The rich dark chocolate flavour had a very (very) subtle mint taste. Surprisingly sessionable, the bitter finish of this stout complemented the Chicken and Waffles ($14) – a tiny mountain of fried chicken bites with bite-sized pieces of Belgian waffles, drizzled with honey and topped with nuts. While the waffles bites were perfect, we would have preferred a more textural (crunch) and flavour (could be more savoury) contrast in the karaage-style chicken.
Brewlander Hope is a sweet summer ale, a light and fruity brew that washes down a newcomer to the food menu – Luxurious Fries ($16) – very well. It’s a bit fussy for bar grub (we were trying really hard not to waste a single bit of the caviar or black truffle), but the crispy fries come in a large enough serving and seem well worth the price.
Although having a nondescript paper bag plopped in front of you at a hyper-minimalist place may seem a little out of place, the Bong Appetit ($6) reveals a variety of smoked chips and crackers through a cloud of hickory smoke.
Unfortunately, despite the Instagram-worthiness of the snack, the other dishes we’ve had greatly outshone this bag of high end chips. The hickory smoke tasted alright with the potato chips but made an awkward couple with the Asian-type prawn keropok that we know and love. This was paired with the most commercial beer of all the beers one can have at Almost Famous – a foamy, refreshing glass of Pilsner Urquell ($10).
For first dates and bar denizens looking for dimly-lit spaces and lounge-like seats to let their guard down, this may seem a little off-brand for you. However, the intention of brightly-lit open spaces was to provide a more welcoming ambience for those new to the bar scene; and while they still have a few kinks to work out, dining at Almost Famous is an interesting experience. That and the variety of beers also makes it a fun locale for palate practice, so don’t knock it before you rock it.
Almost Famous is open at CHIJMES, 30 Victoria Street, #01-06, Singapore 187996, between the hours of 3pm – 12am daily. For more details on what beers are currently on tap, check out their website here.