Any good bar ought to serve munchies to fuel your drinking. That’s just the bare bones of what makes up worthy patronage. The problem with your standard bar food fare is that they’re usually a mix of salt and grease to facilitate more drinking, and typically come in portions that’ll get you pretty full, fast. On the flip side, drinking on an empty stomach is a definite no, so you’re caught between the rock glass and a hard place.

Small plates and tapas bars are the elegant solution to that problem. Taking cues from the Spanish tradition of serving small, savoury appetisers with your cocktail, local joints that proffer small bites with your meal tend to veer towards experimental, bold flavours, instead of thick cut potato wedges and chicken wings. That’s not to diss the classics, for fries still have a firm place in our hearts, but sometimes, you just want to make your night at the bar a proper experience. Especially if you’re a foodie, being able to sample a broad array of unique dishes with quality cocktails is the hallmark of an A-grade evening.

This weekend, make the night count and satiate your stomach at any of these fantastic tapas bars we love.

1
Esquina

Co-founded by acclaimed English chef Jason Atherton, Esquina has always been at the frontier of excellent Spanish cuisine and innovative tapas. It just celebrated its fifth year anniversary, and shows no signs of slowing. Try the Tsarkaya oyster, which comes dressed with Jalapeño ponzu and salmon roe for a delightfully umami starter. Follow with the Spanish Nigiri, which is really salted cod “rice” with a red bell pepper “sashimi” slice. This place is heavy on Spanish wines, champagnes and cava, so order yourself a bottle and dig in. If you miss the option of having sangria, Esquina’s got it in sorbet form to cleanse your palate.

Esquina, 16 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089267, +65 6222 1616

2
Flying Monkey

Mod-Indian cuisine and cocktails provide explosive flavour combinations at Flying Monkey. The restaurant-bar has small and big plate bites to satisfy, with some favourites being the truffle naan with paneer mousse and the fried okra — a deviously addictive and crisp version of chips we’d like to believe are healthier. Grab yourself a seat at the bar and enjoy some of the Indian-inspired cocktails. We recommend the Goa Mamma Lassi, a tropical and alcoholic take on the classic lassi. See the full review here.

Flying Monkey, 67 Bussorah St, Singapore 199480, +65 6291 0695

3
Lolla

An open kitchen, a charged atmosphere and decadent Euro-Japanese cuisine define Lolla, a laid-back small plates restaurant along Ann Siang Road. You’re probably familiar with its uni pudding from social media, but Lolla’s got plenty of other interesting bites to order too. Its duck rillettes is a meaty spread served with crisp bread, excellent to pair with a glass of full-bodied red from the wine menu. Throw in good conversation, and you’ve got the makings of a night you (and your stomach) will remember.

Lolla, 22 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069702, +6423 1228.

4
Ding Dong

What should one expect from a place with a kitschy name like Ding Dong? If you guessed quirky reinventions of Southeast Asian cuisine and potent cocktails that bring on the nostalgia, then you’re right. The establishment’s cocktails come in slushie cups, or are mixed up with truly Asian ingredients like barley, calamansi lime or hawberries. The food is as otherworldly, with flavours that seem odd until you dig in. Think homemade banana bread with duck liver and kimchi, or carbon-battered prawns. Your palate won’t leave bored, for sure.

Ding Dong, 115 Amoy Street, #01-02, Singapore 069935, +6557 0189.

5
Morsels

Small portions and big fusion flavours summarise Morsels pretty well. Step in, and you’re greeted by a wonderland-esque haven of mismatched furniture. Unexpected flavour combinations and a penchant for pickled garnishes are all about the menu, with treats like clams in kimchi broth, and squid ink risotto with salted egg yolk being the more popular orders. Morsels has a hefty wine list to satisfy a wide range of drinkers, with some unexpected wines from lesser-known vineyards. Every Tuesday, it’s BYOB, and corkage-free for one bottle per person. Say cheers.

Morsels, 25 Dempsey Road, #01-04, S249670, +65 6266 3822.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.