“Who on earth looks at an Impossible Meat patty and goes, ‘yeah, I think this would make a great cocktail ingredient?” was the question posed to Josiah Chee, head bartender of the newly-opened Lumo. “I don’t know man, but I’ve always wanted to make a distillate with meat, and people told me this was impossible.”
The fact that an Impossible Meat distillate now exists in the world thanks to Chee, and is used in a couple of cocktails on the first edition of Lumo’s debut menu, is merely a wink and a nod to how this bar is dead set on bringing the oddball to Carpenter Street. Lumo, which means “light” in the universal language Esperanto, is a 1,600 square foot gastro-bar where contrasts meet and create a wacky prism that just works.
The 40-seater bar area is Chee’s domain, where cocktails inspired by breakfast are seemingly the product of a clever kid gone loose in a science laboratory. Just down the adjoining hallway is the restaurant, where head chef Martin Wong runs an open-concept kitchen that brings modern European cuisine back to the best part of the dark ages, relying on woodfire, smoke and ageing to prepare a spread.
Toying with contrasts
Yes, the space is cleaved into two, but this is no disruption to the harmony Lumo offers. Where you choose to have your meal — be it al fresco, at the bar and its surrounding seats or at the restaurant area — has no bearing on what menu you get to eat from. Everyone has the same cocktails, food, wines (natural wines are sourced by the dudes at RVLT, FYI).
The furnishings bear a quiet, Scandinavian elegance that doubles down on comfort. Whether you’re parked at the bar, with its counter adjusted to a very specific 95 centimetres (apparently ideal for standing or seating), or amidst one of its intimate nooks or long tables, plush leather or velvet seats are there to make sure you and your cushion are, well, cushioned.
As mentioned, the cocktails are themed around breakfast, the most important meal of the day. There are seven sections, each a case study of a particular breakfast-y essential, from morning brews to sweet treats. All are priced at S$20++.
Even if you’re prone to skipping said meal, you wouldn’t want to pass up on the Palm Tree Tonic, a riff on the cold brew and tonic, as well as the classic G&T. Coconut cold brew coffee is mixed with gin and tonic, which is then finished with a spritz of absinthe for a bodied touch of liquorice. Like kopi, but all the better to start your mornings with. Or evenings, since Lumo isn’t open before 5.30pm.
Another cocktail that beckons you to take a walk on the light side is the Salt Honey Fizz. A Ramos Gin Fizz’s recipe gets reworked with vodka, burnt honey, sherry and soda, as well as a proprietary plant milk instead of egg white. The latter is a blend of seven different types of plant-based milk, including quinoa, oat, macadamia, and soy. On its own, it tastes a touch like a meal replacement shake, but in a cocktail like the Salt Honey Fizz, the milk mellows out the acid and fizz. If you dig sours, this is a drink you’ll knock back easy.
Lumo’s cocktails have this inherent ability to bring out your inner five-year-old, in part thanks to the curiosity raised when faced with ingredients like Shadow Citrus — not a ninja, just a mix of malic, citric and tartaric acid — or pink cocktails with Fruity Pebbles as a garnish. The pink drink we’re referring to here is Bamm-Bamm, of the Flinstones, and of bubblegum cordial, genever, the Fallen Pony from Empirical Spirits, with its notes of quince, and a housemade genmaicha Greek yoghurt for more toasted rice pops. Childhood served.
Of course, the impossible elephant in the room must be grappled with. Chee has created two drinks with the plant-based patty and its distillate. First, the Patty Royale, a marriage between the dirty martini and a Vesper, where the Impossible meat-seasoned vodka is further fat-washed in the coconut oil used to cook the patty. Next up is Dr Brown, a beverage that looks brutally savoury on paper, but is actually a balanced sour, made with Plantation dark rum, the Impossible Meat distillate, and sweet tomato vermouth. It is fun, fatty, and as much as we hate to say it: umami.
Aged chicken wings, wagyu “char siew” and other meetings with meat
When man met fire, meat became better. At Lumo, the same equation plays out, just with better equipment. Most of the dishes are created to complement the beverages so there are plenty of bar bites to go round. The Aged Chicken Mid-wings Aigre Doux (S$17) is a mouthful to say, and an even better one to swallow. Brined with ginger then aged for three days, the wings are then smoked with applewood, and glazed in a sherry-based sauce. These are chicken wings at a bar but grown-up, without losing any of its finger-lickin’ quality. Best enjoyed with a side of Lumo’s mentaiko shoestring fries (S$12).
The Westholme Wagyu Intercoastal (S$32) is another standout. The wagyu beef takes a 24-hour long bath at 50 degrees before being seared on a woodfire grill, then served with pickled kohlrabi turnip and a shallot confit. There’s char and caramelisation that led to a table-wide consensus that this is wagyu char siew, and all the better for it.
For dessert, the classic apple pie (S$16) is a given. Don’t expect an all-American latticed wedge served on a white plate — this is pure, deep-fried goodness, an apple-filled pocket pie dusted with cinnamon and served with vanilla gelato. Comforting and sweet, this is an ideal note to end the evening.
Lumo broadens its philosophical play on light and dark, extending it to a sense of light-heartedness that suffuses all its offerings. Whether it is food or drinks, this is a grand place to while away an evening with your friends, a beacon for a good time.