Sundowners with The Guild
Golden afternoons are best spent with well-prepared sundowners. We sat down with Michael Tai - General Manager, Ronin O'Malley - Bar Manager and Qama Elias - Restaurant Manager and talked about the shophouse appeal and the recent Keong Saik Road revival.
What's special about being in a shophouse?
MT: You can feel the warmth and richness in culture as compared to other places in big commercial buildings. We chose to open a business in Keong Saik Road and in a shophouse building because there is a lot of history behind. If you look at the design, there is a lot of wood and Peranakan details, the floor tiles for example.
ROM: Shophouses, especially the one we are in right now, were built in the 1920s, so you have that rich Peranakan history that threaded the history of Singapore. It's been through a lot, in the 50's it used to be a red-light district then it went through gentrification in the 1980s. So the soul of this place is old, and I guess this is what makes it so beautiful in the backdrop of modern Singapore.
QE: For one, it has a very old school feel to it that people like. The whole street is very rich in history. You know it's one thing to be able to read about the history of a place but when you actually go to that place to see it, it's experiential, it's very different. Especially when tourists come, they already read about Keong Saik Road and they have seen images online and when they come they actually are able to visualise how much it has changed over the years. I think it's quite interesting to see so many people who come to the street just to take pictures. Being located in a shophouse definitely gives people a better feel especially in a country where there are so many tall buildings and high rise.
If you had to define The Guild in three words?
ROM: I would say 'inclusive', 'comfortable' and 'home'. This is what we want everyone to feel they come to The Guild. You're safe here, you're comfortable here, exactly like being in your living room.
QE: 'Great hospitality', 'inclusivity' and 'community'. We definitely strive to give great hospitality in the sense that no one is treated differently from everyone else, everyone is treated very equally. It does not matter who you are, what you do, anyone from any walks of life can walk into our doors and be treated the exact same way. We also believe in inclusivity. One thing that we do on Sundays is a whole day happy hour for everyone but we have decided to push out the message of inclusivity for people from the LGBTQ+ community. It's something that I personally believe in and support so I'm glad that the team is on board with it. It's a way of starting conversations, it's a starting point for education and more importantly, it's about saying that everyone is accepted and welcome to The Guild. And because we give great hospitality, people keep coming back. We have guests who start off as strangers but become friends.
MT: The Guild is about hospitality and community. We constantly share information to our guests about our neighbours so that we can all contribute to making the street even better.
Why do you think Keong Saik Road is the place to be?
ROM: It's a combination of things. But mostly, it's about the people who have come here past and present, who have helped built this road as a place, as a destination rather than just a stop-over. People come, they have dinner somewhere and then they bar hope around. You get a wide assortment of everything - good old fashion comfort. Again it's a very competitive road but everyone looks after everyone.
QE: There are quite a few Michelin star restaurants established on the street. You've got The Old Man, one the Asia's 50 Best Bars, you've got us, the Best Beer bar of 2019. More than just the establishment, I think Keong Saik Road is not just a street, it is really a community. Everyone in the industry supports and knows one another. What's cool is also that lot of times when guests come and visit us, we are very quick to also recommend them to visit other establishments.
MT: We wanted to be part of the Keong Saik community. Keong Saik Road is becoming very popular, now slowly it is even taking over Club Street which is also known for its many restaurants but it does not have as many new F&B concepts as down here. If you look at The Guild, we are known for our craft beer and comfort modern food, Olivia has Spanish food, Mag's Kitchen has French cuisine, Pasta Bar has very good pasta and there is also The Old Man, a cocktail bar from Hong Kong. This is all happening in Keong Saik Road under the roof of KēSa House.
If KēSa House were a person, what drink would you serve him/she?
ROM: I would prepare one of our cocktails, maybe a sour, the Juicy Manusi because I have always seen KēSa as a lady. From the front view of KēSa, I get the impression of a lady in a long sundress sipping a cocktail!