15 Dec 2011

Where everybody knows your name

Singapore Diary # 2

The Lot, Stock and Barrel has quickly become a home-away-from-home of sorts. See, I grew up on 90s television. Which means I believe in having a 'local'. Central Perk for Friends, Monk's Cafe for Seinfeld, the pizza place for the folk from Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place. I've always wanted a regular joint where everybody knows your name, where the bartender slips you your drink before you order it.

This I suspect is a generational malady. I dare say I'm not alone in this particular craving for some sort of recognition, of gratitude and respect for your loyalty. In a way, it's a personal attempt at celebrity, no matter how small the scale. For those few minutes -while you wait for your beer while the newbies, the passers-by all queue up and enunciate the names of their fancy little cocktails hoping the bartender will get it right- for those few minutes, you are king. You can see it in their faces, the pangs of jealousy at the easy familiarity between you and the person behind the counter.

Of course, being a 90s child, and being very much of the grunge-and-flannel persuasion, it just wouldn't be right if things didn't go horribly wrong. I was conditioned -by years of TV and absentee parents- to believe that everything will go wrong, that life is basically shit. So even the seemingly harmless little pleasure of barface celebrity would not be as pleasing as it is if it was entirely welcoming. So while, I'm very much a regular (it's just across the road from work), I'm something of an unwanted regular, like that chronic-bachelor uncle who shows up at all the family weddings and funerals and baptisms, the one nobody likes.

And this is why I love Lot, Stock and Barrel. Pauline, the owner, told me that she used to be a hotshot lawyer before she bought the place. She didn't choose the name. I told her I thought the name was too obvious, too posturing-ish. She didn't take that very well. The usual bartenders -this nerdy/indie Malay girl with glasses, a Sri Lankan engineering student who wears teeshirts with fire and cheesy heavy metal insignia on them  and this other girl who climbs up on the counter and sings Valerie for me every night after closing time- they all fake the necessary camaraderie, but the one truly great thing about the place is that they let you know at all times that its all unreal. It's a commercial establishment. I drink, I pay, I puke, I make gross confessions, they listen, they don't care. Its modern community living. Where you have to pay for conversation, where you have to be inebriated to be capable of intimacy, of honesty. Its all very physical and metaphorical and metaphysical in one go.

Like all normal men, I've always wanted to own/run a bar. This is exactly the kind of bar I'd like to own/run. There's a projector for the big games, there's always footy on the telly, there's a very retro jukebox with lots of retro tunes, its dim and dark and depressing and moody, and you can order takeaway and have it delivered at the bar. And eat it there. Its the dream. And they'll never tell you to leave as long as you're still buying drinks. No matter how big a fool you're making of yourself. Doesn't matter if you ask the big fat sailor if his moustache is actually a furry rodent resting on his upper lip, or if you play If Only You Were Lonely twenty times on loop. All you gotta do is pay. Keep paying, keep playing, and everybody knows your name.

                Valerie - Amy Winehouse (RIP)


deviousdiv said...


Hey even I like those bars which feel like bars from those old hollywood movies- dodgy and dank with a friendly owner and bartenders. Lot Stock and Barrel totally fits the bill-- In fact, I just went there for a drink and a smoke last night. :)

You should also check out Georges Mad Bar & Cafe in Siglap. Cheap booze, big games projected on the wall outside, and everyone is in their slippers, shorts and jammies.

They even have a wall of half-empty whiskey bottles (yes, if you buy a bottle and can't finish it, they put it up on the wall with your name on it, and take it down when you come again.)

If there was a "Where everybody knows your name" kind of hangout- this is it. The owner is friendly, the bartender a salt-of-the-earth type local, and the waitresses are no-nonsense but eminently lovable ah-lians.

What's not to like.


PS: More at http://www.hungrygowhere.com/singapore/georges_mad_bar_and_cafe/

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! This is kinda uncanny...well I work with deviousdiv os thats not so uncanny but the fact that i read this post today after checking this place out yesterday...lol

Anyway, agree with everything stated...although found it a bit dead - may be because it is thursday....

icyhighs said...

What's uncanny is you lot went there the one night I didn't go. 'A bit dead' you say Premanjali? I say "home, sweet home"!

Anonymous said...

well home is where the heart is... lively or not is irrespetive ;)

what wud have been funny is probably deviousdiv would be the only who would have recognised you...lol...

and besides this online meets offline was always not my cup of tea...i mean completely not necessary...

icyhighs said...

How would she recognize me? This pic isn't that clear, is it?

Anonymous said...

Well...I pretty much had the same opinion but according to DD she would...

I probably wouldn't have noticed or just been too uncomfortable if I did - stemming from the fact that I like keeping my offline and online worlds seperate :p

deviousdiv said...

Ice-u Cheta,

Its all in the nose ya.


icyhighs said...

I don't know whats worse:that you slander my schnozzle or that you just called me "cheta". You should know I have nightmares about random mallu kids calling me "uncle".*shudder* Very age-sensitive, moi.

deviousdiv said...


Don't be too panicky about the uncle vs. cheta thing. Its mostly a term of endearment, and besides its time to embrace the inevitable. Kids are going to call you uncle.

As for my calling you Cheta, our fellow commentator recently dropped into conversation that you were born a few months ahead of me. ;)

And in my thrill and discovering a fellow Keralite, and my desire to show a modicum of respect (after nearly calling you a psychopath which was not well done of me) I forgot that you could be as age sensitive as I am. Oops and sorry about that.

If you prefer, I could refer to you as "Icy-etta" (like Lal-etta but only better) or "Icy-anniya"

But for crying out loud I'm not insulting your schnozzer...

I'm just very observant. I am dysfunctional after all.


icyhighs said...

Haha, I love "Icy-etta".(But don't call me that!) Anything that references "Lal-etta" is ace in my book. I was heartbroken when my 5-year old nephew suggested Prithviraj would beat Mohanlal in a fist fight (Yes, I still play that who-will-kick-whose-ass-if-they-fight game).Such a sense of Malluness-failure at not passing on my love for all things Lalettan to his generation.