Cocktail queen Desiree Jane Silva of Sago House, Low Tide and more shares her favourite bars and food stalls for the best weekend in Singapore ever. Eat, drink, repeat.
DESIREE JANE SILVA knows how to make a good drink, a damn good one. She started her cocktail career at the iconic 28 HongKong Street in Singapore before opening Sago House in 2020 with her two business partners. Since then, they’ve opened up Low Tide, Ghostwriter and Underdog Inn, taking Singapore’s cocktail scene by (dark ‘n’) storm(y). As she was born in Singapore and continues to call it home, we thought she’d be the perfect guide for the best nightlife, bars, food stalls and other fun stuff in the Lion City.
T+L SEA: What drew you to Singapore’s bar culture?
Desiree Jane Silva: I’ve worked in bars since I was a teenager and already knew I was going to have my own someday. Sago House’s personality and style of service are honestly inspired by a combination of all my favorite bars that I’ve worked at or visited, like 28 HongKong Street.
T+L SEA: What is your business philosophy when it comes to running a bar?
Desiree Jane Silva: I am the worst person to answer this question because I am the least business person in the business. But I would use Sago House’s “motto,” DON’T TRY (which is inspired by Charles Bukowski). Don’t try to be the best bar in the world, don’t try too hard, just be who we are, and do it well, and everything will happen organically.
T+L SEA: Many consider Singapore to be the cocktail capital of Asia. Why do you think that is?
Desiree Jane Silva: Singapore has a knack for taking something new, taking it up a notch and making it bigger and better. For this, we have to credit 28 HongKong Street for pioneering the cocktail bar industry in Singapore. And boy, did they set the bar really high. The bar industry is also pretty small and close-knit here; everyone shares knowledge and education and visits each other’s bars.
T+L SEA: What are your top three favourite bars in Singapore?
Desiree Jane Silva: Wow, you’re really putting me in a spot here. Firstly, my style of bar is somewhere that has a chilled ambiance. Nothing too fancy, where you get to chat with the staff and have a great time. I’m not a fan of fancy hotel bars, even though I admire and appreciate everything they do.
I love Foxtail because of their mezcal selection, and it’s a really quaint bar with a great crew. Nighthawk and No Sleep Club are both really great bars with excellent drinks. And Writers Bar [inside the iconic Raffles Hotel Singapore] is the one “hotel” bar I will mention, as I do feel relaxed and have a great time there. The drinks are great, and the hospitality and service is always on point.
T+L SEA: If you had to eat at only one of the hawker centres in Singapore for the rest of your life which would it be and why?
Desiree Jane Silva: It used to be Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens because it’s close to where I grew up. My favorite stall there is the red plate Hokkien Mee. The food is amazing. But now, probably Maxwell Food Centre—it’s closer to work and has so much to offer. I like the Shanghai dumpling shop and Danlao, which sells amazing scrambled eggs and rice.
T+L SEA: What’s a non-touristy thing that everyone who visits Singapore should do?
Desiree Jane Silva: Go to a pasar malam, the night markets that pop up in the heartlands of Singapore. You’ll never know when and you’ll never know where until you see it one day when you leave the house. They sell amazing street food that you can’t get anywhere else.
T+L SEA: What is your ideal Friday night out in Singapore?
Desiree Jane Silva: I have never had a night off on a Friday! But if I did, I would probably have dinner at Newton Hawker Centre, hit a couple of cocktail bars, then head to Barbary Coast for a bit of a dance because it’s not really a club. Then, head to Skinny’s Lounge for some boilermakers, then have [roti] prata for supper before I head home.
T+L SEA: What do you do for fun on your days off?
Desiree Jane Silva: I hang out with the dog and cats, visit other bars, play pool, and try to put in some family time whenever I can.
To see some of Desiree’s favorite bars and food stalls in Singapore, watch the video here.