Vibrant yet lesser-known, concealing food gems round every corner, the Botanic Gardens enclave makes the perfect spot for some weekend wandering. And those who love a good brew will find their exploration well rewarded at Orh Gao Taproom – a Serene Centre bar with a quirky name and an even quirkier craft beer selection.
You might have heard orh gao, or 黑狗, shouted in your local kopitiam – it’s Hokkien slang for Guinness stout. It’s certainly an apt name for a space which doubles up as a Killiney Kopitiam by day, transforming into a cosy taproom from 4pm onwards. Quaint details like coffeeshop-style tables and red-and-white counter signs enhance its homely charm.
At Orh Gao, your booze options will never run dry. The sprawling selection of bottled brews is packed with fascinating concoctions, from sours like The Pit & The Pendulum ($24) to fruity brews like La Chouette Rose Cider ($14).
Prefer your tipple fresh from the tap? The bar also boasts a 10-strong cast of house pours which rotate seasonally, including a couple from homegrown beer label Brewlander. If you’re there just for a drink, the best spot in the house is the bar counter – you can grab a stool, chat with the friendly bartenders, and enjoy watching them serve up golden, foamy pints.
Choosing our poison of the night was tough with so many intriguing flavours catching the eye (yuzu honeydew or laksa leaf, anyone?) We eventually settled on the Choc-Coconut Porter ($12/S16), a dark, aromatic brew of chocolate and roasted coconut. While the choc-coconut notes didn’t quite stand out, the pint certainly delivered on malty goodness.
As you might expect from a kopitiam-turned-bar, Orh Gao dishes up bar bites with distinctive local flavours. Munchies include the Chili Crab Dip With Man Tou ($10) and the Pandan Chicken ($12), though there’s also that dish beloved by all café-hopping hipsters: Truffle Fries ($12).
This classic dish didn’t disappoint – a heaping platter of perfectly crisp fries, liberally garnished with truffle oil and parmesan cheese. With such generous portions, this side is excellent for sharing with your group of beer buddies. (Pro-tip: When you download the Flex Rewards app, you can feast free on these truffle fries with purchase of any craft beer!)
If you’re in need of some more solid fare, Orh Gao has a hearty selection of burgers and pastas that pair deliciously with your pint. Think Western comfort dishes like Mac N Cheese ($12), Pulled Pork Burger ($17), and Homemade Meatball Pasta ($14).
My choice for the night was the Carbonara ($15). Orh Gao does this creamy linguine in classic style, but that certainly doesn’t mean it was boring to my tastebuds. The bacon bits were flawlessly crispy, while parmesan cheese provided that extra oomph of tastiness. Topped with a gloriously runny onsen egg, the pasta was flavourful to the last bite. This carbonara would give the expensive restaurant versions I’ve tried a run for their money.
To round off your meal on a sweet note, check out one of Orh Gao’s unusual desserts. The Kaya Cheese Stick ($6), a breadstick spread with Hainanese kaya and mozzarella, is a quirky take on your kopitiam kaya toast. Then there’s the signature Sticky Date & Toffee Pudding ($8), a luscious piece of sticky date cake served swimming in toffee syrup. The fresh scoop of vanilla ice-cream balanced out the cake’s richness perfectly.
While service of our mains was impeccable, it took quite a while to get our dessert. On a bustling Saturday night, it was no easy feat to catch the attention of any servers, who were largely preoccupied behind the bar. But in the meantime, you can lounge back, digest your hearty meal, and soak up the bar’s loud, lively vibes. In such a cosy spot, you’ll certainly be in no rush to leave.
10 Jalan Serene, #01-03 Serene Centre, Singapore 258748
Sun – Thurs 4pm – 11pm, Fri – Sat 4pm – 12am
Download the Flex Rewards app to enjoy free truffle fries (worth $12) with purchase of any craft tap beer, as well as 1-for-1 pastas. Offers valid till 15 Nov 2019.