Meet Boat Quay’s Newest Kid on The Block – The Sampan
By Wesley Gunter
If you’re an old fart like me who used to party along the banks of the Singapore river at Boat Quay in
clubs like Hendrix Bar and Zappas before the event of social media, you’ll have reason to revisit your
old party hood by checking out a new hip three level bar that recently opened its doors called The
The Thirsty Merlion crew attended the grand opening event last Friday on 12th October to much
fanfare and was pretty impressed with the overall vibe and most importantly the eclectic cocktail list
which I will come to later.
A Tribute To The River
The owner of The Sampan, Steve Collinson, has been in the F&B industry for over 20 years
overseeing and managing establishments in UK, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
According to Steve, ‘The Sampan’ is an ode to the rich heritage of the Singapore River in the 19th
century where sampans were a common sight amongst the trading community. The menu is
described as serving ‘Pan-Asian’ delights and from the fare we tried is bursting with some very
interesting flavours and spices.
If you want something to line your stomach before a high-octane evening of drinks, The Sampan’s
version of a Banh Mi hits the spot. You can’t go wrong with a combination of tender pork neck, slow
cooked pickled cucumber and a sliver of heavenly foie gras between two slices of rye bread. There’s
even a healthy drizzle of sriracha added for some kick.
This snack goes perfectly with a cold pint of Peroni beer to wash it down. Alternatively, if you’re into
cider, The Sampan is the only pub along Boat Quay that serves Aspal cider on tap which is not as
overly sweet as other brands out there.
Another snack worth cheating on your diet for is Sichuan Chicken Pepper Spare Ribs. Before I tried
this I never knew you could actually eat a chicken’s spare ribs which I was told is located near its
back. It was surprisingly more tender than expected and went well with a dipping sauce of vinegar
and soya sauce with cut chilli.
When people refer to ‘Asian Cocktails’ what usually comes to mind are regular pub favourites such
as Mai Tai or Singapore Sling. The bar guys at The Sampan have gone an extra step by creating their
own concoctions by blending a bit of classic favourites with Asian ingredients.
We started off with something light at first - the Pimms Gardens ($18/glass). This was made with
gin, liquor, ginger ale and was told by the lovely bartender Herman that it takes two days to prepare
to ensure the flavours are reached to their full potential. It was served in a mini ruck sack which
added a nice aesthetic feel to it. I didn’t quite fancy it that much as I thought it was rather sweet but
it’s a great ladies drink I reckon.
We moved on to another sweet one, the White Sangria ($18/glass) which is served with white wine,
june liqueur, vanilla, clove, calamansi, brown sugar and Asian pear. I’ve drunk a lot of Sangrias but
this is one to check out. The additional of the cloves adds a lovely spice to this easy cocktail.
Speaking of spice, if you’re looking to jazz things up a notch you gotta try this hot number - Mango &
Chili Smash ($18/glass). It was a tad bit too sweet for my palate but really loved how the chili-
infused tequila tingled the tip of my tongue. That coupled with the mango, mint, sugar and lime mix
went together perfectly. Oh, its even served with a garnish of chili padi for that added kick. I
wouldn’t recommend you eat that on its own though.
My favourite of the night was undeniably Pandan Old-Fashioned ($16/glass). The fabulous dudes at
the Sampan have created their very own twist to the regular old fashioned with this baby consisting
of pandan infused rye, sugar syrup and aromatic bitters. To me this was the perfect balance of
flavours by being not too sweet and a lovely pandan aroma. The most lovely Asian cocktail creation I
have come across so far.
3 Levels of Fun
What I loved about The Sampan is that each level invoked a certain kind of charm and vibe so it
doesn’t get boring throughout the night. You can start by chilling by the river alfresco first over a
beer then move up to level 2 for some dinner and finally let your hair down and dance the night
away on level 3 with some great party tunes.
Now I have a reason to drop by Boat Quay again and reminisce about old times.
Do visit The Sampan at 63 Boat Quay, Singapore 049851 and check them out online: