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You may think you already know what Clarke Quay has to offer – colourfully painted shop houses, themed restaurants, upbeat dance clubs and boozy punters spilling out into the mall after a few too many G&Ts.

But once you look past Clarke Quay’s glossy façade there are countless gems to discover around the riverside entertainment hub. Check out our top picks for bars and clubs to get away from the mainstream and have a truly unique Clarke Quay experience.

1. 28 Hong Kong Street

Just a stone's throw away from Clarke Quay is 28 Hong Kong Street, an underground whisky saloon and cocktail bar on – yep, you guessed it – Hong Kong Street. It’s actually fortunate the address is in the bar’s name because otherwise you might struggle finding it – the entrance is disguised behind an entirely miss-able brown door nestled among a row of shop houses. Upon opening the entrance you’re met with an impeccably dressed host who gives off an air of glamour, secrecy and style – it’s all very reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy.

The effort to locate 28 Hong Kong Street is oh so worth it once you get inside. Suddenly you’re transported back to prohibition-era New York – suspenders-clad barmen with slicked back hair to boot. Alluringly semi-lit, the bar is intimate and hip without being pretentious. The swanky décor features a wide black marble bar and a range of American diner style booths – great for a small group of friends or a cozy date.

The drinks list is meticulously curated and focuses heavily on boutique liquors and small-batch spirits. The attentive staff can whip you up a range of excellent cocktails with drink names you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon (think Whores Bath and Modest Mule). If you’re feeling peckish there’s a range of bar snacks too – throw the diet out the window and try the amazingly more-ish deep fried Mac n’ Cheese balls. 28 Hong Kong Street’s ritzy décor, skilled bartenders and hipster vibe even won it a spot on The World’s 50 Best Bars list for 2014. Read our full review of 28 Hong Kong Street here.

28 Hong Kong Street is located at 28 Hong Kong Street, 059667. Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday - 5.30pm to 1am. Friday & Saturday - 5.30pm to 3am. Closed on Sundays.

Tongkang Colonial Bar and Restaurant

Why just be ‘in’ Clarke Quay, when you can be ‘on’ Clarke Quay? Tongkang Bar and Restaurant is housed on Singapore’s last surviving pair of Tongkangs – traditional Chinese light boats originally used for transporting goods. The two Tongkangs are moored on the river at Clarke Quay, right in the heart of the action. The first boat is a bar and a perfect quirky setting for sunset drinks before dinner or an evening tipple with visitors in town.

Tongkang Bar is designed for gin lovers – with a huge array of gin based drinks and cocktails using Bulldog, No.209 and Blackwood’s gin. If you generally go for the familiar safety of a Gin & Tonic, you’re in for a treat with over 20 innovative gin-based cocktails including a Plumdog Millionaire (Bulldog gin with Japanese plum wine and soda) and a Gin Spice (gin, ginger, chili, mango and pineapple). For the less adventurous drinkers there are also wines and beers as well as classic martinis and mojitos – all at around S$15, not bad considering Singapore’s notoriously high drinks prices! Check out Tongkang Bar to absorb some of Singapore’s unique multicultural and colonial history, and take in the hustle and bustle of Clarke Quay on board a historical Tongkang.

Tongkang Colonial Bar and Restaurant is located at #01-06, Clarke Quay, 3D River Valley Road, 179023. Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday - 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm. Friday & Saturday - 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to 2am.

3. Bitters & Love

Just a couple of streets over from 28 Hong Kong Street there’s another quirky cocktail bar vying for attention. Bitters & Love is a PM-only bar and specialty cocktail lounge, but you could easily stroll by and completely miss it! All you see from street level is ShoeBox Canteen, a casual eatery. It’s only once you walk through the ribbed-glass folding doors at the back of the café that you discover Bitters & Love hidden from view.

The interior is minimalist but welcoming – a long bar with square stools and a few clustered tables perfect for small groups or after work drinks. The décor features whitewashed walls, wooden furniture and an impressive selection of alcohol bottles lining the wall. The drinks menu is more of a guide to options rather than a hard and fast list – and the bartenders are happy to whip you up a bespoke cocktail to suit your specific tastes. The staff use flavour profiles (sweet, sour, fruity or bitter) and seasonal ingredients to create one-of-a-kind cocktails and it can be a dramatic spectacle to behold. To complement your drinks there’s a bar food menu that changes every few months but focuses heavily on everyone’s favourites – meat and carbs. Read our full review of Bitters & Love here.

Bitters & Love is located at 36 North Canal Road, 059292. Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday - 6pm to Midnight. Friday & Saturday - 6pm to 2am. Closed on Sundays.

4. Crazy Elephant

Crazy Elephant is one of the oldest established venues in Clarke Quay – a staunchly rock & roll blues bar and somewhat of an institution in Singapore’s live music scene. Over the years the Crazy Elephant stage has seen the likes of REM, Ronan Keating and Deep Purple, and most days you’ll find resident act The Blues Machine keeping the tunes pumping. Every night is a rock & roll night at Crazy Elephant with live performances tearing up the stage at 10pm daily. On Sundays there’s even a jam session – so if you fancy yourself the next Robbie Williams you can try out your tunes on stage.

The décor of Crazy Elephant maintains a rock authenticity – in stark contrast to many of the other modern chic venues in Clarke Quay. The walls are graffitied, the interior’s dim, there are strobes and neon lighting and it’s just a generally busy, loud and lively environment. The drinks menu is basic, but there’s a good range of spirits and plenty of beers on tap, which seems to keep revellers happy. Better yet – there’s no dress code – if your vibe is t-shirts and flip-flops, go for it.

Crazy Elephant is located at 3E River Valley Road, 179024. Opening Hours: Monday - 5pm to 1am. Tuesday to Thursday - 5pm to 2am. Friday & Saturday - 5pm to 3am. Sunday - 5pm to 2am.

5. Cuba Libre

The spirit of Cuba is alive and well in Singapore! Cuba Libra takes the Caribbean theme to a whole new level and brings a traditional Havana bar to Singapore – complete with Latin American music, Cuban flags and endless rum bottles. The colourful décor is upbeat and eclectic and features Che Guevara prominently – including a huge wrought iron outline of Che’s iconic image above the bar.

By day, Cuba Libre is a quiet place for a chilled out tipple, by night it transforms into an Havana paradise with live bands playing Latin American music and dancers filling the floor. It’s one of the few dance venues in Singapore where you’ll see salsa dancing take center stage (with barely an MTV bop or grind in sight!). The drinks list prominently features rum and serves up an array of mojitos, martinis and pina coladas. They also serve Cuban food, and there are even cigars on offer – if you want to party in true Cuban fashion.

Cuba Libre is located at 3B River Valley Road, 179021. Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday - 6pm to 2am. Friday & Saturday - 6pm to 3am.

Written by The Dreamer

Read more about Singapore’s yummy local cuisine at YourSingapore.com

28 Hong Kong Street Singapore

Bitters And Love, North Canal Road, Clarke Quay Singapore

Crazy Elephant River Valley Road Clarke Quay Singapore