By Suzanne Lim : East Magazine
Others in this story included:
Bisou Wine Bar: 53 Tras Street, Karma: 57B Boat Quay, Bar & Billiard Room: Raffles Hotel, The Martini Bar: Grand Hyatt.
Sushi is available at Provignage
la cave du vin
L I Q U I D M O T I O N
the big chill-out [excerpt]
Trying to find a spot to do like a vegetable and just sit there in contentment in the bustling Lion City isn't as impossible as you may have been led to believe.
Stuck in Singapore for the weekend and not in the mood for serious clubbing? Trying to remember if there's somewhere you can go to unwind, enjoy your drink, engage in some meaningful conversation AND actually be able to hear what's being said? Before you shake your head in disdain and proclaim that there aren't any chill spots in the Lion City, check these babies out.
Provignage - serious vintage downbeat, downtempo & dopebeat for discerning aficionados
However you choose to get there, just do. Provignage The Wine Cave is worth the merry-go-round. With decor that has been described variously as 'raw' and 'gothic' (the haunting sounds of Lorena McKennitt help), this wine bar offers a level of ambience unmatched by swankier similar establishments.
Perhaps its charm is enhanced by its reputation for being geographically difficult to locate and unlisted to boot. That way, the curse that befalls most other establishments - too many of the wrong type flowing in - has been assiduously avoided by Provignage. "We're the best kept secret in town," manager D R Govin says with a wry smile.
Never mind that. Despite being tucked away in a quiet corner of Robertson Quay, Provignage has managed to lure the loyal customer back time and again. Feel free to enter and browse the wine cellar. And if the wine selected is not to your liking, just send it back and they'll oblige you with another. No need to kick up a fuss.
Click images for larger view
Photo : Peter Mealin Photography
None of your 'I'm-so-cool, check-out-my-designer-togs' types here. As Govin puts it, "We don't have a target age group. All we're interested in is the mature customer, be they 18 or 45." And that, perhaps, is why they're still one of the best kept secrets in town.
BELOW : 'The Lady with an Ermine' c. 1484 by Leonardo da Vinci. Reproduced in charcoal 2130mm x 1200m by Willy Baet of Poole Associates c. 1996 : 'The Bitch with a Rat'
Vol. 15 No 5 Oct | Nov 1997
The vaulted part of the room is at the counter immediately facing the main entrance. To the left is a wine cellar. Cement is the dominant finish used in replicating the underground textures of a wine cave. Even the economical bulbs strung over the counter are part of the thematic idea. The bar is an unusually long chunk of concrete that has no bar stools. (Ed Poole: 'There never will be!') Patrons can stand or gather around it when they want to drink here. At the other end is the cashier counter.
As drapery, enhanced with ambient lighting, soften and blur the hard edges of the concrete accessories, such as this life-size painting by Willy Baet (Poole Associates) at one side of the center seating area and custom designed medieval candelabra, further create an enigmatic, theatrical kind of expression to the spaces.
The central seating area. Says Ed Poole: 'The whole point of wine-tasting is the smell, the texture, the color...wine-tasting involves your senses which are heightened, and you pay attention more'. The raw textures of the brick, which is a representation of carved limestone dug out of the earth, and the cold concrete of the bar - 'when you are standing up against the bar and leaning against it, you're going to feel the chill on your arm' - are contrasted with the very soft and velvety drapery. High quality carpeting in this room helps to dampen echoes and absorb sound reverberations in a very 'live' space which can be a problem when there are so many hard surfaces all around.
la cave du vin
I N A C A V E B Y T H E R I V E R
Next to coffee, wine is easily the most popular beverage consumed in Singapore, if the slew of wine bars that have opened to date are any indication. Besides its remarkable selection of French wines, Provignage at Riverside View stands apart uniquely from the rest in two main aspects - its partially subterranean interior is modeled after the underground wine caves of France, and it doesn't serve cigars.
Says Andrew Jones of Poole Associates: 'Amongst the people funding it were direct importers of wine and they have connections with certain vineyards, particularly in France. One of the company directors had experience going down into these old wine cellars underneath the chateaus to taste the wine there, so she was keen on the idea to replicate the surroundings somehow back here'.
Given the newly developed site - 'an interesting but currently remote location, and in a building that we didn't find any architectural connection with. There was nothing there that we could use to bring into the interior' - it would have seemed more appropriate, anyway, to internalize the concept, one that would 'take away the feeling that you are in a new building somewhere in Singapore. When you are in there, you are in a totally different environment to the way you actually approach the building'. But this may change when the immediate riverside walkway areas are developed. Then, there will be outdoor seating next to the river, with plantings under an open sky. And when that is realized, there will be two distinct environments where patrons can choose to 'stay outside to enjoy the river there, while those inside can feel like they are in a cellar somewhere'.
Says Ed Poole: 'Provignage's concept is directly opposed to the general concept of China Jump, where the idea was to try and integrate the whole architecture and ambiance of the complex in the fit-out.' Consequent to the idea of a wine cave for Provignage, the designers came up with a series of curved vaulted spaces, in a very literal interpretation of three vaults running through the site space with a series of intermediate arches connecting them together in a quite complex three-dimensional form. Says Andrew: 'We went through maybe half a dozen different ways to see how we can build this. But in any way which we detail it, put it together and try and get near the client's budget, none of the contractors we spoke to were capable of constructing it'. Eventually, they retained only one-third of the vaulting in the original proposal, placed over the bar and cellar.
And the rest of the room became more of a reinterpretation of a theatrical environment, 'on the basis that around the corner (in Merbau Road) they intend to build the Singapore Repertory Theatre there'. Patrons to the theatre can come to Provignage before or after a show to partake in wine, and to savor some sort of lively theatrical environment. Even with this modification to the underground cellar theme, the French connection isn't completely deferred from. The designers had, in material finishes, furnishing and accessories, and in a brilliant play with lighting in the form of oil lamps, candelabras, hidden halogen spots, detailed the rest of the space to retain an atmosphere akin to that found in places closely associated with wine-making in France - 'the monastery, European abbey, chateau, church vineyards and cellars, that sort of thing'.
The current two-in-one concept turned out a 'happier' solution. Says Andrew: '(The original idea) is twisted into something unique on its own, rather than just a wholesale replication of a wine cellar'.
Photography : Peter Mealin, C I & A