Bar Review: Operation Dagger
Tucked inconspicuously behind British Michelin-starred chef Mark Sargeant’s restaurant and bar, Oxwell & Co. (it was previously their storeroom), Operation Dagger’s entrance is marked only by an inverted crown shape overlapping a rectangle. It’s hobo code [a system of symbols developed by hobos] for “will give to get rid of you” and it gives no hint of the magic that lies beneath.
Despite having what looks like a few thousand light bulbs on display, the bar itself is dimly lit, lending it an otherworldly vibe. The rest of the bar is kept simple and clean, furnished with wooden chairs on concrete floor. A mix of electronic music and hip-hop plays unobtrusively in the background.
With a vast display of dark bottles, each adorned with handwritten labels; the bar looks like a cross between an apothecary’s lair and a chemist’s lab.
If you’re looking for a Gin & Tonic, you’ll be left sorely parched – Operation Dagger’s menu isn’t extensive and you probably won’t find the typical drinks here.
The focus at Operation Dagger is put firmly on taste of its drinks, with no commercial brands or labels on the display bottles. The menu doesn’t state the type of alcohol used in their cocktails, so as not to distract patrons from any preconceived notions of flavor, allowing them to order with an open mind.
Driven by boredom derived from the sameness of modern bar fare, executive bartender Luke Whearty of Oxwell & Co. takes a hands-on approach with house-made and house-distilled liquors. Unique and experimental in nature, the drinks concocted here can’t be found anywhere else.
One example is Chocolate Mint ($22), which blends mezcal [spirit extracted from the maguey plant] with cacao and mint amaro [herbal Italian liqueur], garnished with a vanilla bean straw. Chocolate mint leaves (yes, it’s a real herb) grown in their rooftop garden are added as well, a testament to the drink’s name. Surprisingly refreshing with a subtle hint of chocolate, the result was enjoyable.
The Egg ($25) is definitely impressive presentation-wise, arriving in a glass jar within a ceramic cup amongst hay and star anise. A modern rendition of traditional eggnog, the Egg consists of raw salted egg yolk that’s been cured overnight, house-made rum, vanilla beans, and caramel. The aroma of the star anise is delightfully heady, although we find the drink too salty at first sip. It does, however, settle in nicely and sweetly.
The snacks are also in line with the experimental nature of Operation Dagger. The Flax Seed Crisps ($6) come with a little spray bottle of homemade white wine vinegar, allowing you to personalise the flavour. Paper-thin, the crisps have a lovely crunch to them. While they’re a little bland for our over-saturated taste buds by then, we reckon they make a good light snack for the health-conscious.
While the concept of a hidden bar is honestly quite unnecessary – especially in Singapore, where the multitude of liquor laws make an actual establishment serving alcohol illegally impossible, Operation Dagger injects some fun into a genre that is otherwise done to death.
It sets itself apart from all the other speakeasies popping up all over Singapore through creativity and the use (and distilling) of house-made liquors and ingredients. Their drinks are innovative and fun rather than cheap and gimmicky.
The hobo symbol etched above its entrance definitely delivers its promise – perhaps too well. They will give to get rid of you but you’ll definitely be coming back for more.
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Address: 7 Ann Siang Hill
Contact Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 6pm till late
Photos courtesy of Madihah Hamid