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Tamba: Kafe Utu’s new restaurant charms with lusty African Flavours amid an intricate Mise-en-scène

The Lion City has been undeniably blessed by a gamut of cultural cuisines. It’s certainly not all-encompassing but already diverse in the spectrum. Naturally, certain styles still get lost within that flourish, criminally underrepresented and laden with potential — and it seems that African cuisine is one of the niches awaiting a breakthrough with the opening of the swanky new Tamba.

african food singapore

So far, the vogue of Kafe Utu has piqued curiosity for the cuisine — but it’s only at its new sibling concept that Africa’s rich flavours are finally introduced with a spark of intimacy.

From afar, the stylish Duxton outfit makes for a comely beckoning, sporting a striking clay paint job and adorned with sharp patches of tribal geometry.

Tamba’s singular entrance sits at the far side of the building, farthest from the road, and leads into a cosy alcove where ochre surfaces swerve and dip, while hand-notched grooves etch a cavernous texture into the setting.

tamba singapore

As majestic as it looks, however, the ground storey serves just as a preview.

The second floor is where the beating heart of Tamba lies, in a twenty-seater space made supremely hospitable with plush sofas and homey accoutrements, almost like being hosted in a close friend’s sleekly furbished living room.

The intimacy is by design: Tamba is a concept engendered by sentimentality, as it shares the name of owner Kurt’s late brother. More personal than conceptual, it looks fondly back on the reminiscences of their adolescence in Western Africa.

tamba review

Guests are snuggly nestled into low tables, which give plenty of headroom and vantage to take in the grandeur of the environment, set to a capacious backdrop that handsomely blends wooden accents, leather fixtures, and pops of straw into the mud-toned colour-washed walls.

On top of that, the mise-en-scene is tied together by an august bar counter that oversees the space, bodaciously wrought out of leather and studded with rivets redolent of scarification.

kafe utu new restaurant

On top of the overarching design and fixtures, the restaurant also hides more devils in the details as Afro-inspired intricacies are found on every surface and corner.

All of the odds and ends are meticulously curated as mostly works from African artists fill the walls and a myriad of thoughtful appurtenances —such as placemats weaved in Ghana— supplant the usually unassuming trifles.

This is, in essence, a flawless homage to Tamba’s memory.

Tamba’s hearty timbrE

As a region, Africa feels dauntingly foreign to most Singaporeans and its tastes and scents are seen as even more exotic — but Tamba, like Kafe Utu, serves as a localised gateway to the region’s rich cuisine.

Taking care to incorporate nostalgic flavours of Western Africa where the siblings grew up, the kitchen traverses various countries and populates the menu with dishes with a motley of origins from Nigeria to Liberia.

tamba review

One nostalgic comfort is the Pepper Soup ($35), a Nigerian staple that’s elevated with a luxe touch of seasonal seafood, including a hulking, luscious prawn. 

At its base, the soup was chunky with a vibrantly tangy profile, but the essence came in the form of a welcoming pepper that started mild but furtively built up at the back of the throat, culminating in a wholesome burn when you’re done slurping.

Perhaps it was down to tweaks in Tamba’s rendition to appeal to the local palate, but this felt was a surprisingly homey dish that easily soothed the soul, despite vastly different cultural roots.

tamba jollof rice

More heartiness ensued as Tamba’s Jollof Rice ($35) followed, based on one of West Africa’s most beloved dishes. Inundated with a moreish tomato twang and delightfully starchy, the rice impeccably complemented every single attempted protein pairing.

Although the regular menu option is fixed with a smoky Sakura chicken thigh, the kitchen’s specials occasionally swap the succulent chicken for confrere such as grilled lobster. Ultimately though, the stellar Jollof rice remains the focal point and showstopper in all permutations.

african food singapore

Indeed, specials are a common sight at Tamba and the culinary endeavours are not contained in one set menu. Far from that, specials allow more manoeuvrability and translate to exotic items such as the Smoked Duck Heart on Tapalapa Crostini ($16 for 2pcs).

Here, the duck heart is rendered remarkably clean and silky —nothing like the usual offals and off-cuts— and the morsel functions as a one-bite flavour WMD that sets off a burst of umami when it’s inadvertently wolfed down.

The quaintest Mixology 

joma rivera

As the stately centrepiece suggests, the bar is given the same emphasis here, paying extra heed to guests’ desire to unwind in the cosy living room with a drink in hand.

For that, Kafe Utu’s most senior bartenders are brought in and veteran Bar Manager Joma Rivera takes the lead here.

The bar focuses on more esoteric spirit expressions and uncommon bottles, which are crafted into a litany of equally creative libations, each bearing intimate meaning — some premised on the stories of the eponymous protagonist, others taking the likeness of friends of Tamba.

tamba cocktail menu

My unequivocal favourite of Tamba’s cocktail menu was the Smoker’s Kiss ($32), a wild combination of mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, sweet vermouth and saline that’s stamped with a faint lipstick imprint about the rim to represent the smoker’s kiss.

Not for the faint of heart, this rambunctious concoction is potent and complex with sexily balanced sweet and herbaceous undertones, all sultrily caked in an intoxicating blast of smoke — probably one of the best mezcal drinks I’ve had in a while.

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For something bold but not obtusely experimental, the whimsical The Next Pele ($28), based on Tamba’s football heroics which had earned him comparisons to Brazil’s greatest football legend.

It uses cachaca, a distinct Brazilian spirit, as the base then tops it up with tamarind and lime for zest, and rounds it off with long pepper for a beguiling spice note. A spectacularly balanced drink, especially considering its rarefied components.

tamba singapore

From start to end, Tamba stays consistently well-choreographed — the food is unique but deftly tweaked to satiate local palates and the drinks are creative but balanced. Above all, the decor is masterfully planned throughout every inch.

Even the washroom is magnificent — there’s a lifelike crocodile statute submerged in the floor, for god’s sake.

While I admit the higher price points and esoteric flavours might be a consideration, the overall experience is spectacular. The ambience alone makes an absolutely convincing case to book a seat at one of Singapore’s most promising new openings.

Make a reservation online before visiting Tamba at Duxton for the African flavours and ambience.



  • Address: 101 Duxton Rd, Singapore 089964
  • Hours: (Tues–Sat) 6pm to 11:30m

*This was an invited tasting.


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