telok ayer bars

White Shades: Telok Ayer’s bodacious new cocktail bar built on a four-storey concept

A recent foray into Boon Tat Street had my gaze arrested by one particularly swanky new establishment: the modish White Shades.

white shades review

The portentous establishment is impossible to overlook, characterised by flashy backlit signs and a sharply stylised typeface embossed onto a svelte off-white frontage. Appearances would suggest an upscale nightclub over a speciality cocktail bar.

Once past the bodacious veneer, I was greeted by a swathe of vibrant pastels that mark the first level of White Shades, which houses a dessert bar concept.

white shades singapore

After some exploration, I made my way to level two —accessible through a sleek monochrome lift located to the right of the entryway— to grab a seat at its dedicated cocktail bar.

Yeah, the bar at White Shades is on another level, quite literally.

After all, that had to be the rational highlight considering White Shades is the brainchild of Singapore industry veteran Bai Jiawei, known as one of the owners at Stay Gold Flamingo and for his stint at Amoy Street stalwart Employees Only.

bai jiawei bar

It has to be said, it’s probably one of the most ambitious projects in the local bar scene and has plenty of soul poured into it.

In fact, Jiawei has injected plenty of his own personality into this project, with his artistic sense observable throughout the voguish aspects of interior design and even the unorthodox bomber jackets that served as the bar staff’s uniforms.

But the challenge lies in converting the four storeys into a multi-level concept, quite unlike any other bar concepts in Telok Ayer, with the remaining two storeys destined as an events space and a no-frills rooftop bar.

The sweet prologue

telok ayer ice cream

As mentioned, the team commits to fleshing out distinct identities for each floor, and the first that greets guests is White Shades’ gelato and dessert bar concept. As commonplace as it sounds, it’s actually a cafe trend that has somehow eluded buzzing Telok Ayer for the longest time.

Here, the menu features a plethora of quirky ice cream permutations —including a range of spiked flavours— and lighter cold brews and drinks as complements.

Gelato ($5/single scoop, $8/double scoop) flavours at White Shades can be rather eclectic depending on what’s on rotation, especially when unconventional ideas such as White Truffle Chips and Cheng Tng Sorbet find their way onto the signboards. 

white shades gelato flavours

Considering ingredient unorthodoxy, the Mascarpone Wasabi was one of my personal favourites — a pretty interesting flavour progression featuring a rich Mascarpone base with a faint cheesy twang in the finish that’s well complimented by a subtle wasabi pinch.

More straightforward indulgences including the Pistachio and Salty Carmelia were also pretty well-executed, comparable to some more established boutique gelato brands.

While not exceptional and gravitated towards the sweeter side of the spectrum, the classic Pistachio was pretty solid overall, blessed with a velvety, creamy body and plenty of nutty fragrance. 

Lustre in Monochrome

Like at his other establishment, Jiawei aims for elegant solutions to imbibing preferences — but refined with an edge unique to White Shades.

So, as with most new bars, the opening menu is uncluttered and focused on classic cocktail riffs, furtively paying homage to facets and stages of the bar’s creation.

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It’s encased in bubble wrap to signify its freshly delivered status but you can expect another swanky delivery sooner than you’d imagine — after everything is stable and safe for sparks to fly in experimentation

Given my rather strong aversion to Old Fashioneds, the Bomber J ($25) is probably not what most would bet as my first order. 

white shades singapore

However, White Shades’ incorporation of toasted rice syrup and Hinoki bitters into a simple Suntory whisky base imbued an assuring malty richness.

That subtle touch helped in soothing my disdain for a classic which my tastebuds usually perceive as muddled-up syrup-whisky amalgams.

The gutsier palate, though, shouldn’t spare a second thought to go for the Savi Galloping ($25), a spicy Margarita alter ego ingeniously concocted by White Shades.

white shades cocktail menu

Like a Margarita, expect vivacious zest as the base, except red peppers are infused to bolster the profile, giving rise to a braggadocious, spice-forward, yet luscious libation.

Finishing touches are then made in a smoking chamber where plunging tendrils of citrus smoke caress the glass to imbue an accentuating smokey note.

Somewhat of a daring drink but well-balanced enough that it doesn’t feel too left-field.

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My visit during the soft opening meant much of White Shades was still a work in progress. However, the team, the solid drinks, and Jiawei’s bold vision have me convinced there’s a prospect in here.

There’s no doubt it’s still raw. Still, there is no shortage of potential in this spot to grow into the next lifestyle-and-bar concept that will bedazzle Telok Ayer’s many bon vivants.

Make your reservations here.

White Shades

Website| Instagram 

  • Address: 25 Boon Tat St, Singapore 069622
  • Hours: (Mon–Sat) 12pm–12am but hours vary for different concepts

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