By Joey Lee

There’s an unspoken charm about tapas bars.

The décor is dubious and the food is simple. But those are what form the tantalising idea behind tapas– casual dining instead of the typical hefty slab of sirloin with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon– and it’s becoming an island-wide trend that’s getting lapped up by Singaporeans.

Just in 2012 alone, 10 new tapas-styled restaurants have opened up, led by acclaimed Michelin-starred Chef Jason Atherton’s Esquina, which opened up at the end of 2011. Till this day, the protégé of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay keeps Esquina as a strictly no-reservations tapas bar, and is one of the hardest dining places to get a seat at in the country.

For starters, there’s no fluff about the food served in tapas bars. Tapas bars have the chefs almost always working in an open-kitchen environment, leaving their techniques up for scrutiny. In fact, it isn’t uncommon of the chefs to strike up a conversation with multiple groups of diners and explain the dishes to the occasional inquisitive customer.

“I just love the interaction with the kitchen from a customer’s point of view,” says Chef Atherton.

Spain has never been the wealthiest of nations, and has therefore crafted a unique cuisine that is centred around extracting flavour from the cheapest of ingredients. With the quality and variety of produce that is being shipped into Singapore, you’ve got the winning combination right there.

The best part of tapas bars though, is that every item is created with the purpose to be shared. Food are dished out in the form of three to four bite-sized portions to be shared with a fork and a spoon, and consequently, obliterating any rigidness in the meal.

“We get to share the food, so it’s not just about eating, but rather, it’s about the whole experience,” say Emil Halim and Steven Tjhang, the directors behind fusion tapas bar, East 8.

The baseline? Tapas sell, there’s no doubt about that. But with even more tapas-styled venues slated to open this year, it’s only a matter of time before our tiny island gets saturated with tapas bars, and the tapas rage becomes a thing of the past. So it’d be good to enjoy this tasty and casual trend, before we go back to our steak knives and bottles of wine.


Take a Tapas Timeout



The Thriving Traditionalist

Since bursting into the local food scene 18 months ago, Esquina is still roaring with success. Recognised as the heavyweight in the tapas wave at the moment, the kitchen crew maintain a no-nonsense attitude towards their food, and serve up favourites that keep their regulars clamouring for more.

Location: 16 Jiak Chuan Road
Tel: +65 6222 1616
Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri: 12.00pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm
Saturdays: 6pm to 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays



A Korean Kollaboration

Since its recent revamp to catch on the tapas craze, Sarang takes on the chic casual vibe of traditional tapas bars, while still utilising classic Korean ingredients. The bistro dishes out a classier version of the popular Asian cuisine for those who have a craving for the food.


Location: 181 Orchard Road, #07-01 Orchard Central
Tel: 67731322
Opening Hours:
Sun to Thu: 12.00pm to 10.00pm
Fri to Sat: 12.00pm to 23.00pm


East 8

East Meets West

East 8 presents a unique fusion tapas concept where Asian and Western influences allow them to fashion dishes from pretty much any ingredient they wish to. Mirroring New York City’s melting pot of cuisines, the restaurant is the undisputed choice for those with sophisticated palates.


Location: 10 Coleman Street #01-21/22, Grand Park Hotel City Hall


Tel: +65 63388289

Opening Hours

Mon-Fri: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sat: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am