The Guild Singapore: Hong Kong's independent craft brewery and it's 'conscious' kitchen

Like The Library, before The Guild, there's a certain exclusivity and 'hidden gem' factor in stumbling upon The Guild - a polished marble round bar housing a centralised beer dispenser of 20 taps (19 bars, 1 Gin and Tonic), dark wood accents and kitschy heritage tiles. Beers and comfort food, it isn't quite a groundbreaking combo, but upon closer inspection, you'll be surprised to find out that the newly minted The Guild Singapore peddles the duo with so much originality and spunk that its akin to being on a carousel. For your palate at least, and thank goodness it's nowhere near as pompous as its previous occupant.

Chef Vincent "Vinny" Lauria is nailing it. The hits just keep coming. But before we dive into the matters of gastronomical pleasantries, let's talk about the real elephant in the room. Yes, that striking circular bar assuming centre stage in its convivial dining atmosphere. It divides the somewhat crowded space into various dining sections; the seemingly more 'exclusive' banquette seating outback, a more casual mild mannered low table setting cordoned off to the side, the ever bustling bar counter and finally the warmish convivial communal section placed right smack at the entrance. More fabric is required to soften the blow of the loud space,  a note worth taking in mind, if your intention is a first date.

The drinks sell itself. Beer punters looking for something out of the ordinary will frolic in their choices. Sure, serving sizes, 200ml, 330ml and 450ml may throw you a curve ball, but you'll get a hang of it after a tipple or two. Ask for a taster if you must, the guys here aren't misers.  The Days of being Wild (Cherries) ($12/$17/$20) has a weird and wacky appeal, one which lambic lovers will take pride in. Aged in a foeder with medley of wild yeast and bacteria strands, the farmhouse brew then acquires a tart edge from mixed berries in the second stage of fermentation in chardonnay oak barrels. We test our suspicions that this would go perfectly with the Prawn Crudo or Yellow Striper - we were right.

The 19 Craft Beer taps highlight a core range of eclectic brews such as the 1842 Island IIPA ($9/$14/$17) which is brimming with malt and pleasant tropical hops in favour of the huge hits of bitterness one would expect. Rye on Wood ($9/$14/$17) is the harbinger of the balmy evenings, creamy, slight toasted oakiness in the works, dialled down with a tinge of citrus. If you're stuck, switch it up to my favourite Lone Voice in the Wilderness ($10/$15/$18) - Dry Hopped Brett Ale which is humbly fruity with a good dose of dankness to underline its broody nature.

The Guild priding itself for being a craft beer restaurant and not just your regular pub means that there is ample space for eating around here. Which is a very good thing here. Because the food is excellent.

The food takes on newfangled shapes and proportions. Challenging the clichéd pairings of beer and pizza or the proverbial fried chicken sandwich. Therein lies a whole new expression of craft beer dining, most of it threading the line between kooky and clever. Take the Oysters sourced from Pulau Ubin for example. On its own ($6 per pcs), its slightly milky, sweet and firm to the bite. However, my money is on the Fried rendition ($7 per pcs) - loosely based on our local oyster omelette, this sweet crispy morsel comes draped in hollandaise sauce and served with pickled shallots, coriander and chili; offering an explosion of flavours.

For the best experience, I would suggest rummaging through the snacks section. Though cuisine is based on comfort food with sustainable roots, the kitchen takes it far beyond those boundaries. Case in point, we bet our bottom dollar that you didn't know that Ikan Kuning (most of you would be familiar with it as being the Nasi Lemak fish) is an endangered species; hence, Chef Vinny turns our attention to the more sustainable yellow striper instead. The Cured Yellow Striper ($8) throws the prissy fish and chips (you know who I'm talking about) off its high horse and takes over the reigns as an ideal bar snack - briny flesh spiked with salsa laksa, the bones then 'rescued' and fried to crisp to make it a little more fun.

There's also the Prawn Crudo ($10), plump prawns presented two ways, raw and flecked in a punchy fermented black bean vinaigrette and the heads cooked in the typical Hong Kong避风塘Typhoon Shelter style - deep fried and tossed in piles of garlic, chili and scallions. Outrageously good.

Sustainability makes its pesky little presence again in the next dish. True to God, a real gem that might cause initial pangs of discomfort - frog hashima (fatty tissue found around the frog's fallopian tubes) parading as bone 'marrow'. But that's a situation that can avoided with the disarming effects of a couple pints of beer. With those barriers torn to the ground, one should be able to thoroughly enjoy the "Marrow" Bruschetta ($22), the marrow warm with a slight char was made even better with the accompaniment of crusty thick toast.  Then there's that inviting pile of oxtail marmalade which ups the ante. You see, The Guild Singapore isn't about high browed entertainment food, it's about passion.

Main courses don't cause too much of a ruckus on the pockets. The commonplace Bangers and Mash are given a face lift here with the Umami Salami ($22) - pork sausages born and bred from the the kitchen itself. It's stunning, the mince beneath its turgidly golden brown casing just loose and freshly spiced enough to represent the grind behind the product. This is served with homemade sauerkraut (which could have used a tad more acidity) and a satisfying schmear of XO mustard sauce. The latter, you'll want to relish with everything.

Yet again another main course inspired by a local dish, reimagined for the insta-hungry is the BCM Tagliatelle "Bolo" ($22). It's a polished bowl of pork ragu over handmade pasta (just a tad overcooked for my liking) bestowed a pleasant vinegared edge from the pickled shiitake. Culinary innovation comes in the form of fried mounds of liver meatballs, each possessing a burst of earthy rich goodness that adds to the pageantry of the dish.

If you're hankering after some meat, there's the Salisbury Rubbed Skirt Steak ($32) with roasted garlic aioli and salsa verde or the tasty and no less theatrical presentation of Butter Roasted Chicken ($25) served with scallion ginger citronette. The chooks are sourced from local Toh Thye San farm. Just in case you thought the kitchen were going to leave anything to chance. They would never.

I confess to being a Mac n' Cheese anarchist. But if there is anything I've learnt from this experience, is that nothing is quite meets the eye at The Guild. Toss all your inhibitions aside and let Vinny's Mac n' Cheese ($18) be a reminder that your impending lactose intolerance is something that should be ignored in place of certain euphoric moments. That and the scallions combined with house cured egg yolk overhead is insanely elegant and totally stupid.

This is the time of the night when you're stuffed, inebriated to the state of sluggish merriment, ready to be rolled into a grab. But hold up, I'll implore you to give their slew of boilermaker options a go. There's the showstopping pairing of Cha Chaan Teng Gose with peated whisky and then there's the Rye on Wood ($22) - Michters Rye Whiskey to accompany the ale with a malty backbone exuberant with tropical fruitiness.  Delicious. Presented on pine wood planks painstakingly carved by the folks from 25 Degree Woodworks (whom I had the pleasure of crossing paths with during my visit). Talk about forming a guild of extraordinary craftsmen, they have got it down pat.

The Guild Singapore
55 Keong Saik Road
t: 6224 1262

Operating Hours:
Mon - Tues: Closed
Wed - Sun: 6pm - 12am

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