With its cuisine on the fringe, and hip indie vibe, Moosehead stomps new ground in the crowded restaurant scene

Barely out of its infancy and Moosehead is rocking. Opened in July 2013, Moosehead Kitchen-Bar, located at Telok Ayer Street, is something of an insider’s secret — THE place to be for anyone seeking a highly individualistic global cuisine, and a visceral connection with the alternative culture of today.

Founded by Glen and Daniel Ballis with Chef Manel Valero, Moosehead is edgy and hyper-wired, connecting with its guests through music, art, pop culture, and most vividly, through its food.

Like its logo of the Moose-man in the lounge-chair, jacket undone and drink in hand, Moosehead invites you to let your hair down and be yourself. It’s a pluralistic, inclusive world that’s celebrated here — relax old chap, you’re with friends.

As world travelers, gourmands, and free spirits, Glen and Daniel – a father-and-son team from Australia – and Chef Manel, a Spaniard, infuse Moosehead with a ‘global soul’, that is, a cosmopolitan style at once urbane and subversive. Take its décor

The look, the art, the vibe

Occupying a corner prewar shophouse at the end of the street, right across from the Telok Ayer MRT station, Moosehead is at the hub of things. Because of the unit’s open-end ‘shoebox’ configuration, and its orientation to the busy street, the outdoors flows right in, giving Moosehead a palpable kinetic buzz.

The furniture is an eclectic mix-and-match with many ‘found’ objects. Tables sport quirky cast-iron sewing-machine legs; wardrobe doors are recycled to become gargantuan wall mirrors; a flea-market wall rack holds wine glasses. There’s a strong presence of vintage, rustic wood in the ceiling and floorboards, tabletops and hanging frames; wood grain is everywhere. There are all sorts of seating — armchairs, high chairs, barstools — and tabletops in various shapes – circular, square, rectangular. It’s all held together by a high timbered ceiling and long plaster walls and an earth palette of browns, grays and off-whites.

On the walls are the collage-like murals of Singaporean street-artist, Samantha Lo. The murals’ stylized motifs of Peranakan tiles and closed circuit TVs (shades of Big Brother), along with a moose head painted by Chef Manel, lend a cool counter-cultural subtext to the interior. Towards the back of the space sits the bar counter, pleasantly cluttered; it faces a feature wall of alternating vertical slats of mirrors and light- colored stone.

The edgy, indie energy continues at Moosehead in the in-house play-mix of jazz, reggae, funk, hip-hop, techno – reflecting the musical tastes of Chef Manel – and the dynamic tensions of the interior where old shophouse architecture meets shabby chic furnishings and underground art. Most of all, it is savored in the food

The edgy flavors of Moosehead

Moosehead serves cuisine with ‘edge’ in the sense that it is non-mainstream, freestyle and global, with a core of Mediterranean flavors and influences from around the world. The food is described modestly as ‘elevated street food’ and is inspired by the ‘investigative wanderings’ of owner and operator Daniel Ballis and Chef Manel Valero, whose careers have taken them from Barcelona and Sydney to Beijing and Singapore.

“These days,” says Chef Manel, “it’s about casual dining places with excellent, seasonal ingredients.” In his food and preparation, Chef Manel is energized by the tension of rustic versus stylised, and traditional versus avant-garde. Like his progressive tastes in music, Manel is a chef who challenges standards and conventions. “Food is an expression of who we are and what we like,” he says.

Drawing from influences that include Japanese and South-east Asian cuisines, Manel wields a steady assured hand, producing combinations of flavor and texture that seem improvisational – like jazz – yet are finely balanced. While new creations are introduced, and some have become very popular, the mainstays include the Asparagus with Leek, the Seabass with Egg Plant, and the Gula Melaka frozen foam. The charcoal grill remains Moosehead’s piece de resistance.

The vibe of Moosehead simply begs for a drinks menu that is a party-freak’s wish list; and the bar doesn’t disappoint. There is a fine selection of beverages including new world — especially Australian – wines and many other boutique and less well-known labels.

The hipster-style food, drink, energy and spirit created at Moosehead has marked it as something special and needed – and 9 months on, people are discovering it in droves.


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