In Good Spirits:
Getting Your Tipple At TPC
Whether you’re looking for refreshment on the go or a glass of wine with authentic Spanish cuisine, there’s always an option for a tipple or two at Tanjong Pagar Centre.
We sit down with Lucas and Kelvin - the managers at Pura Brasa - and Kenny, owner of Wines Online, to talk epicurean pleasures, what makes their business unique, and the basics of getting into wine appreciation.
Pura Brasa: Drinking And Dining
Hi Lucas, Kelvin. Could you introduce us to Pura Brasa? What makes the restaurant unique?
Pura Brasa in Singapore is the first outlet of its brand outside of Spain. We're very proud to have the opportunity to grow this brand over the coming years.
Pura Brasa is also owned by the company that makes Josper Ovens, a brand that is growing worldwide and which recently won a Guinness World Record [Ed’s note: Fun fact – this record was for grilling 12,500 artichokes in 1 hour].
Over 90% of our food is from Spain, and a lot of our culinary focus is on our Josper Oven. It’s basically a three-way oven that smokes, grills and uses charcoal to bring out the best of the meat’s flavour.
What dishes would you recommend to first time customers? And what drinks should they pair with these dishes?
The suckling pig, the Iberian pork ribs and the paella. The last dish is a must-have if you're coming to a Spanish restaurant! It gets its smokiness from the charcoal used in the Josper Oven.
In terms of alcohol pairing, we would recommend wine. We carry wines from Spain, Italy and France, as well as Estrella, a Spanish beer from Barcelona.
But the smokiness of flavour in our meat dishes actually pair very well with Spanish wines, which are generally well known for its oaky quality.
Do you guys have any tips for wine beginners?
As a consumer, it's better to go for a house pour. Ordering wines by the glass will allow you to appreciate 2-3 different types of wine. You won’t have to finish the whole bottle if you don't like it, and you’ll get to experience a variety of wine.
Wines Online: A Bottle For Every Occasion
What’s the concept behind Wines Online?
Wines Online started back in 2003, when e-commerce wasn’t a big thing. When I started the business I was doing more distribution to restaurants and hotels. But over the years the business grew, so I split the company in two to serve corporate versus private customers.
With this store, I really get the opportunity to interact with our customers. On our website, we have over 1000 wines, spirits and whiskeys. But what we have here is 200-300 bottles of our bestsellers, based on real time data from our online business.
So there's a safe bet: If you don't know what you want to drink, we hope you’ll come in, have a chat with us, and we can pick out your drinking preference from our best sellers.
The other thing we like to do is also we like to feature wines that are from smaller producers, meaning 50,000 cases and below annually, they're actually established wineries.
In Singapore, when you drink in a restaurant, it's very expensive. We want people to be able to try these wines on retail.
It’s like democratizing the appreciation for wine.
Yeah! If not you'll just end up drinking the same things because of the cost. Whereas down here you can speak to us, and it's not intimidating. We have these handwritten notes about the wine, 99% of which were written by myself over the years.
In most wine shop, you’ll see labels upon labels, but you’ll no idea what you're drinking. The notes let people read about the wine without feeling intimidated.
What's the most challenging aspect you've had to overcome.
Changing the mindset of customers with preconceived notions.
I find it funny that people can go to like a hawker centre, have a bowl of wan ton noodles, and if your friends ask you if it’s nice, you’ll feel confident enough to say, "Oh yeah, it's great!" or "No, it's not nice. The noodles are too soggy."
But everybody clams up when it comes to wine. If wine experts say that a wine is a 99 pointer, and [if] I don't like it, somehow ‘there’s something wrong with me’.
I always tell friends and customers to think of wine critics as guideposts: it doesn't mean that what they like is what you like. It's perfectly fine if you don't like what they recommend.
What’s the most rewarding part of having started Wines Online?
I don't see myself as a wine merchant. My mission is really to encourage people to enjoy life. We want to be part of that process; wine is just the medium of exploring that enjoyment.
Kenny’s 3 Tips For Wine Newbies
1) Don’t worry about asking silly questions
A lot of questions you think you're the only one who has that question, most of the time most people have those questions as well. Even simple things like, 'what does ‘dry’ mean? How do I pronounce Sauvignon Blanc, or particular wine names?
2) Use wine critic scores as a reference, not a directive.
If there's a famous wine critic who always rates certain wines as 95, 96, 97, but yet you don't like them, I think it's ok to use that as a guidepost to say 'whatever he likes, I don't.'
That style may not be your style. You just have to find a wine critic you tend to agree with.
3) Drink wines that are priced above $30
This is simply because of the way alcohol taxes work in Singapore. If you drink a Lafitte, you’re paying the exact same alcohol tax as a $16 bottle of wine you’d buy in a supermarket.
To break it down, you’re paying nearly $10 in tax and GST for a $16 bottle of wine. The real cost of the $16 wine is a dollar of two if you don’t count those taxes.