Published June 17, 2008

@ one-north

A place to dine, drink and rock

The 5,000-seat entertainment centre to come up at one-north will be a world-class venue for big performances, writes CLARISSA TAN

FIVE thousand people yelling their heads off. Fists pumping the air. There will be a lot to shout about when Singapore gets another large entertainment centre in 2011, and concert and theatre fans troop in for the latest and brightest in performance acts, acoustics and lighting.

Plenty of fun: One Rochester, a wine and bistro chill-out outlet (above), and Min Jiang @ one-north, that serves Chinese cuisine. One-north is fast shaping up as one of Singapore's most vibrant venues for fine dining, cocktail-sipping and art galleries

For starters, the 5,000-seat centre won't be smack dab in the middle of the town, as one might expect. It will be at one-north, the area around Buona Vista that has been earmarked for massive development. Bringing the whole concert-going experience out of the city is part of the idea, say the developers.

'Our extensive research indicates an overwhelming need for a sizeable performance venue, away from the city and well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities,' said Matthew Kang, director of Rock Productions, which will build, lease and operate a civic and cultural zone at one-north. 'The proposed high-tech theatre is expected to fulfil the needs of and attract these performing art and cultural groups.'

The place will be a 'world-class venue for staging large-scale performances, shows and events', he added. Rock Productions hopes it will become the new centre for artistic and cultural events, as well as meetings, conventions and exhibitions in Singapore.

The centre, to be operated by Rock Productions, is part of a larger Civic Cultural and Retail Complex located at Vista Xchange within one-north. The Complex is designed to stand out with space-agey architecture by Andrew Bromberg of AEDAS Hong Kong. It will have eight levels dedicated to the civic and cultural zone, run by Rock, and four floors to retail and entertainment, managed by CapitaLand Retail.

The Complex will be served by Buona Vista MRT station, as well as the future Circle Line.

CapitaLand's retail zone will have two floors above ground and two basement levels. Its open, spiral-stairway design will help show off its multitude of restaurants, food halls, cafes and fashion outlets.

'The zone is expected to benefit from the natural visitor catchments from the one-north communities, surrounding housing estates, as well as tertiary institutions close by,' said Pua Seck Guan, chief executive officer of CapitaLand Retail. It will also cater to 'the affluent crowd' from the nearby Bukit Timah, Holland Village and Rochester Park areas, he added.

'The open concept, set in a lush green environment, will create a new destination for art and cultural patrons, professional, academic and residential communities in one-north and people from various parts of Singapore,' he said.

While the Cultural and Retail Complex will be completed in three years' time, there's already plenty of fun to be had at one-north. The area is fast shaping up as one of the most vibrant venues in Singapore for fine dining, cocktail-sipping and art-gallery hopping.

Wide variety

Rochester Park, for instance, has been pulling in the crowds for some years now, thanks in part to its tranquil colonial setting. The cluster of old black-and-white houses converted into food-and-beverage outlets offers a wide variety of dining experiences - from Graze, which offers contemporary dining, to Da Paolo Bistro Bar, with its Italian cuisine, to Min Jiang @ one-north, which serves Chinese fare.

'We have grown in terms of global awareness,' said Cheryl Lee, co-owner and director of One Rochester, a wine and bistro outlet that was the first to open in the area in December 2005. 'We have been listed among the top 30 bars in the world in lists compiled by Forbes magazine.'

One Rochester has cleverly adapted its business to its old British residence, offering its premises as a kind of 'house', with different rooms and lounge areas called the Living Room, the Playroom, the Library, and so on. It also leases out its space for a variety of events, including birthday parties, weddings, wine tastings and corporate launches.

Another place aiming to offer a smorgasbord of experiences is Rochester Terrace, which describes itself as a 'gastronomic village'. It consists of four outlets at one stretch on the elevated side of Rochester Park, each offering a different dining and entertainment concept.

The first outlet, Twelve + One, will house a gourmet bakery, cafe and cooking studio. The second, Cassis, specialises in modern French cuisine; the third, Pinchos, is a wine bar that emphasises food sharing, thus featuring tapas and finger food; and the fourth, Minx, is a Russian caviar and vodka bar.

To date, Cassis and Pinchos are open, Twelve + One will open in the middle of July, and Minx will open in time for the Singapore Grand Prix season.

Mahesh Ramnani, chief executive officer of Rochester Terrace, said the Park is a 'great location'.

'The layout and milieu is unique, allowing us to create a graceful and relaxed setting,' he said. 'It brings back classic entertainment consisting of camaraderie, indulging in the company of friends.'

Another corner of one-north that's attracting visitors is Village Square, which is situated in Wessex Estate, another colonial enclave. Unlike the more high-end Rochester Park, the Village Square is more rustic and its various art studios and galleries such as Fringe Benefits, d'Art Studio and Geeleinan give it a bohemian feel.

There is also the legendary Colbar, which started life some 40 years ago as a British officers' mess and still attracts nostalgic diners with its ramshackle, retro setting.

Across the road from the Colbar is a swish new cocktail bar called Klee, which opened just earlier this year. Klee's cocktail servers are called 'mixologists' who pride themselves on using only premium spirits - Belvedere, Johnny Walker Black Label, Sagatiba - and fresh ingredients (bottled fruit juices are a no-no).

Occupying a happy spot between dining and art is the cosy Ristorante Pietrasanta, which offers hearty Tuscan dishes such as veal tripe and T-bond steak, and also sells the art works on its walls.

'We have a curator who takes care of it, changing the works of art every two or three months,' said Loris Massimini, who opened the restaurant with his wife Jennifer Tan.

Mr Massimini said business has been brisk since Pietrasanta swung open its doors in March. 'We are always fully booked during the weekends,' he said.

Rustic and bohemian: Another corner of one-north that's attracting visitors is Village Square in Wessex Estate. Among its attractions is Ristorante Pietrasanta (above), which offers hearty Tuscan dishes such as veal tripe