It is a situation many international financial services executives know well.
Arriving late in the day to a new and unfamiliar city, the thirsty international financial services executive (TIFSE) wanders out of his or her hotel, hair still damp from the shower, in search of a congenial place to have a beer and perhaps, bump into a friend or two, ahead of a room-service dinner.
But how do you find a congenial place? Just where was it that they said everyone goes when they come here? Mind you, that was some years ago now…
For some time, the intrepid staff of International Investment have been tirelessly pursuing this important story: Just which is the best, most congenial watering hole for a TIFSE in Dubai…Singapore…Douglas? And of the venues on offer, which are the long-standing, classic old boozers, with the history and the stories just waiting to be rediscovered?
Admittedly, this list will only ever be a measure of subjective opinions. One man’s ideal drinking establishment – because it’s quiet, and you can be left alone, for example – is another’s idea, as one American expat writer once put it, of hell with a beverage service.
One of the curious things we discovered, when doing our research into this important topic, was just how ubiquitous Irish- and Irish-themed establishments around the world are.
Evidently, the classic, un-fussy Irish pub formula has lent itself to easy re-creation in far-flung outposts, offering expats and business travellers alike a welcome taste of home at times when the effort of being a foreigner in an exotic land begins to wear.
It seems that when the language, culture, customs, climate and even the food and drink are unfamiliar, sometimes in the extreme, a pint of Guinness, drunk slowly in a darkened, wood-panelled room – possibly decorated in shamrocks and frolicking cartoon leprechauns – can seem just what the doctor ordered. Even, as one international executive told us after we mentioned this observation, in deepest darkest Kazakhstan more than 20 years ago.
Australian pubs used to be popular too, and in many places still are, but in London, they’ve been closing their doors in recent years. The reason, according to pub industry sources, is that significantly fewer Australians have been coming to the UK to work.
Given the key role such places play in the lives of expatriates, International Investment today will begin publishing our nominations for Best Classic Expat Pub in each of the key jurisdictions we cover. Our plan is to continue every Thursday until we run dry (so to speak).
We realise that our choices, in some cases, may be controversial. (This is why, in fact, we won’t even attempt to name one in London or New York.)
Although we don’t have a comments feature option below these stories, we invite you to get in touch with any comments by email, to this address: [email protected] The best comments will be added onto the bottom of the respective articles.
Similarly, if we haven’t yet named our choice for Best Classic Expat Pub in your patch, why not send us your nomination?
In the meantime, see you at the bar…
(To read our choice for Best Classic Expat Pub in Singapore, go to page 2.)
Establishment: The Penny Black and Harry’s Bar
Address: 26/27 and 28 Boat Quay, Singapore
Because they are next to each other and appeal to a similar if not identical clientele, we are including these two expat boozer stalwarts as a single entity.
Harry’s Bar in Singapore is at this point a chain, with some 20 Harry’s-branded venues throughout the island. But the one that counts as what some say is among Asia’s definitive expat watering hole experiences is the one next to the Penny Black, at 28 Boat Quay.
The website worldsbestbars.com explains that although it was “world famous anyway”, after it became known as the preferred haunt of renegade broker Nick Leeson – who famously brought down Barings Bank in 1995 – it now has “added rogue appeal”.
Among its cocktail offerings, evidently as a nod to this infamy, is one called Bank Breaker (pictured, below).
Once known to many expats for its jazz offerings, one of its big attractions now – as is the case for expat pubs around the world – is sporting events, screened live when possible.
Located at the Raffles Place entrance to Boat Quay, The Penny Black Victorian London Pub clearly seeks to create a “quintessential Victorian public house” in modern Singapore, as it states on its website. It is owned by the same company that also runs Muddy Murphy’s and the two Prince of Wales Backpacker pubs in the city-state, which says something about how its owners view their niche in the market. (As does the name of the Penny Black’s upstairs area, which is known as the ‘Snug Bar’.)
Fish, chips and mushy peas, naturally, are on the menu.
According to its website, the Penny Black was “painstakingly designed and built in England by master craftsmen”, then “shipped piece by piece to Singapore, where it was re-assembled by the same craftsmen”.
The Penny Black name, of course, is derived from the world’s first ever self-adhesive postage stamp, which was, yes, printed in black ink, sold for one penny, and first issued on the 6th May 1840.
Available beverages include such local mainstays as Tiger, Heineken and Guinness Stout, but it also has on tap Strongbow Cider, Old Speckled Hen, Kilkenny Irish Ale and Erdinger White.