Bringing ritzy into the sleazy

Bringing ritzy into the sleazy

Hip yuppies sit at fashionable tables, tapping on their iPads while sipping artisanal coffee.

They are in a designer interior that is minimal and uncluttered.

The atmosphere at seven-month-old Brawn & Brains, a quaint cafe tucked in a corner of the Old Singapore Badminton Hall at Guillemard Road, is definitely a world away from the streetwalkers plying their trade at the opposite side of the road at Geylang Lorong 20.

Also operating along the Guillemard stretch are two-month-old Char, a casual Chinese zi char restaurant specialising in roast meats, and The Tuckshop, a watering hole increasingly famous for its wide range of craft beers.

Already, all three establishments are becoming a hit with those craving for something different in an area known for its after-dark pursuits.

Ms Gwen Peh, 31, who runs Brawn & Brains with her husband Xavier Teo, 37, tells The New Paper on Sunday they were attracted to the Old Singapore Badminton Hall because it was away from the hustle and bustle of town.

"We are also attracted to the fact that the building has been able to retain the original old, classic structure and character," she says.

Mr Bu Shukun, co-owner of The Tuckshop, says he and his partners saw a viable demand for a food and beverage establishment that sits at this "unique Geylang fringe location".

"This Geylang location sits precisely on a precarious zone where the red-light district ends and the expatriate residential community starts," says the 33-year-old, a designer and founder of interior design firm Architology.

Cheaper rent is also another attraction. With rental of up to $15,000 for a 1,600 sq ft space, rent here is less costly compared to shopping malls.

The lower rent in turn allows owners to offer more attractive prices. At Brawn & Brains, for example, an iced latte costs $3.80 and an iced mocha, $4.

Char offers shredded duck noodle soup for $10, chicken and salt and chilli pepper spare ribs for $16, with a range of craft beers, ciders and ales from Britain.

But do they have problems attracting customers to the area because of the seedy reputation?

British expatriate Anthony Ung says: "As more businesses come into the area, a new atmosphere is emerging. I believe the area is on the cusp of change, with new residential projects coming up which would attract young families and professionals."

Two months ago, the 41-year-old - formerly the country manager for JobStreet Singapore - roped in his elder brother Alvin, 51, previously a chef in Britain, to run Char's kitchen. Mr Ung says they spent "roughly $200,000".

"I would like to think we are bringing something more laid-back and casual that the local residents have been missing for a long time, run by people who are passionate about their products and who care about what they do."

Marketing manager Kelvin Liu, 30, who lives in nearby Cassia Crescent, says he is excited by the foodie enclave sprouting in the Guillemard area.

"Not only is it exciting, but it's about time this place is known for more than just the sleaze."

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