Foodies here will be able to chow down on signature American diner-style burgers at eatery MEATliquor when it opens its Singapore outpost next month.
Founded by London-based partners Scott Collins and Yianni Papoutsis five years ago, it is a brand known for bringing an edgy cool to American-style comfort food sold at affordable prices.
People have been known to queue for more than an hour in London's freezing winter just for the burgers. The offerings include Papoutsis' best-selling Dead Hippie, made with two mustard-fried beef patties, American cheese, pickles, lettuce and topped with a secret sauce.
Its Singapore outlet - the first outside Britain - will take over the 4,500 sq ft space formerly occupied by the now defunct restaurant-bar Life Is Beautiful in Duxton Road.
It will be operated by The Blind Group, the guys behind popular gastropub Oxwell & Co and cocktail bar Operation Dagger in Ann Siang Hill. The managing director of The Blind Group, Mr Jacques Dejardin, 37, says a six-figure sum was invested in the Singapore venture.
Mr Collins, 43, who was in town this past week to oversee the set-up of the eatery, tells Life! that Singapore was a natural choice for MEATliquor's first international branch.
He says: "Everyone's suddenly thinking of Singapore in an exciting way, everyone I speak to loves Singapore and people are coming to spend more time here. We've been approached by people to open in Dubai, but I have no interest at all. Whereas here, it's just a nice fit."
The menu for the Singapore outlet has not been firmed up, but he says he is working on having about 20 dishes and 25 cocktails.
He says there will be slight differences compared to its other outlets in England, but patrons will be able to recognise the MEATliquor identity when they step into the restaurant-bar.
There will also be items tailored for the "local clientele", which is what MEATliquor does with its six outlets in London, Leeds and Brighton.
"In Leeds, for instance, which is in the north of England, they love eating chips and gravy, so we listen to our customers and adapt. We don't give them exactly what they want, but we give them our style of what they want," he says.
For Singapore, Mr Collins and Mr Papoutsis are introducing dishes with local accents, such as sambal chicken wings and soft shell crab fried in a spicy "gun-powder" batter. They hope to keep the prices of burgers under $20.
In terms of the design, Mr Dejardin says there will be a nautical-themed room that is inspired by American singersongwriter Tom Waits' song Singapore, about a group of drunk men on a boat setting sail for the island.
Mr Collins became friends with his business partner via Twitter five years ago, after he heard about Mr Papoutsis' legendary burgers through "food people" he was following on the social media app.
"They were talking about a mysterious creature who'd pop up in a little white box with wheels, like randomly popping up once in six weeks in Peckham, an industrial estate. I tried one of his burgers and we just became mates," he recounts.
He was then working for a group that ran a chain of 35 pubs and would ask Mr Papoutsis to park his van in the carparks of his pubs, selling burgers.
Their friendship soon developed into a business partnership and soon the pair opened Meateasy, a pop-up space occupying a disused Italian restaurant above a pub in New Cross, South London.
Meateasy was so successful, it led the pair to open a proper restaurant, MEATliquor, in Welbeck Street, in 2011.
Since then, they have gone on to open several more outlets, including MEATmission in Hoxton, MEATmarket in Covent Garden, and MEATliquor in Leeds and Brighton.
"None of it was calculated. Our success was just a lovely, happy accident," says Mr Collins, who has since sold off his share of the pub business.
Mr Dejardin says they plan to open three MEATliquor outlets in Singapore, with Mr Collins flying in at least four times a year to oversee the business.
But he adds: "It's not something that will be rushed, the growth in Britain has been organic and I think it will be the same here."
Asked if he was confident in doing well here, given the stiff competition in the food and beverage scene, Mr Collins says: "We're never confident. We just work hard and listen to our customers."
This article was first published on April 6, 2015.
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