ISH Fragments of an UrbanScape

Text : Ethel Ong

Photography : Kelley Cheng

Update March 2008 | Clark Martin has been blacklisted




The perfect location on the Singapore River, striking architecture, rich furnishings, and a controversial past – Cafe Society has everything working for it. And with a gorgeous interior makeover by the genius of Poole Associates Private Limited, the cosmopolitan bar looks bound for the history books.

It seems the trend these days to convert old, colonial buildings with rich historical backgrounds into modern day bars and restaurants. And the Arts House at the Old Parliament is the newest conversion yet. Scores of fashionable restaurants have parked themselves at this new “it” place. Cafe Society, the latest dining destination at the Arts House, seems set to establish the place as the hippest spot in town.

Cafe Society, designed by Ed Poole of Poole Associates Private Limited, is the largest of three dining outlets at the newly launched Arts House. It is a chic contemporary European-style bistro and bar, which aims to offer patrons a refreshing experience both in wining and dining, and as a “must-be-seen-at” night spot.

Cafe Society consists of a breezy restaurant on the ground floor (with mainly outdoor seating), and the absolutely gorgeous, decadent yet chilled-out Parliament Bar on the second level. The restaurant features an aluminum batten ceiling made from recycled BMW parts, and an open-concept show kitchen with surrounding counter seats, from which diners can watch the chefs whip up their meal. Outside, the canopied al fresco dining area presents a more serene atmosphere, and a stunning, alternate view of the Singapore River.

The restaurant’s bright yellow walls are balanced by the moody, metallic silver of the aluminum bar tiles, and the somberness of the dark walnut furniture. The outcome is a perfect balance of light against dark, warm versus cool, and chic on casual. With the rich afternoon sun streaming through the large French windows, the restaurant sets the stage for a beautiful, cosmopolitan afternoon.

Even as you move through the sun-streaked interior, nothing prepares you for the drama and luxury to come in the Parliament Bar above. A grand marble staircase leads to upstairs, and as you walk along, the color of the interior shifts slowly from yellow to blue, and then to a deep, dark red. The change in mood, subtle yet tangible, adds to the drama and impact of the bar.

Its entrance, lined with casual counter seats, suddenly opens up into a huge elegant hall that really takes your breath away. Draped in dark polished timbers, rich leather, and metallic fittings, the Parliament Bar is downright opulent. It carries a regal air, amplified by its stately finishes of fine silk drapes and stunning oil paintings. Dim lights and rich materials grace the resplendent arches and hallways of this sleek bar, while the natural acoustics of the timber-paneled walls propel the smooth sounds of the house band around the central room.

Pointing out the silver bar tiles, gleaming seductively in the light, Poole says, “Can you believe that these beautiful tiles were recycled entirely from waste products? This is the potential future of design.”

Within the hall sits a stunning large centre piece – an oil painting named The Parrot Girl. The artwork, towering over the rest of the double-height space, completely steals the show and sets the tone for the rest of the magnificent bar. Delicate crystal “snowflake” lights punctuate the space, playing against the raw ceiling grid and creating a sophisticated look and feel. The bar, in all its immense richness and delicious, judicial style, makes the ideal spot for pre and post performance drinks, or a sophisticated night out on the town.

And for those who prefer a little al fresco relaxation with an unadulterated view of the splendid surrounding period buildings and the Singapore River, the Parliament Verandah is the perfect setting for drinks and intimate conversations alike.

Located behind the stage at the bar, the understated and chic Parliament Lounge is a welcome respite from the boisterous bar area. To say it is dimly lit would be an understatement, but this very quality makes the place the sexy, private annex it is. Lit only by candles and red lantern-style table lamps, the quiet alcove exudes an aristocratic air, made complete with comfortable plush seating and dark timber furnishings.

The room is accented with simple fresh flower arrangements and witty, tongue-in-cheek pictures of bars and restaurants from various places around the world and periods of history. Each picture contains the words “Cafe Society”. Best suited for intimate tête-à-têtes and cozy gatherings, the Parliament Lounge is the perfect ending to the distinguished establishment of Cafe Society.

Cafe Society is located at

1 Parliament Lane, #01/03, The Arts House at Old Parliament, Annex Building, Singapore 179429
For reservations or enquiries, please call [65] 6338 | 8151
Bar opening hours: daily from 5:00pm to 1:00am.
Restaurant opening hours: Midday to 3:00pm, and 6:00pm to 11:00pm from Mon-Sat, and midday to 11:00pm on Sundays.


Email Address of Design Firm contact@poole-associates.com

Website of Design Firm


Completion Date 26 March 2004

Website of Establishment www.cafesoc.com

+project credits
design firm | Poole Associates Private Limited
design team | Ed Poole, Wong Kim Mei
main contractor | Mason Works Pte Ltd
m&e engineer | WN Consultants
teak ceiling frame, metal tiles, metal ceiling fans |

Fieldworks International
timber/leather bar stools | 8.18 Bangawagi
leather lounges, timber side tables | Hopo Bright
key materials aluminum, granite, leather, teak, copper
floor area 3,000 sq ft
owner | Eat Your Heart Out [SG] Pte Ltd


Update March 2008 | Clark Martin has been blacklisted

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