Natural wine in Singapore: Le Bon Funk
Natural wine is a barometer of fashionability in wine. Now a firmly established trend, natural wine nonetheless remains a relatively small part of the wine world, albeit a dynamic and important one.
Singapore boasts a wine scene much like any modern, cosmopolitan city. It is inevitably on a smaller scale than London, but it has comparable diversity in terms of the range of wine available, and the types of places to drink them.
Part of a wider restaurant group, Le Bon Funk opened mid-2018 on Club Street, a popular destination for eating and drinking. On first glance, all the requisites for natural wine are in place: understated lighting, friendly young staff, a casual yet smart atmosphere - and of course, the wine.
The list is printed on a double-sided single sheet of paper. There are five headings: Bubbles, White, Skin Contact, Rosé and Red. There are around 100 wines sold by the bottle, but no separate by the glass offering. Instead, wines by the glass are indicate by a hand-written price.
The selection offers a wide range of famous natural wines including COS, Gauby, Ochota Barrels and Le Grappin, among others. The Skin Contact section is similarly on-trend, with perhaps the main omission being Georgian qvevri wine. (I don’t even know if such wines are available in this market, but I do know that the wine list at Le Bon Funk changes regularly.)
Le Bon Funk allows corkage at a price of SG$75 (£44, €49), with a policy of donating the charge to a water charity - I haven’t seen that before. Very cool move.
So much for the credentials, but what is the actual experience like?
Our waiter was very friendly and attentive, although not particularly knowledgable about the wines available by the glass. I had a glass of the Languedoc red for SG$14 (£8.20, €9.20), a light-bodied Grenache which should have been served a few degrees cooler (especially important in Singapore). It was in good condition, with slightly raw tannin and minimal complexity, but was perfectly drinkable.
Next, we shared a bottle of Clemens Busch Riesling. The list describes it as Vom Schiefer, although doesn’t specify whether it is the Roten Schiefer (red slate), Blauen Schiefer (blue slate) or Grauen Schiefer (green slate) bottling. Most customers might not care either way, but it’s an important detail for wine lovers. Either way, for SG$96 (£56, €63), this was excellent: pure, pin-sharp, complex Mosel Riesling.
To go with the wine, we ordered bread, olives, charcuterie, burrata and a spiced sausage. The food is a major draw at Le Bon Funk, since the chef is formerly of Burnt Ends, one of Singapore’s most celebrated restaurants - and it was excellent. I get the impression that most people go to Le Bon Funk as a restaurant more than a bar, although it caters for both scenarios, with bar stools and high tables towards the front of the venue, and restaurant tables towards the back, closer to the kitchen.
I would prefer to see more information on the wine list, and a greater selection available by the glass, both of which could help the bar become more user-friendly, especially for non-wine nerds. But then I could probably say the same thing for quite a few wine bars in London.
Le Bon Funk could easily stand comparison with London stalwarts such as Terroirs and Antidote. The wine, the food and the vibe were all absolutely on point, and it’s a great showcase for the sophistication of Singapore’s wine scene.