We have a lot to be grateful for, and we’d like to dedicate this post to all our family and friends who have been supporting us for the past few months.
Thank you to those of you who made it a point to visit us as soon as possible upon landing in Singapore; thank you to those of you who make it down to our little corner of Robertson Quay multiple times each week, visiting more often than some of the Merry Men; thank you to those who have been spreading the word far and wide, recommending us to other friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Merry Men is thriving because of all of you.
For those of you who haven’t been back in a while, The Merry Men now looks quite different from the first few weeks we were open. We decided to decorate slowly, carefully picking and choosing each piece. We wanted each item to have a story that we could share, a memory we would enjoy reliving when someone asked.
We’re very thankful with how The Merry Men is slowly transforming into the place we’ve dreamed about but had trouble pinning down in words for so long!
We’re happiest with this little wall, which really helps to make the place feel more cozy and lived-in. We’re still debating what to do with the big white wall and the grey brick wall–too many ideas, we’ve having difficulty choosing!
We’re also very thankful for the great turnout thus far. We’ve been quite packed for a new F&B venue, but after the ST article was published, turnout practically doubled!
Eugene and the boys were caught by surprise quite a few evenings. There have been several nights when we had two seatings for dinner, and even on weekdays! Some nights, even the towkays have to wait tables and clear dishes.
Despite the haze, many people prefer sitting outside, enjoying the night breeze and the view.
The promotions have been well-received, and we’re planning to add to our line-up of wines and cocktails! Do let us know if you have strong opinions about new wines or beers you think we should offer.
Finally, we’re thankful that we finally have some luck with staffing and have hired another cook! A typical kitchen would have at least four people: a chef, an assistant chef and two cooks (typically, most would also have a supervisor). For the first four weeks, we were surviving with ONE CHEF. We managed to get a cook but poor Leonard and Jan have been working themselves to the bone trying to keep our customers well-fed and happy for the past four weeks. So we’re very very happy that we’ve finally managed to hire more cooks!
Can you guess who’s the new guy?
More hands in the kitchen is fantastic news because this means we can finally roll out our long-awaited brunch menu!!! We’ve been planning it since June and it’s been really painful having to wait and wait and wait thanks to the lack of capacity… We’re crossing our fingers and hoping everything is good to go by mid-November!
So once again, a big thank you for your support! We hope The Merry Men has been keeping you merry and we welcome any feedback and suggestions for improvement. We have a page on Hungry Go Where
and would love to hear what you have to say about us!
Finally, a picture of all the Merry Men together
They had a lot of fun hanging out together, just like old times
Can’t wait until everyone’s back together again!
(All photos courtesy of Paul Tan)
Finally found the soft copy of our ST article. Didn’t manage to find the main article though!
TRUST THE MERRY MEN FOR GOODIES
The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2010
EUGENE FUNG, SHAWN HENG, DANIEL SONG AND SAM NG
Age: All 29
What: The Merry Men, river-facing bar-restaurant serving cocktails and food
Where: 86 Robertson Quay, 01-02
Opening hours: Sundays, 3pm to midnight, Mondays to Thursdays, 5pm to midnight, Fridays, 5pm to 1am, Saturdays, 3pm to 2am
Friends since their secondary school days at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), these men have seen one another grow from grubby school boys into working professionals.
Having worked for several years now, in industries ranging from banking and management consulting to law and physiotherapy, the four friends pooled their savings to start The Merry Men despite the fact that none has any experience in the food and beverage industry.
The $500,000 bar-cum-restaurant in Robertson Quay opened in August this year.
Mr Eugene Fung, who gave up his corporate finance job to oversee the day- to-day operations of the bar, says: “It was always something we had talked about when we were growing up.
“We thought that if we were going to drink somewhere, we would want to drink at a place we could call our own.”
Only two of the four partners – Mr Fung and Mr Shawn Heng, a consultant – are based in Singapore. Lawyer Daniel Song lives in Melbourne and physiotherapist Sam Ng lives in Perth.
In fact, Mr Song has not even seen the bar, let alone step foot in it.
So just as Robin Hood’s merry men depend on one another, these partners say trust is one of the most important pillars of their business.
Despite the physical distance, they discuss concepts and direction for their business over the telephone and through e-mail because “every idea matters”.
Mr Fung says they consulted other friends in the food and beverage industry before embarking on their dream.
He adds: “It has been a steep learning curve with everything from staffing to construction, but it is a very exciting one with a lot more fun times along the way.”
Second feature article!
This came as a big surprise to us. We had hoped for a ST review, but didn’t act on it because we thought we weren’t ready. So when the ST journalist called, it was a pleasant surprise. Again, big thank you to kind friends for recommending us. We’re very grateful!
Eugene and Shawn are still getting used to being interviewed–getting a decent photo took longer than the interview, and Shawn still isn’t pleased with this photo!–but hopefully, they’ll get more experience. It’s strange to be referred to as ‘entrepreneurs’ and no, we didn’t spend half a million dollars setting up The Merry Men!
For now, all we have is a snapshot, but scanned copy will be coming soon!
Sorry for the lack of updates, the Merry Men have been quite busy of late.
One of the Merry Men flew to London to propose…
And all the Merry Men gathered in Melbourne for a wedding! Daniel is now one of the Merry Men and a married man (yes, we heard a lot of that pun).
(Wedding photos courtesy of awesome photographer, Colin Cheng)
Travelling has been a great excuse for us to indulge in what we do best—eat, drink, and be merry! There was a lot of indulging in good food and chilling out at cool bars in the name of market research.
Lots of road tripping as we drove to Dalesford for the wedding and back
We shopped for The Merry Men—who knew decorating could be so much fun? We’ve been slowly adding more pieces to the place. Come check it out if you haven’t been recently!
Loved shopping for fresh food—wish we had something similar in Singapore, even if that would mean our waistlines expanding rapidly!
We bought a huge stash of food even though we only had 3 more days…
Super tempted to franchise this awesome cupcake store. Daniel and Kym gave these cupcakes as their wedding favours and I singlehandedly finished 3 in a sitting (and 2 more the next morning). Definitely rivals Mockingbird Bakery & Magnolia Bakery!
We revisited their favourite haunts from uni days. Being Singaporeans, most of these were restaurants.
Daniel brought us to some of the best restaurants in Melbourne—tapas at Movida was to die for!
Tried a 3-hat restaurant! Sadly, wasn’t good enough for us to remember the name.
We also hung out alot at Melbourne’s famous cafes and bars
And tried to walk off those extra calories by exploring Melbourne!
Was awesome just hanging out with the whole group. Almost full attendance!
It was great fun taking a break, especially for Eugene who’s been holding the fort most of the time. We were also almost happy to see that other businesses also run in crazy problems as evidenced by this photo:
Basically, it was pouring in Melbourne and water had collected in the awning of this rooftop bar. Unfortunately, by the time the staff spotted it, a crazy amount of water had collected and was so heavy that it was threatening to bring the awning crashing down. It was also so heavy that it took 4 people with 4 brooms and a lot of strategizing before they managed to push it off. The whole effort kept us entertained for nearly half an hour! (Though it wouldn’t have been that amusing if it did break and the water came splashing down on us…)
September and October have been incredible for us, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the year!
Since the idea of opening The Merry Men germinated, we’ve spent nearly every weekend (and most free evenings) working on it. Most weekends have been a whirlwind of activity, as we run around finishing errands, picking up items, meeting people.
This weekend, we had to go furniture shopping again because we’ve had so many customers that we’ve ran out of seating! It was a happy problem that unfortunately demanded a not-so-happy solution: furniture shopping at Ikea.
Ikea wasn’t ideal, but we were desperate since we needed furniture ASAP for the F1 screening. Hunting down enough pieces of suitable items was like an episode of The Amazing Race, as we dashed from section to section, testing out the furniture and then racing to reserve it before it sold out. And all within a tight time limit since we needed to set up the furniture before the crowd came in that evening!
But the true test came when we had to collect the furniture…
Patience was never the boys’ strong suit.
After a long wait, we realized Ikea couldn’t deliver it so we had to transport it ourselves… in a GTI and a Latio. It was quite the test given how much we’d bought!
At first, the guys contemplated taking turns carrying everything over, but that idea was soon nixed.
So we decided to commandeer Ikea’s shopping carts. The boys had to maneuver very full shopping carts to our cars…
While the girls manned the fort…
Whoever said a towkay’s life is easy clearly wasn’t referring to us…
Fitting everything into two cars required teamwork: Eugene doing the heavy lifting while Shawn supervised.
But there was a little disagreement about the division of labour…
We finally managed to squeeze everything in: yay for hatchbacks!
And we even managed to squeeze ourselves in, just barely.
And that’s just one of the many things we did that weekend! Running your own business basically means doing everything yourself, but that’s what the boys enjoy!
Our first review! Even though we haven’t even officially launched. Very grateful for supportive friends who’ve been eagerly spreading the word and dragging other friends down–THANK YOU!
Safe to say, the soft launch was a success! Our family and friends turned out in full force to support us, and we had a great time.
Our awesome staff spent most of the afternoon preparing and praying for good weather
The Merry Men’s job was to drink lots, which they successfully accomplished thanks to many many years of practice!
The outdoor seating was a big hit
After all, who wouldn’t like the view?
We managed to serve some food so we could get feedback–thanks for being our guinea pigs, guys!
It was great hanging out with friends, both old and new
We had an awesome time hanging out with family and friends. Big thank you for your support!
We hope to see you again! Here’s to many more great nights at The Merry Men!
(Photos courtesy of Paul Tan)
For more photos and updates, please join our Facebook group!
Soft launch confirmed!
Date: 20 Aug (Fri)
Time: 9pm — late
Address: 86 Robertson Quay, #01-02 (below Robertson Blue condo, opposite river from River View Hotel)
We’ll be screening the football match so come early to grab a good spot if you’re interested!
We’re only launching the bar so no food yet. Installing the new aircon delayed the opening of the kitchen sadly; would have been nice to launch the kitchen at the same time. But kitchen should be up and running by next week, fingers crossed!
Things haven’t been going our way.
We were ready to open two weekends ago–had grand plans for a national day bash, complete with BBQ and colour themed (ok, so only I was excited about that last part)!–but our liquor license has been delayed again and again. Just lots of bad luck. It was really disheartening last weekend, when the bar next to us opened, and our two competitors were filled with customers!
But fingers crossed, things should work out by mid-week, with lots of help from friends (and their lovely dads). Plus we used the time to do more renovation, adding a third airconditioner after much feedback that it was too warm inside when full.
Pity we couldn’t finish decorating the other wall, though we now have many many exciting ideas thanks to friends and their awesome suggestions! Quite fun to have a work in progress though; something to look forward to as we open.
Fingers crossed, soft launch next weekend! We’ve probably used up our quotas of prayers for the year…
Shawn invited some friends and family to be guinea pigs and give feedback on our beers and cocktails, under the pretext of a ‘Private Party’ to celebrate National Day. Who can say no to free alcohol?!
The boys spent the whole day arranging and then rearranging the furniture.
We were quite anxious as the first few people started streaming in…
Everyone loved the big tree….
And the pop of colour from the yellow bar stools that we were frantically painting the whole week… hard work paid off–yay!
And gave lots of useful feedback that we’ll work on over the next week.
In the meantime, we’re spending our nation’s birthday sleeping off the hangover. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SINGAPORE!
The first beers from The Merry Men’s taps have been poured!
Here’s to many many more!
We hope everyone likes it as much as we do.
Shawn had a grand plan for the wall and we managed to find an artist who could turn his dream into reality!
Dora arrived on Saturday morning and quickly got to work. She scaled the scaffolding without hesitation. We were so relieved she wasn’t afraid of heights!
She stayed up all night sketching the outline of the tree in pencil…
Then went off to church in the morning, and came back again the next night to begin work. Check out her progress!
While Dora was painting, the rest of us were hard at work…
Quite exciting seeing the plans realized, though things can’t happen quickly enough!
Masterpiece will be done by the end of the weekend. We’re adding more details. The rest of the equipment will be coming in too (finally!). Can’t wait!
After checking out every lead we were given over the weekend, by Sunday afternoon, we were ready to give up.We managed to find exactly what we wanted at half the prices we would pay in Singapore, but everything was still way too expensive.
As a last ditch attempt, we decided to check out Crystal Design Centre, a huge fancyschmanzy furniture mall in the outskirts of Bangkok, that boasted a Who’s Who list of up and coming Thai furniture designers. We were just visiting for inspiration since most of the stores were way beyond our budget.
But we managed to find furniture!
Thanks to Eugene’s smooth-talking, we bargained the prices down even further, and bought enough for our entire outdoor section!
Arranging the shipping to Singapore was another headache. We placed the order on Sunday night and it had to be sandpapered down and loaded onto our container by Thursday afternoon!
We insisted on making the 1 hour drive down to the lady’s workshop on Tuesday evening after work to literally see and count every piece of our order before paying using our credit card. We just needed to make sure her workshop existed!
We found another friend of a friend who agreed to be a translator and follow me around the whole of Thursday, as we drove from the centre of Bangkok to the warehouse on the outskirts, and counted and loaded every piece of furniture onto the truck we rented…
and then followed the truck to the shipyard…
Stayed until we completed the paperwork and witnessed them locking our container!
So we have furniture!!! Here’s hoping it looks as nice as we thought it would when it arrives at 86 Robertson Quay…
Now we’re treating ourselves to a nice foot massage in the airport after a LONG sweaty day.
Shopping in Bangkok has been an adventure!
First, we checked out a vintage furniture warehouse, owned by some relatives of a friend of a friend.
The place was straight out of a horror movie. Three floors of densely packed shelves after shelves of furniture, with random life-sized action hero figurines and creepy mannequins and baby dolls around every corner.
We had a lot of fun running around exploring and taking photos.
We found lots of gorgeous pieces, but the prices were ridic! Cheaper than Singapore, but way above our budget.
Our next few stops were equally unsuccessful: gorgeous furniture, but too expensive.
Even JJ was a washout. Didn’t manage to find anything that suited our aesthetic. Though the food was yum!
We even checked out this street in Chinatown. Who would have thought such a bustling market was hidden in the back alleys of Chinatown?! It was literally a human traffic jam.
Of course, this being Bangkok, they managed to squeeze food stalls along the narrow alley, making it that much hotter!
But still, no success in furniture-hunting, though plenty of success in food-hunting!
We’ve seen a different side of Bangkok on this trip. From a crazy jam-packed warehouse straight out of a horror movie, to a bustling crowded market in Chinatown, to a huge furniture mall in the outskirts of Bangkok… I feel like I’ve seen more of Bangkok than some native Bangkok residents. We chionged from one end of Bangkok to the other, checking out every and any recommendation given, and bargained non-stop. All this on one meal a day.
More pictures and updates when we have the energy. I showered twice when we finally returned to Le Meridien and I still feel grimy.
Ingredients for an early morning after a late night:
Eugene flew in last night and we immediately headed out for dinner and drinks at some of Shawn’s favourite places. Such hard work in the name of market research! Next thing we knew, it was 3+…
We gotta get out of the hotel by 9am to start furniture-hunting–v v long list of places we want to check out. Relying on adrenaline to keep us running!
More photos when we have time.
Now that the big parts are mostly settled, we need to fill the place up! An empty F&B venue probably won’t draw customers…
So we’re in Bangkok sourcing for furniture. Bangkok offers an amazing variety of designs and styles at very competitive prices, which is perfect for us since we’re aiming for an eclectic European vibe. There are also beautifully decorated F&B venues that we’ve been having fun exploring for inspiration. Some highlights include Blue Velvet, a medieval-themed restaurant+bar that serves interesting dishes, and Eat Me, a stylishly elegant hole-in-the-wall restaurant and art gallery with a carefully curated menu.
The only issue is shipping the stuff back to Singapore, within our budget constraints and time constraints. With about 2 weeks to our scheduled soft-launch, we’re running out of time!
Fortunately, friends have come to the rescue again, with great contacts for both furniture manufacturers / retailers, as well as logistics companies. Our hotel, Sukhothai Hotel, has also been amazing. The concierges have been patiently calling up furniture retailers and logistics companies to find out addresses, opening times, prices… Basically doing all the legwork that would have been near-impossible to do for non-Thai speakers. And they managed to find us some amazing deals! WHEE!
We have 2 days to buy all our chairs, tables, and art pieces, which means lots of shopping, with some fine dining and partying thrown in to celebrate a successful trip (fingers crossed). Can’t wait!
Things got off to a rocky start. The contractor’s quote was much higher than we budgeted. The red brick Eugene has been so excited about seems to be unfeasible. Our layout plans were scuppered after ALLLL the experts we spoke to were adamantly against our plans.
Fortunately, we managed to resolve things, so far. Eugene was his resourceful self and managed to bargain down the contractor (hopefully this won’t bite us in the ass later). We realized gray brick is not only cheaper, but also fits into the whole urban aesthetic quite nicely–score! We managed to design a new layout that works, squeezing in enough seats while retaining our aesthetic–phew!
So we’ve started renovating! It’s amazing how quickly things have been progressing.
Our little (grey) brick kitchen is completed–now to fill it up with kitchen equipment!
Next up would be the bar, the piece that Eugene’s most fussy about. Hopefully the design that looks so stunning in our minds translates into a great bar in reality!
Thanks to awesome friends who have been generous with their time and contacts, we’ve found a contractor! Based on their previous work and our initial discussions, these guys seem to know what we want. There’re still a few minor kinks to be worked out in order for the place to turn out as we’ve envisioned, but for now, it’s all OK and progressing as planned.
The biggest problem so far is the name…Who ever thought that naming a business would be so difficult?!
Everyone’s thrown up many ideas, ranging from the more generic (e.g. ‘Warehouse‘; ‘Brick‘; ‘Loft‘) to the wacky. Some winners include:
- Coolie’s (which the guys loved)
- Mojo’s (but who wants to be associated with a monkey who regularly gets beaten by 3 girls?!)
- Sault (French for waterfalls / rapids)
- S.A.L.T. (don’t ask us what it stands for)
- 10 Minutes By Boat (from where?!)
- Opposite from Miramar (which was later revised to become the more factually accurate: ‘Opposite from Miramar but to the left a bit’)
Clearly, creative brainstorming isn’t one of our fortes.
After many weeks of debate, we finally decided on Kitchen + Bar by the Merry Men. Slightly long, but captures what we are. Now to design a logo…
Good news: we found a great location.
Bad news: the lease starts on 1 July, giving us a little more than a month to get everything up and running.
That means we have about 40 days to…
- Decide on a name!!!
- Decide on the design / layout
- Find a contractor
- Source for furnishing
- Decide on the menu
- Hire staff
- Train staff
- find out many many other things we probably didn’t think of in our initial to-do list…
In a way, it’s a relief to finally get cracking on a project that we’ve been dreaming about for so long. There have been many long nights spent throwing ideas around, debating, planning, and just stressing out as to whether this is the right move. Finally, we’re doing it! Here we go!