Keeping Balance

Interview by Stephanie Peh
Photography by Jovian Lim

Built in 1949, Phoenix Park was finally marked a historic site last year. The vintage whitewashed enclave is home to Commune Bistro and its fun mix of neighbours such as schools and a wellness retreat. Situated in town, yet away from easy public access, the area is a hideaway that allows one to rest and refresh. Similarly, Commune Bistro’s menu contains choices such as Soba and Cucumber Mint Salad or Truffle Oil Infused Portobello Sandwich. With a fresh take on eastern and western affairs combined, the food makes the body feel good with healthy and simple—yet decidedly tasty—options.

Amidst the buzz of the upcoming Asia Fashion Exchange, we met Tracy at Commune Bistro. It is no wonder Commune is one of the creative consultant’s favourite places, where she can find escape within the busy day-to-day. She speaks to us about making sound choices and bringing together work and play.

keeping balance commune thumbs

Hi Tracy, for a start, what is your favourite type of cuisine? Singaporeans are crazy about brunch, aren’t they?

I am a big foodie, so it’s hard to choose. But, if I have to, I always veer towards Asian and Japanese. I must be Singaporean because I love brunch too. I think it’s a combination of getting up late and believing I can eat more, just because I’m combining two meals. My brunch picks would be Commune’s corn fritters and The Plain’s poached eggs on sourdough.

The good thing about Singapore is that food choices are almost limitless, with new concepts and places emerging everywhere. What do you look for in new places?

Food, music, aesthetics and the energy of a space is what usually draws me back. Commune, Kyo, The Library and The Naked Finn are some recent favourites in F&B and nightlife. Shopping-wise, Inhabit at Mandarin Gallery is my top pick and I recently tried a session at The Ritual, a gym offering a 20-minute instructor-led group workout and thought it was a great concept for people like me, on a tight schedule and needing the push.

Do you think our lifestyles have changed or improved over the years?

Singapore has changed a lot over the last few years, especially in terms of dining, nightlife and entertainment options. It has become more diverse and cosmopolitan; venues are now spread out over different districts, with new pockets surfacing at a greater frequency. It’s become more multi-faceted and there are many factors at work.

The relaxation in zoning laws has allowed for new areas to come up. The introduction of the Integrated Resorts has transformed the landscape tremendously, both architecturally and socially. Entrepreneurship, in my view, has reached the next level where we see more people taking greater risks with concept and location. The large growth in the expatriate community has also broadened the consumer base and brought with it different tastes, new ideas and investments.

Agreed. People are continually becoming more well-travelled and courageous with ideas these days. What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by start-ups?

In terms of infrastructure, rental and manpower costs are almost prohibitive. Landlords can be mercenary and as soon as an area develops, rentals inflate. Competition is also keener as the market place is no longer local but global as consumers are more well-travelled and anything can be made available at the touch of a button via the Internet.

On a personal level, I learnt that even institutions can make big mistakes so it is crucial to trust your instincts, have everything in black and white and know when to cut losses or take a new turn.

Read more in The U Press N˚2 (Singapore edition).