There’s a place I’d like you to visit if you’re ever in Little India.
At the intersect where Clive Street and Campbell Lane meet, enter the barbeque shop Meatsmith, where suckling pig and duck hearts are roasted on a spit. Make your way up its old wooden stairs, and you’ll find great respite inside Rogue Trader, its nondescript sister bar meant for determined seekers of a good drink.
The man behind the bar is one cool cat. Rob Scott, the beverage director across Burnt Ends and both Meatsmith outlets, is a guy you’d want to know better.
Order a G&T and chat away. It’s easy to become some kind of hostage to his storytelling — just ask him about the zombie apocalypse — but if there’s anything to learn from him, it’s his attitude. The Rob Scott approach to life is simple: Be optimistic, big-hearted and worry-free.
“My job is simple. I make people happy, that’s it,” he says. “There’s so much occurring on a day-to-day basis that people are taking things so seriously. People have all these stresses and expectations that often we forget to be human and to enjoy our natural existence.
“We all have to eat, drink, be social and communal. It is one of the most human things you can do and if I get to facilitate an environment that makes that accessible, enjoyable and often memorable, then hah. It gets me all excited.”
He’s the kind of bartender who doesn’t do it for the box office. He’s got a passion and fire to him, and like any true artist, money’s the least of his concerns. He never wanted to take life too seriously.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, he spent his early, formative years working for his blacksmith father. He also skateboarded, explored theology, thought about studying natural medicine for a bit, and made a career out of oil painting and art installations before jumping behind the bar.
It wasn’t until 10 years ago that he made the switch. A local pub manager had commissioned him to design a tattoo and Scott asked for a weekend job in exchange. It happened at a time when he was moving away from two-dimensional art and veering towards something more experiential.
“I was trying to create performance and installation art,” he continues. “The whole point of it was that we may all find ourselves in the same place and at the same time, but if we all take a different path, we will still see the subject differently. This translates so much more as an artistic approach because every moment is an artistic experience.
“Then a couple of years into hospitality, I realised what I was already doing. I’d been trying to apply this artistic approach to everything the entire time. In some aspects, the bar’s a theatre, and I didn’t realise that I was already on stage.”
His understanding of mixing colours and paints led him to believe that he could also mix drinks and flavours together. “Mixing drinks and sharing the stories that go along are essentially creating an experience. Guests come in wanting to taste things. They smell their food and drinks and hear the sounds of the environment. I no longer have to lock myself away and paint for weeks to do an art show anymore. Because to me, this is creating art, every single night.”
Rogue Trader is at 21 Campbell Lane, Level 2, tel. 9625 9056. Book a table via the Keyyes Membership App
Opening image by Vernon Wong