Cover Vijay Mudaliar

The local bartender is saving the world, one cocktail at a time

It is a fairly normal Thursday afternoon as I sit at a table made of mushrooms, drinking cactus juice. My companion is Vijay Mudaliar, a tall, lean gentleman with empathic eyes, an angular visage and what I suspect is a permanent five o’clock shadow on a clean-shaven face. He has great teeth, by the way, and it isn’t difficult to make him break out into a wide smile.

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Mudaliar seems very comfortable, not only with himself, but also in the surroundings he has created in his latest venture. I’d love to chew the fat with him but it’s tricky in his new restaurant concept as there isn’t any. The menu is 100 per cent plant-based—both food and drinks—and before all you omnivores start heading for the Aberdeen Angus-populated hills, it’s worth listening to what he has to say, while drinking cactus, prickly pear and mezcal, naturally.

“I work well under pressure,” he tells me, as I sip my cocktail, enjoying the spicy salinity of the Tajin salt that lines the rim of the glass. “I don’t like feeling safe. I want people to walk out of the restaurant with a question mark; processing some thoughts about what they’ve just experienced or something that they’ve learnt.”

The multi-award-winning Mudaliar established his reputation at Native in Singapore—an establishment that revolutionised the cocktail scene in the city and turned “urban foraging” into an art form. He proved himself capable of stirring things up and mixing it with the best of them before opening his new place, Analogue at Chijmes, which is doing a lot more than simply paying lip service to the solar-powered bandwagon of sustainability.

Aside from the fungi tables, there’s an unusual bar—3-D printed from 1,600 kg of recycled plastic bottles—and no animal products in sight, touch or taste. This includes fining agents in alcohol. For a master mixologist, this creates a number of challenges, but Mudaliar relishes them.

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He doesn’t want to “teach” people about environmental awareness, he says, but he’d like people to learn stuff, and while I ponder this over another glug—allowing the aloe vera to soften my taste buds and getting a gentle lick of acidity from the pink dragon fruit—I understand the subtle difference. Mudaliar isn’t preachy and he doesn’t proselytise.

While Analogue has sustainability and heightened awareness at its core, it’s still a food and beverage outlet that the management is keen to share with everyone. This includes, obviously, us meat eaters, as well as those of the vegan persuasion. And if the cocktails are anything to go by, there will be no compromise on, or shortage of, flavour when it comes to the food.

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“Managing your produce is a huge part of being creative,” says Mudaliar, returning to the challenging aspect of creating food and drinks that contain no animal products, eggs, or dairy. He loves his kitchen and describes it as “healthy”, which is appropriate.

“There’s no blood, no bones, no guts. There’s very little wastage, and all the side cuts of the vegetables go into the broth or stock. We should all have been doing this for years,” he shares.

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Analogue is fresh and brave, and its heart is in the right place, much like it is for 32-year-old Mudaliar, for whom each venture seems to be an adventure and an opportunity to learn. While he refuses to accept that imparting such learning to others actually amounts to teaching—and I’ll let him have it, for now—thinking a little bit more about what we put in our mouths and stomachs can’t be a bad thing. Just as long as I don’t have to eat chickpeas, or lentils, or alfalfa, or...

Having said that, I’d be delighted to sit at a mushroom table again, regarding waves of recycled plastic while supping on a Cactus in the company of Vijay Mudaliar. He’ll be cross when I write this, but he can teach me a lot.

Analogue | 30 Victoria Street, #01-31 Chijmes, S(187996) | 8518 1882

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