A stirring romance: 28 HongKong Street’s star bartender couple is pushing the bar back to the top

By Evan Mua February 14, 2024
A stirring romance: 28 HongKong Street’s star bartender couple is pushing the bar back to the top
This is a stirring romance that started at 28 HongKong Street. Photo: @gluggony/Instagram
  • Tamaryn Cooper, 24, and Danial Bin Kamaru Zaman, 27, first met as newcomers at 28 HongKong Street last year.
  • The hectic pace of bartending has brought about highs and lows for the couple.
  • The two are focused on pushing the bar back to the top, starting with rolling out a new menu.

It’s the most romantic day of the day again, when Cupid makes his cameo and lovebirds paint the town crimson — Valentine’s Day.

Alas, it’s also a day of dread for despondent hearts who proclaim that modern romance is dead. 

Understandably so, as over-engineered app algorithms convolute dating while ambiguous and non-committal “situationships” suck the optimism dry from many young adults.

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
The speakeasy is one of Singapore’s top bars. Photo: 28 HongKong Street/Instagram

As messy as it gets, there is always a sliver of hope for those who look hard enough. As the old adage says: “We find love in the weirdest places.”

Take for example the couple who will be dishing out the social lubricant to keep the magic of Valentine’s Day alive at one of the rowdiest speakeasies in Singapore, 28 HongKong Street.

We’re putting Cupid’s spotlight on this pair, who had serendipitously met at 28 HongKong Street and, despite the tumultuous setting and the demands of bartending, managed to ignite their own spark amidst the chaos.

Introducing the protagonists

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
This girl wonder had built up a name for herself in Thailand. Photo: @bangsphoto/Instagram

Unlike the recent deluge of app-linked romances, Tamaryn and Danial’s was an organic affinity that started at 28 HongKong Street last year when both bartenders first joined.

Tamaryn Cooper, 24, was new to Singapore at that time and had just relocated from Bangkok, where she was shaking things up at Teens of Thailand and Asia Today — two of the Thai capital’s most renowned bars.  

It was a move highly anticipated by cocktail aficionados — she had built up a reputation for herself with impressive feats and industry competition triumphs.

Her accolades included becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Campari Bartending Competition Thailand, an achievement clinched just two months after her bartending career officially kicked off.

In contrast, the 27-year-old Danial Bin Kamaru Zaman was relatively new in the bar industry but had already spent a whopping 10 years in the F&B industry. He was just as established in his own right, having spent much of his career perfecting the craft of coffee-making as a barista.

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
Danial is newer to the industry but is already senior bartender at 28 HongKong Street. Photo: @bangsphoto/Instagram

He eventually sought a change of scenery aged 25 and stepped into the world of bartending. Inadvertently, his path brought him to 28 HongKong Street, where he is now senior bartender.

It must have been fate beckoning — he came aboard just one week after Tamaryn took on the mantle of head bartender.

“I actually already knew who she was because she had made a name for herself in the bar industry. But when we were introduced, I asked for her name just to keep it cool, you know,” Danial quips.

Being the two newest members of the team made bonding easy and quickly nurtured a friendship between the two — though Tamaryn admits she hadn’t imagined that they would end up together.

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
The pair bonded quickly as the two newest team members. Photo: @bangsphoto/Instagram

As it may be, the lovers have now been together for nine months after Danial eventually made the bold first move. 

Both are looking forward to celebrating their first anniversary, a milestone which had eluded their prior relationships.

When asked about their favourite quirks, Tamaryn’s was his nonchalance in social settings: “I get easily embarrassed, so it’s nice to see that he doesn’t care what others think and isn’t afraid to be silly. I especially love when he’s dancing!” 

On the other hand, Danial had a cute, unexpected observation — a charming linguistic idiosyncrasy, where she shortens or makes up English phrases.

“For example, she’ll say ‘for why?’ instead of ‘why did you do that?’ Or when she replies ‘what it do?’ in a funny voice when people call for her attention,” he explains.

“Love trumps anger”

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
Chemistry makes everything smoother. Photo: Tamaryn Cooper

Some might wonder: What’s it like for a couple to work together behind the stress-filled bar at one of Singapore’s busiest watering holes? 

Barhoppers are well aware that 28 HongKong Street is not a place to visit for chill ambience or docile nights, after all.

One thing both can agree on is that their deeper chemistry and understanding has built them a smoother workflow and better communication — things especially helpful at a bar routinely slammed with drink orders.

Nonetheless, disputes are inevitable in environments as hectic as this. And as a couple, it can be hard to separate work from home, especially if frustrations are sometimes brought home.

According to Danial though, the inescapable friction actually helped improve communication. 

“We’ve learnt to be able to sit down and clearly talk and understand each other’s point of view,” he says. 

“It’s not easy but love trumps anger.”

Even then, bartender couples have more challenges than just on-the-job dynamics. Another obstacle? Finding free time together in an industry notorious for erratic and long hours.

Combined with scheduling limitations and frequently mismatched off-days, the couple has to make extra effort to find alone time outside of work settings.

Fortunately, staying together affords them little pockets of time before work. “We make it a point to spend time when we wake up, be it watching a movie or having lunch before shift,” says Danial. 

28 HongKong Street back on top

tamaryn danial 28 hongkong street
Love and support helps both of them mature in their professional capacities. Photo: Tamaryn Cooper

Ultimately, despite the profession’s inherent vexations, both appreciate having a partner who can not only understand the pressure, but can also support and help them mature in their craft and career.

As Tamaryn puts it: “We face the same sort of problems and experiences. Having someone who understands the same kind of struggles helps lift that pressure.” 

Beyond personal growth, the duo is also focused on propelling 28 HongKong Street back to its former glory. 

And their support for one another might yet be the driving force behind the fabled bar’s return.

For the couple, ambition has even gone beyond just shop talk and seeped into all levels of their lives together.

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The pair are preparing for the launch of a new menu this upcoming March. Photo: @bangsphoto/Instagram

“I don’t know whether this is sad but our bed talk sometimes sidetracks to how we are going to bring the bar back to the top of the charts, where it belongs,” Danial quips. 

Those who aren’t familiar with the storied bar might not know that, while it’s still one of the top bars in Singapore, it used to sit at the pinnacle of Asia’s bar scene — it was awarded No. 1 on the first-ever Asia’s 50 Best Bars list in 2016.

The couple’s first step in restoring the bar’s greatness? An exciting new menu, currently slated for release in late March. 

This will be Tamaryn’s first menu as head bartender, though the whole team has a hand in its creation.

She promises good things coming up. “I’d love to see 28 HongKong Street get back to its roots, while keeping up with modern day trends. With this driven new team of young bartenders, I think we can do something great this year.”

For more ideas on what to eat, read our stories on a young trio who started a creative zai er snack business at 21 and the buzziest new openings to visit in February.

Do explore the new GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals.

You can also book a ride to 28 HongKong Street to see Tamaryn and Danial in action.

Evan Mua


Evan started off writing about food on Instagram, before joining outlets such as Buro and Confirm Good to pursue his passion. His best work usually comes after his first whisky shot in the morning.

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