Australian-born Ben Lee is one of the head honchos of sandwich joint Sarnies, hip brunch spot The Lokal, and now Club Meatballs – a super cool hangout specialising in, well, meatballs. We chat to him about his latest project, and the ups and downs of being in the F&B industry.
Hi, Ben! Congrats on the opening of Club Meatballs! So, why meatballs?
Who doesn’t like meatballs? I read about meatball-focused restaurants becoming really popular around the world, so I thought I’d give it a try in Singapore. The concept of choosing different flavour combinations and toppings sounded like a lot of fun and not too serious, which is our kind of thing.
The space looks amazing! Tell us about your collaboration with BW Furniture.
The BW Furniture guys wanted to bring their furniture showroom into the CBD, and they wanted to combine it with an F&B space where people could eat, drink and even get some work done. They asked around the market for a good operator and Sarnies came up a couple of times. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was the biggest challenge in setting up Club Meatballs?
Putting it all together in a very short amount of time and finding the right people to help do it. It wasn’t easy.
What makes Club Meatballs so special?
Awesome meatballs made from scratch with the fun bit of being able to design your own. With so many choices, you could actually eat here 125 times without having the same thing!
Tell us something interesting that happened at Club Meatballs, both good and bad.
We had a flood here recently on a Saturday night due to a blocked drain. Rather than having to see our customers leave, we gave away a good lot of free drinks and everyone had a jolly good time waddling in an inch of water.
The team clearly has an obsession with coffee. How did this begin, and what have you learnt from making coffee?
We had a coffee machine in at Sarnies and it all began from there. Like everything, we kept trying (and will continue) to make it the best we possibly could. Over time, I’ve learned that old beans make bad coffee.
What’s your motto?
It’s like what Dolly Parton once said: “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
If you weren’t in the F&B business, where would you be and what would you be doing?
Walking the earth like Caine in the TV series Kung Fu.
If budget wasn’t an issue and you had all the freedom in the world to set up anything, what would your next venture be?
Honestly, I like the excitement of not knowing what is coming next and the freedom for me is not focusing on the next dream venture but just enjoying what I’m doing now.
Thanks, Ben! Please excuse us while we stuff our face with your awesome meatballs.
Club Meatballs, #01-35 China Square Central, 20 Cross Street, Singapore 048422, p. 6222 8660.