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Chef Victor Caballe Molina and the three partners Yiyeksi Marhoulova, Cherry Chai and Aurelia Colomer of Delicacy, a new deli in Gemmill Lane. Image: Seah Kwang Peng

The sounds of hammering and drilling are echoing up and down Gemmill Lane.

Just off Club Street, the little stretch is set for big changes. At least four new restaurants are opening there. Club Street Social, one of the first food-and-drink businesses on the street, is retooling its decor and menu, and Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House is moving to a bigger space next door.

The lane, named after John Gemmill, a merchant, banker and Singapore’s first auctioneer, was known for the friendly Club Street Social, upscale Luke’s and nose-to-tail eating restaurant Wolf, which closed recently.

Its quiet and laid-back vibe will soon change, but the new players say they do not see that as a bad thing.

Ms Cherry Chai, 29, who is opening delicatessen Delicacy with two partners, says: “We are becoming neighbours and family, checking out one another. We try not to be in direct competition, we want a mix.”

For chef Francois Mermilliod, 40, a veteran in the food-and-beverage scene here, this is his shot at opening his own place and a chance to challenge himself. He worked at Salut and Au Petit Salut and left Absinthe, a French restaurant in Boat Quay, in December last year.

Chef Travis Masiero, 36, of Luke’s, sounds wistful when asked about the changes, saying he has mixed feelings.

“I’m sad in some ways,” he says. “We used to be the street that nobody knew about, a secret. But this means there will be more people on the street, it will bring some vibrancy.”

He says he hopes Gemmill Lane will not be closed to traffic, as part of Club Street is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“It inevitably becomes party street, and people put out as many tables as possible on the road,” he says. “I’m not necessarily of the mindset that Singapore needs another street like that.”

This story was first published in The Straits Times on July 24, 2015. For similar stories, go to www.sph.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.

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