Better Together: Mrs Singh

This month, we were lucky enough to catch up with Jennifer Narcisco of Mrs Singh in Flinders Lane, former NYC nurse turned star-gazing restaurateur. 

​‘Being a guest at one of our venues has often been described like being the guest of honour at a house party.’ The focus at Mrs Singh is all about putting friends and strangers at ease, so they can find connection however they like. 

Would you mind giving a short introduction of yourself for the folks across Australia?
I’m Jennifer Narcisco, co-founding partner at Mrs Singh on Flinders Lane. I’ve lived through ten restaurant openings and have been an owner/operator in the majority of them. It all started in Melbourne, but I then headed back home to open in NYC, then California and then Sydney. Now I’m back in Melbourne, which I’m delighted about. I’m one of a few partners in the latest venues but my role since the beginning has always been the creative director of sorts, meaning I create the concepts behind the venues, design the interiors and direct the style of service. I’m all things FOH and work services at Mrs. Singh, which I love. It’s been a thrilling and busy ride to say the least! I’m a lucky girl.
What does it mean to be Australian to you?
Well, being an Australian was a choice for me. I was born in Brooklyn and lived between NYC and California all my life before coming to Australia over ten years ago. I originally came here to just have some fun, every intention of heading back to NYC. Even though it’s hard to top NYC and I miss it very, very much, I chose to stay here and eventually became a citizen. I struggle to express adequately how fortunate I feel to be able to say that. It came down to the balance in lifestyle here that really made such a hard decision a no-brainer for me. 
Being Australian is often an experience of contrasts for me because of that. So, being Australian for me are sweet moments like these…
  • When the Prosser’s Queen Vic Fishmonger casually gifted me a huge bag of prawns when I mentioned that I was purchasing them to share with friends to celebrate me becoming an Australian Citizen earlier that morning.
  • The regular sight of neighbours gathering in the park, sharing food and drink... never a plan or invitation associated.
  • Now owning a wetsuit, gum boots and a tea pot... items I’m sure I wouldn’t have needed had I not stayed here. Also, being able to see the stars even though I live in the city. Also, I feel much more connected to the land on which I live since being here, lead fully by the sweet example of my Aussie friends who this seems to come more naturally to. 
  • Observing the community’s love and regular engagement with places like the local pool is one of many ordinary community activities that doesn’t have an equivalent for me in my past American life and therefore, feels quite and endearingly Aussie to me.
  • My girls begging for bickies or lollies in their lunch bags which I would have pleaded for growing up as cookies and candy. After all these years, I still find it so endearing when they sling Aussie lingo so naturally... they are little Aussies, born and mostly raised here... still blows my mind.
Tell us about your restaurants and food? How is it made, how do you source the materials? What makes you guys a bit different?
Mrs Singh (and the other restaurants in the group) serve up contemporary Indian food. Think beyond curries and naan, which we do serve but add to that small plates of crudos, grilled meats, seafood and veggies, all with a more subtle, tasty nod to India. We serve Indian food in a more casual, non-committal way a small plates menu but also offer a set menu of all the favourites for those who don’t want to make decisions. So you can either have after work bites with cocktails at the bar or you can settle in a bit more on the comfy banquettes for a fuller meal complete with bottles on the pour. At Mrs Singh, we equally love food and beverage and don’t play favourites with the plonk. We offer up some seriously delicious cocktails, a wide reaching selection of often small producer/natural leaning wines and we even sling some beers. 
What is your goal in what you do or what is the message you hope to get out?
I think what makes us.... us is that personality and character are palpable at Mrs Singh. Being a guest at one of our venues has often been described like being the guest of honour at a house party.

I came to hospitality about a decade ago from outside the industry... I was a nurse at the time. I spent my years before hospo skipping between studying dance, then biology, then a masters in nursing and then thankfully made it to hospitality. There is one commonality between all those disciplines and that is an innate interest in humanness. So for me, my restaurants are as much a creative endeavour as a business venture. 

I’ve been very lucky (and have partners that are more business focused than I) that business-wise, the restaurants have been so well supported but they have all been designed with a focus on creating an environment that puts guests at ease enough to be open to the possibilities that exist when friends and strangers mix in one space around food and drink.

So from the interior design, the messaging, the music, the attitude and disposition of the people that make up our team... there is an intent to connect whoever in the room is open to being connected... to either to the people/stories being told at their own table or more widely to others in the room or to the more hidden stories beneath the design surface. I hold a belief/dream that created environments and the people working within them can help put people at ease enough so that they can really enjoy whatever it is that they are after in their experience... including, simply just or beyond delicious food and drink. 

Who are some local heroes or brands that inspire you?
I really love people/places that are a bit “multidisciplinary” and that can creatively prompt further reaching ideas or questions beyond and via their primary genre. For instance, I love a bar that screens film, a restaurant that shares art, a product that links to literature. Hence, my affinity for locals like...
  • Longplay
  • Alpha 60
  • Perimeter Books
  • Keoma
  • Stockroom of Kyneton
  • Social Foundary of Kyneton
  • Aesop
    What are some of your favourite bars and restaurants in Melbourne?
    Negroni Bianco at Di Stasio Citta, tranced by Shaun Gladwell’s videos never ever gets old for me. Dinner at Supernormal, my favourite spot being in the window hightop or the bar. Then a drink at Bar Margaux before I head back towards my hood is always a treat. Neighborhood Wine and Longplay are my favourite locals and provide the perfect end to any night for me... a walk home under the dark sky. 
    What’s your go to  CAPI Cocktail?
    If you see me sneaking behind my bar at Mrs Singh, it’s because I’m heading for a CAPI Tonic... a simple G&T with one cube pleases me every time. 

    Head here to book a dinner or cocktail at Mrs Singh and prepare to be impressed.