With only a very limited time in Singapore, Mr S and I were determined to make the most of the amazing foodie opportunities that were on offer. The vast multi-ethnic culture means all sorts of cuisines are represented at every level, from the street food and hawker markets right up to the highest levels of fine dining and highly sophisticated fare. I was extremely excited to try Tippling Club, a restaurant that explodes the concept of fine dining by whipping away any white table clothes and placing the diner at the heart of the restaurant, right in front of the kitchen.
As we entered the small restaurant, I was very much reminded of The Test Kitchen in South Africa, patrons either sit at the bar watching the magic happen in the kitchen or they can have more private tables away from the hustle and bustle. The design of the restaurant is urban and almost industrial, certainly a far cry from any typical fine dining establishment.
As well as the dining room, there is the intimate bar area where about a million bottles of spirits dangle on top of the barman’s head. I fancy a drink (and when don’t I?) but we’ve clearly come to the right place as the Tippling Club is a restaurant that places cocktails on the same level of importance as the food. As we’re presented with the menu we have the choice of the five course ‘classic’ menu or the eleven course ‘gourmand’ menu, both tasting menus come with a pairing of carefully selected wines and innovative cocktails. This is a tough decision to make and clearly one that would be helped with a glass of champagne…
Right, that’s better. I felt quite torn, on the one hand I thought, you only live once (my motto for life) on the other I thought, it’s the end of the holiday… I’ve had a lot of food so five courses may be the ‘sensible’ option. So in the end we opted for the ‘classic’ menu which began with a selection of snacks.
Starting with a pleasantly bitter stick of samphire dunked into a herb mouse.
Followed by a delicate and delicious chorizo and tomato sandwich…Of course throughout the experience we watched the careful preparation of the dishes in the kitchen in front of us…
Talented chefs carefully plating, chopping and fashioning each morsel and when the food is served to us sometimes it’s by the waiter and sometimes by the chef. This is a restaurant that blurs lines and does away with any boundaries, you might say it deconstructs the whole idea of restaurant service. The restaurant was actually founded by British born chef, Ryan Clift who previously worked at Claridge’s as well as one of my favourite restaurants of all time Vue de Monde in Melbourne.
In 2008 Ryan came to Singapore and opened Tippling Club, first in it’s Dempsey Road premises before moving to it’s current location in Tanjong Pagar Road with the addition of a new test kitchen. I knew we were in for a treat with Ryan’s food as Tippling Club has been awarded several prestigious accolades including a rank of 45th in the The World’s Best 50 Bars, being named Asia’s 12th best restaurant in the Miele Asian Dining Guide and recently coming 23rd in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.
Continuing with the snacks: prawn cracker with salmon roe
Curry mousse and coriander tempura
Margherita pizza flavour beef tendon was an interesting concept and I could taste a strong flavour of oregano. The snack was a great example of how the chef blurs lines and boundaries and creates a little magic with ingredients.
I loved this beautifully fashioned wild mushroom maki which we injected with herb oil from the pipette before popping it into our mouths.
Smoked and charred red peppers with a soy and wasabi dipping sauce are a signature amuse at the Tippling Club but they reminded me a little of dead people’s fingers and rather disconcertingly were served with rather surgical looking tweezers.
The ‘fingers’ weren’t actually burned but coated in a light tempura batter coloured with squid ink! Next a small shot of basil oil into which straw-coloured gazpacho soup was poured…
As the green oil bubbled around in the gazpacho, a cool lava lamp effect was created, but that pretty little shot was downed in one by both Mr Silver and I.
Can you believe that was just the snacks? 8 snacks! I was already slightly relieved that we hadn’t gone for the full eleven courses, but now we were ready to start the menu proper.
Our first cocktail was the Raaa served in a sake box; the drink was a mixture of reposado tequila, habanero shochu, citrus and honey. I must admit, though it was delicious it was a little too strong for me, I can’t take my tequila. The barman work closely with the kitchen to create the most innovative cocktails that enhance the whole experience of the tasting menu. I read an interview with head barman, Kamil Foltan who noted that they use homemade ingredients in the cocktails in order to make them of the best quality with natural flavour.
The cocktail was paired with eel with charred shallot and mustard ice cream – well you know the chef’s a Englishman when he serves a jellied eel. I did noticed Mr S slightly baulk at the notion of eel, but even he enjoyed the slight chewy texture of the fish which worked best with all the components also stacked on your fork.
A beautifully crisp 2004 Muscadet réserve from the Loire Valley was our next drink and it paired beautifully with scallops served with parsley root and purple garlic soup. I loved that it came with a sort of dissolving pasta sheet to reveal the creamy soup and sliced scallop below.
Next a red from the Napa Valley to pair with our meat course:
On top of a beautifully cooked cod-like fish, the chef had alternated a finely cut and deliciously smokey ox tongue and hay baked beetroot paired with a horseradish and a beetroot distillation.
The final savoury course was my favourite of the night, a beautifully cooked roasted pigeon with cep mushroom puree and truffle macaroni. Compared to the other dishes this one seemed relatively simple and was almost like a comfort food dish especially when paired a velvety cabernet.
We decided include a supplementary cheese course because to go without cheese really isn’t an option. Next came the procession of dessert snacks:
The first nibble of cheese cake ecstasy tablets showed not only the humour injected into these dishes but also the very clever molecular gastronomy at work, these tiny little crunchy tablets really did taste like cheese cake.
What appeared to be a little chocolate was actually a ice cold ball of yuzu and matcha sorbet.
Our final dessert snack was a sweet sandwich made out of dehydrated milk and rhubarb.
Our main dessert was textured milk with wood sorrel; a light pudding which paired a milky meringue and a small portion of tapioca. The cocktail, entitled Got Milk, looked like a child-hood classic especially with the stripy straw but there was definitely nothing infantile about it as it contained dark rum, tippling milk tea and a sakura flower. Sadly not to my taste as I don’t like milky cocktails, though Mr S loved it.
Finally a beautiful selection of petit fours to finish us off. With our courses complete, the sous chef offered us a tour of the venue and took us upstairs to see Bin 38.
Bin 38 in a three part space that has been created in collaboration with iconic Australian winery, Penfolds, and combines Chef Ryan Clift’s state of the art test kitchen along with a research and development cocktail bar and a private dining room.
I loved this hanging light made of bottles which further exemplifies the quirky humour of the restaurant though the more cosy and plush upstairs room has a completely different look to the downstairs restaurant. In this unique space Ryan and his team can create a fully bespoke menu for private diners paired with Penfolds rare and vintage wines.
I’m not going to lie, we did contemplate another cocktail despite feeling so full but in the end we decided to quit while we were ahead and go back to the Marina Bay Sands to take in the view from the roof top.
Mr Silver and I loved Tippling Club and the intriguing way that Ryan Clift explodes the standard ideas of fine dining. The food and the cocktails are incredibly innovative and though sometimes ‘clever’ food can compromise on taste Tippling Club doesn’t. The food is as delicious as it is artful; highly recommended.
38 Tg Pagar Road
+65 6475 2217