When I’m exploring a new country I’m always on a mission to find the very best food. A bad meal is a waste of a great opportunity and experience in a foreign place. That being said research is necessary in order to avoid that disappointment and my first port of call is often the San Pellegrino list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Ranking highest on this list for Singapore is Restaurant Andre at No. 46 also appearing as No.5 best restaurant in Asia. My Singapore restaurant guru and food blogger, Honey from The Girl Next Shore, confirmed that Andre was her favourite place for a date night. So I booked it…two months in advance obviously…I don’t like to miss out on these things.
As it was our last night in Singapore and of the whole holiday we wanted to make it special so we started the evening off with cocktails at Raffles.
One of Singapore’s icons, we couldn’t complete our visit to the country without a drink in this famous hotel that first opened in 1887. The hotel has been declared a national monument by the Singapore government and the signature colonial architecture has been restored and preserved so none of the hotel’s history is lost. Juxtaposed against buildings such as Marina Bay Sands and the other sky scrapers in Singapore, Raffles is unique and clearly something rather special. In the early days famous writers such as Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling stepped through the doors, and more recently Will and Kate, George Bush, Michael Jackson and Christian Louboutin have all been residents.
We had a quick look around the hotel, which includes a shopping arcade, but actually we were only thinking about one thing. The Long Bar is where one of the world’s most famous drinks, the Singapore Sling, was invented and 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the cocktail.
If visiting Singapore is like seeing into the future, a visit to Raffles feels like stepping into the past; the cane furniture, Oriental rugs and tiled floors are inspired by 1920s Malay Plantation life and contrast greatly to the slick interiors of Singapore’s ultra modern hotels.
The Singapore Sling was invented by Ngiam Tong Boon back in 1915 and is still enjoyed world wide. I’m not a fan of sweet cocktails but I found the pink drink really enjoyable. Having said that, I thought the already touristy experience was made even more so with the printed glasses but still it was definitely a must do for us.
Another unique tradition at Raffles is throwing peanut shells on the floor and apparently Raffles in the only place where you can litter in super clean Singapore.
Next it was off to Restaurant Andre located in China Town; unlike Ryan Clift at Tippling Club, chef owner Andre Chiang has stuck with the fine dining tradition of the white table clothes and silver service. The dining space is small, intimate and very romantic in its narrow 19th Century townhouse space.
We started with a champagne from a smaller growers’ house and as it was a zero dosage champagne it was beautifully dry and crisp.
I also loved the fact that the drinks menu comes in a rather ‘novel’ format…There is the option of wine pairings but we loved the champagne and stuck with a bottle of that.
At Restaurant Andre there’s no menu (blogger nightmare!!); instead the chef works on his ‘Octaphilosophy’ that is the idea that is the essence of his cookery can be pinned down to eight elements which are represented on his ever changing menu. I’ll go into more detail about those elements later as first we had a serious of snacks to enjoy.
First of all a gorgeous sea garden on a rock was presented to us, the edible components were kombu chip with abalone and liver and kumamoto oyster.
Kurobuta pork with enoki was also presented in an organic fashion perched on a log.
Onion, artichoke and potato chip served on a twig carried on the nature theme.
Tempura prawn and potatas bravas, on edible bitter chocolate soil; obviously we had to go back for seconds on the soil after the nibbles were finished!
A prawn on an edible lump of charcoal.
That was it for the snacks and before we dive into Andre’s eight course menu I wanted give a little more information on chef Andre Chiang. The Taiwan-born chef has worked for some of the world’s greatest chefs such as Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire and the Purcel brothers before leading the kitchen at the prestigious restaurant Jaan, also in Singapore. In 2010, still in his early thirties, Andre opened his own restaurant using French techniques to create a menu based on his unique philosophy.
The first dish is based on the element ‘Unique’ as it is a combination of ingredients and flavours that wouldn’t normally be combined together. Indeed grilled corn with cream of corn, almond, horseradish and vanilla sounds pretty vile on paper, but a chef of Andre’s skill creates something wonderful.
Andre’s ‘Pure’ dish is presented without the complications of cooking and seasoning. Ingredients were cucumber dusted with earl grey, Sri Lanka crab with onion and caviar. Chef Andre believes the beauty of food can be seen in unadulterated ingredients and in this dish, the fresh produce simply speaks for itself.
Representing the element of ‘salt’ was this beautifully presented dish, potato cream with squid linguine and seaweed topped with grains. A clever dish as the squid itself was made into pasta, it was prepared to perfection and really did showcase the salty flavours of the sea. Chef Andre admits to an obsession with salt and trying to find different depths of saltiness while not using the condiment itself, instead favouring fish sauce, anchovies and soy sauce.
This dish of sheep curd, aubergine, smoked eel, chive sauce and caviar represented the ‘artisan’ element of cuisine as it paid tribute to farmers, fisherman and other fine producers around the world.
The ‘South’ element of the menu is the only dish to actually represent a region and the dish is inspired by the chef’s time working in the South of France. Beautifully fresh and earthy flavours of scallops, potatoes, chestnuts and truffle puree is topped with a mushroom vinaigrette.
Next is ‘texture’ and the dish is a play on different textures of ingredients. The waiter gave us a gift from the kitchen, a generous smattering of truffle shavings on top of the food. Actually this dish is a trick, the dish is presented as a wild mushroom ‘risotto,’ but it’s not actually rice…
‘Can you guess what it is?’ asks the waiter…I guess correctly with orzo and of course the pasta has a more silky texture than rice in this delicious creamy concoction.
On the subject of the waiter, service was excellent and we were attended to with great attention to detail by headwaiter and sommelier. We chatted away with the waiter who hailed from the Czech Republic but had worked in London for years, each dish was explained fully and glasses topped up when necessary.
At the beginning of the meal we were asked if we had any likes or dislikes, I mentioned my aversion to foie gras as I hate the texture.
‘Our foie gras is unlike any other’ said the waiter, and of course I had to try it! The dish represents the ‘memory’ element as Andre created the dish in the 1990s when he was working with the Pourcel brothers at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpelier.
This dish is actually a foie gras jelly with a black truffle coulis the combination was creamy and smooth, totally melt-in-the-mouth. In fact, this is one of Andre’s signature dishes and the only one that appears consistently on the menu.
The final dish in the octaphilosophy was themed around the idea of ‘terroir,’ meaning produce from a particular place and flavours specific to that region; terroir is about appreciating gifts of nature. Rabbit wrapped in pancetta was paired with grilled papaya and ballotine of leeks.
The first pre-dessert is an inventive combination of green peas with matcha, mint and chilli.
This pre-dessert was actually very thinly sliced grapes on raspberry mousse, topped with peach juice. A delicious and stunningly inventive palate cleanser.
With the final course, the diners are asked to get involved and make their own cake…. Mr S and I were some what nervous to be presented with a plate of flour, lumps of butter, sugar, raw and egg and chocolate and milk was poured on top and we were given a spoon to mix it up…but of course it’s a bit of trickery…I can’t quite explain how but the result was a delicious cookie dough-like dish.
Just as we were finishing the dish and enjoying the humour of it, Chef Andre himself came out and talked to all the diners. To be honest we were a little awe-struck to meet such a talented chef, plus he was incredibly tall and imposing (he used to be a model too!) , of course I was too scared to ask for a photo with him ;). However, despite his accolades and great success, he’s clearly very down to earth and took the time to write down a few recommendations for us for lunch the next day.
Next a tool box of treats was brought out for us to try, but as you can imagine, I was pretty finished off.
With my love of food being so evident, the head waiter offered to show us the kitchen and though, the chefs were finishing for the night it was still incredible to be let inside the kitchen of one of the best restaurants in the world.
I can’t even begin to say what an incredible experience it was dining at Restaurant Andre, the service was perfect, there was a romantic atmosphere and the food was second to none. Meeting the chef and seeing the kitchen was just the icing on the deconstructed cake 😉
41 Bukit Pasoh Road