As the degustation menu (12 courses $160/$260 with wine, 28 courses $265/$415 with wine) is priced similar to other restaurants with higher profile, customers like me may prioritize and push Tippling Club down the list. Which is why I had not tried TC although it has been on my Restaurant Wishlist for years and although it is Miele’s 12th Best Restaurant in Asia.
With the move from Dempsey to Tanjong Pager, Chef Ryan Cliff launches an affordable set lunch (2 courses $42, 3 courses $57) and a pre-theatre menu (6-8pm, 3 courses, $70). The set lunch and pre-theatre menu consist same items except the latter comes with a glass of wine, so it may be more value for teetotalers to lunch. Now, you get to test-drive before committing to a full 28-course relationship.
When I entered the new restaurant, I couldn’t stop smiling. The whimsical decor, which unites two spaces, restaurant and bar, has lovely green accents, the floor with arabesque and rococo tiles, and the walls hang faux Jackson Pollocks–humorous and self-reflexive. The entire environment is completely different from hipster restaurants, the decor gels together elements that are contradictory: it is eccentric, comfortable, stylish, fun AND classy. If I ever become a millionaire, I’d ask the designer Alan Barr (from New York) to design my apartment. Or I can just marry him. It’s easier that way.
At the bar: When the evening light streamed through jalousie windows, softly onto springbud-green seats, refracted among the hanging bottles, the air was magic. The drinks, by award-winning bartender Zachary de Git, are as quirky as the decor. I had a purple drink ($23, vanilla & raisin spirit, curacao, candy gomme, raspberry, citrus), which came in a medicine bottle and a box. The box even has instructions on how to consume. With raspberry, it was a delicious rendition of a cough syrup. You know addicts drink cough syrup to get high, right? Inject me another shot, doctender (get it?? Doctor-bartender?).
The PR also recommended Night Shift at the Potato Factory ($20, potato vodka and espresso), Jolly Green Giant ($18, plymouth gin and pea puree), and Friend of the Night ($18, bianco vermouth, bitters, citrus).
In the restaurant: an open-concept kitchen. The pre-theatre menu started with 3 free and interesting amuse-bouche: an interpretation of the local curry chicken in the form of foam topped with crispy rice; a “don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover” bell peppers in a squid-ink tempura, with an amazing dip that tasted like a mix of soy sauce and wasabi; and a test-tube of palate cleanser with pistachio, olive, etc.
Foie gras apple, with brioche in a hessian sack (or mini gunny sack)
APPETIZERS: Between the foie gras apple ($10 supplement) and omelette ($10 supplement), go for the latter. While different textures of apple in the foie gras dish were treated in a million different ways (frozen dried, fluid, as a dip, confit apple in 18 year-old balsamic), the foie gras, laced with 8-spiced powder, was still a pate in the end. Nice but nothing extraordinary.
The omelette, on the other hand, was ethereal, light as a feather. The omelette’s texture was between liquid and solid, and came with charred banana shallots, house-smoked eel with joy bubbles of avruga caviar. Divine.
MAINS: This was a tough choice between the wagyu beef cheek ($15 supplement) and Talleyrand poulet ($15 supplement, pictured above). The wagyu beef cheek was alright, but it came a side so delicious it made me tear (I’ve 6 witnesses)– onion ring. And there was only ONE onion ring. Why? Because one ring to rule them all. (LOTR nerd joke.) Because if you want it, you’d better put a ring on it. Ok, ok, no more jokes.
Because it takes 3 days to cook it. It is slow-cooked for 2 days, made into puree, and then into a gel, which is frozen by nitrogen. It is then coated by crumbs which are reduced from onion stock, so it’s onion coating onion–there is a onionnibalism (onion+cannibalism) image. When I ate it, I cried. Do I need to go on? Yes, my heart will go on.
But comparing the beef cheek alone with the poulet (chicken en francais), the chicken won. It was so tender there should be another category for it, but it also had the unfair added advantages of black truffle sauce and foie gras. Umami².
DESSERTS: If you like zesty, sourish flavors (which I do), go for strawberries & cream, a fun dessert that looks like lollipop. But I had Terry’s chocolate orange (because CNY is coming and I used to eat chocolate orange for CNY as a child). Instead of using sugar, they utilize a natural ingredient that is 30 times sweeter than sugar. Tastewise, it was ok.
One small suggestion I’d like to make is to include some carbs in this Atkins meal. After the meal, I felt empty and needed some noodles. Some gratis bread would be nice.
To me, fine-dining restaurants are usually categorized into two groups: mindblowingly delicious but safe, or innovative but unsatisfying. I think Tippling Club attempts to strike a balance between the two: it pushes boundaries and there are a few unforgettable items. But with the extra supplement, the meal may come up to $95++, a little overpriced for a 3-course meal. That said, there are so many intricate, labor-intensive details that go in each dish and will take forever to list the details. Besides, I had so much fun that I may return for the degustation menu on special occasions. Readers, my birthday is in March *hint*.
38 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088461
T: 6475 2217
Lunch: M-F, 12-3pm
Dinner: M-Sat, 6-11pm
Bar: M-Sat, 12pm-12am
Rating: 3.688/5 stars
Thanks, Karen and Dee, for the hospitality.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.