The problem with being a perennial traveller is that you are always looking for the next best thing somewhere, harbouring the constant thought that the one restaurant you want to try back home can wait for that special occasion; and somehow it just doesn’t happen. That’s my case with Tippling Club – I’ve always been intrigued by rave reviews of the restaurant since it first opened at Dempsey, but had no occasion to visit it – until the time I was racking my brain for an interesting place to bring my Japanese expatriate gourmand-friend Thomas for our regular dinner outing. Tippling Club came to mind, but by then it had relocated to a 3-storey conservation shop-house at No.38 Tanjong Pagar Road. It’s one of the few restaurants from Singapore that made it onto the San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list.
Tippling Club was founded by British-born Chef-owner Ryan Clift who had done stints at Claridges, London and Vue de Monde, Melbourne. Chef Ryan’s 20-year culinary career started at the tender age of 14 at a 1-Michelin-Star restaurant near his hometown of Devizes, Wiltshire in UK, and has seen him working alongside some of the world’s best celebrity chefs such as Marco-Pierre White and Peter Gordon. Chef Ryan brands his cuisine as “modern gastronomy that is fun, playful and fresh. It imbues the dining experience with a sense of excitement and a touch of theatre“.
The entire restaurant is chic and eclectically designed: the ground level houses a bar and dining room; and upstairs there’s a private dining room and Chef Ryan’s food laboratory. Different shades of lime-green (one of my favourite colour) prevail throughout the premises – featuring prominently in the chairs, walls, curtains and even the kitchen tiles.
The decor is somewhat whimsical at the same time: ethnic-style terracotta floor tiles; bespoke light fixtures; generous use of wood interspersed with white marble; avant-garde furniture and ornaments – all coming together harmoniously to evoke a sense of tradition, comfort and yet promise an element of fun.
Thomas and I chose the counter seats facing the kitchen pass, where we could watch the chefs toil. We love the flurry of activity in the kitchen and the chance to glean culinary secrets – the complex plating at Tippling Club is food theatre of the highest order. Once seated, you are served a tiny rolled napkin that expands as soon as water is poured onto it.
The menu offers a choice of the Classic Menu that features 7 courses, or the Gourmand Menu with 12 courses; there’s actually more courses counting the various snacks. The theatrics of our Classic Menu (after a few flutes of bubbly) began with a couple of amuse bouches. The Beef Tendon Cracker, dusted with spice powder and served on a wire mesh, reminded me of Krupuk kulit, an Indonesia snack; albeit this version is more sophisticated.
The Truffle Styrofoam is cleverly crafted; an airy delight.
My fave is the Smoked Quail Egg resting on a spoon of kombu, nestled in a bed of hay – the umani juxtaposed with texture of the ingredients delivered a delightful explosion of flavours.
The signature snack, served on a slate tile, is the Charred Bell Peppers served with a dollop of soy and wasabi dip that I mistook for chocolate. A surgical-like tweezer is provided to pick up the blackened (by squid ink I suspect) tempura-style peppers. Love it.
Our palates were refreshed by this test tube of tomato essence sipped through a straw of basil oil extract.
A dish of fresh fish balanced with the crunchiness of the cracker.
Can’t recall the name of this dish, but it was truffles heaven, as we ordered extra shavings of this culinary treasure.
Beautiful rich flavours blending in harmony.
Next up was the Venison with Onion Nettle. To be honest, I love the crispy “onion rings” more the the venison, which was perfectly done a robust medium-rare.
The Omelette with Smoked Eel, chives and crispy shallot was the crown jewel of the evening. The perfectly-moulded silky chawanmushi-like egg custard co-starred with subliminal smoked eel and given a nice lift by saltiness by the caviar – fusion at its best.
Dessert was a simple sorbet but a perfect end to a great meal.
Tippling Club was kind enough to send me more photos of their other dishes, as depicted above.
Tippling Club delivered an exciting dining experience. I can’t help but draw parallels with my evening at the equally amazing Gaggan in Bangkok. Chef Anand of Gaggan has the benefit of a progressive Indian cuisine theme, which provides diners with some degree of continuity and expectations during the course of the event. Chef Ryan is not bounded by such constraints, and is thus at liberty to experiment with different combination of dishes; which might be disconcerting to the less adventurous diners. The final verdict rests with individual preferences – I love the food and theatrics at both. At Tippling Club, the service is professional; the staff is very knowledgeable and Chef Ryan is like a maestro conducting his culinary orchestra in the kitchen.
Chef Ryan is a friendly bloke – as I was curious of the setup, he gave us a tour of the upper premises before we left. I fell in love with the state-of-the-art R&D test kitchen where Chef Ryan experiments with his inspirations and tests them before putting the new creations onto the menu. The private dining room is oh-so-sexy, perfect to impress clients or for that very special occasion.
Tippling Club may not be your everyday dining venue but you have to do it once, at the very least.
38 Tanjong Pagar Road,
Phone: +65 6475 2217