Before I go on to 'big up' the Tippling Club on Dempsey Road in SIngapore and tell you how it ranks alongside the best of my dining experiences, I feel the need to start with a disclaimer.
Some readers may know that my stepson once worked there but let me assure you, this has in no way influenced my opinions - if anything, I should be promoting one of the venues that he has since go onto consult for or be telling you about the bar that he is soon launching, The Cufflink Club.
That said, back to the subject at hand - the Tippling Club. Whilst many UK readers will probably not have heard of T.C. or Ryan Clift, the hugely talented English chef that presides over the open kitchen, many South East Asian or Australian diners will be much more familiar.
Prior to opening the Tippling Club in 2008, Ryan earned three hats (Melbourne's equivalent to Michelin stars) as head chef of Shannon Bennett’s Vue Du Monde and has worked alongside some of the region's most respected talents, including Raymond Capaldi and Peter Gordon. Closer to home, Ryan's early career including stints at London’s prestigious Claridge's for Marco Pierre White.
When last in town, we did visit the Tippling Club but did not have time for the full dining experience. We did however see enough to put it at the top of our hit list for this year’s gourmet trip.
In Singapore many of the big named restaurants are housed inside malls, but a vanguard of forward thinking chefs and restaurateurs realise that the best way forward is to open up in heritage sites around the island. Notable venues including: André in a 1920s shophouse in the Bukit Pasoh area; Jason Atherton's Esquina in Jiak Chuan Road and The Tippling Club in a former army barrack building in the Dempsey Road area.
Although Dempsey Road is a little way out of the city centre and is not ideally placed on the MRT network, a cab ride from the central Orchard Road area will cost just a few S$ (easily under £5) - a price that is well worth it to see another part of town and to sit, drink and dine overlooking the lush tropical rainforest.
As guests step inside TC they are confronted with a large glass window that looks into a state of the art kitchen and development 'laboratory' - used to create progressive and imaginative dishes, with many dishes showing Ryan's skills and understanding of molecular gastronomy and of course his classical training.
In my experience, many chefs who use molecular techniques in their cooking often do so at the expense of taste. In my opinion, Ryan, like say Heston Blumenthal, manages to pull of fun, quirky and inspired dishes that demonstrates skill, creativity and technique without compromising on flavour. This has earned The Tippling Club worldwide recognition and a listing amongst the Miele Guide’s Top Ten Restaurants in Asia.
After our 'taster' last year, this time we knew we wanted to experience the full shebang and therefore opted for the ten course 'Gourmand' menu over the five course 'Classic'. One thing, we did miss out on though is the cocktail pairings that the Tippling Club is particularly famed for - I'm not much of a drinker and my wife who usually enjoys the odd tipple was not feeling 100% (at least we have an 'excuse' to go back again!)
Although stating ten courses, The Tippling Club do like to surprise and delight and in fact we ended up with some fifteen courses - the 'Amuse' coming in four parts:
Amuse one: Vichyssoise served in a ‘glass shooter’ topped with a cube of apple, the Caviar substitute ‘Avruga’ and dill flowers – to be knocked back in one, great fun and great tasting.
Amuse two: Carrot and curry spiced espuma in a jar topped with freeze-dried yogurt and coriander moss – good spicing and textures.
Amuse three: these charred green peppers with a miso and wasabi dip may not look all that special but everyone I spoke to who had dined at The Tippling Club asked if we had these – amazing, truly memorable (a reason alone to go back!)
Amuse four: served in a dinky plant pot with snow pea tops ‘sprouting’ from the truffle soil and espuma and a disc of celeriac nestled in the bottom.
Oyster – topped with their in-house-infused parsley champagne, this was a truly indulgent dish. The oyster paired perfectly with the apple, tropical notes of banana and the finest Château d’Estoublon olive oil.
Smoked Eel – a beautiful looking and wonderful tasting dish. The hickory home-smoked eel had just the right amount of smokiness to harmonise with the brown breadcrumb, compressed cucumber, delicate shallot crisp and smooth mustard ice-cream.
Foie Gras ‘Glühwein’ –of the two of us, it’s my wife that generally enjoys foie gras dishes more than I do, but I found this dish stunning. The Glühwein meringues tasted of Manchester’s German Christmas Markets; the Pain d'épices crumb complemented the mulled spices and added crunch. But it was the rich, glossy Glühwein liquid gel centre that wowed.
Easily the best foie gras dish I have tasted. Better than Momofuku Ko’s ‘shaved foie gras with lychee, Riesling gelée and pine nut brittle’ and WD-50’s similarly constructed ‘foie gras with passion fruit’.
Scampi – a simple dish by Tippling standards but one that delivered big time on flavour. Quality Jamon de Bellota, Iberico chorizo, plump mussels, confit tomato, white beans, toasted hazelnuts and a juicy scampi tail - ‘Spain on a plate!’
Meagre – meagre fish is a similar to European sea bass but with a firmer yet creamier texture. Cooked to perfection, it came topped with a Porcini purée, salsify and mushrooms, cloaked in a milk skin and garnished with pea tops.
Wagyu – This dish was absolutely sublime, the most phenomenal indulgent tasting ‘A3’ graded Wagyu steak from Kagoshima (the best production prefecture in Japan) sat alongside a hand dived Hokkaido scallop, topped with sesame seeds, shredded shiso, an umami rich dashi and the green caviar like umi budō (sea grapes) which popped in the mouth releasing a burst of the sea.
Pigeon – the top quality Bresse pigeon breast was cooked to perfection and meltingly tender. The jus made from the bones and wings was gamey and rich. Pigeon aside, the star of this dish was the ‘burnt’ Jerusalem artichokes which had a lovely deep earthy flavour lifted by a lemon thyme emulsion, sweet caramelised onion confit and peppery nasturtiums.
Cheese ‘a daily selection from the pastry kitchen’ – a soft fresh tasting chèrve had been paired with caramelised banana shallot, Muscat grapes, dates and a truffle and porcini soil.
Pre-dessert: Blood Peach Meteorite – blood peach sorbet contained in an outer crust of otherworldly goodness
Second pre-dessert: Fizz Bomb – a fizzy hit of strawberry and passion fruit in a melt-on-your-tongue parcel, reminiscent of ‘flying saucer’ sweets; ‘A taste of childhood’.
Liquorice – a stunningly beautiful dessert featuring an amazing combination of textures, techniques and flavours. There was so much going on, all of it good: mandarin sorbet set in liquorice tubes, freeze-dried rhubarb batons, yoghurt, micro-coriander, nitrogen separated mandarin and blood orange segments all brought together with the swipe of sweet liquorice and a salty lift from dried-black olives.
Textured Milk – following the vibrant attack on the senses of the previous dish, the minimalistic presentation and purity of coconut milk sago and sheep’s milk ice-cream flavours created a beautiful contrast. The only colour coming from the wood sorrel foraged from the rainforest that surrounds the restaurant.
Chocolates - salted caramel, green olive and a rosemary & olive oil ganache.
I’ve read some mixed reviews of The Tippling Club, some are overawed by their progressive, groundbreaking cuisine; others don’t seem to ‘get it’. It’s definitely one of those places that people are either going to love or hate. Personally, I loved it – like I said at the start, this was one of my greatest ever dining experiences. I can’t wait to return to see how much further Ryan and the team have pushed the boundaries.Tweet