Ah ‘Fine Dining’, an often maligned and frequently overused term. Fine dining is not my ‘thing’ really, I often find that the term applies to restaurants that like to charge exorbitant prices for food that has been teased to within an inch of its life and lost all relationship to its original form. Tippling Club intrigued me though. Not only has the restaurant stayed on top of its game for 5 years in Singapore, chef Ryan Clift is also unafraid to experiment with new concepts.
He has successfully launched two other distinctly different restaurants in Singapore with Open Door Policy and most recently Ding Dong. Given that I’ve very much enjoyed both of these restaurants, it seemed high time to bite the bullet and experience the pièce de résistance of Tippling Club. Not to mention that celebrating a wedding anniversary always deserves something special Tippling Club has recently moved from Dempsey to Tanjong Pagar. This point was definitely a drawcard, restaurants in Dempsey are often disappointing for me, firstly I find it hard to even locate anything, the area is a maze and everything looks the same, and secondly, everything seems a bit contrived. Tanjong Pagar on the other hand is vibrant and boasts many genuinely good restaurants. And they have to be good to survive the competitive environment, whereas Dempsey is a bit more of a closed shop (feel free to suggest any good places in Dempsey that would help change my mind on these points).
If you fancy a cocktail and you’re in the area then you could certainly do worse than stopping by Tippling Club for a cheeky pre dinner drink. The cocktail list is extensive, but the staff are the real draw card. They’re very accomplished and indeed Zachary de Git (Zach) received recognition for his craft as the Singapore Champion Bartender in the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender competition in 2013. As with any cocktail bar these days, receptacles used to house your cocktail can cause amusement.
Husband’s cocktail was presented in what we both joked looked like a camping cup, complete with a $23++ cocktail. Funny. My divinely presented Friend of the Night hit the mark with a sweet sour combination of Bianco Vermouth, bitters and citrus bubbles. The bar area is cosy and inviting and is in itself a destination.
On finishing our pre dinner drinks it was time to be seated. Our visit to the restaurant happened to be on an unusually quiet night, and strangely we were seated up at the bar stools overlooking the kitchen. We found it odd that we weren’t asked for our preference given the few patrons but in actual fact the seats were perfect. From our perches we were able to witness all the marvels of the kitchen up close and personal. I have to say this improved my overall perception of the evening. To see the effort and commitment involved in each and every morsel served to us really added an extra dimension to the experience.
The dinner menu at Tippling Club is a choice of two degustation, or tasting, menus. One with 7 courses and one with 10. You can also elect to enjoy wine pairing with your meal. I’ll get to the prices at the end, suffice to say, this was a very expensive meal. Husband was a little shellshocked with the price and wanted to choose the reduced menu. My thinking was that since we were signed up to the decandence anyway we may as well go the whole hog and do the full 10 courses with wine pairing. In for a penny, in for a pound I say.
In actual fact I preferred the selection on the 10 course menu, although there were two things I didn’t want included. Foie Gras, for ethical reasons, and Cauliflower soup because it’s my least favourite vegetable. The staff were completely cool with that and reduced our food menu price by $40 and our drinks by $30.
Aside from the 8 courses on our list, there were no less than 7 amuse bouches and 4 pre desserts. To say there was a lot of contrasting flavours going on would be an understatement. I’m going to sum up the experience overall and then include photos of each of the 8 courses with a matching description so I can hopefully encapsulate the complete experience for you all.
I absolutely appreciated the artistry and attention to detail of every morsel we tried. Every single staff member was friendly and knowledgable, without being overbearing. They were all willing to talk but also to leave us to enjoy our meal. When every course, including amuses and pre desserts, were brought they were described in detail and we asked questions if we wanted to know more. Equally the wines and cocktails were also explained perfectly, and any questions we asked were answered knowledgably.
I think you probably sense a ‘but’ coming and you’re right. As I’m writing this I’m trying to think off the top of my head what the most memorable course was, but my mind is overloading with the cacophony of flavours and textures that were mine to savour on the evening. I remember a fabulous omelette, divinely textured snow crab, bizarrely tasty charcoaled red peppers and pork belly with blue lobster that was probably the nicest lobster I’ve ever tasted. The other stand out item was the ‘cheese course’ as it was completely different to what I was expecting. Of everything we ate though I can’t say that there was a moment where I thought, “Oh my god, that was absolutely amazing and I want more of it”. On the other hand, every course was presented exquisitely and without exception we were impressed with the incredibly intricate and attractive presentation.
1st Course – Omelette with smoked eel, chives and crispy shallot
The omelette was sublime, a silken texture moulded into a dainty parcel. The smoked eel added density. The chives and crispy shallot didn’t agree with me, the brevity of cooking resulting in a strong and raw tasting flavour that I don’t like.
2nd Course – Roasted Celeriac with Snow crab and Jamon
The snow crab in this dish was gorgeous, extremely soft and moist. But I felt the flavour was drowned out by the strong flavour of the celeriac, and again, the jamon was lost as well.
3rd Course – Monkfish
The fish was a little disappointing, Monkfish is a firm textured fish and it seemed a little dry to me. The foam and eggplant did little to improve things.
4th Course – Iberico Pork Belly
This dish was probably the highlight (and I don’t even like pork). The pork belly was beautifully tender and the blue lobster accompanying it was divine. The foamy leek sauce perfectly accentuated the two flavours and brought the whole dish together.
5th Course – Cured Wagyu with Artichoke and Burrata
The wagyu was divine and I love burrata but it was overpowered by the other flavours.
6th Course – Cheese Course
I wish I remembered the name of this cheese, it was a French Goats Cheese and was the most silky, soft and subtle goats cheese I’ve had. It melted in the mouth. And worked beautifully with the potatoes and crunchy quinoa.
7th Course – Icecream with Meringue and Berries
I think it was walnut ice-cream and I remember it being lovely and creamy. Served with crumbled meringue and mixed berries for a zing.
8th Course – Gluwein Aero
This concoction was much lighter than the picture shows. It literally disappeared as soon as it touched your tongue. The gluhwein flavour was strong but worked well.
And so to the price. A 10 course tasting menu is $265 per person ++, if you choose the accompanying wines (which I strongly suggest) you can add another $150 per person. The wines were beautifully matched with the food, and even the desserts included gorgeous cocktails to accompany them.
So is it worth it? I have to say yes and no. Yes because the lovingly created dishes are a beauty to behold, their ingredients assembled with much care and attention to detail. We watched as one of the staff delicately laid out a single layer of puffed rice that would ultimately become the Truffled Rice Cake we were served as an amuse bouche (picture below). Hours of time is spent on the preparation of ingredients and you can’t help but appreciate that.
But I also say no because ultimately I think there’s just too much going on with this type of food. The Celeriac with Snow Crab is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The roasted celeriac was cooked well but the strong flavour completely overtook the delicate and refined snow crab. The addition of jamon (I think it was jamon but at the time I remember my tastebuds were so confused it could have been proscioutto or even another cured meat) further added to the complexity and was lost to me in the dish. And although the ‘Olive Oil Caviar’ on top was a study in the beauty of chemistry, ultimately it was just a garnish that didn’t particularly add anything to the dish.
At the end of the day, fine dining itself is a) not really my area of expertise or b) how I like to enjoy food best, so in some ways this review should be taken with a grain of salt. I just hope to give you an idea of what the experience was like, and you can decide for yourself whether to save up and splash out on a decadent night out. I certainly don’t regret it, but it’s not something I’ll be making a habit of.
38 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore, 088461
phone +65 6475 2217