After having had a huge load of street Food in Malaysia, we agreed on a saturday evening it was time again to indulge some fine dining and at the same time test the Singaporean gastro-scene. We quickly decided on Tippling Club whose google results, depicting a modern take on food, cocktails and restaurant design spontaneously inspired us.
But we were to find out that underneath those rather superficial google findings lies a serious project. Matthew Bax, a mixologist from Melbourne (He’s the owner of the succesful bar Der Raum) teamed up with his friend chef Ryan Clift, an Englishman who moved to Australia, not only for a simple design restaurant project, but also for offering serious fine dining coupled with serious drinks. Fusion and Molecular Techniques are the redundant elements at Tippling Club; both for coktails and food. Chef Ryan Clift sources local ingredients and is pairing them with the finest produce from overseas. The result is a very inventive cuisine that shows his talent and the big potential that still lies in him.
We opted for the 12 course Gourmand menu for 230++ SD and chose the wines ourselves from the list. Interestingly, there is a drink and wine pairing with the menu that mostly includes Matthew Bax‘ famous cocktails making it an actual food and cocktail pairing menu. I didn’t realize it at that moment we ordered, but I sure would have considered it now that I read a bit more thoroughly about the restaurant.
Our meal started with an aperitiv recommended by the waitress.
Preparation of our Aperitiv
Nitro Martini made with Tanqueray Ten Gin. The use of Nitrogen is supposed to enhance the flavours of the drink. It was indeed a very tasty albeit strong Martini; like a (nice) punch in the face before starting our meal.
By the way, as I mentioned before, Tippling club puts as much effort in their Cocktails as they put into their food. I recommend you have a look at their Cocktail menu. It explains how much work is put in the development of a cocktail. It starts with only using fresh fruit juices and goes as far as producing their own bitters for mixing. Incredible! I’m also a big fan of their humor -here’s how our Nitro Martini is explained:
Nitro Chilled Tanqueray Ten Gin, Noilly Prat.
Please voice your preference: dryness* and olives / lemon twist?
*Idiots Guide to Martini Drinking: Dryness refers to the amount of
vermouth. The more vermouth: the wetter and easier it is to down.
Then came our first Amuse.
What do you think judging from the pics? Well, it’s a visual illusion! The black “thing” lying on the plate is actually a char-grilled green pepper and what looks like egg yolk is actually a delicous dip sauce containing miso and Wasabi. A Good dish and certainly a nice way to start a meal with a surprise effect and the playful use of tongs.
Our second amuse. 2 rings of unmistakably fresh and tender calamari. The straw contains an intense basil sauce. It’s that simple of a combination and it works! Good!
Third Amuse. The tube contains a lucious vichysoise of Potatoe. On top lies a cube of apple covered with a dollop of Avruga Caviar. Again an appetizer that is self-explaining, that works well and puts a smile on your face.
Our fourth and last Amuse was an intense cream of red beet topped with some grains of dried yoghurt. With a little acidity this might be the right amuse sharpening your palate for the dishes to come.
CHILLI CRAB celery, cashews, seaweed – This dish represents Ryan Clift‘s take on a very popular South East Asian specialty. He uses red seaweed that stems from the same area as the crab which has a slightly chewy and spicy taste. The whole mix, including micro-coriander and cashews indeed represents a fine dining take on chilli crab: while your local joint’s chili crab foremost tastes sweet and MSG-ed, this version appears at the same time multifaceted in flavor and well balanced. In fact you can tell that the various herbs each add a distinct accent and the spiciness is just right. A nice start, perfectly accompanied by a white Châteauneuf du Pape.
ESCARGOT parsley, garlic, moss, wild herbs – texture, texture, texture! This dish is all about texture. The snails stem from a farm in Malaysia and lie on the plate under a small hump of crunshy crumbled parsley. To achieve this surprising texture, parsley is mixed with bread, dried in the oven and then crumbled, the chef explains. And for those who wondered how the French classic escargots with parsley and garlic can be reinvented, here’s someone who found the solution! The whole dish worked well, albeit I remember it to be a hint too salty. One thing I don’t remember though is the moss… Maybe they just mean the appearance of the parsley…
FOIE GRAS spiced gaufrette biscuit, granny smith – We all know that Foie Gras is no unusual dish in fine dining. So is it boring to get it again and again? Well, not if someone like Ryan Clift puts his thoughts and hands on it. First of all, the Foie stems from “happy ducks” in the Spanish Basque Country, meaning that they’re not force-fed. Second: the Foie is used raw: it is just cured and then processed to cream. Flavoured with just a hint of Armagnac, it tastes delicious and pairs well with the very fresh and intense granny smith purée. The biscuit on top is slightly too big, but hey, no one is forced to eat. I still ate it! A very good Foie Gras dish! And it shows at the same time that the most common element can taste delicious again and again if you give it the right thought.
Porcini Gnocchi, Truffle, Girolles – Intensity, intensity, intensity! While the Escargot dish was about structure, this one was definitely about the intensity of flavors. But it first starts with a complimentary cooking ceremony: chef Ryan Clift brought a glass-instrument to the counter which looked just like it came out of a laboratory. The lower bulb of it contains broth which is then boiled and shoots into the upper bulb containing dried mushrooms and herbs. He explains that by refreshing the broth like this and instantly pouring it on the dish, the flavours which usually evaporate after some time are still perceptible. And indeed, the different perfumes came out with purity and strength, telling a perfect tale of an autumn forest with mushrooms and truffles. Only the Gnocchi in this dish were a bit weird with a somewhat sticky texture (Their flavour however was just fine). Apparently they are made through a molecular cooking procedure using an enzyme, but I somehow got confused on it so don’t ask me for details. A good dish.
Meanwhile we already had red wine. I didn’t take tasting notes though. But this is certainly the right time to aknowledge the pleasant, humourous and savy sommelier who was able to help us make the right choices. A good sommelier is still a rare thing in Asian Restaurants.
KINGFISH edamame, soy tofu, black radish – Excellent fish quality. The white quarter-slices are a crossing between carrot and coriander. I don’t have detailed memories on the taste of all these elements together. Maybe this was one of the weaker dishes despite the good fish quality.
SURF ‘N’ TURF wagyu, lobster, chive juice – We have a lot of interesting ingredients on the plate. The Wagyu beef stems from Blackmore, one of Australia’s most reknown producer (also supplying The French Laundry). The tiny sea-grapes on the side are picked by one person in Japan and flown in daily – their shelf life is only 24 hours. While serving, fresh chive jus is poured on top of the meat. But to be honest, this dish was somewhat problematic to me. First, the Wagyu, while being juicy and tender was lacking taste as if it wasn’t salted at all. But more generally, while all single elements around were interesting to discover (first time I tried sea grapes – lobster meat of excellent quality) I’m not sure they made sense as a combination. So I see room for improvement here, but with Clift‘s talent I have no worries he’ll run out of ideas.
Here is another star of the evening. Château Palmer 2003. Despite the hot summer the wine didn’t have the “cooked fruit” flavours many are talking about. The nose was just very seductive and the wine was just as quaffable as a good Grand Cru can get. I have to especially thank our friend Meng for offering us this nice bottle.
The pre-dessert made use of a nitrogen trick again. I don’t have any detailed notes on this one, but I remember it as being a nice neutralizer with good acidity and also some pop in your mouth elements in it.
CHOCOLATE orange, green tea, orange blossom, coriander – a very nice take on chocolate desserts with various textures. Chocolate with orange is always a winner to me anyway. Also this was a nice pairing with the Château Palmer as well!
We ended our meal with a Kübler Absinth from Switzerland. A very smooth and balanced Absinth.
Tippling Club was a thrilling experience! Our expectations were hugely beaten and the cooking of Clift is definitely worth a Michelin star for us. But while the menu started very strongly, we also saw some little weakness with the 2 main courses. Despite the use of top notch and even exotic ingredients they seemed a bit vague. It is a matter of how those are put together we concluded. Nonentheless, I would recomment anyone looking for fine dining in Singapore and even a bit further away in Asia to give this place a try. One can sense the talent of the 2 partners in crime, and I am very certain that their talent will provide better and better cooking.
8D Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475 2217
Chef Ryan Clift at work