I might have found the perfect restaurant to get away from the crowds in Singapore. No, really. It isn’t exactly affordable to dine there, and its rustic decor might deter some diners. But Wine Bonanza, located in a nostalgic, pre-war colonial heritage building at Albert Court, fits the bill perfectly if you are looking for a convenient but quiet place for an after-work or weekend hangout.
It is not often that I leave a meal satisfied and with a longing to make a return visit with friends or family. Oftentimes when I search for a place that caters to groups, the places of choice can widely swing from cafes to the more prim and proper fine-dining establishment. And usually, when the meal is over, there is always the awkward pressure to vacate the place with little chance for banter. Yet, this is not the case when one considers the communal Sunday Brunch at Audace Bar & Restaurant at the Wanderlust Hotel along Dickson Road.
Audace takes over the space held by the much vaunted Cocotte, housed in the eclectic Wanderlust Hotel just off Little India. The outfit is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jeremy Gillon, a passionate and affable maverick in the kitchen.
Gillon experiments extensively with techniques that extract the essence of the more than 28 rare foraged herbs that he has in his store, each gathered, dried and shipped to Singapore by his friend in the French Alps. A distinct flavour profile is identified for each herb. It is then carefully coaxed from the plant, with certain taste dimensions amplified and others dialed down. Some are made into syrups, others into crunchy bits of crumble, yet others turned into pastes and sauces. Each is unique, wild, and a fine specimen of food alchemy magic.
Delight in contemporary French Cuisine
We started off our afternoon with the Green Peas Salad, Apple, Reine Des Pres, Almond, a refreshingly green appetizer that exhibits the bright tanginess of green apple alongside the earthier flavours of almond and peas. Reine Des Pres can be found in the damp meadows of the west, and brings with it a subtle, sweet aroma in the form of an amber syrup.
The Egg Yolk Confit, Smoked Foie Gras, Mushroom Consomme arrived next, a show-stopping force of distilled umami essence. It is a play of smooth textures and deep flavours, each ingredient coming together into a comforting whole.
Our third dish of Braised Octopus, Grilled Onion Salad, Roasted Hazelnut, Basil was competently cooked, with the octopus braised to just the right bite. However, while the browned sweetness of the onions and hazelnut aromas worked well together, I find the nuttiness didn’t have the same complementary effect on the octopus.
Following not long after was the Steamed Mediterranean Seabream, Broccolis, Salted Lemon Paste, Black Olive Powder; delicately cooked fish dusted with a black olive powder that surprises the palate with a bittersweet affect.
Arriving next was the meat dish of Striploin Beef, Banana Shallot Papillote, Tarragon Coulis, Dry Capers and Anchovy; the beef was succulent, and imparted with a sweet-salty depth by its accompaniments.
A Ganache with Sorbet to look out for!
Dessert came in the form of the Dark Chocolate Ganache, Roasted Coca Nibs, Monarde Sorbet, a wholly refreshing sorbet set atop luscious, silky-smooth ganache. The Monarde doesn’t shy away, with its bright red petals and alluring, floral fragrance. Together with the crunch brought by the roasted coca nibs, this was one addictive way to round off the meal.
As we sit back with some coffees and pat our satisfied bellies, Gillon walks over and greets us with a wide smile. After a brief round of introductions, he invites us over to explore his extensive collection of herbs. It is an impressively diverse range of flora, and you can tell from the excitement in his voice the profound joy he has from not only bringing in precious specimens harvested from the wild by hand, but also from discovering new ways to unlock surprising flavours from each of these gifts of nature.
It’s rare to find such a combination of passion and skill in taking what the wilds have to offer and making this accessible to diners the other side of the world whom may never have tasted, let alone heard of some of these herbs. But that’s precisely why we should be rooting for mavericks like Gillon, and why we can’t wait to see what alchemy he works next at Audace.
Thank you Audace for the invitation.
Audace Bar & Restaurant
2 Dickson Road
Reservations: 6298 1188
Tuesday to Saturday
Lunch 11.30am to 2pm
Tea 2pm to 6pm
Dinner 6.30pm to Midnight
11.30am to 4pm
Sunlight was waning as I wandered along Bussorah street, having some trouble finding this week’s restaurant visit. As the day turned to evening, Kampong Glam was waking up; people begain filling up the Turkish, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern restaurants. I myself was looking for the Flying Monkey, a recently opened restaurant and bar serving pan-Indian cuisine and spice-inspired cocktails. I finally discovered it under an awning, as there was no evident signage on the façade of the building. Only when coming closer did I see its neon name blazing on the back wall of the restaurant.