Updated: Nov 23, 2021
The Full Book
I am floored. Who knew this 1930's Ebenezer Chapel would live on to see not just one restaurant (i.e. The White Rabbit / TWR), but Singapore's newest and hottest dining destination to-date by three-Michelin-starred chef Julien Royer of three-Michelin-starred Odette and one-Michelin-starred Louise fame. This is Claudine, "your neighborhood French restaurant" helmed by executive chef Julien Mercier (notably from Sketch in London). She will reset the bar on proper casual french dining in Singapore to world-class standards.
Set on a lonesome hill in Dempsey, watch new life breathe through that gothic arched doorway. The snaking paper tube of light that hovers over the dining room is at least 50 feet long. What was once a painted white canvas for over a decade has been taken over by bold colors, red for the ceiling, and dried 'locally sourced plants' by This Humid House to fill up the empty wall spaces (50 panels to be exact) which could double up as art au naturel. Apparently, chef Royer's mother used to dry flowers in the summer by hanging them from the ceiling back home in France. Watch the face-to-face interview here. I don't have a good picture of this yet. If you're interested to know a little more about this 90-year-old building that could have been a place of worship since 1903, click here.
I walked in the dark from the open carpark at the back (it's free parking!), down a narrow path and to the front door. If you're wearing heels, I would suggest dropping off along the street facing the main doors where the path is paved and not gravelly. The crickets were exceptionally loud that evening. So much anticipation was building up that got myself very excited!
It was a wet evening outside but once inside, the view was breathtaking. I trodded on in my sneakers on post-rain soil. It's really not a long walk, I'm dramatizing 🤣 It takes only seconds to get to the main door.
It's an open kitchen at the farthest corner of the restaurant, that's an extension of the original kitchen (now used for prepping) that the previous restaurant used to operate from. Instead of the huge stained glass window, guests can now watch the culinary team live in action. So now with the old lounge area gone, what was the bar in the well (one of TWR's main features) also went with it as the whole restaurant is now leveled to share an even floor.
I don't know what the pandemic-regulated pax count is at this time, but I'll update on this blog. As you can tell, most of my images were taken in the dark. So a revisit for lunch is in the cards.
The menu at dinner is a generous spread of sharing portions specifically 10 different things "To Start" with, not to be mixed up with "Prelude" that lists 11 bar snacks. Yes, there's a well-stocked bar at the other end of the room, also on leveled ground when before it served as an elevated stage for wedding events. There wasn't much debate when it came to the ordering part.
Sourdough and iberico ham butter
COME ON. I have to order this every time from now on. I thought I spotted this delicious leg in the middle of the room...hmmmm...
What arrived next was a stunner.
Crispy Pork Trotter ($18++)
If you were expecting deep-fried chunks of meat, you'd be gobsmacked with these delicate little balls stuffed with gelatinous pig's feet! Cut the richness with ravigote dip on the side that's made up of mustard and cornichon or teeny weeny french pickles. This one though departs a little from the classic version with the addition of eggs. This bar snack begged me to drink with it so we sipped rosé champagne. Try Mas de Daumas Gassac ('Frizant Rosé') at $22++ per glass/$208++ per bottle.
I have to say though not very french, I've got my eye on the hokkaido uni pasta and smoked egg yolk ($58++) that's also a starter. Uni should be on every menu!
And now for the exciting bit! Table side service by Swiss-born restaurant manager Antoine Capelli who was formerly F&B operations manager at Raffles Hotel. It's my first time having steak tartare as a main course, and having it done a la minute in front of me.
Steak tartare a la Parisienne ($52++)
This used to be a french delicacy that when done tableside, not behind closed doors, implicitly impressed to guests the freshness of the meat. Nicely chopped New Zealand grass-fed beef (approximately 150 grams) that's not minced into mushy bits but sizeable enough for me to chew on heartily. I still can't believe this is done right in front of us. And we get to choose what else to add more of on the spot! Though the next time I'd leave it up to the professionals because they know best. The sharing plate came with pommes frites and salad greens. This is a raw dish by the way. I do love my beef bleu.
Another main choice I'd like to go for next time is vol-au-vent ($58++) that's all about veal sweetbread and cockscomb, dressed in morels and cream sauce. Sounds exotic enough for you? I bet it's a bait for adventurous tasters. I do wish people would be more curious when it comes to ordering instead of sticking to the same old thing and feeling so bored at the end of it. Get excited about dining out again. Choose one thing you've never tried before and post it!
In between courses I got distracted by the bar. I mean, who wouldn't be? 🤣 So I ventured over there to check out what they were doing. Shaking out a cocktail it seems. There are nine cocktails available at the moment at $26++ per glass.
If you've been to TWR, you'd realize that directly opposite the open theater kitchen is the new Claudine bar and lounge area that stands on leveled ground. Before it was an elevated stage where wedding vows took place, including mine 👰🏻🤵🏻
I have the impression that this is a classic bar that will serve the masses well. The wine list is tight but gives enough choices to the guest to try something new or fall back on what they like best. What I noticed too is that the liqueur listed here is a page long (usually used in cocktails), and there are mocktails too. For me it's either champagne or pretty non-alcoholic drinks. I want to try Mirabelle next time. Check out the full wine list and bar snacks here. At this time, it's first-come-first-served at the bar.
Whole Roasted Brittany Pigeon ($68++)
MUST ORDER❗️The cook on the confit pigeon's leg was perfect, and I was lovin' the charred gnocchi; those little parcels of pillowy soft potato dumplings. Some may mistake it for pasta, and I don't blame them as they're usually tucked away in the pasta section at restaurants. Skinless grapes and grilled maitake mushrooms are part of the medley in this dish. I don't think I could ever forget my first encounter with this one.
The other dish I would like to order the next time I'm here is the Claudine bouillabaise. It looks scrumptious and umami-ful (thanks to the prawn heads)! There are 11 mains and 4 sides to choose from, so come back a few times to clean out the menu. Chou farci ($68++) is like a stuffed cabbage cake and is by no means vegetarian. Find prune, Gascon bacon and foie gras in it too. And if you're itching for more tableside drama, go for kampot pepper steak flambé ($158++) for a live torching video to feed your social media with. You'd want to share this very fancy chateaubriand, bone marrow and pommes frites (that's fries, guys).
Talking about tableside drama, dessert arrived in style. There are eight to sink your fork in including ile flottante ($22++) or floating island and warm chocolate tart ($18++) a la mode; that's guanaja 70% topped with crême crue ice-cream. I reached for the baked alaska ($28++) that wasn't as huge as I'd imagine it to be, thankfully. It's such a nostalgic thing to have and not many restaurants serve this. Instead of ice-cream, Williams' bon chrétien pear sorbet added another layer of subtle sweetness under the flambéed meringue of torched pear liqueur.
Taste chestnuts, a little ginger, more pears and that fragile crisp of chocolate running through the middle.
I've planned a few more visits here in the coming weeks in the hope of trying other things on the menu. The soft yet fine touches (linen napkins, proper cutlery, food presentation), and affable yet informed service by liveried servers do give away Claudine's starred pedigree. Expect to spend $120 before taxes, and no drinks per diner. That's a very reasonable check for a full running kitchen of experienced chefs from around the world personally seeing to your order. Besides executive chef Julien Mercier who flew in from Brazil, there's chef de cuisine Loic Portalier, formerly at Louise, and local pastry chef Jeanette Ow, as well as restaurant manager Antoine Capelli, formerly at Raffles Hotel.
If you're sold right about now, book your seats pronto. The last I checked, the reservations calendar was all booked up till next year. But I'd keep on logging in and hope someone cancels.
*The restaurant reserves the right to remove and/or change menu items and prices displayed here without notice.
39C Harding Road, Singapore 249541
Menu : HERE
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Open daily (except Monday), reservations are highly recommended
Lunch : 11.45 am – 2 pm
Dinner: 6 pm – 9.30 pm
Cuisine : Casual French
Seating Capacity : unknown
Dress Code : Smart Casual