In the beginning of September – and a little bit over a year since Lucali BYGB started serving its cult Brooklyn “pies” – hospitality maestro Gibran Baydoun opened another spendy, insouciant establishment that touts itself as an “unorthodox wine hall”.
Corduroy Palace is, according to the team, a nod to the worn, corduroy blazer that hangs deep in the closet – the one that doesn’t fit quite properly, but still packs a lot of style. Like the preppy (and maybe a little bit crusty) jacket, the moody restaurant is good for a proper date but also casual enough for nonchalant weekday dinner-and-wine night. Even its hidden locale matches up to the closet imagery: Enter via Proper Slice by BYGB, a small, takeaway pizza joint, in a back alley at the tip of Gemmill Lane.
The interior is largely mid-century modern, with high gloss burl wood tables, Jørn Utzon for Fritz Hansen concert pendants overhead, as well as Fritz Hansen chairs. There are seven curved banquettes, draped in original Pontoglio corduroy fabric, to wine, dine and unwind in. The floors are a marvellous sight – over 20 different vintage and antique rugs are hand stitched together to form a tapestry that spreads up the bar. On the walls are an eclectic assembly of modern and contemporary art pieces, which includes an abstract Gerhard Richter print as well as Grand Maternity, a Picasso original. Add to that a playlist of soul, alternative rock, experimental R&B and hip-hop, what results is a come-hither ambiance to lose yourself in – and in a space with no windows and plenty of wine, you most definitely will.
As with Lucali BYGB, there’s no paper wine list, just a row of neon-lit convenience store fridges housing a very agreeable collection ranging from classic and cult to natural and biodynamic, organised by price. Get recommendations from any staff on the floor, all trained and certified sommeliers, if you can’t make up your mind. In case you don’t feel like talking, almost 70 wines in their collection are embedded with RFID tech that’ll provide photos and tasting notes. Bubbly fan? Take a gander at the cooler dedicated to a wide array of sparkling wines. In the mood for a cocktail? The bar has a seasonal list of classics, such as the Proper Martini, a Manhattan and a Last Word, served very chilled and very strong.
From the kitchen, helmed by Chef Ariana Flores formerly from Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza at Marina Bay Sands, is a menu of upscale American diner plates and some gourmet outliers. Think fresh, succulent oysters on ice, a neat selection of lip smacking tinned fish from Portugal and Spain served with thick bread slices, easy sandwiches (turkey, egg salad, chicken), steak tartare, chicken cordon bleu and caviar-topped xiao long baos, made with local hawker stall You Peng’s recipe. In the spirit of Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, we couldn’t miss the 300g Prime Rib, which arrived majestically pink and drizzled with au jus along with a massive fully loaded baked potato accented with Oscietra Caviar. As we sank our teeth into tender chunks of superb beef, a trolley making its round around the restaurant rolled up at our tableside, offering a Caviar bump with a shot of Grey Goose. Of course, we had to, for a sublime taste of the ocean. Then, we finished with chocolate-coated bananas. Simple, but undeniably delightful.
Corduroy Palace will feed you nicely if you let it, but should you be peckish after dinner and a couple of bottles, you can grab a pizza slice, Stromboli or meatballs from Proper Slice on your way out (it opens until midnight). We’d imagine that once Baydoun’s wine hall is able to live up to its fullest potential – which is to operate past the current 10:30pm curfew – guests will be even more grateful for the tiny pizza joint when they stumble out of the restaurant at midnight, buzzing and craving for something meaty and greasy to line their stomachs. That, is hospitality.