All the way from Menton, France, three-Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur has arrived for a three-month residency here at Mandala Club. Annabel Tan gets a taste and finds out what it takes to bring the world’s number one restaurant to Singapore.
Helmed by Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco, Mirazur is housed in an unusual 1930s Modernist building in Menton, France, with unrivalled views of the French Riviera. In 2019, the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars and also clinched the top spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Since travelling to France for a taste is not in the cards during this pandemic, Mirazur has brought its culinary genius to us, offering Singapore a gastronomic and experiential journey like no other.
The exclusive three-month residency running from now until Sep 4 was brought in by The Mandala Group and takes place at Mandala Club, formerly known as Straits Clan. It was only about five months ago when Colagreco received the call from The Mandala Group CEO and co-founder Ben Jones, who presented the idea. For the Mirazur team, it was the perfect opportunity as the restaurant in Menton was closed at the time due to restrictions in France. On top of that, Colagreco also opened burger joint Carne here earlier this year and loves Singapore, especially for its cultural richness and diversity of products.
“Of course there were challenges, but I choose to live in hope, not fear,” remarks Colagreco on the difficulties of pulling off such a pop-up in a pandemic. “I want to focus on the positives, celebrate gastronomy and bring an exceptional experience to Singapore.”
After just two days of service here in May, restrictions under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) kicked in, ceasing dine-ins at F&B establishments for five weeks. While this put a spanner in the works, it was also an opportunity for the team to refine operations, explore Singapore and source for more local and regional ingredients.
Mirazur’s head chef Luca Mattioli, who has trained with Colagreco for six years and takes care of the restaurant’s R&D and its external projects, is helming the residency here and shares the silver lining positives from that situation. Through visiting local farms and small producers, he managed to find new ingredients and replace imported ingredients such as crab from France with an alternative from a local sustainable farm called Crab Lovers Farm. Mattioli also tasted stingless bee honey for the first time from a local producer and calls it the best honey he has ever had. “As much as possible, we are using local ingredients,” he says. “Those five weeks actually gave us a little bit of time to rethink and sharpen the edges.”
For Colagreco, who was here for two weeks to set up the residency before returning to France for Mirazur’s reopening, the pandemic has also highlighted the urgent need to act, live and work with full respect for nature – a philosophy that guides Mirazur’s cuisine. Menus are planned in line with the lunar cycle, which is believed to influence different elements in nature at different phases.
In keeping with this, the residency is serving four menus in three-week evolutions: Leaves, Flowers, Roots and Fruits. Not only does this highlight ingredients at their best, it also allows for surprises in every meal. “We love the freedom of this philosophy; it allows us to create using local products we find every day in the surroundings of Mirazur: in our garden, in the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains around Menton,” he says.
Before the dine-in restrictions set in, we had the pleasure of having the Leaves menu at lunch, prefaced with lush arrangements of local eucalyptus and acacia foliage creating a garden-like atmosphere in the dining room. These botanical installations are designed by award-winning local botanical design studio This Humid House and evolve together with the changing menus.
Each course was immaculately presented, showcasing leaves in various forms and flavours. Some were more visually apparent, like the roasted salad made with lettuce heart from the local Kok Fah Technology Farm, topped with raw and pickled turnip and lily bulbs from Tekka market on a decadent vermouth sauce. Others, like the fresh Hokkaido scallops topped with uni, were less so. No leaves were present on the plate, but the hefty seven-year-old scallop had been poached in hay butter and sat on small cubes of chayote, a type of gourd, along with a rich hay hollandaise.
Jones shares that the response to the residency has been encouraging despite the changes in restrictions, and the experience has been beneficial to The Mandala Group team. “We’ve definitely fallen in love with the whole concept and how it’s worked out,” says Jones. “Beyond bringing something exciting to Singapore, while everyone’s stuck here, it’s also been a really interesting learning process. We’ve been fortunate to get to learn from the best.”
While there is no view of the French Riviera at this Mirazur residency, there are new perspectives on the natural world that diners can take away from the educational and experiential meal. “We need to reconnect ourselves with nature and life cycles,” says Colagreco. “With our Mirazur pop-up in Singapore, the aim is to decode nature through our senses, getting to know it better to allow us to enter into its intimacy, giving rise to respect and admiration and then the desire to take care of and preserve it. Thus bringing an understanding of nature into an urban society.”
(All images: The Mandala Group)
This story first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.