One&Only Desaru Coast recently kicked off the first edition of Ember Curates: Andrew & Friends. The one-night-only dinner was a celebration of fun, food and friendship by Michelin-starred chefs Andrew Walsh and Julien Royer. Here’s why you don’t want to miss the series’ future instalments, says Nafeesa Saini.
Once a sleepy seaside town, Desaru is seeing a renaissance sparked by the arrival of ultra-luxe hotel One&Only Desaru Coast. Now, its culinary landscape is officially buzzing with the launch of an exclusive epicurean experience that sees collaborations between Michelin-starred chefs.
Located on the southeastern shore of Malaysia, One&Only Desaru Coast sits between 51.8ha of lush rainforests and the South China Sea. Designed by the late Australian architect Kerry Hill, the resort is a tropical modernism icon that fuses his love for austere, straight lines with coastal Malay architectural heritage.
The all-suite property embraces its landscape, allowing as much light and air to permeate the space, with timber screens, green roofs. Natural materials of local stone is used as much as possible, and inside, the suites are an homage to Malaysian textiles and traditions.
It’s located on the far end of the town’s hotel hotspot, ensuring total seclusion for its well-heeled clientele. The resort is a haven for city folk – particularly for those from Singapore – and is accessible through a 90-minute ferry transfer or a two-hour car ride.
Now, its Ember Beach Club has become a destination of its own. A buggy ride from the hotel leads guests to a world of sleek loungers and parasols, with house music reverberating from the DJ’s decks. A large open kitchen takes centre stage, putting diners into the thick of the action. Here, Irish Michelin-starred chef Andrew Walsh of Cure and other Cure Concepts such as Butcher Boy and Catfish in Singapore, leads the club’s culinary concept of elevated barbecue food.
ONE NIGHT ONLY
On Sep 24, chef Walsh kicked off Ember Curates: Andrew & Friends, a collaborative series which brings him and other accomplished chefs together for one-night- only feasts. Its inaugural edition welcomed French chef-owner Julien Royer of three- Michelin-starred restaurant Odette, as well as Claudine in Singapore. The duo have been friends for a long time, and their camaraderie was electric as they worked in unison on a menu of modern European favourites.
Set against the backdrop of twinkling skies and house music, the beachside extravaganza of French-meets-new Irish gastronomy commenced with snacks and aperitifs. Both chefs also went around to personally introduce themselves to guests.
There were the familiar crowd-pleasers, such as Walsh’s potato crisps from Cure. This is a riff on Tayto Crisps, an Irish brand of potato chips, and his childhood favourite. The two discs arrived on a plate bearing the logo of the original, filled with a terrine of potato and parmesan cheese custard. It was accompanied by Odette’s Saba taco made from a potato chip, served with a ceviche of the fish and topped with a shiso leaf.
What followed was an all-star line-up of each chef ’s signatures showcasing a common thread between their culinary styles. “When we looked for an angle for Andrew & Friends, we realised there was the concept of friendship. If you think about the fantastic Claudine Bouillabaisse, it is about sharing. That represents friendship and should be shared around the table,” said Walsh, referring to Royer’s hearty stew served communal-style in a pot with a variety of seafood, including octopus and large Caribenero prawns, with toast and a saffron rouille.
Some dishes were also the perfect complement to each other, such as Walsh’s Gallagher Oyster, warmed over coals and served with sea asparagus and a butter sauce, and Royer’s Hand Dived Scallop “Au Nature” delicately dressed with dill and horseradish. Walsh also featured a spin on the classic French steak dish of Beef Rossini, which was served with mustard seed and a stout jus as a nod to Cure’s Irish cuisine. The night ended with Royer’s Yuzu Tárt, served on a sable Breton base.
A DIFFERENT VIBE
What was truly memorable at this event was experiencing fine dining by our favourite chefs in a new, intimate and more casual way. In an interview the morning after, the chefs reflected on the action-packed night. Said Royer, “Seeing the smiles on people’s faces was amazing. The feel here is not the same as in a fast-paced city like Singapore. People are not rushing for another appointment or to go home. Most of the guests stayed in the hotel last night. The setting here helps set the tone for the night.”
Both chefs attributed the night’s success to the staff who accompanied them, and Ember Beach Club’s own culinary team. “Julien and I were in great moods because of the teamwork that made the night happen. They eased the burden so we could goto the tables and talk about the food. That has a big effect on the room itself. The One&Only team did an outstanding job,” added Walsh.
Jerome Pichon, One&Only Desaru Coast’s general manager, concluded: “In 24 hours, our team learned more than they did over the last six months. For guests, they experienced the storytelling, emotion and connection to the food. For us, having these chefs share the same kitchen at the same time is unique. We stepped out of our comfort zone and challenged ourselves. We’re looking at holding this series every three months.”
In the upcoming instalments, Walsh will not only work with chefs from Singapore, but also talents from Malaysia. He offered a little teaser: “I was speaking to a very talented Michelin-starred Malaysian chef in Singapore. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I’ll let you ponder about this.”
This story first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore. Head here for more info