Claudine is named after Royer’s mother – a tradition for Royer as the chef-restauranteur has named his two other restaurants (Odette and Louise) after his grandmothers.
Its design, borne from a collaboration with Singaporean design group Nice Projects, reimagines the French countryside.
Sitting where the now-defunct The White Rabbit used to be, the space is set in a 1930s conservation building. The former chapel’s bones have been preserved, from the stained glass windows and mosaic floors to its wrought iron grilles. Entering the vicinity, there’s plenty that vies for your attention.
The gabled roof towers above in a newly painted deep shade of earthy red, a 15-metre-long lamp strung from across the ceiling like an installation. Bordering the restaurant is an art installation by This Humid House. The Singapore Pastoral is made up of 50 1.9-metre-high glass panels, each framing wild grasses and weeds, with over 90 per cent of them locally sourced.
At the ends of Claudine’s space stand the open kitchen and a brass-backed bar framed by a preserved stained glass window. The Bar & Lounge – great for pre-dinner drinks or a casual tipple or two – serves as an introduction to the restaurant’s DNA.
Cocktails and bar snacks run the gamut here, and I am treated to the Confession, a bright concoction with French cognac enhanced by the sparkle of a Cremant De Loire and the caramelised, warm gourmand notes of a pear liqueur. The acidity of the tipple pairs beautifully with the mushroomy taste and supple texture of the Saint-Nectaire cheese croquettes; their richness also cut through with small dollops of a white wine gel. Cured sardines, with pickled shallots and garlic aioli, on sourdough follows next, punching through the subsequent creaminess of fromage blanc served on a garlic confit ciabatta.
Now done with our tipples and snacks, we head over to the main dining area, where banquette seating in brown linen dot the perimeters for intimate family gatherings and cosy date nights.
Good food and good wine take precedence here, with dishes that are best enjoyed communal-style. We have the charred leaks that thrusts the humble vegetable into the spotlight. Cooked sous vide until the interiors are tender and bordering on creamy, they are nicely charred for a deep smokiness. The leeks sit on a lightly acidic ravigote sauce, that includes includes tarragon, garlic and egg yolks, and makes for a warm and hearty start. Further whetting our appetite is slow-smoked herring, served with steamed potatoes, a duo of mustards, with chives and whirls of frisee.
A ‘surprise’ dish arrives next, and it is the Mozambique Langoustine. The ode to local palates features crustacean dumplings and pan-roasted langoustine crowned with sugar snap peas and pea tendrils bathed in an umami seafood bisque with kombu puree. It is all at once punchy, warm and decadent.
The Claudine ‘Bouillabaisse’ and Vol-Au-Vent are the restaurant’s takes on hearty classics. The former is a spin on a Provençal tradition, and it is generously filled with John Dory fish, mussels, razor clams, scallops and carabinero shrimps still with their heads on. Mop up that sublime stew and seafood flesh with slices of baguette rubbed with garlic and a rouille, a saffron and cayenne pepper-doused sauce.
The Vol-Au-Vent (pictured in header) is as classically French as it gets. Julien Royer was inspired by his mother who would cook it on special occasions. The puff pastry stuffed with veal sweetbreads, morel, chicken mousse quenelle, a tender cartilage of cockscomb, mushroom and pearl onion, is slathered in a mushroom jus reduced with a little cream and cognac. Both dishes are best enjoyed with wines from the 300-label list, which features storied names and rising stars, curated by sommelier Geoffrey Leotot.
The desserts duly impress but one absolutely has to end the night with the ‘Pariterole’, which marries Royer’s two favourite desserts, Paris-Brest and profiteroles. The airy choux puffs are filled with light-as-air vanilla cream and are topped with toasted and caramelised pecan praline and a sprinkle of sea salt. They are a delicate embodiment of what the restaurant stands for: Extraordinary cooking that elevates simple and comforting recipes.
Claudine, 39C Harding Road, Singapore 249541