Arriving at the entrance of Riviera Forlino, I am mildly disoriented.
Before me is a tropical scene straight out of a hip cafe, complete with a faux grass-covered wall, a palm plant, and a neon installation with the restaurant’s name. Seconds pass and I’m jolted out of my confusion by Elia Bajrai, the restaurant’s new Maîtresse de Maison, who warmly greets me and escorts me to my seat.
As we venture up the passageway, the disorientation sets in again. I deliberately came armed with no knowledge of the restaurant’s rebirth but it quickly dawns on me that the Forlino of old is no more. The tropical theme continues up the stairs with a palm-printed wall and a made-for-Instagram neon slogan. Kitschy wall art by local artist The Next Famous Artist surrounds me, petering out to the restaurant’s gilt-edged walls. Like an emblem of the restaurant’s new era, Bartholomeus van der Helst’s portrait of Girard Bicker has been superimposed with a cup of bubble tea. It cheekily beckons guests into the dining area, where dark leather chairs have been replaced by caramel blush suede ones. They bring cheer to the space when juxtaposed with the gilded chandeliers and pillars.
It’s all unexpectedly young and fun-spirited. One can almost feel the optimism reverberating in the air — a far cry from months ago when restaurants were ordered to shut down.
On 2 April, the restaurant had debuted a new chapter that spanned its concept, culinary direction, and name. Five days later, the Circuit Breaker and subsequent F&B closures were announced. “Our team was ready and raring to go. We were excited to showcase our all-new menu and identity to diners,” laments Executive Chef Rémy Carmignani. For Chef Rémy, the heartbreak was also personal. He had just moved his family over to Singapore for a fresh start.
But the change in mindset was immediate. Joined by new Executive Pastry Chef Nicolas Vergnole and the rest of the team, they quickly pivoted to offering home dining experiences of family packs and pre-prepared meals until the end of Phase 1.
Now, fittingly, the restaurant has kickstarted its new chapter in tandem with Phase 2, symbolising dining’s new age.
“Having been around for 12 years, Forlino has evolved through multiple iterations and chapters. With the start of the new decade, the team felt it was the right time to begin afresh,” said Chef Rémy.
Interiors aside, the biggest change is the restaurant’s concept. While the old Forlino was Italian, the addition of ‘Rivieria’ to its name steers its direction to the French and Mediterranean coasts. The new concept is also influenced by the chefs’ prolific backgrounds. Chef Rémy’s accolades includes appointments as Sous Chef at the three Michelin-starred kitchens of Guy Savoy in Paris and Singapore; Chef de Cuisine in Doha; and experience at Marrakech’s five-star palace-hotel La Mamounia. Chef Nicholas brings to Riviera Forlino his time at Michelin-starred and five-star Relais & Châteaux restaurants across France, London’s Michelin-starred Sketch, and Singapore’s own Odette.
For Chef Rémy, the embodiment of the new menu is the Wild-Caught New Zealand Langoustine. It’s one of his favourite childhood dishes and is a nod to his grandmother’s Langoustine à l’Américaine. The delicate flesh is paired with tomato jelly, tomato vinaigrette and bittersweet pomegranate seeds for a refreshing introduction to coastal cuisine.
The handmade tortellini is a particular favourite amongst guests. With each mouthful, the silky rings give way to robust Mediterranean flavours. They’re stuffed with slow-cooked Tangia-style lamb shoulder – a technique Chef Remy learnt in Marrakech where it’s typically prepared with spices, saffron, and preserved lemons in a claypot over hot ashes in a hammam (thermal bath). Here, he lends his Franco-Italian heritage to the dish, accompanying the tender morsels with saffron, goat cheese cream, and mustard seeds, and a classic French-style light broth.
No longer just a fisherman’s stew, the lobster and shellfish bouillabaisse is another elevated crowd pleaser. Fat chunks of blue lobster and scallops are doused with lobster soup, and eaten with garlic parmentier, and a tarragon and orange crust. The meal ends with vibrant gashes of colour in a bowl of goat milk panna cotta. Apricot and thyme sorbet cuts through the sourness of the smooth custard while crisp hazelnut crumble crunch gives the dish texture.
“I want our dishes to be a unique combination of heart, amazing flavour, meticulous execution and refined French sensibility,” concludes Chef Rémy. I’m happy to confirm that Riviera Forlino ticks all the boxes.
Riviera Forlino, 1 Fullerton Road, #02-06, One Fullerton, Singapore 049213
All images are courtesy of Riviera Forlino.