To say it has been a roller coaster pandemic for Singapore’s F&B industry is certainly an understatement. Thankfully, for Singapore’s foodies, one of the country’s most respected chefs – Julien Royer of three Michelin-starred Odette, has doubled down on pampering our palates. In November, he launched “neighbourhood French restaurant” Claudine in partnership with The Lo & Behold Group.
Located in a former 1930s military chapel in Dempsey, where the former The White Rabbit restaurant used to be, this is the French restaurateur-chef’s third restaurant after Odette and one-starred Louise in Hong Kong.
Claudine, which is named after chef Royer’s mother (his first two restaurants were named for his grandmothers), is the embodiment of what he believes a French restaurant should be today.
“Claudine is inspired by what I call ‘joie de vivre’ — the joys of home. It is influenced heavily by my upbringing. My family, we have humble roots, but we always ate very well. In our home, it is how we show our hospitality,” he says.
This sense of homecoming starts with the heritage building itself, which was lovingly refurbished by Sacha Leong and Simone McEwan of design studio Nice Projects. Featuring a blend of preserved details like the iron window grilles and mosaic tiled floor with new additions including lush sage green velvet upholstered banquettes and lancet windows lined with mirrors, the welcoming, convivial space is arguably one of the most beautiful in Singapore.
Another joy of home is generous cuisine and indeed, diners will not be disappointed. Here, the eclectic menu, which comprises a blend of personal recipes and classic favourites, are amply portioned so that the plates can be easily shared among the table.
“Claudine fills a gap in the market. We don’t have many options between French casual and high-end French in Singapore and more diners are now looking for experiences that are less stuffy. They want to focus on good food and spending time with one another — having a good time that feels authentic,” he observes.
The kitchen, which is helmed by executive chef Julien Mercier and chef de cuisine Loïc Portalier, turns out a delectable range of dishes that showcases what he loves to eat on his days off, what he cooks for friends at home and some of his favourite childhood dishes, updated with his own perspective.
For example, there is the Claudine Bouillabaisse, the restaurant’s take on the hearty classic Provencal fish stew, where generous portions of John Dory fish, razor clams, scallops and Carabinero – their juicy heads left intact the way locals enjoy their prawns – are served with a rich broth brimming with flavours of the ocean.
One of the chef’s favourite dishes of the moment is the Pariterole, which combines two of his favourite desserts, the Paris-Brest and profiteroles. Like many French children of his generation living in the countryside, he grew up eating these sentimental desserts.
“If you think about why private dining or supper clubs are so popular, people want to feel comfortable being themselves while enjoying great food with great company. So, we take the same level of focus and execution you find in the kitchen and at the front of house in fine dining and use it to create an accessible restaurant we hope our guests will return to all the time for everyday meals and special celebrations,” he adds.
While Claudine has been in the making for two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this concept even more relevant. “The pandemic has kept everyone apart. It brought walls up. Now, we want to bring the walls down and bring people together through food,” he muses. “Home has always been the heart for social interactions. It is even more so now. People want to return to the luxury of simple joys.”