A tipple at Tippling Club

Well we did not partake of the matching cocktail menu along with our degustation – we had Henriot, Brut Souverain NV champagne and a lovely Domaine Roger and Perrin Chateauneuf du Pape 2006 but when chef Ryan Clift explained some of them to us, we certainly were intrigued.  A dazzling selection of the weirdest and most wonderful cocktail concoctions were available, but we stuck to what we knew (and left the drinking to the very loud Americans seated a few chairs away from us).

Tippling Club is somewhere D has wanted to try for as long as it’s been around and we finally went there for his birthday this year, with Kelly and Joe, our favourite foodie friends.

We’d read the reviews, mostly good, some bad and to be honest, I have to say that the food by itself does not, for me, anyway, make it a worthwhile experience.

The venue itself is odd. Tucked away next to its sister company, House, the place is walled by plastic sheets with a large, poorly lit counter and some tables for which I have no idea would be used for – The Saturday night we were there there were ten other patrons, all seated at the counter.

The four of us were seated at the corner counter, which meant that we were sat just that little bit far away from each other, which I think makes it not conducive for discussing the food, which is what it’s about, for me. Food for me is something that should be shared, rarely enjoyed alone, but then perhaps that is only me.

The music choice was absolutely terrible. They had a DJ outside who played music that was then piped into the restaurant and it was a) too loud for that intimate kind of atmosphere and b) just horrible – music and food have such an integral part to play in enjoyment of both and the music that was playing was jarring and repetitive. I think another patron complained and it was changed but still nothing which complemented the restaurant at all.

The waitstaff in general were very very good. Attentive and discrete, they explained the menu (there is the local, five course menu, or the more french inspired, ten course menu. The chef, Ryan Clift, was kind enough to say that as the restaurant was not that busy, he would “allow” us to select a combination of the two – usually everyone in the group had to order the same menu.

Ryan Clift is an intense, very serious individual and his partner Matthew Bax was just uncomfortably friendly.

Matthew seemed to try to make conversation with us as he was serving our wine, but somehow it just came across as very insincere.

Ryan, on the other hand, although I think takes himself and his art far too seriously (although I suspect all “artists” do and at least Tippling Club has withstood the test of still being around in Singapore after a few years with no sign of closing).  He explained that his new menu was going to be inspired by the pairing of food tastes and smells and that he was recently awarded a grant from the government to explore the olfactory promotion of food.

I’m flipflopping a bit here as I’m trying to capture our experience which of course is incomplete without some mention of the food.

Matthew was very quick to say that chef Clift DID NOT CONSIDER his food “molecular gastromony”, despite the fact that the food is prepared in exactly this way – learning the science behind the food and serving foods in unexpected flavours and textures.

The food itself was certainly interesting.  I cannot in all honesty say I loved all of it but I appreciated the work that went behind creating some of the dishes and would have liked to hear more of what went into preparing the food than simply just telling us what we were eating as it was served.

The Amouse Bouche has been written up many times – the fizzy grapes, calamari with a basil emulsion, charred green peppers with a soy wasabi and iberico ham which, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with.  Fizzy grapes, were fairly unimpressive but again, if someone had explained to us how this was really different from soaking grapes in champagne, it might have helped.  The calamari rings were cold and greasy and chewy but oh my goodness, that basil emulsion.  Superb.  So much flavour and completely unexpected way of drinking it through the straw.

Second course was a 62 degree poached egg served with bacon mayonnaise, with thyme, parmesan crisps and roasted tomato puree.  I am not a fan of “googie” eggs.  For some reason I need my yolks to be solid (I know, heathen) but this was absolutely perfectly cooked and you had the sensation of a whole cooked breakfast in your mouth.  Wonderful.

Third course was seared Hokkaido scallops, servied with braised fresh aloe vera in soya sauce, peanuts and a film of vinegar.  Scallops are one of my favourite things in the world (although I do indulge in them due to them being unsustainably fished) – the scallops themselves were lovely but all that palaver around it was pretty unecessary and some things, like the peanuts, simply didn’t work well with the rest.  The braised aloe vera just added the flavour of salt and I found that all too overpowering for something as delicate and light as the scallops.

Fourth course was a foie gras … mousse… I guess?  It was more solid than a mouse and wrapped around a sour cherry sauce which actually was really lovely – except that it was served on a bed of overly salty eight spice crumble and cherries on the side.  The crumble would have worked if it weren’t so damn salty – foie gras to me should always just be served with sweet things, like a sautern sauce, or apples or raisins – I think the sour and sweet of the cherries along with the over seasoned crumble took away from the flavour of the foie gras.

Next course was a lobster where the ravioli was like very thick rice paper – it almost dissolved in the consomme which was poured over the ravioli.  Very nice, again, but too much consomme made it really messy to eat.

The next course was gorgeous – before this course we had some time with the chef who we were asking about his various experimental looking creations in the kitchen.  I have to say that it’s great to see the creator at work, and he explained that the government had given him a sizeable grant to work on how food and smells work in conjunction with each other.  So when the vegetables came, with a layer of “porcini soil” on top, that was impressive enough, but the chef came along and sprayed an atomiser of “the smell of the humidity in the garden” – it was incredible !  He also mentioned that he was changing his menu to have winter vegetables and a colder “smell”.

The next was a palate cleanser called “no-J” – orange tasting juice with pulp but with no oranges !

Main course was a grade 9 wagyu with beetroot and coppa ham which was fairly unmemorable, but only because it was marred by the chef serving us an extra, off the menu dish of seared top grade wagyu – from one of the cows that had actually been fed beer and massaged !  I have to admit, I think we got the extra course because they thought I was some sort of secret food critique because we were asking so many questions.  But wouldn’t everyone that went ?  That’s the beauty of this sort of establishment – the wonder of the food concoctions.

First dessert was a forgetable nitro ice something with jackfruit  and pomelo, but the next was a winner – chef’s interpretation of lemon meringue pie with no egg, butter or flour – it also happens to be one of my favourite desserts and it was suberb. Final dessert was a pear tartin sorbet with a pear jelly outside of the sorbet, to look like the shape of a pear.  This was served with a puff pastry crumble and a taglietelle of pear that the boys said reminded them of the smell of leather shoes.

I did like the fact that they asked us for our details (they didn’t ask for any feedback) and the next day we received an email from them thanking us for coming and sharing a cocktail recipe with us.

Overall, I wouldn’t rush back to Tippling Club, but I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, or perhaps because something as special as this isn’t something you want to do again in a hurry. It IS a little on the wanky side – there is a strict no photo policy and they just seem a little full of themselves – which I might accept from the chef but from his partner the wine guy ??

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About Carolyn Chan

A girl slowly eating her way around Singapore and farther afield when she's lucky. View all posts by Carolyn Chan

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