Walking through the front doors of Raffles Hotel Singapore I can’t help but be impressed by the colonial luxury of the lobby. I’m struck by the circa 1915 charm; rich dark wood and bright brass contrast with the whiteness of the surrounding structure. Above me on the first level sit the original ten suites, home over the years to the powerful and famous including Rudyard Kipling in the past to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Karl Lagerfeld today.
Raffles Grill is situated through the Writers Bar – where former house guests such as Somerset Maugham put pen to paper (and Whisky to lips). The restaurant’s interior features large ornate chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, bordered by tall arch windows offering a view of the hotel’s long-established courtyard gardens.
Headed by chef Mickael Le Calvez, the Grill offers travellers a fine dining experience with all the charm of the old world – crisp white tablecloths, immaculately polished wine glasses and fine silver cutlery. The tables are spaced far enough apart to provide a level of intimacy for diners and it’s easy to see the venue as a place to get important business done and not advertise the discussion – kind of like LinkedIn with the premium feature turned on.
Sipping a fresh, expertly-made Singapore Sling (made famous by the hotel and now exported to bars around the world), I peruse the fare on offer. The food is contemporary French with the occasional nod to Asian flavours.
While dinner tends towards a la carte, lunch is a straight-up two or three course set menu for those with business and at $58 for three courses, it is also excellent value.
An entree of homemade quail sausage, sliced delicately into medallions and accompanied by par-boiled potatoes similarly cut, arugula and black truffle vinaigrette is an engaging start. The dish is served slightly above room temperature, ideal for the tropics. The quail sausage stands out for its quality and uniqueness, the freshness of the Arugula adds a verdant and palate-freshening ceiling to the dish.
My companion and I coo over the presentation of her entree: a duo of Saint Georges Bay scallops, broccoli, dried Seaweed and an Oyster emulsion. The plating is sophisticated – the scallops huge and they’re beautifully roasted.
For my main, the line-caught Pollock with baby zucchini and tomato nage is presented in a textured white china bowl, the nage settles below a layer of tomato foam and every bite is bliss – the fish breaks up and forkfuls soon become spoonfuls of nage and delicate white flesh.
My lunch partner’s main of guinea fowl with green asparagus, pork jowl, celeriac puree and tamarind jus is a good example of chef Mickael’s food philosophy at work; asparagus season has just begun so seasonality is present, while the tamarind jus adds Asian flavour to the plate.
For dessert I opt for the trio of homemade sherberts: today it’s guava, coconut and ouzo. It’s a refreshingly cool dish; the mellow coconut stands in balanced counterpoint to the citrus hit of the guava and potency of the ouzo.
Mickael doesn’t seek to play off against Singapore’s burgeoning (sometimes flippant) food scene and that’s ok; sometimes you just need a straight up, quality venue with all the hallmarks of fine French cuisine. Raffles Grill is that place.