Food memories last a lifetime, and there’s no better way to nurture the gourmand in your child than by taking them to fine dining restaurants. Encouraging your children to be adventurous eaters—to try new foods and ingredients—starts at the family table. Parents’ nurturing of children’s curiosity in food can take place at home, cooking with simple ingredients and at hawker centres with their myriad affordable dishes before they might be ready to accompany parents to fine dining restaurants. Introducing children to the respectful way that Michelin-starred restaurants treat food—their high quality ingredients, the attention to detail in presentation, the ambience, textures and flavours—is another way you can take on the path of culinary adventure with your little gourmands. While many top restaurants guard their quiet ambience against rowdy youngsters, some Michelin-starred restaurants welcome well-behaved young diners, with the chefs keen to receive even the littlest of gourmands into their foodie fold.

1. Iggy’s

Hidden behind a discreet door inside Hilton Hotel is Iggy’s, helmed by head chef Aitor Orive, whose deceivingly simple cuisine focuses on the freshest seasonal produce. Given the restaurant is a small intimate space, families dining with children may feel less constrained in the private room, where, unlike in the main restaurant, kids can order a la carte from Iggy’s Gastro Bar. With advance notice, a shorter three- or four-course customised menu can be curated for older kids. “We help children ease into the world of gastronomy with our flexible and personalised menus. It is important to educate little gourmands on different produces, flavours and textures, which we hope will translate into nurturing a new generation of food lovers,” says chef Orive. 

2. What to order?

Chef Aitor Orive, Iggy’s 

“We suggest ordering from Iggy’s Mini Gastro Bar menu for kids or we can customise a dish specifically for them. The bucatini of braised oxtail, parmigiano and summer truffle or the capellini with sakura ebi, lobster oil, kombu and sorrel are both popular choices for little gourmands.”

3. Candlenut

On the other side of town in Dempsey, the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candelnut welcomes kids of all ages. There isn’t a specific kid’s menu but many of their dishes are non-spicy and hence palatable for children. Chef-owner Malcolm Lee encourages parents to expose their children to exotic flavours and textures. He says: “I hope the younger generation will grow up to embrace and appreciate Singaporean cuisine. With familiar local flavours enhanced by modern cooking techniques and novel ingredients, the appeal of heritage food is growing. I see it as an opportunity to introduce heritage food to the younger generation and inculcate in them that Singapore has a unique brand of cuisine that we should be proud of. Parents can play a part in this by introducing their kids to local flavours and encouraging them to explore different cuisines.”

4. What to order?

Chef Malcolm Lee, Candlenut 

“I would recommend the signature Candlenut buah keluak fried rice, sunny side up. A modern take on fried rice using the buah keluak, this deceivingly simple but time-consuming dish represents the essence of Peranakan cuisine—borne of tradition, made with love. It’s a great way to introduce Peranakan culture and Singaporean heritage cuisine to children as fried rice is a common dish that kids are familiar with, just that it’s now given a contemporary Straits Chinese twist.”

5. Saint Pierre

Saint Pierre is an intimate 30-seater restaurant affording sweeping views of the Marina Bay area. This fine dining restaurant offering contemporary French cuisine with Asian-inspired elements summons respectful hushed tones as soon as you enter. So it comes as an encouraging surprise that children are far from shunned here. Chef owner Emmanuel Stroobant is passionate about inspiring a love of food in children. This philosophy is close to his heart given that his two daughters are regulars at his two Michelin-starred Shoukouwa Sushi Restaurant and one Michelin-starred Saint Pierre since they were toddlers. He says: “We believe it is important that children are exposed to different types of food, cuisines, tastes and textures. Such experiences will help shape and build their palates from a young age, resulting in a more open mind when they grow up. It will give them a stronger foundation as they transition into adulthood, knowing how to carry themselves in a fine dining environment and be comfortable as they start their careers.” 

Saint Pierre is one of the rare fine dining restaurants with a children’s menu (of four courses) designed specifically for little gourmands. Chef Stroobant says: “The children’s menu (for kids aged 3 to 9) was created to introduce and educate kids on the joys of dining. The menu encompasses the four primary tastes—bitter, sour, sweet and salty. We hope that this dining experience will encourage conversations (instead of using mobile phones or iPads, which seems to be the common case these days) and build rapport between parents and child.”

6. What to order?

 Chef Emmanuel Stroobant, Saint Pierre

“One of the dishes available on the children’s set menu is herb-crusted Brittany artichoke. This dish is visually interesting as the purple artichokes are the smaller species of wild artichoke, stuffed with diced pine nuts and zucchini, and served with artichoke puree, turmeric emulsion and marigold oil”.

7. Summer Palace

Chef Liu Ching Hai of one Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Summer Palace at the Regent Hotel agrees with starting kids young when it comes to exploring new food. At Summer Palace, kids of all ages are welcome and easily catered to with their a la carte menu featuring kid-friendly dim sum (lunch only) and noodles. “The exposure to Chinese cuisine’s great variety of flavours, ingredients and textures opens up the palate from a young age. It all starts with education and making it interesting for the child. When you spend some time sharing with your child and getting them excited about the food, they will be more likely to give new dishes a try,” says Chef Liu.

8. What to order?

Chef Liu Ching Hai, Summer Palace

“I would suggest the barbecued pork loin glazed with honey sauce—it is always favoured by kids, thanks to the tenderness of the pork loin and the sweetness of the honey glaze. Dim sum is also really popular and the chef’s craftsmanship is showcased here. We offer creations shaped like animals—the swan-shaped deep-fried yam puffs with shredded duck and preserved vegetables, and the dessert of steamed black sesame paste buns shaped like a rabbit are absolute hits with kids”.

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