Cover Hokkaido uni pasta

This former chapel-turned-French restaurant tucked away in Dempsey will be brimming with life from mid-November

Claudine is a long time in the making. After a year marred by widespread challenges, the long-awaited French restaurant by chef Julien Royer and The Lo & Behold Group will launch on November 16. The French cuisine is inspired by honest home cooking and generous meals, from timeless classics to the chef’s personal recipes. Royer describes Claudine’s concept as eclectic, convivial, and presents a certain “joie de vivre”. 

Occupying an old chapel (former White Rabbit space) at Dempsey Hill, Claudine has undergone careful conservation, from the colourful stained glass to the mosaic floor.

Natural light streams into the main dining hall, which is decked out in dark earthy red, and soften by delicate foliage and botanicals. The design firm responsible for the interior is Nice Projects, co-founded by Singapore-born Sacha Leong and Simone McEwan—both worked on this project remotely in London and Sydney, respectively. Under the direction of Nice Projects, the botanical panels adorning the restaurant were created by This Humid House.

Claudine’s young and energetic team includes executive chef Julien Mercier who was in Brazil prior to moving to Singapore; the French chef had worked together with Royer 15 years ago in the Caribbean. Working alongside Royer and Mercier is chef de cuisine Loïc Portalier, former sous chef at Louise in Hong Kong; general manager Glynn Tay; and sommelier Geoffrey Leotot.

We find out more from Royer on what diners can expect from this new restaurant.

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Could you share more about Claudine's concept, and how different it will be from what's available in Singapore? 

Julien Royer (JR): Claudine is a French restaurant named after my mum. It’s linked to my roots and who I am. In Singapore, there are many bistro and brasseries, and also high-end French restaurants.  I thought that we have a gap in the market to fill in between this. Claudine is a place where you can go for great French cuisine that is friendly, well-executed and produce-focused, using the same quality of ingredients as a Michelin-starred restaurant. The cuisine will be French with a lot of different influences, including from my region. For example, we’ll have truffade (sauteed potatoes with Cantal cheese and garlic) or chou farci (stuffed cabbage with pork)—typical traditional family recipes that my mum would cook.

There will be classic French dishes like the vol-au-vent—puff pastry filled with glazed veal sweet bread, morel mushroom and chicken comb—a really classic Escoffier recipe.  We will have homemade charcuterie, oreiller richelieu (flat version of pate en croute), foie gras nougat and tarte soufflee au chocolat. You can also find other things like pasta with Hokkaido uni, and some Southeast Asian touches, such as a classic baba, balanced with mango, calamansi and passionfruit glaze.

The à la carte menu is going to be quite extensive. It’s how I envision a French restaurant to be in 2021—it won’t be too old school or traditional, but it will be eclectic.

What were some of the lessons learned during the pandemic?

JR: When we did Odette at Home during the pandemic, we kind of simplified the cooking of Odette and brought it to people’s homes. The food filled their stomachs and spirit with happiness which was great. It was a successful and interesting exercise, and it opened my eyes to something different.

At the end of the day, fine dining is what I love to do and something I will always do. But how often can you go to a fine dining restaurant like Odette and Les Amis? You may not want to spend three to four hours at the table every single time you go out [to a fine dining place]. Here, you can come every month or more. The menu is bigger and more flexible. You have the same quality as a Michelin restaurant, the same precision of cooking, and the same focus on cooking skills. That’s the idea—to bring the same level of attention and sourcing of ingredients—but to do something a little bit more casual, approachable, flexible, and targeting a much wider audience.

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Do you think palates and food/wine knowledge have changed a lot since you arrived in Singapore? 

JR: Palates have not changed, but people want to know what they are eating—more than ever. They will indulge less often but in better quality. Less is more, and quality over quantity—these are two trends that I see these days. People don’t mind spending on quality and good produce. And they are more curious than ever and want to know what they are eating. Because with what happened [with the pandemic] – being in good health, and eating well [is important]. Maybe it’s eating less meat sometimes but better meat.

The knowledge of food has improved. I think the dining scene has improved drastically if you compare it to 10 years ago. It’s a different game. We are more exposed to travel and discoveries, and more and more people travel for food and have greater awareness.

What are some of your plans for this place including the setting?

JR: There is the main dining area and a bar. You can come for a drink and sit at the bar and the lounge. The indoor dining has about 92 seats. The private room can sit up to 10 people. The main thing is that we now have a comfortable kitchen to work with. The engine of a restaurant is the kitchen, which we’ve expanded. The former White Rabbit’s bar is now the open kitchen.

I would say the décor has a boudoir kind of atmosphere. We managed to inject a lot of light and local elements into the decor. For the [glass] panels with local botanicals, we apply a special treatment to them; we worked with Humid House to bring the tropical greenery in Singapore into the dining room. The herbs hanging in the panel reminds me of the dried flowers that my mom hangs in our home. 

We will also have weekend brunch at a later date. The outdoor dining will be introduced in the second phase next year, and we will develop some exciting things on the outside.

Claudine | 39C Harding Road, S(249541) | 6265 2966 | Book here

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