On March 24, 2020, screens lit up and chat groups sprang alive with activity as Julien Royer’s Odette was crowned—for the second year running—the number one position in the annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. As content director William Drew and BBC reporter Samantha Simmons reeled off congratulatory statements via an official live stream (which replaced an actual ceremony this year), a small huddle comprising staff, friends and family of Odette toasted to each other—feeling an odd mixture of happiness tinged with the bittersweet knowledge that after the party was over, there would be the harsh reality of adjusting to a world disrupted by COVID-19.
“No one is in the mood to celebrate anything, so we kept things very quiet,” admitted Royer. From March 26, the Singapore government implemented new measures to curb the spread of the virus, including the mandated shut-down of bars and entertainment venues such as clubs and cinemas. While there are no plans to close restaurants for the time being, precautions such as limiting operating capacities are being introduced to reduce the number of patrons that can be served at any one time. “We’re trying to stay positive, but we’re waiting for more instruction. Meanwhile, we’re staying very careful and prudent,” says Royer. “We are very lucky to still be open and still have guests in the restaurant.”