World’s 50 Best Meets Passion Made Possible
After flying 14 hours, I did not expect to be surrounded by a roomful of Singapore’s finest culinary giants and cocktail maestros. Mutual recognition was in the air as they were shaking hands with Singapore Tourism Board’s Europe director. I was obviously kept in the dark, only to discover that the unique collaboration between the two unions had to be kept a tight-lipped secret till the live casting of the press conference held at Avenue restaurant in London, prior to the spectacular 50 Best Bar awards ceremony.
I had arrived in London the day before. Not so dewy faced but superbly thrilled about my recent designation as #50BestTasteHunter and even more elated about the events to follow. I always visited London from a girlfriend’s standpoint since I’m dating one, but this recent promotion just knocked it out of the park. Wandering down Piccadilly circus, I found myself trudging down a red carpet only to lay eyes on the oh-too-familiar red and blue lit backdrop that is marked with ‘The World’s 50 Best’. This must be the place. Steadying my breathe, I prepared myself for the onslaught of ‘socialising’. Instincts took me to the bar in search of a beverage to calm the nerves, and a familiar face caught my eye. “Gabriel, you’re here!” I gasped. “I thought I was going to be alone.”
I couldn’t be further from the truth.
A quick scan of the back bar revealed a throng of Singapore bar legends hailing from Operation Dagger, Manhattan Bar and Native. All of which were shaking up a special beverage to quench the thirst of the restless crowd leading up to the event. I caught sight of the 3-course menu and my befuddlement turned to realisation.
London-based 50 Best awards and events programme organiser William Reed Business Media has partnered up with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) over a three-year period to bring a series of 50 Best-branded events to Singapore. It isn’t hard to trace where the idea came from. Over the recent years, Singapore has established itself as a dynamic and trendy spot in Southeast Asia, wringing in the gastro-tourists with lures of a distinctive hawker culture and contemporary fine dining options of the highest calibre.
This level of competency was evident in the food and beverage served throughout the night, along with thumping tracks doled out by Joshua Pillai and the Phat Cat Collective. Things got off to a rousing start with the Dorset Crab from 2-starred Odette (ranked No. 28 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants). Chef Julien Royer was responsible for a delicate draping of green fruit gel over sweet crab and nashi pear. The gentle hit of wasabi oil in splendid correspondence to the cocktail prepared by Native. The Oolong mixed with Sake Lees Distillate and 4-day-old Oolong Kombucha for a warm smoky beverage tingled with a hint of vinegar in its backwash.
We waited patiently as what should be an extravagant Peranakan feast served communal style—plated up fastidiously in personal portions by Chef Malcolm Lee of 1-starred Candlenut. A shallow bowl of Buah Keluak Beef Short Ribs Rendang was theatrical in the sense of its darkened depths, a stark contrast to the blue tinted Butterfly pea flower rice. Bakwan Kepiting Soup appeared to be dubious to some of the Londoners seated at the table, but a quick explanation of its crab, prawn and minced pork origins put them at ease. I drank the soup enthusiastically, its subtle sweet notes inspiring heartwarming thoughts. An oddly moreish salad of wing bean, lemongrass, mint and calamansi lime captivated the interest of most diners. A British chef at our table marvelled at the queerness of the four angled bean. Cross table interactions were pivotal to this whole Singaporean interception and we enjoyed the conversations that ensued about Peranakan culture and how it is uniquely Singaporean.
The table observed a moment of silence once the dessert arrived. Chef Jason Tan of Corner House in Singapore presented his interpretation of Kaya toast: a luscious kaya parfait sandwiched between muscovado sable discs, accompanied by a schmear of coconut kaya coulis, pandan snow and a quenelle of tangy pineapple sorbet for a bit of palate cleanser in between the two-part snack. A clever touch of salt helped to keep the saccharine levels in check. This was followed by a nightcap from Operation Dagger (ranked 23rd in The World’s 50 Best Bars)—Passionfruit mead was given a rounded nutty edge with burnt butter.
The new host destination partnership couldn’t have been announced in a better manner. The 6-hands dinner, a glimpse into the culinary prowesses that lay unstirred, awaits Singapore. As much I was bewildered to be tucking into a meal along with the sights and sounds of Haji Lane and Marina Bay Sands flashing on the overhead screens, I must admit that my heart swelled with pride at the extreme showcase of bravado by the Singapore contingent. Gastro-tourism is, after all, a destination branding that’s highly effective and I’m almost certain that this partnership will have a succinct effect on increasing global awareness of Singapore and its many lifestyle arms.