SINGAPORE — Whichever way you look at it and no matter the angle, Claudine is breathtakingly beautiful. And on a rainy day like the day of my visit, the mise en scene becomes even more decadent—if that’s even possible. Still, whatever time of the day, the chapel the restaurant is housed in glows like a decorative bauble on a fir Christmas tree, its walls adorned with dried grass, plants, and flowers encased behind a glass screen like an art installation. I’m particularly impressed by the ceiling, painted a bold hue of rust, with a lighted tube that runs the length of the dining hall.
Claudine is, of course, a project by Michelin-star chef extraordinaire Julien Royer and hospitality company, The Lo & Behold Group, taking over the space once occupied by a former Dempsey Hills stalwart, White Rabbit. It is also challenging to score a reservation here (PS: Reservations open 60 days in advance). This is a restaurant that everyone wants to visit—and for good reasons. The allure of affordable French fare (at least when compared to Chef Royer’s other outfit, Odette) is too enticing to pass up, and it shows on the day of my lunch as the restaurant fills up with ladies who lunch, families who ‘eat-together-stay together’ and business associates ready to impress.
The menu here promises to be intimate-French that, as I often tell friends keen to visit, comes across as accessible and fuss-free. You can eat here and order dishes with fancy-sounding names yet still feel like it's casual enough to laugh uproariously with friends over indecent jokes. Take the trio of snacks, for instance—all super traditional but within comfortable parameters of being approachable.
The Crispy Pork Trotter Croustillant is a beautiful melange of flavours served with a side of ravigote sauce that lends a moreish undertone to the small bites. I also liked the Sardines on Toast, but only because it’s so delicately salty with a textured bite from the sourdough slice. It also doesn’t get more traditional than a L’Oreiller, essentially pork, duck, foie gras, and chicken pate baked in pastry served with a side salad and shallot dressing. It’s rich, meaty, and traditional and makes for a great introduction to the brave new world of Claudine food. And we’re only at Snacks.
At times, I wonder how much of the menu comes straight from a home in a village in France. Because as the dishes come, I recognise the simplicity of its presentation—the bare-bones, so to speak—amped up with sauces and spices that make it worth its gold weight. It doesn’t get more simple than with the Herring & Potato Salad that I’m sure requires no further introduction. I love this so much that I intend to make it for Christmas dinner. It’s a classic potato salad dish with soft and flavourful rounds of boiled potatoes tossed in a Dijon-Ancienne mustard dressing that lends brightness to the fatty slivers of Herring. It reminds me so much of my dinner in Paris in 2017, where I sat under a heater by the walkway having a bowl of salad that’s much too large for one person to finish.
You should definitely get your paws on the Mozambique Langoustine if you can. While the sweet langoustine and dumplings are praiseworthy, the seafood bisque it sits in is the true star of the party—intensely umami and delightfully decadent with a hint of Kombu in its midst. There’s also the Vol-au-Vent, my second sweetbread for the month that is downright rustic with complex flavours from the filling of veal, morel, chicken mousse, mushroom, cockscomb, and onions. It comes served with a reduction of mushroom jus, giving it incredible depth, almost as if the whole plate is made with a slowly-simmering stock.
Of course, what’s French fare without the Claudine ‘Bouillabaisse’? Sacrilegious, that’s what. The larger-than-even-life-itself presentation of a fish stew is Claudine’s version of the classic Provençal speciality and comes chock-full with John Dory, razor clam, mussel, scallop, carabinero, fennel and potatoes. It comes served with a sliced baguette rubbed with garlic and demands judicious slathering in the bouillabaisse for maximum enjoyment. That every table has this is a testament to its claim to fame.
Dessert comes by way of an île Flottante (floating island) but updated to be a lighter version of the French classic. A dramatic mound of poached meringue sits on a puddle of vanilla custard flavoured with orange blossom, which explains the slight floral fragrance of this plate. The person behind this fabulous dessert is Singaporean Pastry Chef Jeanette Ow, who is also the creator of the 'Pariterole’, a clever portmanteau of Julien Royer’s two favourite desserts—Paris-Brest and profiteroles. It comes served as a ring of five choux puffs filled with New Caledonia vanilla cream, finished with a luscious dark chocolate sauce and topped with toasted caramelised pecan praline and a hit of sea salt. It’s peak dessert eleganza and one which I implore you not to miss.
Claudine is Julian Royer’s third restaurant after three-Michelin-starred Odette and one-starred Louise in Hong Kong. The reservations at both are an exercise in patience, so if you’re keen for a taste of Royer, Claudine is the more accessible sibling though having to stake out a spot for fear of missing out is entirely natural for a new destination restaurant named after Royer’s mum. After all, good things always come to those who wait. Always.
39C Harding Road, Singapore 249541
Tue to Sun: 11.45am – 2pm, 6pm – 9.30pm