The Tippling Club

The Tippling Club

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38 Tg Pagar Rd, Singapore 088461
Visit the Website +65 6475 2217
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Area: Harbourfront

We’ll sail tonight for Singapore/
We’re all as mad as Hatters here.

Tom Waits words growl out as you enter the Tippling Club’s website. And very apt they are too. The bluesy singer’s eponymous song ‘Singapore’, plucked from the album Rain Dogs, describes a city where anything is possible: where you can gamble in the underbelly of life, wander through alleys smelling of iron-ore, and dangle from ropes of sand.

That was a mystical memory of long-gone Singapore, if indeed it ever existed, and the modern Lion City is a far more commercial and hermetically sealed environment. Yet there is room for the fevered imaginings of Tom’s dreams. And to wander them, you need to let your feet follow you to Tanjong Pagar Road, barely a hundred metres equidistant from Marina Bay, Downtown, Raffles Place and Chinatown, and to the Tippling Club.

Chef-owner Ryan Clift, trained in Australia, London and Paris, has created what he describes as a ‘fun, playful and fresh’ take on modern gastronomy. All true, though another word could easily be added: ‘creative’, a concept not often located in Singapore’s lexicon, though found here in droves. Clift has taken a model created and finessed elsewhere in the world, wherein the diner is presented with an almost endless litany of dishes tailored to the vagaries of seasonal produce, the season itself, the wine that can be matched to the specific plate or plates, and the stage of the meal itself. (Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California, springs most immediately to mind).

Like Keller, Clift has developed a series of dishes (which change all the time, so don’t treat the menu that follows as gospel) of such creativity and innovation at the Tippling Club that it can at times make you dizzy. Where does he find the time? Energetic and focused, the chef joins us at our table (the place, I should note here, is full, so make sure you book ahead – it is worth it) to run through some of the prizes set to tickle our taste buds in the hour ahead.

First up, a series of snacks and amuse-bouche that roll in to our table like gentle waves unfolding along a moon-flecked beach. We begin with salsify with Bak Kut Teh mousse, before moving on to tom yum mousse and the tomato chorizo ‘sandwich’, which is essentially a giant and quite extraordinarily tasty Chinese cracker that dissolves in the mouth. These are matched with a glass of Krug Grand Cuvee, with its lashings of creamy vanilla and woody notes.

Then we head on to the real guts of the menu, as the dishes systematically grow in size, from the eel with charred shallots and mustard ice cream, through scallops with parsley root and purple garlic soup, to the bacalao and smoked ox tongue, all of which are paired with a 2009 Michel Bregéon muscadet. Perhaps the standout dish on a menu that expands in creativity as it pushes toward its denouement is the roast pigeon à la Talleyrand, which is cooked with a cep mushroom puree, truffle macaroni, and jus peragadine.

Clift stops by again to describe the basis and providence of the dish, which sources ingredients from the chef’s own local farms (he owns and runs six in Singapore alone, which cater to his four restaurants in the city). The smoky Japanese-inspired soup that comes with the truly exquisite pork dish that follows is, quite frankly, out of this world, and which leaves your taste buds dancing a merry jig hours later. This dish is paired with a full-bodied but not overwhelming red from Australia’s Langhorne Creek. You’d expect this sort of level of attention from an establishment that was named one of the world’s top-50 bars as recently as 2013.

Our meal slowly winds down, but not before we enjoy an extraordinary trio of desserts, including a ‘fizz bomb’ that cackles and crackles on the tongue, and the swimmingly good ‘strawberry cheesecake ecstasy’, which arrives in pill form in a plastic vial. Before long, we are veering our way down Tanjong Pagar again: our bellies full, our taste buds tingling, and the conversation focusing on which one of the dishes we liked best. We all choose a different one, yet on one immutable fact we are all agreed: that we have all just had one of the best meals of our lives.

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