Laurent Bernard Chocolatier

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Basically I have this problem. And no, I’m not talking about my pathetic sense of direction or the fact that I cannot walk in a straight line.

And this problem has manifested itself slowly and silently throughout my teenage years.

The problem is that I hardly ever go out to tea. And yet such a sophisticated English Rose occasion is crazily ubiquitous; millions of the common folk go out to experience this pinkies-up-whilst-drinking-earl-grey phenomenon. Yes, even here in the not-so-quaint Singapore. I remember going out for pain au chocolats with the maman and sister in Kensington, London, back when I used to live there. I’d hop onto a buggyboard at the back of my sister’s pram and we’d all stride along the leaf-littered streets just to chance upon a myriad of cafes, offering the tempting smells and charming, traditional sights. I cautiously sipped my mother’s cappuccino and crinkled my nose, not understanding the power of such a drug which I would only come to know of many, many years later. It’s rather nice to think about how many years I’ve lived, for it makes me reminisce and ponder and yet sadly, feel remorseful over. Everything there was sweetly carved in white brick and rustic wood, as if no other material would live up to the quintessential English Rose cafe. Even here, there are so many little quaint bistros, cafes and specialty dessert places which allow one the privilege to live the life of an uptown aristocrat from the 16th century. Perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing, but delightful all the same. Delightful.

Just an hour or two, but that’s really enough. The chance to sip tea and dig into petite cakes and souffles with a couple good friends was beyond what I consider to be privileged. Just a note: this all happened after Ruru and I managed to actually find the place.

The Pier?

Yes. The Pier!

Where on earth is that!

Somewhere on Mohamed Sultan Road. But I swear I can’t see it. I swear I swear.

Google Maps is utter crap.

I know, it should be here.

Panic, panic, panic. Before we politely asked a passer-by. She looked behind her and calmly mentioned that The Pier was right ahead.

In big letters too. The Pier.

Joy of joys. We sucked in our embarrassment, straightened our blouses and hurried over. The best things are always the most esoteric nowadays. Or perhaps it’s always meant to be this way to prevent hyperactivity and overly sensational ravings from the common peasants who wander along Orchard Road and nowhere else.

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Charming, charming.

Their coffee and wine selection is most agreeable, with a whole section dedicated to connoisseurs of either.

Burns a hole in your pocket, too. My old school camp facillitator Aik Seng treated Ruru and I, and wanted to engage in some appalling splurging. That single-shot espresso macchiato right there was round about nothing less than $5 or $6, if I may correctly recall. I never was one for such price memorisation. It surged with the strength of real caffeine. Believe it or not I saved that little square of (hopefully) dark chocolate in the misty corner of my black tote, waiting for the right time. Today isn’t right, and tomorrow probably won’t be either. Somewhere, sometime in heaven perhaps.

Even though no one will be there anyway.

We quickly ordered the chocolate soufflé, since Ruru warned that it typically takes quite a while to prepare and then serve. I hurried the waiter, who I’m afraid to say failed to impress on any level.

At all. It took about 5 times before he stumbled towards our table, hefty with the pains of everyday life and almost steaming with a mild sense of rebellion. Service-wise, it was a terrific disaster.

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chocolate soufflé

This actually made my mouth water when I saw it make its way through the empty lit cavern, a dark-skinned king hailing triumphantly from the Land of the Oven. It rose almost obnoxiously from the pristine, gargantuan white thing of a ramekin, coupled by a lovely little scoop of raspberry sorbet.

Or in other words, its saving grace. I’m that type of person who can’t have a molten, gooey dessert my itself; it must certainly be accompanied by some wildly cold partner to lax its richness and offer some breezy, white-hued relief. The relief this time was in a becoming shade of baby carmine, good and icy, yet full of that frozen raspberry twang and punch.

Soft but not to the point whereby it was perfectly scoop-able and oh so dangerously fragile. The lady came with a tiny jug of hot chocolate sauce, which we all expected to flow out gracefully like a reincarnation of Wily Wonka’s chocolate river. Dark and seductive, making a nice small hole in the middle as it hit the centre, cracking its tissue-like surface and ravaging the fluffy holey interior.

We could not have been more wrong about anything in our entire lives.

The lady didn’t even pour anything, so we did so ourselves. Woe and behold, the sauce was thicker than the consistency of frozen nutella right out of the fridge. We literally had to force it out in thick , rounded globs. That chocolate flavour, I admit was well on spot, with the slightest hint of orange or perhaps even a tinge of Grand Marnier, to complement the rich electricity of dark chocolate. Could’ve had the whole jug if no one was watching (not like something like that would ever happen ever). It was just that terrible, terrible consistency which made my heart sink to the floorboards beneath and beyond.

I felt rather greedy when the other two had stopped picking at the souffle, but I continued to scrape and poke and prod and lick anyway. Story of a chocolate addict.

Thanks to my small lunch, I believe. I can be practical okay. If I possess some degree of sentience and sanity.

We attacked the middle to indulge in the tender warmth of its belly, before proceeding to enjoy the slight chewy crispness of the outside edges, warmed from the oven’s kiss and broil. All made just perfect with the contrasting tang of the raspberry. The one downside was that it was a smidgen dry, but the dense core and bottom were not lost, since even the little bits left over were obviously still very moist and slightly fudgy. But still a smidgen dry (and crumbly). Not as good as the strawberry one in La Bastide last year in December, but then again that would be like comparing little master with grand master in its native home. Partial comparisons make for no good comparisons at all, oui?

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would you look at that

And no, you can’t go and have tea with a couple other lovely people and some riveting conversations on our lives and other random happenings with just one dessert.

Honestly. Be honest. Please, for you and for me.

It’s just not practical or sane. So we ordered another.

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warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream

And that rounded the whole event off to make it perfect and beautiful and complete.

With a spoonful of whipped sweet cream for good measure (as if that will ever live up to the glory of the humble vanilla bean ice cream.) Comparatively, I actually preferred the texture and flavour of the chocolate souffle compared to this. Anything cakey or crumbly is not typically my cup of tea (all puns intended), but this was sufficiently moist. It said cake, not molten lava, so thankfully I was not let down by my own disappointment when there was absolutely no evidence of anything molten. Couldn’t help that small tinge of sadness, of course, but it was pleasing all the same, especially when paired with the sweet and aromatic vanilla. I quite enjoyed the bed of crumbled crackers which the ball of ice cream rested on. Textural variety is probably what I live for.

It’s Valentine’s Day today, isn’t it?

Wonderful! Let me revel in the magnificence of being absolutely single and elated in the blurred joys of life and raw freedom.

Rating: 4.4/5

Laurent Bernard Chocolatier

80 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-11
The Pier @ Robertson Singapore
6235 9007

France: La Bastide St Antoine

Only fools can revel in such selfish self-appraisal and a holier-than-thou attitude if they dare try rating a Michelin-starred restaurant. For honestly, what is there to rate at all? Alright yes, there is definitely some controversy surrounding what constitutes as Michelin material, however there is simply no question (if any at all doubt) here. Hence, I shall not name this a review, and will instead insert it fittingly into the ‘Babbles’ category. This will simply be my gushing over a place which deserves to be called a palace.

Plain and simple. This is what it is. Fabulous french food at a respectable cost, wrapped up nicely in a little package with a dollop of charisma, humour, perfect service and exquisite ambience. All decked out in glorious shades of ivory and mitten, as if ready to flex and expand once your belt and waist pops.

This lunch lasted from 1 to 4 30pm.

So yes, we dined for more than 3 hours. Dangerous. Very dangerous. But we came and we ate and we guffawed at every little Michelin-starred detail in sight.

This was a quartet of culinary daintiness. We were instructed (in rather stern yet soft French accents) to go from right to left, like this: cauliflower soup, pumpkin, pickled vegetables and rabbit. We followed that order, in order to allow the flavours from each petite compartment to meld into one another seamlessly. Oh it works alright. No to mention those little sporks are ridiculously adorable. The entire thing felt indeed to be more like a dream than reality, and the whole time I was simply wide-eyed, admiring course after course, half the time too scared to ruin the spell at the touch of my fingertips.

What more do I need to say here.

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Ah, my entree. Mind you, more of an entire meal in itself. This was by no means a meagre, expectedly small portion. The French like to emphasise the strength of their dishes, and I guess this is exactly what they meant by a strong and unfaltering dish. There was a party of shellfish upstairs, and absolutely perfect, al dente, lobster-infused risotto downstairs. It came with a little jug of what appeared to be some amber sauce or reduction, and surprise surprise, the little French waiter next to me graciously poured every drop over the plate, careful to coat every grain of rice in sight. Taking my fork, I scooped a little before going straight in. And oh my goodness, was it perfect. Such precious moments render me speechless, and this was one of those priceless moments. The seafood sauce was creamy without taking away the pleasurable oomph and personality of that slightly chewy, alabaster risotto.

I’m personally not a huge fan of big portions for they dilute the personality of a dish after a while, but this was marvellous to say the least, and I ate up. I just did.

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And this was my main course (thanks to my habitual obsession with any sort of fish). It was a hard time trying to sift through a list of options before coming to some risky and painful decision. Life choices, life choices. Magnificent, life-changing choices! The fish was surprisingly predictable albeit very well cooked. A good fillet is never actually as bland as many people assume to be when it comes to fish or other types of white meat. The saddest part was that I was already terribly full by the time my main course arrived (my small stomach hardly does me any favours).

I present to you the star of the desserts that bleak and wintery afternoon. This is no ordinary strawberry souffle, may I just first point out.

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See that pouf? The high rising glory (before my spoon sank in, of course)?

It’s all sweet and mildly tangy whipped air in a ramekin. I still remember the slight give as my spoon made a curved cut, as if the little thing was too shy to reveal the pockets of strawberry-kissed air inside. You get the tender, slightly chewy meringue edge, followed by the bliss of whipped nothingness. Nothingness with substance, that is.

All of a sudden you seize up and shut your eyes, just to quickly catch what you just experienced. A soft spot amongst the mountains of other rich and dense dishes. The souffle managed to retain the perfect tang of strawberries, even with the airy fairy sweetness. And here’s more. Keep in mind that that entire dessert platter you see below was totally complimentary. Mr Chibois, the head chef and top mastermind of the restaurant, is a humble genius.

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This was no meal. I was privileged enough instead to enjoy an entire experience that afternoon (and half the evening). To simply sit there and watch plate after plate come and go was both visual ecstasy and sensory delight. Each waiter entertained us with such wit and charm, and served us olive and raisin bread between each course. So unlike the common wooden waiters here in Singapore. Then again, I’m only being mean since it’s also pretty common for people to have their bad days, no? (Though I must say, if ever these lovely French waiters DID have a bad day, I doubt they would show it).

La Bastide, I shall come for you again one day.

Perhaps with 2 more stomachs to help this pathetic one out.

Au Petit Salut

It’s a French affair. Let’s pretend I’m saying this entire post in an amateur and incredibly annoying French accent. Just. Pretend.

My 16th birthday was approximately 3 weeks and 4 days ago, yet the memory of my Frenchie Penchie dinner at this dimly lit restaurant on Harding Road is still fresh in my head; a throbbing memory retracting images of glowing candles and brick and rich post-dinner sugar rushes and the colours burgundy and gold all round. Oh yes, and wads of cash slammed down on the bill collector after the happy feasting subsides.

My goodness there were quite a few hits and misses, though more of the former may I happily say. It was my first time after a long time, and so I prayed for my expectations not to override my vague memory of the dishes there. Crossed my fingers and hopped along the ride with an empty belly.

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The most fantastic pan seared duck foie gras

I ordered this as an entree because I am infatuated with liver of any sort, so foie gras would be a natural choice to warm up and seduce the palate. Soft, not overly greasy, mildly robust and shamelessly rich. The tang of the balsamic reduction coated each tender bite and bathed it with a sharp contrast in flavour. Dark yet light, rich yet not overwhelming and overly glorified. Shall praise this dish till my death. Beautiful simplicity. I could have had just this and been duly satisfied.

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Baked black cod, quinoa, mussels & chorizo, saffron aioli and crustacean froth

The purity of cod can never be mistaken or masked in a good dish. This would have been slightly monotone if the cod wasn’t accompanied by the quinoa, aioli and froth. They are all best friends; the pompous group which would almost outshine the sophisticated intellects in school. The quinoa is necessary to provide some differing texture, whilst the aioli was gorgeous and buttery on its own. A good cod is always a smidgen translucent, buttery and beautifully flaky, and this ticked all the right boxes (though more mild sweetness would have sent me straight to cod heaven).

Cuts like butter, looks like it too.

Tragically, dishes such as the polenta (my poor mother) suffered grainy dullness, looking like lonely cuboids thrust pretentiously on a plate.

We proceeded to dive straight into the Orange and Grand Marnier soufflé with chocolate truffle for dessert, as well as the choux buns filled with vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate sauce and slivered almonds. That souffle was the king and the buns, the queen. It’s a tragic picture I have photos of neither, but just imagine a bulging, hole-bitten souffle and gorgeous choux buns drizzled in molten chocolate. Absolutely nothing is complete without ice cream. Nothing nothing nothing.

The finale went along as such:

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The best cheesecake in Singapore, if one is willing to indulge in the richest, cheesiest splendor around. Dense, heavy, strong, proud.

No denying the genuine chocolate flavour swirled within as well. There’s the plastic, overly sweet sort you’d get on an unfortunate occasion, and then there’s… This. Perfect cheesy ridges and crisp crust. Shards of chocolate and glossy glaze. Oh.

Just looking at that slice now… ugh I just can’t.

That concludes my one night stand with this restaurant. They also like to shimmy seemingly knowledgable blond French people around. perhaps to show just how French they are. But a huge thumbs up to the comforting auburn ambience during the soft night, lit by a sad moon.

Rating: 3.7/5

Au Petit Salut

40C Harding Road

6475 1976