One of the Singapore dining scene’s black sheep is the Tippling Club. Not only is it one of the few independent top restaurants, it is also revolves around a bar, pairs its food with cocktails, and serves some of the most distinctive cooking in the city-state.
When you first meet the Tippling Club’s chef/patron Ryan Clift, you already get the impression that this restaurant is unlike any other. Young, energetic, open-minded and rock star-like, he is a captivating figure. His passion for food and curiosity are evident, making him one of the few chefs in Singapore to have really developed their own personality.
Clift’s personality and drive inevitably come through in much of the dining experience at the Tippling Club. Having conceived it as a bar cum restaurant, he often serves cocktails to complement his food. Tasting menus rarely feature more than three or four wines, and the majority of dishes are paired with unusual drinks that can easily stand up to those of Singapore’s the best bars. Thankfully, guests are also welcome to come just for drinks, which are served with some of the snacks prepared by the kitchen.
The vibrant, almost electric atmosphere in the room is not too dissimilar from places such as Son of a Gun in Los Angeles. This is not a restaurant that tries to comply with international standards of fine dining. On the contrary, this is a place that very much does its own thing in ways, which one either loves or loathes.
All of this might sound like a case of style over substance. That impression is immediately falsified with the first nibbles from the kitchen. Clift’s food is complex, uses high quality produce and doesn’t refrain from adopting modern techniques – as long as they contribute to the dish. There are no doctrines here, and every dish is solely focused on flavour.
A standout is the foie gras muesli served with toasted oats, yogurt and paired with yogurt sake from Yamagata. It is remarkable for the lightness, freshness and balance of richness, sweetness, and acidity. Combining liver with milk products is unusual, but pairing it with a drink that picks up on the dish’s complexity and amplifies it is even less common. In this case, the sake only amplifies the freshness; making this one of the lightest and most engaging foie gras dishes we have had.
Equally interesting is a meagre served with cepes, milk skin and salsify. The perfectly cooked fish is covered with a thin sheet of milk skin, and raw shaved cepes. It comes with slow-cooked salsify, which add a sweet element to this otherwise very earthy dish. The pairing with one of Sicily’s most interesting red wines picks up on the mushroomy and earthy elements of the dish, and gives a pure backbone for the fish’s moist meat.
Even Clift’s desserts impress. A combination of milk and wood sorrel, which is served with a fresh, rum-based cocktail is the perfect end to what is as exciting a meal as you’re likely to get in Singapore. Not only are the flavours incredibly pure and clean, but the textural contrasts make this a dessert that stands out for its refreshing use of milk.
If you’re looking for a classic fine-dining restaurant, the Tippling Club is not for you. If, however, you want to experience an evening full of energy, excitement, and surprise, this is just the right place. Given Clift’s drive and youth, we can only expect the Tippling Club to continue refining its food. Whilst it is less famous than Iggy’s or André, the Tippling Club is without doubt the most exciting and best restaurant in Singapore.