Among a sea of restaurant and bar openings this year, each more unique than the next, those that have left a deep impression on me came with unusual or whimsical concepts beautifully executed through design, such as Firangi Superstar, Hello Kitty Kitty and new cool cat on the block, Corduroy Palace.

Opened in September, Corduroy Palace is an unorthodox, visionary wine hall inspired by a mid-century midtown New York dining room in the underbelly of Manhattan. Design-wise, just imagine if Studio 54’s hedonistic crowd of artists, designers and writers got together and conceived a decadent dining room where they can continue their revelry over proper food and drinks, and a very disco-heavy playlist!

The brainchild behind this over-the-top concept is none other than American-born Gibran Baydoun, founder of BYGB Hospitality Consulting who famously launched private member’s club 1880, and local offshoot of Brooklyn restaurant Lucali BYGB. Adding to his growing portfolio, he opened Proper Slice BYGB, a back-alley pizza joint at Gemmill Lane serving Lucali-styled pizza by the slice. Weeks later, Corduroy Palace opened its speakeasy doors where you enter from Proper Slice itself.

Not exactly a 70s child, Baydoun’s idea for this unusual dining concept is really a combination of all his favourite loves spanning art, music, design, wine and food. He describes Corduroy Palace as if a dive bar in the middle of America had a love child with a grand hotel ballroom, resulting in an illicit entanglement! To make his out-of-this-world ideas come to life, he engaged the help of creative strategist and designer Jason Schlabach, and architect Jin Seow, to work their magic.

As I enter through the Jean Prouvé-inspired pocket door, I am greeted by a glass block wall that leads down a narrow cherry wood-panelled hallway to the final reveal. It took me a few seconds to adjust to the darkened interiors of the main dining hall set in a muted brown-amber palette with lush fabrics and soft, rounded edges.

mute
After five seconds of just standing still, I suddenly felt teleported back in time through a rabbit hole just like Alice in Wonderland, where this wonderland is inhabited by the likes of Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Debbie Harry, David Bowie or even Cher!

The interior is overtly maximalist with a multitude of clashing textures, made even more maximal in a narrow tavern-like hall with a deliberately low ceiling. There are seven booth-style seats ideal for both big groups and intimate dates, designed with high-gloss burl wood tables and corduroy-covered banquette sets using Italian-imported Pontoglio. To make you feel taller, low-hanging pendant lamps hover above the tables, created by Danish architect Utzon, famous for designing the Sydney opera house.

Exposed brick walls, along with some of Baydoun’s favourite art pieces, add even more wonder and dimension to the intimate space, as well as the layers and layers of over 21 vintage car- pets and rugs, that line the floors and sides of the bar.

A favourite place to take photos is the pillar in the middle of the room, wrapped in genuine Schulte mohair — the actual fabric used for Steiff teddy bears and purchased directly from Steiff in Germany — as a deliberate nod to owner Baydoun’s favourite story, Corduroy by Don Freeman.

To pay further homage to all things corduroy, the circular elements in the dining space, from the ceiling lamps to the doors, represent Corduroy The Bear’s button on his overalls. And if you look closer, some of the tableware and drinkware feature ridged edges or ribbing to resemble the corduroy fabric.

I’ll drink to this

Corduroy Palace presents an eclectic selection of over 300 bottles of wines that live unconventionally together in self-service, convenience store fridges (lit with colourful LED lights) organised by price ranging from $100 to $2,000 a bottle.

The impressive curation by head sommelier and wine director Marcus Chen, also head wine guy at Lucali BYGB, oscillates between cult favourites and rare, uncommon grapes from uncommon regions and everything in between (like natural and biodynamic wines) to suit any palate, mood, occasion or budget. If you’re keen to know more about the wines, Corduroy Palace has introduced RFID technology for almost 70 wines in their collection that give you the tasting notes, photos and more.

Beyond the wine, the bar helmed by head bartender Nina Kong — of Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse, Sugarhall and Jigger & Pony fame — offers a drink menu that feels appropriately mid-century featuring true classics that are very chilled and very strong (emphasis on strong). At over 140ml, the Proper Martini ($35) is American-strength, made using two different gins and two different vermouths, served with oversized gourmet olives from Santa Barbara Olive Company, some stuffed with lavish bleu cheese.

Comfort food for the classy

Manning the food menu is executive chef Ariana Flores, previously executive pastry chef at Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza at Marina Bay Sands, who curated an unpretentious line-up of timeless dishes, including Baydoun’s comfort eats — dumplings and oysters.

The fresh oysters ($95 for a dozen) are imported from Normandy, while the dumplings ($50 for 10) come from one of their favourite hawker stalls, You Peng, who graciously worked with the Corduroy team to make a specific Xiao Long Bao that is authentic, delicious and of course, topped with caviar.

Caviar is also served tableside on a very retro custom-designed trolley, available by the bump ($20) or the whole shebang, as well as steak tartare (our favourite), a crisp waldorf salad ($25), plus canned fish ($25) from Portugal and Spain. The latter, according to Baydoun, is a concept in South America where you pick your canned seafood of choice, and the chef will mix in fresh condiments and seasoning, for you to enjoy with slices of bread.

As the menu gets bigger, you can expect honest sandwiches like turkey, egg salad, chicken salad for the humble everyday approach. But for a true night out, the 300g Prime Rib ($150) with a fully loaded baked potato topped with Oscietra Caviar is the ultimate splurge.

All in all, a wine-laden meal at Corduroy Palace is just the distraction we need from same old, same old, and one we can’t wait to revisit with a larger gaggle of friends. On your way out, don’t forget to admire the original Picasso painting in the unisex bathroom and grab a couple of condoms and keychains, free for the taking. Who knows, you might get lucky that night!


CORDUROY PALACE

110 Amoy Street #01-02 Gemmill Lane Singapore 069930
Tel: +65 9754 3897
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday 3pm – 10.30pm | Closed on Sundays