Just what does a culinary savant like chef Julien Royer of three-Michelin-starred Odette eat on his day off? Just visit friendly neighbourhood French restaurant Claudine on Dempsey Hill to find out.
The newly-opened dining destination by the Lo & Behold Group, in partnership with Royer, is an ode to Parisian classics and traditional family recipes that the highly-decorated chef and his colleagues dearly miss, having spent all these years away from home.
Designed to give diners a more approachable and accessible gastronomic experience (as an affordable alternative to Odette), Claudine offers conviviality, thoughtful hospitality and honest cooking — what Royer believes are very much needed to lift the spirits in the current times.
Inspired by the joys of home and friendship, the restaurant is designed to be a place for all occasions, from everyday meals to special celebrations. “Home has always been the heart for social interactions,” says Royer.
He adds: “With Claudine, we recognise our guests’ longing to return to the luxury of simple joys. This is even more so now. We have focused on what this means to them — genuine hospitality, a lively and comfortable setting, and an intimate side of French cuisine that enables them to celebrate moments of togetherness over good food and good wine at any time.”
In Royer’s opinion, Claudine fills a gap in the market for exceptional quality French cuisine delivered with the same level of focus and precision you’d expect of a fine-dining establishment. It is conceived to be easy, breezy and fuss-free — a concept that inspires diners to return with greater frequency.
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Claudine, named after Royer’s mother (his first two restaurants, Odette, and one-Michelin Louise in Hong Kong, were named after his grandmothers), is housed in the 1930s neo-gothic chapel at Dempsey, previously occupied by modern European restaurant White Rabbit.
The space has been reimagined by design studio Nice Projects, carefully preserving original details while being shaped into a warm and inviting space with a palette that pays respect to French heritage. Unlike the old all-white stark interiors, Claudine evokes a Paris bistro vibe, using warm contrasting colours like brick red for the gabled roof, cool greenish hues of the armchairs, and sandstone shades of the banquettes that line the perimeter of the hall.
Overhead, a 15m-long paper lamp custom-made by Spanish lighting designers Santa & Cole visually connects across the entire length of the dining hall which overlooks an open kitchen at one end, and a picturesque bar on the other.
The refreshed lancet windows are now lined with mirrors that offer unexpected reflections of restaurant activity and add a sense of liveliness to the space. And all the walls are framed with 2m-tall glass panels of pressed wild grass — an art installation called Singapore Pastoral executed by This Humid House — that suggest the rolling meadows reminiscent of Royer’s hometown in Cantal.
The dream team
As chef-patron (“patron” means “owner” in French), Royer is building on his role as a restaurateur with a team he trusts to run this new restaurant. While he continues to be based mostly out of Odette, he will be working closely with the Claudine team to shape the overall dining experience.
Royer (second from left, in black) took six months to assemble his dream team led by executive chef and long-time friend Julien Mercier (top, middle)
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Bringing this to life is the team that he took six months to personally assemble. General manager Glynn Tay (formerly from Marina Bay Sands) oversees the care of guest experiences with the support of restaurant manager Antoine Capelli, while executive chef Julien Mercier leads the culinary team alongside chef de cuisine Loïc Portalier. Singaporean pastry chef Jeanette Ow also joins the team to sweeten the menu with her modern take on French classics. To help customers navigate the wine menu of over 300 international labels, Geoffrey Letot joins Claudine from Odette.
“This is an inspiring opportunity to tap on our years of training in traditional French dining to reimagine a more approachable and intimate side of French cuisine,” says Mercier.
Eat humbly, but well
For the menu, the team have put together 40 to 45 dishes featuring a generous array of French classics and personal recipes, all infused with a contemporary sense of place and joie de vivre.
“While we put the same care into good ingredients and good cooking, Julien Royer’s vision of always beginning with the goal of extending hospitality reframes our creations in the kitchen. We start with the flavours we genuinely love. We celebrate humble dishes and elevate them with a twist suited to the present,” explains Mercier.
For example, there is a dish from Royer’s hometown called Chou Farci — blanched cabbage stuffed with pork — which his mother used to cook all the time. What the team at Claudine did was to glam it up with foie gras, add prune to level out the richness, and then bake it in the oven.
One of the more popular dishes — and Royer’s favourite to eat or cook on his days off — is the Claudine Bouillabaisse, a hearty Provençal fish stew for sharing. For a little local kick, the chefs decided to keep the heads on the prawns rather than remove them to intensify the oceanic flavours of the broth, which contains generous portions of John Dory fish, razor clams, scallops and carabinero.
Another seafood must-have is the Mozambique Langoustine, featuring langoustine pan-roasted in butter beautifully plated with crustacean-filled dumplings, along with a seafood bisque enriched with kombu purée that’s poured tableside.
If you have a penchant for sweetbreads (offal cuts and leftovers), the Vol-Au-Vent is as classically French as it gets and something that Auntie Claudine herself cooks on special occasions. Here, the hollow case of puff pastry is filled with veal sweetbread, cockscomb, chicken quenelle and morel covered in an addictive rich sauce made from mushroom jus reduced with a touch of cream and Cognac. For meat lovers, the Steak Tartare à la Parisienne and Kampot Pepper Steak Flambé (good for two) are the perfect dishes to pair with a glass of red wine.
A highlight of the dessert menu is the love child of Royer’s two favourite desserts, Paris-Brest and profiteroles. Christened the Pariterole, it features a ring of five airy choux puffs filled with parfait-like New Caledonia vanilla cream and finished with a dark chocolate sauce. For a spectacular show, do order the Baked Alaska, the restaurant’s signature meringue dessert flambéed tableside with Poire Williams brandy.
With so many culinary choices, it is almost impossible to eat everything we wanted in one sitting. We are almost certain that this jewel of Dempsey will be seeing repeat visits from us if a spot ever opens up. As we understand it, the waitlist is two months long, so book early!
39C Harding Road, Singapore 249541
Tel: (65) 6265 2966
Lunch: Tuesdays to Sundays | 11.45am – 3pm
Dinner: Tuesdays to Sundays | 6pm – 10.30pm
Closed on Mondays