SINGAPORE (Apr 15): Cocktails and wine make all the difference to a meal, whether at a newly launched dining venue or for a specially created menu.
Mind-boggling concoctions spiked with the likes of Jiang Xiao Bai (a popular brand of Chinese rice wine) and bamboo leaf vodka have made their way into Singapore’s cocktail scene with the debut of 51 Soho, an all-day dining venue that opened earlier this year at the crossroads of Telok Ayer. Here, the folks who brought us Amoy Street’s Birds of a Feather and Halcyon & Crane at Paragon present a work-and-play concept where the menu transitions from coffee and breakfast bites to nutritious lunch bowls, and premium snacks and dinner plates in the evening.
Five pioneering cocktails collectively dubbed the 51 Soho Specials are available throughout the day. Priced at an auspicious $88++ for a set of nine cups and $100++ for 12, each cocktail is uniquely presented in custom drinkware designed to suit the beverage’s theme. We start off with Bamboo Dream, an osmanthus tea-infused serving of Jiang Xiao Bai shaken with osmanthus rice wine, passionfruit puree and yuzu jam. The citrusy notes of this invigorating drink are a welcome contrast to the spice-coated charcoal grilled skewers (prices range from $4++ to $11++ for two sticks) we ordered — and also help put out the fire sparked by our Spicy Pasta ($24++), a dish that evidences chef Eugene See’s fascination with Sichuan and Mexican cuisine.
Main image: Salmon & Pearl is a serving of pan-seared salmon on a bed of pearl couscous, garnished with pickled cucumber and red radish
Like See’s creations for Birds of a Feather, grains are a highlight of 51 Soho’s food menu, especially in dishes such as Salmon & Pearl ($28++) and Lobster Rice Stew ($38++), which feature pearl couscous and a mixture of barley, oat groats and black rice, respectively. This celebration of textures continues with the discovery of ripe barley grains lying at the bottom of the Prosperity Cup cocktail: a sweet and viscous union of fermented rice wine, barley, rock melon syrup and white chocolate liquor. It is served with RMB100 bank notes made of edible rice paper, which soften into silken tofu-like sheets once added to the beverage.
Dancing in the Moonlight is served in a plain ceramic gaiwan (traditional Chinese lidded cup), its contents masquerading as snow fungus soup. But do not be fooled by the drink’s unassuming appearance — this robust medley of bamboo wine, cucumber and snow fungus is the most potent of the lot, its heady alcohol content only slightly offset by the sweet and tangy notes of kumquat puree, lemon juice and goji berries. A fruitier and less alcohol-heavy option is the restaurant’s namesake cocktail, 51 Soho, which is a blend of exclusively made fermented plum wine and barley and lychee juices with rose syrup.
Dancing in the Moonlight is a robust medley of bamboo wine, cucumber and snow fungus
In lieu of dessert, we end our dinner with Dr Panda — a creamy shot of Earl Grey-infused Jiang Xiao Bai that is shaken with banana, milk and cream and topped with crushed Oreos. Think of it as a cake in cocktail form, and a “two birds, one stone” solution for the sweet-toothed alcoholics who are not counting their calories.
51 Telok Ayer Street #01-01
Tel: 9755 1058
Mondays to Fridays: 8am to 10pm
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: 10am to 10pm
The Classic Cuvee Multi-Vintage is usually aged in Nyetimber’s cellars for more than three years, resulting in toasty, spicy and complex aromas with honey, almond and baked apple flavours
Giving Champagne a run for its money is Nyetimber, a newcomer to the New World wine scene but one that is fast establishing itself as a pioneer of English sparkling wines. The Sussex-based producer is barely over three decades old — its estate was started in 1988 and its first wine, the 1992 vintage of Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, released in 1996.
Nyetimber celebrated the sparkling wine’s ninth release, a 2013 vintage, at Jaan with a one-off lunch presented by chef de cuisine Kirk Westaway in late March. Hailing from Devon, Westaway is recognised for the strong British influences he brings to the modern British fine-dining restaurant’s tables. This could be further deduced from his exclusive pairing menu for Nyetimber beginning with the Classic Cuvee Multi-Vintage, a blend of five different years’ wines. It not only serves as a pre-meal introduction but also accompanies the snack and appetiser courses that follow.
Like a shy debutante, the Blanc de Blancs 2013 appears only when Westaway’s highly acclaimed Eggs in an Egg dish is served. Nestled inside an egg-shaped ceramic bowl, the yolk confit dish is revealed when the lid is lifted. This heightens the diner’s anticipation ahead of its unveiling, much like the wine it is paired with. We learn from Murray Lang, Nyetimber’s export manager, Asia-Pacific, that this 100% Chardonnay vintage is also the first wine in which grapes harvested from the North Hampshire Downs vineyards are featured together with those from West Sussex. Its predecessor — a 2010 vintage that we enjoy with the next course, line caught turbot — is made entirely from grapes from the latter region, as were the previous vintage releases.
Murray, who flew in from Nyetimber’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong to attend the lunch event, says his company is the only English sparkling wine producer to expand its operation base to Asia. While the Asia business is currently limited to Singapore and Hong Kong, he says there may be a possibility of taking the brand to other markets such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
“Demand for sparkling wine is growing worldwide. At the same time, we can’t expand too fast because all of our wines are produced from our own vineyards. [For now, we are focused on supplying our wines to] Michelin-starred and fine-dining restaurants as well as the best hotels in the world… Asia has a lot of potential for such a Champagne-dominant wine market,” notes Murray.
Nyetimber wines are available for purchase at Honest Bee Singapore, Watson’s Wine Hong Kong and a number of luxurious restaurants and bars. Discover more at www.nyetimber.com.
This story appears in Issue 877 (April 15) of The Edge Singapore.