It begins on a refined, elegant note with champagne as a highlight. Ad Parnassum ($22) embraces the work by Paul Klee, grounded in the labourious Pointillism movement, to create a drink that is just as time-consuming to make. Lime is first cooked for seven days in the sous vide machine, then mixed with blackcurrant sorbet and bubbly. But the result is a Ribena-reminiscent concoction that is all too easy to guzzle.
Spirits are also built and layered upon in Composition VII ($25). Just as many regard the work by Wassily Kandinsky as the most important abstract painting of its time, the drink similarly pays homage to what Tippling Club believes is an iconic recipe in drink-making: gin martini. Oil, made from chives, dots the surface of the drink, enhancing its savoury notes. Over time, the drop will split and seep to develop new tastes – much like the artwork.
The black and green hues from Full Fathom Five by Jackson Pollock comes reimagined into a drink on the rocks ($22). Red, green, and black kampot pepper are distilled with vodka to impart a spice-scented body to the drink. To finish, a dizzy cloud of eucalyptus and rose is poured over, resulting in an aromatic and intriguing balance of fresh, floral notes.
Yet, it’s an even better TC that greets us at its new, conspicuous three-unit shophouse pad (along with an R&D kitchen-cum-private dining room upstairs) in the CBD. For that, the décor deserves mention – the gorgeously hip bar with a jungle of overhanging bottles gives way to modern, semi-industrial Alan Barr-designed dining digs.
But the clincher here is the lunch, now offered on weekdays too. The set lunch menu ($42/two courses, $57/three) makes it far more accessible compared to its previous dinner-only policy at Dempsey – there’s also a special pre-theatre seating menu (from $52) offered between 6pm and 8pm. It’s of course all still very exclusive – the number of seats in the restaurant is the same as before, with 32 total – and dinner offers only tasting menus which start at $160/seven courses and go up to a hefty $415 for the 12-course gourmand menu, with included wine pairings
The lunch set, while perhaps a bit steep if we consider the average restaurant, nevertheless offers great value. Even before the meal starts proper, we get our money’s worth with a playful procession of whimsical amuse bouches that come thick and fast. There’s the spot-on interpretation of local curry – creamy espuma topped with crunchy rice pops and crisp curry leaves – in a jar, Clift’s signature charred red peppers swaddled in jet-black carbon batter that we pick up with a tweezer-like instrument and dip into a soy wasabi emulsion, and an elegant test-tube ‘shot’ of chilled tomato water with basil oil.
Somehow, the bizarre appears ordinary as we sit perched on one of the eight kitchen counter seats, watching Clift and his crew nimbly plate their magic in their pleasantly green-hued kitchen. And it’s not just for the sake of looking cool – the flavours on our plates all work wonderfully in tandem.
Apples, for instance, are broken down in every conceivable way – sliced, freeze-dried, dehydrated, pureed and jellied – and paired with foie gras torchon, a smooth liver mousse and spiced waffle biscuit for a mind-blowingly good starter.
Of the four mains on offer, an extra $10 got us the fork tender 72 hour-braised wagyu beef cheeks, finished off with rocket puree, puffed wild rice and ‘liquid’ onion rings – a masterclass in texture. For dessert, the simple strawberries and cream is naturally not what it sounds like – the liquorice candy-like sweets featured an ingenious technique of strawberry gel wrapped around vanilla cream.
Whereas its original Dempsey location had the air of a place best reserved for special nights, Tippling Club 2.0’s newfound all-day image is a significant step towards greater awareness of Clift’s brand of avant garde refinement. Hell, we might even be tempted to splurge on dinner at our next visit. Lee Min Kok