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Bar area and interior. Photo by Aun Koh.
At Tippling Club, some things have changed, but others have stayed pretty much the same. The cocktails are still as good, and Clift’s mojo in dishing out brilliant, radical (while at times visually head-scratching) creations remains very much intact.
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
38 Tanjong Pagar Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri noon-3pm, 6pm-midnight; Sat 6pm-midnight|
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