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TAKING A LEAF FROM ART
National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road #01-04
Opens on Nov 2, hours from 12pm to 2pm, 7pm to 9.30pm.
Closed on Sundays and public holidays.
THE soon to open Odette is all about French fine dining, but forget about it being a straight-laced dining venue. In fact, it exudes a distinctly feminine ambience.
Helmed by chef Julien Royer, the restaurant is named after his late grandmother, Odette. The restaurant is a collaboration between chef Royer, and The Lo & Behold Group's managing partner, Wee Teng Wen. It is a cosy restaurant, with 12 tables, each seating from two to four; a private room that can seat 12, and a chef's table for four in the kitchen.
The space was designed by Singapore-born, London-based Sacha Leong, a lead designer at Universal Design Studio. Mr Leong and Mr Wee met eight years ago through mutual friends, and have been regularly in touch since. "I've always wanted to do a project in Singapore, and when Teng mentioned this, we saw the chance to work together," says Mr Leong, who trained as an architect at Carnegie Mellon University and later at Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. His father, a lawyer, used to have an office at the former Supreme Court, so Mr Leong would often spend his childhood days here.
Mr Leong first saw the space, in the former Supreme Court last December, when it was still under construction. "We were given a white box to work with. It came with a high ceiling and large windows. It felt like a fresh space and we wanted to keep it this way," he says, adding that he worked closely with chef Royer, Mr Wee, and artist Dawn Ng. Mr Leong was inspired by chef Royer's approach to food - deconstructing a dish before putting it together again. "So I designed the space to be light and casual, and not to look over-designed," he says.
Taking his cue from the gallery spaces, he adds that the restaurant should also feel like an art piece. The flooring is made of cracked marble but with pale pink grout in between the pieces. The columns in the restaurant come with faceted finishes, "much like the Ionic columns of the Supreme Court," says Mr Leong.
Dine during the day and you will be treated to lots of natural light filling the space, while tropical plants in brass planters add splashes of green. Curved vinyl panels line the walls to add warmth to what may otherwise seem a cold space. Customised seats in light grey velvet add to the soft touch. "The restaurant should feel like a natural extension of the gallery space, and not be alienated from the existing building," says Mr Leong.
Chef Royer is clearly excited about his kitchen. Tucked away at the side, it comes with full-height glass panels, so that diners can watch chef Royer and his team in action. "Along the same lines, I can also see clearly what's happening on the floor," he says. The kitchen comes equipped with a customised island kitchen, featuring a yakitori grill, teppanyaki hot plate and a swivelling salamander grill.
With its location in an art gallery, it is not right that there are art pieces in the restaurant too. Ms Ng, who is also Mr Wee's wife, worked on these pieces. In the centre of the restaurant is a large hanging installation, with what looks like black, beige and white pieces of paper floating around. It turns out that these are photographs of ingredients that chef Royer uses - which Ms Ng cut up and then mounted on oak panels. More of such photographs can be found on the wall in the private dining room.
"No one should feel intimidated when they step into Odette," says Mr Leong. "Instead, they should be able to wander in, and sit down for an amazing meal."
RAW, INDUSTRIAL ALLURE
162 Tyrwhitt Road Tel: 6805-1955
MARRIED couple Lim Kah Eng and Eileen Lim may be first-time hotel-owners, but right from the start, they had a clear idea of how they wanted their hotel to look.
They liked what designers Elita Ong and Oh York Bing had done to Chye Seng Huat Hardware coffee house, and wanted that same industrial look. So they hired Ms Ong to design their hotel. "Since we are located in a former industrial area, we wanted the hotel to reflect its history," says Mr Lim. Running the hotel is now a full-time responsibility for the Lims. But Mr Lim's family previously owned a hardware store in the area. His family also owns the Chye Seng Huat Hardware building and leased it out to Leon Foo, to run a coffee joint. Incidentally, Mr Foo is Ms Ong's husband.
Hotel Yan, a 69-room boutique hotel, opened last Friday, to little fanfare. "We want to start slow and steady, and be sure that everything is in place, before we make a big announcement," says Mrs Lim, who previously worked in the travel industry. Despite little advertising, the hotel has garnered 65 per cent occupancy in its first week. The raw, industrial feel is consistent throughout the hotel, starting from the lobby. The reception desk is a large concrete block with the words "Hello, Today Is The Day You've Been Waiting For" etched into it. Just behind on the wall, is an art piece of swallows in mid-flight. The hotel name, Yan, means "swallow" in Chinese. "We chose the name Yan because it signifies freedom, hope and progress," says Mrs Lim.
The second half of the lobby is where a future bistro will be set up. The industrial theme extends to the bistro too, with bar stools made from bicycle wheels. Upstairs, the rooms are fairly spacious, and most come with a specially designed utility stand, where guests can use it as a hangar, as a shelf or to keep smaller items. "We foresee that these stands will be a hit with guests," says Mr Lim. The rooms overlook the Jalan Besar area. Amenities-wise, rooms are stocked with complimentary snacks daily, and guests are more than welcome to take home a customised toiletries pouch. There is also one room that is handicap-friendly.
Mr Lim says that although there are a few hotels in the area, Hotel Yan prides itself on its personal touch, such as training the staff to remember the names of guests. Mr Lim grew up in the area, and is only too familiar with it. "I can give guests tips that cannot be found in guidebooks," he says.
Room rates start from S$148 a night.
National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew's Road #05-02
Opening hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm, Mon to Sat; 2.30pm to 5pm, Sat & Sun; 6pm to 10.30pm, Mon to Sun
Smoke & Mirrors
National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew's Road #06-01
Opening hours: 11.30am to 12.30am, Sun to Thurs; 11.30am to 1am, Fri & Sat Tel: 6384-5595
MOST fine-dining Chinese restaurants tend to have that same dated look: dark interiors, heavy chairs and large chandeliers to play up the feeling of opulence.
But not YAN, the newly opened fine-dining Cantonese restaurant located on the fifth floor of the National Gallery Singapore, overlooking the rooftop of City Hall. Thanks to a row of glass windows that run the length of the restaurant, the feel here is much brighter, and fresher.
The facade of the restaurant is lined with a semi- see-through oak screen sporting strategically scattered bronze strips. This architectural feature allows a play of light and shadow with natural light gently seeping through the al fresco City Hall Rooftop. Chris Lee, founder of design firm, Asylum, which did the branding and interiors for YAN says that the interior connects diners with the nature of its location, that of being within an art gallery. "The design of YAN is manifested through traditional Chinese elements with a tour of modern art," says Mr Lee.
YAN is managed by the Park Hotel Group, and headed by master chef Chan Kung Lai. The Chinese character for YAN means "feast". "YAN seeks to bring people together through food, where the dining experience is reminiscent of convivial gatherings and intimate, modern Chinese dining," says Tan Shin Hui, executive director of Park Hotel Group. "To complete the experience, YAN uses thoughtful spatial design, careful selection of chinaware and plating techniques, to lend artistic elegance in Chinese dining to the National Gallery Singapore."
The 2,700 sq ft space can seat 154 diners, and is divided into a common dining hall with a flexible dining area and three private rooms.
Several works of art can be seen throughout the restaurant, starting with a grand lighting feature hanging above the reception desk at the entrance. Created by Italian designer Diego Bassetti and architect Andrea Panzieri, the ceiling light resembles a giant Chinese scroll with fine nickel chains cascading down, creating a visual connect into the white gradient treatment of the host stand.
Round booth seats run along the sides of the restaurant, and to give each booth privacy, Asylum created brightly coloured space dividers where strings in hues of red, pink and purple are interwoven. From afar, they look like silk-weaved screens, one of China's oldest forms of art. Little touches of colour can also be seen in the use of Chinese tassels in bright pinks, purples and blues adorning the backs of chairs.
More colours can be seen in a full-height fabric embroidery wall design with a medley of Chinese-influenced fabric forms that conceal the doors to two private dining rooms, located at the end of the dining hall.
If you are seated in this section, be sure to look up at the ceiling, where there is a ceiling feature adorned with over 400 hand-blown glass pieces.
Inspired by its Chinese homonym which refers to swallows (yan zi) - a symbol of grace and beauty - the walls of the private dining rooms are also lined with an art installation of a flight of swallows.
The Park Hotel Group has another F&B outlet here: Smoke & Mirrors cocktail bar located atop the National Gallery overlooking the Padang and the Marina Bay area. Smoke & Mirrors is also designed by Asylum.
Inspired by illusion and art, the design team intentionally broke visual and spatial boundaries in their branding and interior approach for Smoke & Mirrors.
The entrance corridor is a seemingly infinite mirror corridor guided by wall displays of over 500 wine glasses that leads to the "jewel" within the 2,500 sq ft space. It is not hard to miss it - an imposing art sculpture-cum-mirrored surface bar counter that immediately draws the eye and tipplers.
Asylum's Mr Lee says the symbolic meaning is akin to a "jewel" perched on top of the National Gallery; finished in high-shine stainless steel and intentionally displaced to break the conventional carving of indoor and al fresco areas. Ms Tan adds: "Not content with just any bar counter, we commissioned a sculpture that doubles as a working bar." Floating screen panels made from tactfully angled walnut timber tiles line the facade of the bar- only allowing a sneak peek into the space that shrouds the bar with a sense of privacy and mystery.
From the inside, the screen panels form visual rhythm and texture to the background of intimate private seating areas. Juxtaposed with the wood is the sleek addition of customised copper light covers that are suspended above seating areas - adding modernity and sophistication to the warm, lounge-like ambience.
With a name like Smoke & Mirrors, it is only expected that the bar takes its cocktail one step further, introducing a sense of drama and fun to the drinking experience. Expect to see fire trails and cloud bursts before sipping your choice of tipple.
39 Syed Alwi Road Tel: 6291-6677
HOTEL VAGABOND is not for the faint-hearted. Step into its lobby and you are immediately greeted by, yes, an elephant - a life-sized sculpture bathed in gold paint. The check-in reception desk is not a conventional desk either, but one made of solid brass shaped like a rhino.
In place of pillars there are golden brass banyan trees in the salon area and a life-sized monkey sculpture at the centre of the hotel bar.
Hotel Vagabond is clearly not your run-of-the-mill hotel. Opened early this month, the hotel located at Syed Alwi Road is part of Garcha Hotels, a new luxury hotel collection by Indian-born luxury real estate developer and boutique hotelier Satinder Garcha. There will be another three Garcha Hotels in Singapore and Santiago over the next two years.
Hotel Vagabond is the first and only hotel in Asia to feature interiors by the celebrated French designer Jacques Garcia, known for other hotels such as Hotel Costes in Paris, and the Nomad in New York.
Much work went into creating the animals and the banyan trees in the hotel's public areas. For example, the solid brass rhino desk took eight months to create. The family who made it have been making armoury for the Rajasthani royal families for generations.
The elephant and the monkey are made by French artist Franck Le Ray, while the pillars were transformed into golden brass banyan trees through delicate metalwork created using centuries-old artisanal techniques.
Hotel Vagabond is believed to also be the only hotel of its kind in Singapore to offer a rotational Artist in Residence programme. With an emphasis on writing, photography and performance art of all kinds, artists will be invited to apply for residencies of up to three months.
That aside, art features strongly in the hotel, judging by the exquisite pieces adorning the walls. Even the hotel lift is not spared.
On a lift wall, there's a video art installation by Marco Brambilla, a Milan-born, New York City-based video collage and installation artist, known for his elaborate re-contextualisation of popular imagery. Snippets from various movies are played in this video art, and guests are known to have taken the lift just to catch it.
As with its public spaces, the decor in the 42 rooms is bold. Think carpets and furnishings awash in shades of deep reds and purples. A distinctive feature in the rooms are its handpainted floral fabric panels which act as dividers.
Hotel owner Garcha adds his personal touches to the rooms, where the walls are adorned with photographs, from snaphots taken by him of his international polo team wins to vignettes of his travels around the world.
Room rates start from S$300 per night.
Civil Service Club at Changi
2 Netheravon Road Tel: 6709-4709
IT IS no secret that Singaporeans love staycations, but a comfortable weekend getaway need not mean checking into a hotel in the city. For those who want to get away - but not too far away - there is the recently revamped Civil Service Club at Changi, which is open to members and the public.
The last improvement works for the club were done nearly two decades ago. Award-winning firm DP Architects was tasked to give the club new life, in the form of a new four-storey sports and recreation complex, and a new four-storey chalet block with villa clusters.
The chalets have proven to be popular with members. They come in one, two and three-bedroom suites, and there are also villas that look out onto the sea. The rooms may not be lavishly decked out, but they are still comfortable and stylish looking. Depending on the size, each unit can take from four to 12 people. Much thought was given to the design of the chalet block. DP Architects' associate director, Ng San Son, says a key design consideration is providing respite from the tropical heat and driving rain.
The adoption of vertical and horizontal screens at the chalet provide sun-shading and cross ventilation, and the double-glazed facade with articulated strips adds simple modernity to the composition.
A reinterpretation of the old lattice windows of the single-storey colonial blocks have been expressed onto the new timber doors of the villas. Naturally ventilated corridors allow views to the sea and city, while the various types of chalet rooms cater for either large gatherings or small intimate stays.
The landscape approach seeks to create a resort ambience with its proximity to the sea while blending the new with the old. Lush green spaces are designed around existing mature raintrees, imbuing the development with a sense of tranquillity.
Room rates start from S$148 a night for members and S$182 a night for the public.